What Happens When You Run in Old Running Shoes

Emily Abbate
by Emily Abbate
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What Happens When You Run in Old Running Shoes

Some things get better with time: A vintage bottle of wine. Dealing with that icky post-breakup feeling. Perhaps, your sense of style. On the opposite end? Arguably, your favorite pair of sneakers. We’ve all been there: Having found a Goldilocks option that makes running or training feel like a breeze. The right shoe can complement a couch to 5K training plan and perhaps even help you nail a new personal best, but spoiler alert: That sneaker won’t last you forever.

There are so many things to take into consideration when it comes to how frequently you should replace your sneakers,” says Brad Whitley, DPT, of Bespoke Treatments in Seattle. “One thing’s for sure, though, wearing the right sneaker can make a world of difference and help prevent you from unnecessary injury.”

On the injury front, wearing the same shoe for too long can result in everything from blisters to aches and pains, says Whitley. “You may not even notice the wear and tear until you take a closer look,” he adds. “But if you’re reaching for the same pair often, it’s important to do that regularly.”

Over time, your running shoes lose their out-of-the-box integrity. This means every part of them can wear down, from the sole to the upper. Here, the experts weigh in on exactly what questions runners should take into account when it comes to replacing your sneakers.

1

What am I using the sneaker for?

From the get-go, the sneaker you choose hinges on what activity you are going to use it for. Different shoes are made with different purposes in mind, whereas you wouldn’t wear a lifting sneaker to run a marathon — and vice versa. When it comes to running sneakers, experts conventionally say most picks last runners between 300–550 miles. This is when the midsole begins to break down. From a time perspective, you’ll also often hear a comparable time measurement of 4–6 months.

However, these numbers can vary from runner to runner, according to Whitley. “The type of surfaces you’re running on — whether they’re road or trail — can certainly play into the overall wear of the shoe,” he says. “Plus, every runner has a unique gait and style, which means that some individuals may wear through their sneakers faster than others.”

Also important to keep in mind: Racing sneakers are different from your go-to training workhorse. For instance, shoes with carbon plates have been shown to help runners increase efficiency and propel faster, but they only last a fraction of the time of a typical training sneaker. That’s why they’re a go-to for many runners toeing the line everywhere from Boston to Hong Kong.


READ MORE > WHY AND HOW RUNNERS SHOULD DO TRACK WORKOUTS


2

DOES IT TWIST?

Sounds a little wonky, we know. But Whitley swears by looking at a sneaker’s “twistability,” or how it twists from front to back, when debating replacing your kicks. “Right when you get a sneaker, it’s pretty rigid,” he says. “You shouldn’t really be able to bend it a ton. But when you’ve put a good chunk of mileage on it, you’ll see that a lot of bend at the toe box.”

3

DOES IT HAVE VISIBLE SIGNS OF WEAR?

This is something that varies from person to person, shoe to shoe. Conventional signs of wear start on the sole of the shoe. If the pattern on the bottom of the shoe has disappeared, that’s a good indication it’s time to get a new pair, says Whitley. Runners may also see wear near the big toe, in addition to the insole. While the logo or writing may rub off on the actual insole rather quickly, it’s important to notice when the material starts disappearing from the heel area.


READ MORE > RUNNING SHOES 101


4

DOES IT FEEL DIFFERENT?

There’s something special about stepping into a new pair of sneakers for the first time. Typically, you’ll notice a ton of support, a plush sensation that certainly goes away with time. If the shoe just doesn’t feel as responsive anymore or you’re starting to get new pains despite staying consistent with your workouts, this is a good indicator it’s time to re-up your sneakers.

The good news? If you’ve found a sneaker that feels good for your foot, you can stick with it and just order a newer model. “If you’re finding that you’re not injured, and you’re not feeling aches or pains, staying with a new version of the same shoe is fine,” says Whitley.

Whether you want to run your first mile or set a PR, having a plan gets you there faster. Go to the MapMyRun app, tap “Training Plans” and set your next goal — you’ll get a schedule and coaching tips to help you crush it.

About the Author

Emily Abbate
Emily Abbate

Emily has written for GQ, Self, Shape and Runner’s World (among others). As a certified personal trainer, run and spin coach, she’s often tackling long runs or lifting heavy things. In addition to that, she’s working on Hurdle, a podcast that talks to badass humans and entrepreneurs who got through a tough time —a hurdle of sorts— by leaning into wellness.

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