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How Long Do Running Shoes Last?

Sheryl Cannes
Updated on: September 03, 2022

Your running shoes are an integral component of your running success. It’s important for your health and safety to replace them before they begin to break down and lose their support and structure.

But how long do running shoes last? If you’re looking for the short answer, running shoes last about 300 to 500 miles. However, it’s often more complicated than that. Those numbers are really just a starting point.

Several factors influence how quickly the shoe’s cushioning and support wear down, determining when you should start looking for your next pair.

Factors that Affect Shoe Life

Remember that feeling when you first put on a new pair of running shoes—the cloud-like cushioning, well-supported arches, and a spring to your step that makes you want to run an extra mile. Several factors influence how long those shoes are going to feel like a cloud. Most of them have to do with your running style and habits.

Body Weight

The more weight on the shoes’ foams and support system, the faster they break down. Someone who weighs 175 pounds will apply 50 pounds of extra weight and stress on the sneaker with each step compared to someone who weighs 125 pounds. Consequently, heavier runners should expect their shoes to wear out faster than lighter runners.

Where You Wear Your Shoes

Your running style has a major impact on the life of your shoes. If most of your miles take place on a treadmill, there will be little scuffing or signs of wear. The treads won’t take a heavy hit if the gym is the roughest terrain you face.

Those who take to the road put their shoes under more stress. Not only are you more likely to get shin splints, but you’re also more likely to wear out your shoes faster. Hard surfaces like concrete put more tension and pressure on the outer sole and midsole foam, not to mention the extra stress on your joints.

Yet, running on the road or a running trail puts less wear and tear on the shoe than mountain trails, grass, and rough terrain. Even if you take good care of your shoes, rough terrain can quickly shorten the lifespan of your footwear.

Weather and Climate

Heat and moisture put the shoes’ materials to the test. Water may cause some materials to stretch, while heat can dry out rubber or even cause it to crack or peel. And, drastic temperature changes are harder on sneakers than moderate temperatures.

Signs It’s Time for a New Pair of Shoes

To prevent injury, you have to keep an eye out for athletic shoes past their prime. Different shoes show wear and tear in different ways, and your wear patterns are unique to you. Consequently, you may only notice one or two of these signs of wear, but each should make you analyze whether it’s time for new shoes.

Tread Wear

If there are areas of your outsole with little to no tread left, it’s time to replace your shoes. The mechanics of your foot strike will affect tread wear. Those who overpronate show more wear toward the inside of the outsole. Supination causes more wear toward the outside of the outsole.

As the tread wears it down, it can affect your gait, leading to injuries or discomfort. If you start to notice pain in your ankles, knees, or hips, uneven tread wear could be contributing to it.

Lack of Shock Absorption

EVA foam and other shock-absorbing materials cushion the foot. If you’ve noticed that you feel the ground through your shoe more than you used to, there’s a good chance the cushioning has compacted. That means more shock is making its way into your legs, potentially contributing to injury.

Holes or Peeling Tread

Holes in the upper or peeling tread definitely indicate that it’s time for a new pair of trainers. The breakdown of materials lets water in and compromises the shoe’s cushioning and support system.

Pain and Discomfort

Pain in your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and even back could all be attributed to old shoes. It’s time to try a new pair to get back on track for injury-free running.

The Twist Test

Sometimes wear and tear aren’t visible from the outside. If you’re not sure, try the twist test.

Twist the shoe. It should feel firm with little flexing. If it easily flexes and twists, the support and cushioning have probably compacted and worn down.

FAQs

How can I extend the wear of my running shoes?

It can take up to 24 hours for cushioning foams to return to their original shape. That’s why many serious runners have two pairs of running shoes. They alternate the days they wear them to give the shoes time to rest. That prolongs the life of the shoes and provides the best cushioning and support with each run.

Other ways to extend the life of your shoes include only wearing them to run, taking them off immediately after use, keeping them clean, and keeping them dry.

Will my stride affect the shoe’s lifespan?

Your gait and stride can impact the sneaker’s lifespan. If you overpronate, that is your ankles and foot roll inward, it can cause premature wear towards the inside of the shoe. Severe overpronation can even cause extra wear and tear on the materials in the upper because the foot’s arch extends onto materials not designed to support the arch.

Supination is when the foot rolls outward with each step. This, too, can cause uneven wear of the tread and potentially the shoe’s upper.

Will a new shoe that’s an older model wear out faster than a new shoe of a new model?

The short answer is yes with a little bit of no. You can save money by buying last year’s or the year before’s shoe models. There’s nothing wrong with that except that shoe materials have a shelf life. The cushioning foams and support structures start to lose their integrity even if the sneakers are sitting on the shelf unused. It can potentially shorten shoe life by a few runs. If you buy an older pair of sneakers, be on the lookout for signs of wear earlier than if you bought the latest model.

The Takeaway

Running shoes are an essential, if not the essential, piece of running gear. It’s not a place where you want to compromise on quality, especially if you’re running over 25 to 30 miles a week.

Your chances of injury increase in footwear that lacks proper support and cushioning. You could be looking at shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and other common running injuries. Keep track of your miles, and replace your sneakers before injury forces a prolonged break from your favorite sport.

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