How Often Should I Replace My Running Shoes?

Do not wait until your running shoes look like this before you replace them.

Q.

Dear Mario,

I’m a new runner training for my first half marathon with Team in Training. Our training group’s coach told me to change my shoes every six months, but the guy at the running store in town told me every 300-400 miles. Who’s right, and how do I really know when it’s time for new shoes?

Please clear this up for me. Thanks!

John

A.

John,

Great question. From my experience working in specialty running retail, and as an owner of literally hundreds of pairs of running shoes over the years, I’ve learned that if you ask five people this same question you’re bound to get five different answers.

The best advice I can give, months or mileage limits aside for a minute, is to first listen to your body. When the midsole of a shoe starts to break down it’s not supporting and protecting your foot, or the rest of your body, as well as it was when you first started running in it. How do you know when breakdown is occurring in a shoe? Easy. Your body will tell you.

Nagging little niggles in the form of sore arches, shin pain, achy knees or other small annoyances will start to manifest themselves when you’re not getting the support and protection you once were from your shoes. These aren’t full-blown injuries that force you straight to the sidelines, but rather persistent enough aches or pains that could very well turn into a larger problem if something (in many/most cases, footwear) isn’t addressed.

RELATED VIDEO: Shoe Talk on Competitor.com

I advise runners who are on the fence as to whether or not they should get a new pair of shoes to go into a running store and try on a fresh pair of the same shoes you’ve been training in–assuming they’ve worked out well for you, of course–next to the old ones. If your old dogs feel flat and “dead” compared to the new ones, there you go. The best way to tell the difference is to feel the difference.

Numbers wise, a good running shoe should last you between 400 and 600 miles. That’s a pretty large range, I know, but your build, running style and training load all factor in to what end of that range your shoes will fall. Smaller runners, or more efficient runners who are light on their feet, often won’t do as much damage to their shoe and a lot of times will be able to squeeze a little more mileage out of them. Bigger runners, or runners who pound the pavement with unforgiving force, will likely be at the lower end of the mileage range. Everyone’s different.

I don’t like to make general time recommendations as to when runners should switch out their shoes (e.g. every two months, four months, etc.) since, for example, I might run 200 miles in a given month while you’re only putting in half that volume. While I only get three months out of a pair of shoes, you get almost six. Again, everyone’s different. The easiest way to keep track of how much mileage you have on a pair of shoes is to track it in your training log. Note in your log when you started running in a given pair and add it up at the end of each week, or if that’s too much of a pain, try out one of the many free online training logs that will do that math for you. As a rule, when you start approaching 300 miles on your shoes, begin breaking in a new pair and rotate the two for a few weeks.

Lastly, keep a close eye on your shoes. When the outsole of a shoe starts to break down it will smooth over and start looking like the bald tire on a car. If your car tires lose all their tread you replace them immediately, right? Same goes with your running shoes. Don’t let this be the final determining factor, however. When a shoe gets to this point, the damage has already been done. Get a new pair ASAP.

Hope this helps clear up any confusion. Best of luck with your training!

Mario

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