5 Signs You Need New Running Shoes

So you're all amped up for your morning run, reaching for your old pair of shoes you realise that they look a little worse-for-wear. Here's how to tell that it's time for new running shoes.

Brian Dalek  |

Running shoe materials and designs are getting more advanced, but they’re still man-made products with distinct lifespans. “These new running shoes are just like any other chemical compound under constant pressure,” says Claire Wood, senior product manager for performance running at New Balance.

Related: 8 Ways Your Running Shoes Are Ruining Your Workout

“They will break down over time.” Logging miles in worn-out shoes not only slows you down, but it can also increase your risk of injury. Before you shell out money for new kicks though, use these 5 guidelines to find out if yours are ready for retirement or if they have some mileage left in them.


The Tread Is Gone

One of the main goals of your shoes is to provide traction whether you’re on a hot paved road or a rugged, technical trail. But over time the rubber on the bottom outsole—where your shoe comes in contact with the ground from heel to toe—wears away just like the rubber on your car tyres. Take note of “bald spots” on the outsole where rubber has worn off.

“A little scuffing is fine, but if the tread is gone and your outsole is now white, your shoe is coming apart,” says Bruce Wilk, a physical therapist and owner of The Runner’s High specialty shop in Miami, Florida.

Related: This Is The Exact Percentage By Which Road Running Beats Treadmill Training

Depending on how you land, you also might wear down a specific spot faster like the inside of your heel or the ball of your foot. Unbalanced tread can slightly alter your running gait, possibly causing injury over time, says Wood.

The Shock Absorption Is Shot

While you can easily see when the tread is worn out, it’s harder to tell with the midsole foam, which is the part of the shoe that gives your legs that “springy” feeling with each step.

Look for deterioration by placing your shoes on a flat table and examining them from behind. “On a level surface, your shoes should be straight and even,” says Wilk.

Related: What Is CrossFit Endurance Training – and Can It Help Your Running?

However, lopsidedness is a sign that the structure of the midsole foam is compromised. When this happens, the midsole loses its ability to absorb the force of impact caused by pounding the pavement. Now, your knees and shins take the brunt of the force.

A depleted midsole can also cause foot instability, making it more likely to roll your feet in or out and leading to ankle and knee problems. Extreme flexibility is another red flag of midsole breakdown, says Wood. You don’t want to be able to fold a running shoe like a tortilla. If you can bend the toe to the heel collar, your shoe probably has little to no shock absorption left.

The Mileage Is Adding Up

A shoe’s durability depends on factors like your style of running and weight.

However, 480 to 800 kilometres is a good rule of thumb for how long your sneakers will last, says Wood.

Related: How to Make Your Shoes Last Forever

For instance, if you run 130 km a month, then you should reinvest in a new pair between four and six months.

Keep track of your mileage by entering the date you bought your pair in a training log or by using a permanent marker to write the date on your shoe.

They Cover Tough Terrain

Sometimes a sneaker will develop some small holes in the mesh early on, especially if you run outside in tough trail conditions.

Usually, you can continue running with them, though, says Wood. “However, if the upper portion of the shoe starts to fall apart and the mesh holes start to increase in size and number, it’s time for a new pair,” she says.

These signs may seem obvious, but runners tend to ignore them if the shoe hasn’t even logged 300 km yet. The sneaker still seems new, but conditions like wet, muddy trails that leave your shoes damp can deteriorate the overall structure of your shoes faster if you don’t care for them properly after the run.

Related: Every Question You've Ever Had About Running Shoes. Answered.

“It’s best to rinse off with water any mud or debris, take out the liner, and stuff your shoes with newspapers as they dry overnight to help them maintain their shape,” says Wood. “That’s a way you can avoid premature wear.”

They’re Your Only Pair

You have a pair of sneakers that you can trust to get you through any run. But if you don’t give them a day or two of rest each week, the midsole foam doesn’t have time to return to its original shape, says Wood.

The more compressed the foam, the more strain on your feet and lower legs with each step. That doesn’t mean you have to stop running during those days.

Keep your shoes lasting longer and your legs happy by rotating between two different types of sneakers. Scandinavian researchers found that runners who switched between models of shoes had a 39 percent lower risk of injuries compared to people who ran in the same shoe during a 22-week period.

The researchers believe your leg muscles are worked a little bit differently in each pair, so you don’t overstress certain tissues as much as you would if you were only using one pair.

Sure, paying for two pairs will cost you more up front, but it’s a small price to pay for decreasing your risk of getting hurt and extending the life of your shoes.


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