Why Running Shoes Break Down, And When To Replace Them

Replacing your running shoes at the right time is imperative to reducing injuries and keeping your feet happy. But how do you know when the time is right? We’ve all heard the shoe experts tell us every 300 to 500 miles, but that’s not always the case. What causes our running shoes to break down, and when do we really need to replace them?

First of all, regardless of how many miles you put on your shoes, the material in our running shoes has a shelf-life of six-to-nine months. The plastic and rubber used to make our shoes starts to harden after this, making the shoes less effective, and making injuries more common.

This came as really bad news to me. I’m a frugal person. I like to find cheap running shoes on Amazon. They tend to be last year’s model – which I care nothing about – I just want some good running shoes that won’t leave my wallet sad. But buyer-beware when doing this. These shoes have likely sat in a warehouse for a while, breaking down all that time.

I also know people who buy a few pairs of their favorite shoes at once. It is more than irksome that shoe companies make changes to their shoe models each year. You can finally find the shoe that fits perfectly, and then the next year it’s a completely different shoe. Storing shoes in your closet, according to the experts, is not a good idea.

A better option for extending the life of your running shoe—and reducing your chance of injury—is to rotate your shoes each run. I keep two pairs in rotation at all times. The foam in running shoes takes about 24 hours to recover from a run. This means you could experience a less-cushioned run and could increase your chances of injury by running in the same pair for each run. You will still incur just as much cost by this method, but it won’t seem to happen as often.

As I mentioned earlier, experts say you should replace your shoes every 300 to 500 miles. I think this depends on a few things. I’ve run in shoes for close to 1,000 miles and they still felt okay. And I’ve put only 150 miles on a pair of shoes before they broke down and I got rid of them. Here is what you should keep in mind:

·       It depends on the shoe brand – I won’t disclose the brand, because I don’t want to throw shade, but there is a well-known shoe company that I just won’t give my money anymore. Every time I purchase a running shoe from them, I’m throwing them out after 150 to 200 miles. Even if I am buying them at the outlet mall, the price adds up.

Know your brands, and make sure you research comments when looking for a new shoe brand. Do the comments say they last a long time? Running shoes are extremely expensive; you don’t want to have to buy a new pair every two or three months.

·       It depends on how you run – If you are a heel-striker you will most likely go through shoes faster than a more neutral runner. By hitting one spot on your shoe with each strike, your shoes will break down much faster in that one area. You can try to fix your form, but most of us can experience more injuries if we try to make too many changes to the way we run.

·       It depends on what you run on – By far, road running will break down your shoes faster than running on the trail or on a treadmill. Concrete isn’t only hard on your joints; it can be murder on your shoe surface as well. If you want to stretch the life of your shoes, try mixing up your runs and incorporating treadmill runs and/or some trail runs.

·       It depends on your size – This may go without saying, but the more you weigh, the faster your shoes will break down due to the amount of force put on them. This usually can’t be helped. Don’t go on a crash diet just to elongate the life of your shoes.

The takeaway here is to pay attention to how your shoe feels at the end of your run. Are your feet sore? Are your toenails bruised or falling off? It might be time to replace your shoe.

What to do with your shoes when you are done running in them? Here are a few options:

·       Donate them to a local homeless shelter

·       Donate them to a thrift store

·       Use them as your new gardening shoes

·       Check out these other cool donation sites here

You can use a shoe mileage tracking app on your phone, or an excel spreadsheet on your computer, but I don’t recommend it. The number of miles on your shoes means way less than how your body feels when you get home.

Paying attention to your body, and what your feet are telling you is a much better measurement of where your shoes are on the wear-and-tear meter.

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About Liz Ward 101 Articles
Liz Ward is a running fanatic, avid reader, and amateur farmer. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband, three kids, and a small herd of animals.