How to Tell If Your Running Shoes Need Replacing

Running Outside

Since I’m a seasoned runner, “newbies” often ask me how often they should swap out their running shoes.

In the world of running, injuries can occur for many reasons, and having (or not having) the right kicks is a key contributor. Frankly, there are innumerable running shoe options and everyone’s feet and gait are different, so focusing on fit and how many miles you’re putting on them are your best indicators.

Track Your Miles

Knowing approximately how many miles are being covered is important. The industry average, according to researchers and running analysts, states that runners should change out their shoes every 300-500 miles. That means moderate runners (those who run five 3-mile runs per week to equal 780 miles annually) should replace their shoes a couple times a year. Mobile apps like MapMyRun/MapMyFitness, Runtastic, and Runkeeper, or running devices from makers like Garmin (industry leader), Polar, TomTom, and Suunto make the process of measuring and quantifying miles covered pretty slick. I definitely recommend this step.

Focus on Fit

Fit also is key. Buying running shoes with an improper fit or continuing to wear them once the fit or wear has changed can lead to a host of injuries like plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, patellar tendonitis, ITBS (iliotibial band syndrome) and lower back and neck issues. Not good!

Watching for this can be as simple as eye-balling the sole, midsole, outsole, forefoot, toe box, and the tread on the sole. If a runner pronates (ankle rolls in) or supinates (the ankle rolls out), shoes often wear down on the outside/inside of the heel. Monitoring this pattern can be really helpful.

Another sign that indicates your running shoes are ready to be upgraded is if you start to feel slight pain, discomfort, or tenderness in your heel, toes, forefoot or the arch. There’s a thin line between feeling slight discomfort and tenderness versus the onset of an injury or tendonitis (chronic inflammation), so always keep it in the back of your mind. The sooner you’re able to identify issues and proactively make changes to your shoes the better.

Running Shoe Rotation Strategy

Here’s a tip: Those who are identified as moderate runners (criteria above) and beyond should consider a shoe rotation strategy. This involves purchasing two to three pairs of the recommended shoes (you’ll want to get properly assessed at a qualified retail store such as The Running Room, Right Fit Running or by a physical therapist who specializes in gait and motion analysis; if they’re a runner themselves, it’s a plus) to wear and then stagger the shoes evenly throughout runs and races. Having a successful shoe rotation strategy will prolong the life of the shoes as well remove considerate tension and pressure from the runner’s feet by increasing the odds of the runner training and running in shoes with the optimum support.

Find the right strategy that works for you so you can run for years to come!

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Tony has a BA in Communications with an emphasis in Exercise Science from the University of Minnesota, as well as an MBA from Augsburg College. As a self-proclaimed “gym rat,” he has over 20 years of in-club experience with exercise programing, workout generation, training, and coaching. He’s an avid runner and triathlete with numerous races under his belt, from 10ks, Ragnar relay events, and triathlons, to everything in between. He has a passion for “healthy living” that incorporates “clean eating” as the core of his strategy with intense, calculated workouts and an active lifestyle rounding out the mix. He embraces all things “wearable tech” and utilizes mobile apps and gadgets from activity trackers, sport and tri watches, cycle computers to smart watches. He’s a family man who wants to teach his kids how to fall in love with healthy living and a balanced lifestyle.