When to Part with That Trusty Old Pair of Running Shoes
Ah, the joys of buying a new pair of running shoes. That fresh-out-of-the-box smell, the excitement of lacing up for the first time, and the promise of many happy miles together. It’s almost like a new friendship just waiting to bloom. And soon after that, memories with your new running shoes start piling up: Your first race together, finally nailing that elusive PB, and clocking some laid-back miles on a long-awaited running vacation. Like it or not, running shoes become an intricate part of our running journeys. And perhaps that’s why it’s so hard to finally part? To face the fact that, after hundreds of happy miles and memories together, you need to say goodbye and move on?
Tough as it may be, it might just be in your best interest to bid that trusty old pair of running shoes goodbye. But when do you know it’s time? And how can you be sure that they’ve really given you all they’ve got? We’re glad you asked.
The general lifespan of a pair of running shoes
Generally speaking, a good pair of running shoes should last you anything from 400 to 600 miles. Some even recommend only covering between 300 and 500 miles in a single pair of shoes. So which is it then, you ask? Three hundred miles is a pretty big range when it comes to throwing out a beloved pair of running shoes! Well, the answer is that it depends. Factors such as body build, running style, training load and preferred running surface all play a role in determining where you’ll fit into the maximum mileage spectrum.
For example, a runner with a small build, or very efficient running style, tends to be able to squeeze more mileage out of his or her running shoes. Bigger runners, or runners with a heavy footfall, on the other hand, tend to wear out their running shoes at a faster rate.
Also keep in mind that these mileage figures are just a general guideline. The most accurate way of telling whether your running shoes really do need replacing, is by simply listening to your body. Sudden, unexplained niggles in the foot arches, shins or knees are often a good indication that your running shoes are no longer providing optimal support and protection. It is therefore a good idea to record the date on which you start running in a new pair of running shoes. And then, once you hit the 300 to 600 mile spectrum, start listening very carefully for any signals that your body might be sending you to tell you that it’s time for a new pair.
Lastly, the outward appearance of a worn pair of running shoes is also a good indication of whether it needs replacing. A broken down or smooth outsole is usually a good sign that you need a new pair ASAP.
Why exceeding your running shoes’ lifespan isn’t a good idea
Niggles caused by worn-out running shoes can develop into full-blown running injuries if not attended to. And while the often hefty price tag of a new pair of running shoes may cause runners to try and stretch the lifespan of their old pair, the consequences just may not be worth it.
Ways to extend the lifespan of your running shoes
But are there ways in which to extend the lifespan of your running shoes? Fortunately, there are:
- Wear your running shoes only for running. Standing and walking miles add up quickly, so if you want to get more bang for your buck, save your running shoes for running only.
- Avoid the tumble drier. Tumble drying your running shoes breaks down the shoe components and materials. Rather towel them dry and stuff with newspaper after a rainy run.
- Rotate your running shoes. Rotating two or more pairs of running shoes will extend the life of each pair and give them sufficient time to bounce back after longer runs.
- Avoid extreme elements. Leaving your running shoes to bake in a sunny car has the same effect on its components as putting it in the drier. Don’t.
- Improve your running form. And while extreme and sudden running form changes may open up a whole different can of worms, why not start with something as simple as working on your running cadence? A short, quick cadence will force you to run with better form, which, in turn, will mean less impact on both your body and shoes.
So you’re ready to throw out your old running shoes. Now what?
Once you’ve reached that inevitable point of no return, remember to stop and think before simply tossing your shoes in the bin. Why not make a difference and donate them to a homeless shelter? They might be too worn-out to train in, but they can certainly still keep a pair of bare feet warm.
Or, alternatively, some shoe manufacturers, like Nike, have running shoe recycling programs. Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program collects worn-out running shoes and grinds it into Nike Grind, a material used for the creation of courts, tracks, fields and playgrounds. Awesome, right? Do Mother Nature (and, indirectly, yourself!) a favor and re-purpose or recycle those worn-out running shoes where possible.
You can do it!
So when the time comes (and it will!) to part with that trusty old pair of running shoes, man up and do the right thing. You might just be sparing yourself from injury and helping someone in need in the process. And, as hard as it might be to part ways, try keeping the bigger picture in mind. After all, you’ll soon be revisiting the joys of buying a new pair of running shoes, right?