Login | December 15, 2019

Life of a running shoe

Pete’s World

Published: July 8, 2019

If you’ve been a serious runner for a while, heck if you’ve been a runner in general for a while, by now you should have a closet full of old running shoes. And unfortunately most of those high-dollar shoes should never again see another running mile. Yup, that’s why I call these pricey closet shoe caches “lawn-mowing attire,” because all they’re good for is pushing a lawn mower up and down the back 40.

That’s right, those running shoes have a rather critically short but very important life span within the realm of running. And if you get just the slightest bit greedy by trying to extend the life of those shoes…well, you’re risking an injury.

You see, running shoes tend to deteriorate in the very areas where we overload them, which means the critical areas that should give us the most support, don’t in worn out shoes. What’s more, blown out running shoes can only exacerbate any biomechanical problems that already exist.

Running on worn out shoes can cause any one of a number of running related injuries, maladies like shin splints, Achilles tendinitis, patella tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. Shoot, if you persist in running on tired shoes you can even run the risk of developing stress fractures. And if you go down that road, I can tell you from personal experience that you’ll be in for a very long and frustrating rehab program.

Unfortunately running shoes don’t come with expiration dates stamped on the soles, so it’s a call you need to make on your own. And sometimes that call can be a bit tougher than you might think. That’s because the life span of a running shoe depends on its quality, the care given to it by its user and its frequency of use.

But there are a couple of general guidelines to help you make that all important call. And the most important guideline states that the life of a running shoe typically ranges from 300 to 500 miles. The caveat here is that those couple hundred miles of variance have a lot to do with one’s body weight, gait length and the types of surfaces you run upon. So right off the bat, consider tracking your mileage and/or time in the shoes. Also understand that trail shoes wear out faster on pavement and visa versa. Thus, match your shoe with its intended surface.

Now if you’re a recreational runner - who might run three to four miles at a crack/three to four times per week - and you adhere to the above dictate, then those expensive running shoes could last six months. If you run less than that, then it’s perfectly plausible that those pricey shoes could last a year.

On the other end, if you’re racking up high mileage and knocking down 40 to 60 miles per week…ouch. That means you’ll either need to find a shoe sponsor, or set up a separate “shoe account” at your current bank. This is why it’s so important for elite runners to have shoe sponsors.

Another good guideline to use for determining when to retire your current running shoe involves something called the flexibility test. What you do here is try to bend the shoe backwards, toe towards the heel. If the shoe folds quite easily - time for the closet and into lawn mowing attire.

And then there’s more subtle outward markers to help you judge the fitness of your running shoe. One concerns the midsole foam on the outside of the shoe. If it’s wrinkly and/or compressed, that’s a good sign the shoe is breaking down. And if those midsoles don’t feel as springy as they did when the shoes were first used, well, they’re on their way out.

Another concerns the tread, which will begin to wear down such that the tread pattern begins to disappear. What’s more, look seriously for a sole that is beginning to lean to one side when the shoe is placed on a flat surface. That marker screams “Retire Me.”

So don’t be a scrooge when it comes to your running shoes. When it’s time to move them into Lawn Mowing Attire, do so with a smile…because a bright, shiny and fit pair of new running shoes lie in wait. Embrace the moment.