How often should you replace your running shoes?
Every case is a little different.
Shoe construction, body weight, biomechanics, running surface, weather, storage, and maintenance can all contribute to the overall pace of wear for your running shoes.
The typical lifespan for a pair of running shoes falls in the 250-500 mile range, which in itself is very broad. Some people may find they get less than 200 and others more than 700. So miles might not be the best way for you to measure unless you want to start up a spreadsheet to track step counts and distances.
Here’s how to tell when it might be time for your next pair of running shoes, and what to look out for as you pile on the miles.
How can I tell if I need to replace my running shoes?
Just like refilling your car’s gas tank, the best time to replace your running shoes is before it becomes a desperate need. There are indicators to help you know when that is, and they’re easier to spot than doing mileage calculations in your head.
Running shoe lifespans can depend on the shoe, how well their features match your biomechanical patterns, how you use them, and how well you maintain them. Regardless of the timing or mileage involved in your case, one thing’s for sure: all running shoes will eventually wear out their welcome.
Signs that your current shoes are worn out can include:
- Initial Discomfort – it’s possible to choose the wrong shoe for your running style and gait, resulting in discomfort that never improves even as you break in a new pair of running shoes. Adjust lacing and tightness to see if it helps, but if you’re still blistering after your third run in a new pair of running shoes, you might need to move on sooner rather than later. After all, you do want to enjoy running. Even a pair that you’ve always loved will eventually cause discomfort, but that should only happen well after you’ve put some miles on them.
- Uneven Wear Patterns – similar to initial discomfort, uneven wear on the treads or uppers of your running shoes can be an early indication that your running shoes are not a great match for your natural gait. If you’re seeing uneven wear, look into replacements with stability features that can help your next pair of running shoes spend more time on the road with you.
- Balding Tread – just as bald tires can cause a car to skid all over the road, running in shoes with bald soles can lead to slippery footing. If your rubber outsole is worn nearly flat, you’ll want to upgrade soon – more on the immediate side if it’s completely smooth or worn through to the midsole.
- Reduced Performance / Increased Fatigue – always keep an eye on your pacing and feel your legs. As your running shoe midsole cushions start to compress and wear thin, the reduced springiness will tire you out faster. If your usual run feels more arduous or takes longer than usual (or both), a replacement pair of running shoes should be on the horizon.
- Wear, Fraying, or Splitting – if your running shoe uppers or inner lining are beginning to wear out, it doesn’t necessarily mean your shoes are past their useful lifespan. However, if any aspect of normal wear gets to a point where it causes discomfort during your run, such as pilling in the inner or a heel split causing new blisters, it’s time to get a new pair of shoes.
While all of the above are potentially useful ways to know when it might be time to invest in a replacement pair of running shoes, there’s an even simpler method available to anybody. Ask an expert.
You can always visit a local specialty shop for an informed opinion. Since they’re local, they’ll be able to answer most of your other specific questions as well.
Can I run in worn-out running shoes?
You can. But you probably shouldn’t.
Many people want to know if old running shoes can cause lower back pain, Achilles pain, or any number of body aches and maladies. The answer is complicated.
Much as an outdated eyeglasses prescription might cause eye strain and headaches, worn-out running shoes may contribute to soreness or injury. But there are plenty of other explanations that could also be the source of trouble. While a fresher pair of running shoes can help support proper posture and reduce the impact of each foot strike, they’re not a cure-all for chronic pain, and certainly not a replacement for medical attention.
The effect of newer running shoes on acute pain is a little more clear cut. Worn-out running shoes increase the likelihood you could slip or fall while running, and any awkward or unplanned body movements that occur at an elevated velocity may increase your risk of injury.
If the tread on your running shoes is wearing thin and you’re not getting adequate traction as a result, you may be running on borrowed time. Always experiment with replacement running shoes until you find the right pair for your gait, and continue to replace them regularly once they get worn down.
How do I make my running shoes last longer?
While all shoes eventually wear out, you can prolong their lifespan with a careful maintenance regimen.
Consider the following:
- Only use them for running – it stands to reason that the less often you wear your running shoes, the longer they’ll last. It might not feel like a quick trip to the grocery store puts significant strain on your shoes in comparison to a ten-mile run, but every step adds up.
- Avoid machine washing or drying – these can jostle, melt, or otherwise prematurely age your shoes. For more specific tips on how to clean and maintain your HOKA running shoes, visit our HOKA Support Center.
- Alternate between pairs – if you stagger your shoe purchase timing so that one pair is newer while another is broken in but still working fine, you can alternate between two reliable options – this approach is especially advisable if you live in a wet climate like the Pacific Northwest.
- Start every run with dry shoes – if your shoes get wet due to running in the rain, let them fully dry before starting your next run – you can speed up the process by removing the laces and pulling the tongue forward, and stuffing your shoes with paper wadding.
- Take care every time you put them on and take them off – the toe-to-heel-scrape method of removing your shoes puts additional wear on the seams that connect your running shoe’s upper to its mid and outer soles. Jabbing your heel in when you put them on can fold your inner padding and mess with your fit. So if you want to get the most out of every pair, sit down, loosen your laces, and handle each shoe carefully when you put them on and take them off.
And of course, if you are in the market for a new pair of running shoes, we’ve got a few recommendations:
Good luck, and happy running. It’s Time To Fly™.