When to Replace Your Running Shoes – Part B

This is the second part of our discussion on the topic of When to Replace Your Running Shoes

George A, Pelham, NY: This is a very important issue. I think many overuse injuries are caused by worn out shoes, and a new pair of shoes is less expensive than a few doctor’s visits. It always takes a little while to “break shoes in” before they feel comfortable, and then there’s a natural inclination to keep running in the same shoes. I usually use two or three different pairs of shoes each week, and get new shoes when I notice back or knee pain with one set of shoes and not another. Since it’s a good idea to give shoes at least one days rest between runs, it makes sense to run in at least two pairs, so the pain test can be fairly infallible.

The Pooch, Wendell, MA: You missed that huge study that was done in Switzerland in the 1980’s, something like 5,000 runners were surveyed. Granted, this was a correlative study, but running injuries were correlated with weekly mileage and previous injury history. There was no evidence that newer or more expensive shoes prevented injury, and some fascinating hints that runners in older or cheaper shoes had fewer injuries. Not the kind of result that shoe companies want you to hear.

I would propose that running form, and overall health, and much more important to preventing injury than what kind of shoes we wear.

Michaelmross, Boston: If Ms. Davis runs 100 miles a week, there would hardly be any need to “estimate” when she puts 500 miles on her shoes. As for them smelling, that seems unlikely after 5 weeks. As for putting them in the washing machine, doesn’t she know they’re held together with glue? – and, after you’ve done that: Yes, you have to throw them away.

Pharmguy, Bermuda: After 45 yrs of running i have learned that I should buy light stable running shoes.

Rotate among 2 or more pairs. Get rid of them when they dont sit flat on a table
or the last starts to curve. Last breakdown usually occurs with shoes I love too much after higher total mileage.

American in Tokyo, Tokyo:  The article puts forward a variety of analyses and opinions but in the end is inconclusive.

When I was in college, I used 1000 miles as a rule of thumb. At that point, the more fragile uppers showed signs of wear and tear, and the cushioning did seem to be less effective.

Most recently, I bought a very heavily cushioned pair (not easy to find). After about 600 miles, they still have a lot of cushion. Even if they don’t, didn’t many of those who commented say that cushioning was doesn’t matter? If cushioning doesn’t matter, but there is less of it, does the mileage matter?

I will check the bounce later, but most likely I will take the shoes out to a thousand miles.

Brad, New York: After years of running w/o serious injury I took a long run in the rain in my oldest shoes, which got soaked. My left knee bothered me the next half decade. Although I am relatively light I now replace my shoes every 300-350 miles. I appreciate the point of this article that this is a personal preference matter. However, one scientific point is missed in this article. My friend, an executive in a company that provides the raw materials for soles insisted that they were only designed to last 300-500 miles. The material even degraded after 4, 5 years on the shelf! Running shoes were a small part of their biz, so he wasn’t motivated by shoe sales.

AceK, Oakland: The idea that there is one standard distance for replacement is ridiculous. As others have noted, it depends on the shoe, the runner, and the surface. I can feel when it’s time for new ones. That’s typically over 500 miles on trail shoes and 200 or less on racing flats.

Susan, Canberra, Australia: One of the great advantages of running barefoot is that you don’t have to worry about this vexing issue. Now that my achilles tendons are working properly, I feel I have more bounce in my stride barefoot than I used to have in a brand new pair of runners.

Suzanna, Dallas: I had an aerobics teacher whose rule of thumb was: if your knees hurt, it’s time to replace.

Will Nemirow, Denver: no evidence supports any correlation between running shoes and injuries in general..

Brad, Cold Spring Harbor: i have been running daily (about 360 days/year) for 30 years (i’m 48). When i started running i was logging 60 miles/week. I got shin splints a few times, and noticed that I could prevent them by changing shoes about every 250 miles. Nowadays i run only about 30 miles/week, but I still change my shoes after 250 miles. I haven’t sustained an overuse injury in the last 25 years.

Richard, Bozeman, MT: Many of us are minimalist shoe runners. (Works great for me, but it’s not for obstinate rear foot strikers) For our group I think this may be a non-issue. I have gone through about 7 pairs. I have a five finger shoe that wore out on top, so I threw it away. I had another that got so thin on the bottom that it started to hurt on gravel. Threw those away. Some pairs just sit in my closet because I liked the newer models more. For those of you who like to run with little mattresses attached to your feet, toss them when your biomechanics starts to deteriorate. See you on the trails!

Cheryl, Westchester Cty: Corollary question: are newer designs so much better than old ones? Are the super-expensive running shoes measurably better than mid priced and low priced ones? There’s a lot of hype – but? Seeing a lot of manufacturers jumping on the minimal craze and changing their lines — suggests that there’s a big style thing going on here, too.

House Wulf, Richland, WA: I run in Merrill minimalist shoes in the winter and Teva sandals when it is warm. And long before that New Balance tennis shoes. These sandals and minimalist shoes taught me that cushioning is not an important issue though running geometry is important (read ball strike). So, do not let crushing of the padding be an important criterium. Toss when wear causes a bad wear pattern that results in bad strike geometry or you just hate them because they stink. or because they look bad. Try to get 2 years out of them.

Jean, Virginia: When I complained to my fencing coach that my ankles felt gimpy (I also run), he said you need new shoes and arch support. The arch support more than new shoes made the difference. Make sure your shoes have adequate arch support; replace the manufacturer’s insets if necessary with something stronger. It turned things around for me.

JW, New Mexico: If you run with multiple pairs of the same shoe you’ll know when it’s time to retire a pair…they just don’t have that “bounce”, “spring” or “boing” like they used to have.

Aaron, NYC: How about we walkers, i walk 35 miles a week and i have no idea how often i should buy new shoes ?????????????

Heron, Chicago: I start wearing out the outsole before the cushioning starts to go.

Leah, Colorado: I’m definitely the kind of person who will stretch anything beyond manufacterer recommendations (toothbrushes, oil changes, contact lenses) but I have found that in 14 years of running ~20 miles per week (so not huge distances but consistent), I eventually start to get plagued by minor aches and pains that miraculously disappear when I replace my shoes. I don’t keep track of how long I’ve had my shoes or how many miles I’ve run in them but as soon as I find myself stretching my IT bands at work, I know it’s time to get new shoes and the problem goes away.

Amy, Iowa: Yeah, great topic. I order new shoes when my ankles start to hurt. I’m mostly a treadmill runner now, but on this regime, I haven’t had a layoff from injury in…uh, I can’t remember the last injury. I just wish New Balance would quit changing the numbers on the $%!$@ shoes.