The Life Expectancy of Our Running Shoes
Recently, I’ve had to say goodbye to one of my favorite pair of running sneakers due to wear and tear. I was upset. But I was even more upset in the fact that I had only owned the beauty for 6 months! And, at the time since I was less educated about this topic, I felt rather… cheated. What was my thought? Because although running is definitely one of the least expensive ways of being active in your fitness journey, and an awesome way to get your tan on in the warmer days (even though my shorts tan is funny looking now…) the shoes on the other hand are not so cheap and nice for your wallet. Running shoes can cost around $100 a pair. So I felt that it should have served me longer.
Boy oh boy was my mindset wrong.
This thought process and frustration is what I shared with the store associate when I went shopping for a new pair of running shoes. The store associate had kindly acknowledged my frustrations, and then dropped his knowledge on me. KABOOM!
I was totally wrong about the life expectancy of my shoes. And it was due to so many factors! This blew my mind and was so interesting to me, so I decided to explore it a little more. Here’s what I’ve learned!
Warning: about to drop knowledge* ;)
Why do we need to replace our baes ?
(a.k.a running shoes)
Most running shoes incorporate lightweight materials that cushion the foot from the trauma of running. The material often used is the EVA foam – a lightweight material injected with air cells designed to absorb impact.
With each foot strike the cushioning system compresses and rebounds. Overtime with use, the foam eventually loses its pizazz. Research has shown that this can happen between 300-500 miles from the first wear. Shoes will wear and tear, but this is the wear that most affects the biomechanics, and can lead to injury.
As the foam loses its effect, the body begins to absorb more of the impact force during your activity, which can put additional wear and tear on the joints, ligaments and tendons of our bodies. While some overuse injuries (like shin splints) are minor, others (like tendinitis) might require more serious treatment and serious time off from your training. Totally not what we want! Especially in the mist of training for something – in my case, my first 10k run!!
So when is it time to say goodbye then?
Warning: no specific answer coming your way… Sorry?
Standard recommendations by shoe companies and running stores state that running shoes should be replaced after 400-500 miles to avoid injury. So if someone is tracking about 10 miles per week, from walking, running and what not, then 6 months is time – or rather overtime – to replace the shoes.
(Shaking the finger at myself… plus the store associate's finger)
But there are so many variables that can affect how long our shoe will last, outside of the miles. For example,
(1) running on a soft surface such as a trail or treadmill will be easier on your shoes than if you were running on hard surfaces such as roads or sidewalks.
(2) If you wear your shoes for exercise only they will last a lot longer. But if you where your shoes to exercise, and walking for everyday errands – 7 days a week – then your shoes lifespan is decreased.
(3) And, those who are like angels and are light on their feet can wear those shoes longer than those who are like The Incredible Hulk that pound the ground.
There really isn’t an exact, specific, number of miles or time stamped on each shoe as to what its expiration date is because of so many of these existing variables. But in general, here are some guidelines to follow when deciding if it is time to invest in a new pair:
Tracking shoe mileage, typically after 500 miles – the structure can only take so much impact over time
Body is feeling new and unexpected pains and blisters – that can mean your shoes have stretched and your feet are moving around too much
Signs of excessive wear (ex: worn outsoles or stretched-out heels) – the unevenness and alters in the structure of the shoe will feel like the shoe is working against the natural motion of your foot; affecting your running gait