It’s a hard question that all runners face: how long do running shoes last?
Retiring a favorite pair of running shoes is never easy. Like your go-to pair, the shoes that comfortably cushion the soles of your feet and make runs magical by adding a blissful bounce to each step… until they don’t.
The sad fact is that no shoe lasts forever. So, from the moment you open the box and breathe in that new shoe smell to the day you pull them off your feet for the last time, how long can you expect a pair of shoes to last?
How long do running shoes last?
According to Greg Weich, a manager and shoe-fit expert at In Motion Running in Boulder, Colorado, the life expectancy of running shoes should be measured in miles rather than months or years: generally 300 miles at minimum, 500 miles at most.
“If I were to give a number for most shoes, I would say it’s around 400 miles,” Weich said. “But there are many factors involved.”
Some of these factors include the habits of the wearer—their gait, the type of terrain they typically run on, the temperature of the places they run—as these all contribute to the level of wear and tear the shoe will experience. But what people often forget is that the rate at which running shoes degrade can be greatly affected when they are used for non-run activities. Going to the store, walking the dog, and wearing them to do errands all adds up.
Weich likens it to wearing down the shocks on a car. “Every time your foot hits the ground in that running shoe, you’re compressing the midsole,” he said. “Eventually, it’s not gonna bounce back again.”
Running shoe construction and “technology” has been constantly evolving over the years with innovations such as lightweight foams, chunkier midsoles, and carbon-fiber plates; so while it’s possible for some shoes to have a shorter run life than the typical 300-500 mile range, others can get more out of a pair.
Sika Henry, a Virginia-based triathlete, has observed good results by opting for shoes that have beefier midsoles. “I find that sturdier shoes with thick soles last much longer than lightweight shoes with less stack height,” she said. “And I typically run 30 to 40 miles per week.”
A runner’s average weekly mileage plays a huge role in how long a pair of shoes will last. A 50-mile per week marathoner-in-training, for instance, will likely need to replace their shoes sooner than most. To help customers stay on top of how many miles the shoe has accumulated, Weich advises them to mark the date they bought the shoe on a calendar, training log, or on their phone/computer. “Let’s say they’re a 10 mile per week runner,” he said. “If it’s what I’d consider a 400-mile shoe, I tell them to go to 35 weeks (which would be 350 miles) and set a reminder in their phone for that time to let them know they’re due for a new pair of shoes soon.”
How can you tell when it’s time for new shoes?
If you haven’t been keeping track of your current pair’s mileage, Henry recommends inspecting their appearance from top to bottom. Check to see if there are holes forming in the mesh upper, the foam looks deflated/lopsided, or the once-grippy tread is starting to disappear.
“Some tell-tale signs of a worn-out running shoe are when the design or pattern of the outsole begins to disappear,” she said. “This usually occurs in the same place for all of my shoes—the soles wear thin around the outer edge because I overpronate.”
In addition to keeping an eye on the condition of the shoe, Henry also suggests paying attention to how your body feels during and after a run. “When I start feeling aches in pains in my knee and hips, that is a red flag that my sneakers most likely need to be replaced.”
Tricks to make your shoes last longer
In the interest of athletic performance and injury prevention, it’s for the best that runners don’t keep wearing a shoe well past its prime. But everyone wants to get their money’s worth out of good gear—and if we’re honest, it can be tough to retire a pair that have fond memories tied to them. To that end, there are a few simple ways to make your favorite kicks last a bit longer.
Get a separate pair for different activities.
To extend the life of a good pair of shoes, use them for running—and only running. If you’re going to the gym for strength workouts or kickboxing classes, get a cross-training shoe that’s more appropriate for lateral-movement activities. Henry takes it a step further and has a few separate pairs to suit different types of runs.
“Consistently rotating the shoes I run in—depending on the terrain, distance, and type of workout—helps increase their longevity,” Henry said. “When I used to run in the same pair every day, they needed to be replaced often. Now that I keep my shoes in steady rotation, they last much longer.”
Not only will this keep your footwear fresher for longer, the habit of rotating out different pairs has been proven to help prevent running-related injuries in athletes.
Get fitted by a professional to make sure the shoe is right for you.
When you visit your local running store, the shoe-buying experience should include a knowledgeable staff member helping to determine which pair is best for you based on a variety of features: from measuring your foot size and arch height to doing a gait analysis.
“The alignment of the customer has a lot to do with how durable that shoe is going to be for them,” Weich explains. “For instance, the durability of a neutral shoe is going to be greatly affected if the wearer overpronates—they’re going to wear down the big toe or the arch side of the shoe much more quickly.”
Take good care of them.
Your running shoes don’t need to be pampered, but a little extra thought on how you treat and store them goes a long way.
Weich points out that letting a pair of shoes sit in extreme temperatures for long periods of time can often contribute to its early demise. “People leave their shoes in a hot car trunk on a 100-degree day, and their shoes are crushed in just 250 miles,” he said. “Properly caring for the shoe is a huge factor in durability.”