We all have our favorite shoes. You know… the comfortable ones. We’re not talking about dress shoes, of course, but the running shoes you’ve broken in to that “just right” condition. Or at least you think so. Then just as suddenly, it’s time for a new pair, but you want to be sure. Or maybe you’re just angling for a reason to get into a new pair. Either way, here are three things you should look for when deciding when it’s time for a new pair of running shoes.
1. Listen to your body.
Seriously. Those little aches and pains? They may be your body’s way of telling you something about your shoes.
“Pay attention how your body feels,” says Cara Cremeans, a representative for Brooks Running. “That’s the first place you’ll feel it.” That means your knees, ankles, or back, depending on your running style.
When your body starts to hurt that way, don’t just look at your training log, look at your shoes — especially the part you don’t usually look at first: the midsole. As its name suggests, it’s that layer of foam sandwiched between the upper – the part that holds your foot– and the bottom, or outsole, of the shoe.
“When you see a lot of creases, when the foam is compressing, it’s a cue that the foam isn’t as resilient as it once was,” says Cremeans.
2. Bald spots, holes, rips and tears.
Flip the shoe over and look at the outsole, or tread. Like a tire, balding tread is a sign of wear and tear that prompts replacing.
“If you look at the bottom when it’s new, you know what state it’s in when you compare it 4-6 months later,” says Chris Elkins, co-owner of Run For Your Life. Is there one spot on the tread that’s more worn than another? If it correlates to where you feel pain, it’s a solid sign that you need to replace your shoes. “It means the distance between your foot and the street has gotten smaller. You are literally getting closer to the ground.”
The third essential part of the shoe is one you probably don’t think has much to do with performance is the upper– the fabric or mesh that holds your foot. It plays a significant role in the stability, comfort, and fit of the shoe.
“When they show visible wear, they’re ragged, or have holes, it’s a sign to turn them over and look at the bottoms, or replace them,” says Elkins, “even though that probably doesn’t affect how it feels.” In other words, those “holey shoes” have done their time.
3. It’s the miles, not the model year.
Elkins adds that a shoe’s age isn’t always the best indicator of when to replace it. After all, a shoe that runs 20 or 50 miles a week will wear faster than one that runs 2-5 miles a week. If you use your shoes for more than running, then you have to consider adding the extra miles, too. Exercise or running errands; they all count against the lifespan of the shoe.
“It doesn’t know if you’re doing laps or running to the store,” he laughs. Good point. A step is a step. And shoes, depending on quality, last between 300 and 500 miles. A higher-quality shoe should go 400+ miles. So how do we know? Shoes don’t have odometers, so try counting up what’s on your running apps, suggest Elkins.
And pay attention to that range, says Cremeans. The same shoe doesn’t work the same way for everyone.
“It’s a range because people run or walk differently, so it will wear differently for different people,” she says. When you get tired during your run, your form will deviate (don’t we know it!) That’s where a higher quality shoe helps — it brings a higher quality support and cushion to the end of your runs, when your form breaks down.
“It will help you when you’re tired,” she adds.
So, as hard as it may be to part with that favorite pair of shoes that fits “just right,” you’re now armed with the intel to know when it’s time for a new pair.
After all, you can still use the old ones to run to the store.