When You Really Need to Replace Your Running Shoes, According to Reddit

When You Really Need to Replace Your Running Shoes, According to Reddit

You’ve probably heard the advice that running shoes are only good for about 300 to 500 miles, and after that, the cushioning is so broken down that they’re an injury waiting to happen. But that’s not always true, and there are more ways to figure out when to throw out your shoes than just counting the miles.

How do running shoes break down?

When you put in the miles, your shoes undergo wear and tear. The first thing you’ll notice is that the tread on the bottom wears down, but that’s okay; there should be more than enough rubber under your feet to last the lifetime of the shoe.

Another place you’ll see visible wear is on the upper. Maybe you tend to get a hole in the toe box where your big toenail rubs; maybe you run on trails and tend to scuff up the sides. But these scrapes are usually a cosmetic issue, not a functional one. You can patch them up or just run in them despite the holes.

What really matters is the cushioning on the inside. It gets compressed with every step, and the more it gets squished, the less it bounces back. There will come a time in the life of every running shoe when it provides substantially less cushioning than it did when it was new. That’s when it’s arguably time to replace them.

How fast do running shoes break down?

The “300 to 500 miles” rule benefits running companies, since it requires you to replace your shoes while they still might look like new. But it’s true: 300 to 500 miles really is the range where cushioning tends to reach the end of its useful life.

That said, a lot of different factors are at work here besides just mileage—the runner’s weight, for instance. If you’re a heavier runner, your shoes will wear out faster. And if you’re a lighter one, you may get more mileage out of your shoes than you’d otherwise expect.

Another factor is how the shoes are made. Some shoes are more durable and will last well beyond 500 miles. Others are light and flimsy to start with, and you might be lucky to break 300. I sometimes buy kids’ running shoes if I can find them in a size that fits me, but they tend to be less sturdy and their cushioning doesn’t last as long.

How long can you wear your old running shoes?

I remember running in the same pair of Nikes for literal years without issue. I bought them around the time that barefoot running and minimalist shoes were all the rage, and in fact I bought them because they had less cushioning than other models—so I figured that if I wanted the least cushioning possible, why would I worry about replacing shoes just because the cushioning was wearing down?

I did eventually get a new pair for other reasons, but the logic is sound: If you don’t need the extra cushioning, and your beat-up shoes are still comfortable, you can keep running in them for as long as they feel good.

On the other hand, not all shoes break down uniformly. I’ve had shoes where one sole starts to feel a bit lumpy or weird, and that can definitely lead to discomfort (or potentially even injury) over time. The most recent models of my favorite Nikes (the Free Run) seem to break down quickly. I’ve since switched to the Downshifter, a model that fits similarly but has more durable cushioning.

All of this is to say: just because you can keep running in old shoes doesn’t mean you should. Your experience will vary with the brand of shoe, the age of the shoe, and other factors like how heavy you are and what kind of surfaces you run on.

When do you really need to replace your running shoes?

Runners debate this issue amongst themselves, and they don’t always come to the same conclusion as the running shoe companies. For example, see this discussion in a running forum on Reddit. Some people do track their miles, but they learn from experience instead of trusting a number just because they read it on the internet somewhere. One runner says, “Yep, my running shoes become lawn mowing shoes somewhere between 700 and 800 miles.” Another uses a range of 600 to 800 kilometers (roughly 400 to 500 miles). Another gives a more detailed explanation:

Theaveragemaryjanie says: “In fact, I started going off of mileage on some brands because [a gradual pain in the knee] went from it’s fine it’s fine it’s fine to oh-my-god-my-knee-how-long-am-I-out-is-this-serious. After about three scares at near the same mileage I figured it out and now replace 50 miles sooner. I would rather buy one extra pair per year than injure myself.?”

Others go by feel. “I retire shoes not at a mileage but when they either don’t feel comfy to run in any more or if they fall apart,” says Layric. I generally get 1,000 miles at least out of pairs. At this mileage the soles are going to be nowhere near as cushioned as when they were new but I don’t suffer any injuries keeping them going this long. I own about half a dozen pairs and rotate through them.?”

Rotating through a shoe collection reportedly helps to extend the life of shoes. (Pro tip: if you do this, make sure to track shoe mileage in your running app, because otherwise it will be difficult to remember how much you’ve run in each shoe.)

One redditor, MakeYourMarks, has the receipts: “The fact that you rotate them is certainly a boon to their longevity,” they say. “The foam/insulation/support gets compressed from the constant banging and pressure of running. Giving them time to “rest” (fully dry out and re-expand) adds a not-insubstantial amount of life to them. I have found that I get around 500 miles of amazing cushioning out of Hokas when rotating every other day as opposed to only about 350-400 when using every day. That’s at least a 25% increase, and at $US100+ for a pair of shoes, the savings add up quickly over time.”

You can also combine these approaches, and rotate between an older and a newer pair of shoes. The nice thing about this approach is that you’ll be able to feel the difference between good cushioning and worn-down cushioning just by comparing the two, without having to make a trip to the shoe store. Comparing new and old shoes is my own preferred method.

Just one warning about keeping a stash in the closet: the cushioning in running shoes will break down over time, even if you haven’t run in them, so very old shoes may have a shorter lifespan from the start.

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