How to Make Your Running Shoes Last Longer

Two runners stand next to each other.

Running shoes are your most important piece of gear.

Cushioning foam helps soak up the repeated impact your body takes during a workout, and the burly outsole rubber gives you improved traction and adds durability to the shoe. Many popular running shoes are built to get you through long training periods, while others are streamlined to help you race faster.

No matter what running shoes you buy, though, they don’t last forever. But making your running shoes last longer is simple with the proper care.

Here are seven ways to help extend the life of your running shoes and keep your legs happy as you train:

1. Rest and rotate your running shoes

Just like your body needs rest, shoes need rest days as well. When foam gets compressed and sweaty, it needs time to bounce back and dry out. If you have a second pair of shoes, give the first pair of shoes a break while you use the others. An extra day or two without use helps your shoes to last longer.

Plus, if you use two different models of shoes, the subtle change in stack height or heel-to-toe drop can help strengthen the small muscles in your feet and legs. That's the beauty of a good shoe rotation.

Wearing different types of shoes for different types of runs can help your training, too. Try out a carbon-plated shoe for hard workouts and race days. Opt for a soft, cushioned shoe for easy miles and long runs.

Two runners run together on a leafy trail.

2. Dry them out

If you run through a rainstorm, a flooded trail or a stream crossing—or you just sweat a lot—you’ll end up with soaked shoes. Like resting your shoes to let the foam decompress, it’s important to let your shoes dry out because wet shoes will start to stink and generally feel gross.

One simple way to dry your running shoes is to remove the insole, set them aside where they can easily dry and stuff the shoes with something absorbent, like newspaper, tissue paper, rags or paper towels. Let them sit for a few hours or overnight, and then remove the paper. You can also let the paper dry out afterward and reuse it several times.

If you don’t subscribe to a newspaper, look for free publications outside the grocery store. Just choose newsprint and not a glossy magazine. Keep a pile of paper on hand for rainy days or extra sweaty runs.

If your shoes came in the box with paper stuffed in them, keep it! It’s already the perfect size and texture to absorb excess moisture. Your local running store probably has a giant pile they would be thrilled to give you.

A woman laces up her shoes in front of a mural.

3. Protect them from the elements

Don’t leave your shoes out on the porch to bake in the sun for days. The sun will help your shoes dry, but it will also start to degrade the materials if you leave them for too long.

Also, while it’s convenient to have a spare pair of shoes in your trunk, excessive temperatures can harm them there as well. Don’t leave your running shoes in your car for long periods of time. For obvious reasons, you also don’t want to abandon them to the rain or snow.

4. Know when to wash your shoes, and never put them in the dryer

It's important to clean your running shoes if they get caked in dirt. Excess grime can compromise traction, promote bacteria growth, and wear out the material. But if you dry your shoes after a wet run and knock off the dirt by banging the soles together, deep cleaning often isn't necessary.

Many runners prefer to keep their shoes out of the washing machine and clean them by hand—if at all. If you absolutely must wash your shoes and don’t want to use the old rag-and-toothbrush method, the washing machine is permissible only if you use the cold cycle. Hot temperatures can damage the glues that are used to hold shoes together and will shorten their lifespan.

If you do wash your shoes, don’t put them in the dryer. The heat will damage the shoes. Refer to #2 on how to dry your shoes.

5. Keep an eye on the miles

Running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles, depending on factors like your weight, stride pattern and how durable the shoes are.

Tracking your miles may seem cumbersome, but it’s easier to do than you may think. If you keep a training log by hand, note when you take a new pair for their inaugural journey and tally your mileage by week or month. If you use a GPS watch, pair it with a good digital running log, like Garmin Connect or Strava, that lets you track your shoe’s mileage with little effort.

Some of the best running apps can track mileage on multiple pairs of shoes, and they let you specify which pair you wore for each run when it uploads. You get to decide what the mileage cap is and the program will let you know when the shoes have hit their limit. This can also help you monitor which shoes are the most durable and long-lasting.

You may hit 400 miles and find that your favorite pair is still supportive and full of life. Or you may find that some models don’t last as long as others. Tracking your miles will help you protect your body and be mindful of how long your running shoes last.

A man laces up his running shoes.

6. Only wear them for running

Yes, your running shoes are super cool, but if you run in them, cross-train in them and also wear them around town all day, the extra miles will add up and reduce their longevity.

Remember, shoes need to rest. If you love your running shoes that much, get a couple pairs: one for running and one to wear on vacation or for errands. If you have multiple pairs, you can put a beating on your running pair and keep your going-out shoes fresh.

7. Use running shoes for their intended purpose

There are differences between trail running shoes and road running shoes, race shoes and training shoes. So make sure you use them for what they were made for.

Wear trail running shoes on trails, road shoes on the road, and racing shoes for races. All of these shoes are specifically designed for a purpose and surface. Trail shoes have extra-grippy rubber lugs that are built to withstand dirt and rocks but will wear out faster on asphalt and concrete.

Road shoes won’t give you the grip or the extra protection of toe caps and rock plates that you want on a burly trail, but they’ll cushion your joints and give you good traction on unforgiving pavement.

Racing shoes are designed for fast running for a limited period of time. They won’t hold up as well or as long as a trainer. Rotate your shoes and use them for the purpose the designer intended. It really does make a difference.

8. Tie and untie the laces

If you like to slip your shoes on without untying them, this one is for you. If you’re rushing out for your run, or yanking them off when you get home, keep in mind that tying and untying your shoes can help them last longer. When you force your foot into a tied shoe, you strain the heel cup, which can make it break down faster and diminish the support that it offers your foot. A few extra moments can make a big difference.

If you simply can’t make this work, consider replacing your traditional laces with a stretchy bungee pair.

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