How Long Do Running Shoes Last?
Running shoes are tough, but they don't last forever. Our shoes take a beating under our feet, bake on the asphalt and get caked in mud (not to mention sweat). The outsoles begin to go bald and the cushy foam gets compressed under our weight.
When your running shoes are new, they provide protection from the pavement and help keep you running smoothly. When shoes are on their last legs, though, they lose their ability to protect your feet and joints from running's repetitive pounding, which can lead to increased soreness and injury.
There are ways to make your running shoes last longer, but it’s also important to replace your kicks at regular intervals.
This guide will teach you how long running shoes typically last, the signs of when your running shoes are worn out, how to make running shoes last longer and, finally, when to replace your running shoes.
How Many Miles Do Running Shoes Last?
Tire companies recommend replacing many popular tires around 60,000 miles, and some engine oil should be swapped when you’ve driven 5,000 miles. Like tires and oil, running shoes have a lifespan that you should look out for when you're training.
If you keep track of the miles you run in each pair, most high-quality running shoes should last between 300 and 500 miles—about four to six months for someone who runs 20 miles per week—though that number is lower for race-day shoes, which are designed to be lighter and faster.
Top running shoe brands recommend those intervals based on when the materials start to deteriorate, even if the signs aren’t easily visible. But even when your shoes are toast, they're not totally useless: You can use them to do yard work or find ways to recycle your old shoes.
So, if your sneakers are creeping up in miles, it might be time to shop for the best running shoes.
How to Extend the Life of Running Shoes
Even though running shoes will eventually wear out, you don’t want to send them into an early retirement. Like making a sports bra last or preventing running injuries, you’ll get more miles out of your running shoes if you take care of them properly.
Here's how you can extend the life of your trainers:
- Own multiple pairs of shoes. If you run in just one pair of shoes at a time, the pair shoulders all the weight of your running. But rotating multiple pairs of quality shoes distributes the stress you put them through, so they all last longer.
- Dry them out. You shoes will eventually get wet, whether it's an unexpected downpour or you sweat until they're soaked. After that happens, it’s important to dry your shoes out to keep them in top shape (and funk-free). Stuff some old newspaper in them to dry them quickly, or let them air out for a couple days before running again.
- Clean them up. Like running in the rain, your shoes will also probably encounter mud or dirt on your runs. Dirt can be abrasive to the shoe’s upper, causing it to wear out prematurely.
- Run on the proper surface. Road running shoes were made to run on pavement, and trail running shoes were meant for the trail. Your road shoes won’t hold up to the abuses of the trail, and the lugs on your trail shoes will get worn down more quickly on rough concrete.
How to Tell if Running Shoes are Worn Out
Sometimes the eyeball test will tell you all you need to know about the age of your shoes, but other times worn out shoes might not be so obvious. If your shoes aren’t telling you they’re ready to be retired, your body might provide clues.
Here are some signs that your running shoes are ready for a slower life of mowing the lawn:
- Your shoes will feel flat. The bouncy midsole foam in a pair of new shoes will absorb impact associated with running, saving your feet and joints from taking a pounding. As your shoes age, though, the foam loses some of its ability to rebound, like if you put a brick on top of a marshmallow.
- Nagging aches and pains. Hard workouts or increased mileage can make you feel sore the next day, but if little pains persist even after a normal run, it might be time for a refresh.
- Worn soles. The outsoles of your running shoes have tread just like the tires on your car, which helps cushion your landings and grip the pavement. But the ground is abrasive, especially if you primarily run on concrete and asphalt. If your soles sport bald patches and excessive wear, they won’t serve you as well as a new pair.
- Uneven wear. If your worn soles are uneven, this can signal an even greater problem than just needing new shoes. It could mean you need different types of shoes, like a pair of the best stability shoes, to better support your feet. If that's the case, take them with you when you go to get fitted for your next pair.
By Evan Matsumoto. Evan played many sports growing up but didn’t go pro in any of them. Now, he’s the digital copywriter for fleetfeet.com and editor for the Fleet Feet blog where he writes about different foam densities and engineered mesh uppers.
This article is part of our guide for How to Start Running.