There is a golden rule of thumb, which says that running shoes can last up to 1,000 km (+/- 200 km). The durability, however, may vary according to use and therefore it can be hard to determine when it is time to buy a new pair. In this article, I will give you some tips on how to spot the wear and tear on your running shoes – and how to use your own body to determine when to replace the running shoes.
WEAR AND TEAR ON THE UPPER
The upper is the part of the running shoe that encloses the foot and keeps the shoe together with help from the lacing. The upper often varies in colour and material. In the last couple of years, it has been popular with knitted mesh on the running shoes. Mesh is a finely woven, thin, and breathable material which is ideal for running, where the feet will often get hot and sweaty. Also, the running shoe’s upper can be made up of synthetic leather to improve the durability.
Wear and tear on the upper will often show itself as holes at the toes if, for instance, the shoe has been too small or if your toes are pointing upwards and thereby apply pressure to the material.
Wear and tear can also be seen at the inside of the ankle if you tend to kick your foot along the inside of the other foot while running. This will wear on the fabric, so the foam beneath it will become visible or it will come apart at the seams.
WEAR AND TEAR ON THE MIDSOLE AND OUTSOLE
The midsole is the thickest piece of foam and sits between the upper and the outsole. The midsole is particularly important for the running shoe’s comfort as it has to provide for the shock absorption and guide the foot’s movement when landing and pushing off the ground.
After every run, the molecules in the midsole’s foam material flattens out and provides less shock absorption. The molecules in the midsole need about 24 hours to recover before they can deliver a decent shock absorption again. As a result of wear and tear, you can often see wrinkles/lines in the foam of the midsole.
The outsole is the thin layer of rubber on the outside of the shoe. It is the part that has direct contact with the ground. Therefore, it is inevitably the outsole that shows the first signs of wear and tear. The appearance of an outsole can vary depending on the structure.
Runners with a heavy heel strike tend to use the heel area more, while front foot runners will use the front area of the sole. The wear and tear will then be evident by looking at the affected area and structure under the shoe. Sometimes, it may even be possible to see how the heel gets slightly skewed, which is a clear sign to replace the running shoe as you will not receive the optimal support and it will ultimately affect your running style in a negative way.
FUN FACT: Some of the best long-distance runners will on average run 175km a week. That means around 8-10 pairs of running shoes… a year!!
WEAR AND TEAR ON THE HEEL CAP
Normally, the inside of the heel cap will also show signs of wear and tear. The heel cap is the part of the running shoe that hugs around your heel. This part is generally firmer than the rest of the running shoe as it is equipped with a solid material (often plastic). The heel cap should provide good grip and support for your ankle and Achilles tendon to ensure that you do not slip out of the shoe when pushing off the ground. To diminish any wear and tear on the inside of the heel cap, you should always untie your running shoes when you step out of them after a run. If you try to take off your shoes, despite the resistance of the tied laces, the material on the inside of the heel cap will tear quicker.
USE YOUR BODY AS AN INDICATOR
Even though you can see the wear and tear on your running shoes, the best advice is to listen to any danger signs given by your body and feet. Do your running shoes feel flat or have you started to notice minor irritations in the tendons around the knees or feet? Then it may very well be an indicator to replace your running shoes.
Of course, the more you run in your running shoes, the quicker you wear them out. High mileage on your running shoes is, however, no guarantee that they need to be replaced. The most important thing is to pay attention to how the shoe and body feel. If your running shoes are relatively worn out, you will often experience how the shocks and landings feel heavier and harder compared to brand-new, well-padded running shoes.
SUMMARY – THE FACTORS THAT WILL AFFECT THE LIFESPAN OF YOUR RUNNING SHOES
The wear and tear of your running shoes will to a large extent be affected by your running style, weight, the amount of training, and the surface you are training on.
If you are landing on your heel, you will often be able to see the wear and tear at the heel area or even see how the heel has been skewed as a result of the rough landing. If you are landing at the front foot, however, you will experience how the outsole’s structure at the front gradually fades away. If the structure is completely worn out, the running shoe will start to feel slippery and not nearly as slip-resistant to run in.
Regarding your weight, this too can affect the lifespan of your running shoes. Compared to a heavier runner, a light runner will probably be able to keep the running shoes for longer than the golden 1,000 km. It is, however, not useful to merely isolate one factor from the rest. Running style, the amount of training, and the surface are all affecting the durability of the running shoe.
The durability and longevity of running shoes vary depending on the type of running shoe. Tempo/race day shoes are normally lighter and more minimalistic when it comes to padding. Therefore, they will often have a shorter lifespan than classic running shoes.
If your running shoes are never taking a rest, then you can, with great benefit, invest in an extra pair of running shoes. This way you will also train your muscles, tendons, and joints to run in different running shoes, which in turn will make it easier for you to break in a new pair of running shoes and will lower the risks of any running discomforts.
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