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200 Miles? 500 Miles? When Should You Replace Your Running Shoes?

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Ryan Hall won his first NCAA championship in 2005 when he ran the 5000 meter race in 13:22.32, beating his teammate by less than a second. That’s just off a 4 minute pace, for those of you who are counting. Gina Kolata from the New York Times wellness blog, caught him standing still long enough to ask him when he decides a shoe is ready to retire. He explained that he replaces his shoes every 200 miles, saying, “I know that my shoes could probably handle a couple of hundred more miles before they are worn out, but my health is so important to me that I like to always make sure my equipment is fresh.” Dr. Jeremy Keene, from our clinic in Roanoke-Cave Spring, Virginia echoed Hall’s emphasis on maintaining your gear; encouraging runners to remember that, “Injury prevention and increased performance are the results of shoes that provide the proper support.”
Replacing shoes every couple hundred miles isn’t quite as daunting when your shoes come from a corporate sponsor, but when the rest of us are looking at spending between $90-$120, new shoes don’t seem quite so necessary, regardless of the stern warnings about possible injuries from tired-out treads. Gina Kolata decided to get a few other opinions on the topic as well, asking a friend who runs 100+ miles each week how often she purchases replacements. Ms. Davis guesstimated her gear logs about 500 miles before she heads to her local running store. A range of 200 to 500 miles is fairly large though and neither Mr. Hall nor Ms. Davis had too much to say about how they determine when the time is right to start looking for new shoes.

The experts at REI recommend 500 miles as a general guideline but offer an easy set of tests for you to determine for yourself whether or not your shoes need to be benched.

The Press Test: Use your thumb to push on the bottom of your shoe up into the midsole. With new shoes, the midsole should visibly compress into lines or wrinkles. A more worn shoe will compress less when subjected to the same amount of pressure. Heavily compressed midsoles offer little stability or protection and are a sign that it’s time for a new pair.

Further Examination: Check out the wear your shoes have sustained. Are the heels intact? Have you worn parts of the outsole down? Have your shoes molded to your feet (i.e. heel pockets inside the shoe)? If so, your shoes may be ready for retirement.
Feelin’ Good: Finally, pay attention to how your feet, ankles, knees, hops, and back feel after you run. Are you noticing new aches and pains lately? If so, it may be time to change shoes. Alternatively, unexpected friction or blisters may signal overstretched shoes that allow your feet to move around more than they should.

While tests and expert advice are helpful, the real answer for when to replace your shoes rests with you. According to Runner’s World, shoe wear has a variety of causes including:

  • The running surface – asphalt wears shoes down faster than grass or dirt,
  • The runner’s weight – runners over 200 pounds wear their shoes down more quickly than lighter runners
  • Strike style – heel strikers tend to wear out their midsoles more quickly than other running styles
  • Shoe type – more protective shoes tend to last longer than minimalist shoe types.

With all those variables, you are the only one who can really say if your shoes are ready for retirement. Using the tests mentioned above should help you determine if you’re ready for a new pair. While rotating between two different pairs of shoes and using your running shoes exclusively for workouts will help shoes last longer, when you know your shoes are past their prime, it’s worth the investment to get a new pair that will help keep you running pain-free.

About the Writer

The writing team at Tuck Chiropractic.

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