should you really replace your running shoes every 6 months?
August 29, 2007 6:42 PM   Subscribe

should you really replace your running shoes every 6 months?

I exercise 3-5 times a week. That usually includes a fitness class (e.g. step, weight training, etc.). I only run occasionally on the treadmill for 15-30min at a time. I have been told that your running shoes should be replaced every 6 months. Is that true? If so, what do you do with your old ones? Do you throw them out? Can you wear them as walking shoes? I currently have Saucony running shoes that are over 1 year old, but I have only used them in the gym, so they look pretty decent. It seems a waste to just throw them out.
Any advice from fitness trainers/buffs, doctors and everybody else would be appreciated! :)
posted by esolo to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Having recently completed my first marathon, I found that my first pair of training shoes lost their bounce after about 200-300 miles of running, and I definitely noticed that my new pair were much more comfortable. I've seen advice saying that you should replace your running shoes after anywhere from 300-500 miles.

Basically, running shoes do wear out, and your knees would probably appreciate it if you replaced them when they do.

Of course, walking and lifting are much lower-impact, and you're probably okay using them for those activities.
posted by mpls2 at 6:51 PM on August 29, 2007

For running shoes used exclusively for running, the ballpark is 300-500 miles. While a year of use in your situation probably won't be that much, you will start to see foam deterioration etc just from age at some point. I would get a new pair for the treadmill, and shift them to fitness duty after 300 miles.
posted by djb at 6:53 PM on August 29, 2007

i keep mine til they start to wear quite badly (sole rubber coming unstuck, holes appearing in sole rubber (ie black bit wears through) or fabric upper) - that tends to be more than a year i guess (for some time i ran on packed sand and the sand/water really trashes shoes). BUT i've been doing the same kind of exercise for over 10 years and have no particular problems with pronation etc, am a fore-foot striker with (i think) a fairly good running style.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:55 PM on August 29, 2007

The guidelines I've been told by qualified health professionals are 500 miles (or less if you are heavy) or 2 years, whichever comes first. This is for shoes made with EVA foam. Some shoes are more lightly constructed and will break down by 300 miles though.
Based on the amount you're running, the two year limit would seem to be fine.
posted by cardboard at 7:05 PM on August 29, 2007

It's miles, not time. Especially when you aren't running outside. Also, it really depends on how you run - if you wear through shoes, you would probably know it by now.
posted by tmcw at 7:09 PM on August 29, 2007

Don't go by how they look. Running shoes will age, even if you don't put a lot of miles on them.

If you aren't sure, go try on a new pair of running shoes. Do they feel noticeably bouncy and nicer than your current pair? There's your answer.
posted by ambrosia at 7:13 PM on August 29, 2007

I always buy new shoes before I need them and switch shoes every workout. When the old shoes seem to suck compared to the new ones, I retire them. Some end up as gardening shoes, some are sent to Africa by our running store.
posted by advicepig at 7:15 PM on August 29, 2007

Yes, you should, in order to avoid plantar fasciitis or other impact/stress related injuries that can be exacerbated when shoes have lost support and cushioning. If you are prone to any type of foot/leg/knee/back problems, replacing your shoes frequently should help you avoid trouble. Once I retire a pair of shoes, I do wear them around, but for running or exercising.
I would also recommend buying shoes at a factory outlet (New Balance, Nike, etc.) if you have one near you- there's no need to spend $100 on a pair of sneakers if you can find a pair that fits you well for $30, especially if you're buying them twice a year. Some factory outlets will accept you old shoes and recycle or donate them.
posted by emd3737 at 7:22 PM on August 29, 2007

Buying a 2nd pair and rotate every session, extends the life a lot. All the people on our cross country team used at least 2 pairs of decent to quality trainers. The extra rest gives the shoes extra time to recoup and "bounce back" (no pun intended). Also nthing the whole you can't go by what they look like because it is deceiving.

Good luck with the running!
posted by Sgt.Grumbless at 7:25 PM on August 29, 2007

as a clarification, I want to add: i am aware of the number of miles guidelines, but these do not help. I run rarely, and I don't keep track of miles (and I don't know how I would even if I wanted to). So the question is more specifically related to wearing shoes for aerobics classes.
posted by esolo at 8:08 PM on August 29, 2007

Try on a new pair of shoes. If they feel significantly better then you're probably ready for a new pair.
posted by mpls2 at 8:12 PM on August 29, 2007

i just searched around on google scholar and the main consensus seems to be that there is little research about this. there were some studies related to stress fractures in soldiers, but while one turned up a small effect related to shoe age the main factor seems to be changing exercise patterns. this is consistent with my experience, which is that i get injured when i increase training too rapidly, and not when i have old shoes.

i can't help thinking that shoe companies are happy to propagate this 500 mile "limit" because it mans more money for them, rather than because it's based on any reliable research, but perhaps i am too cynical and someone will post evidence rather than repeating hearsay numbers?
posted by andrew cooke at 8:40 PM on August 29, 2007

It's an interesting question. It used to be the answer was yes because cushioning wore out over time dependent on a number of factors such as distance, your body weight, your gait, whether the shoes are cushioned or stabilising.

But I'm not so sure anymore. I mean a full length Nike air sole does not loose any bounce, unless it loses air(which it does not) and most other cushioning these days is far more advanced then 10 years ago.

But I like new running shoes :) so I tend to buy them often.
posted by carfilhiot at 9:42 PM on August 29, 2007

As previously said, its by mileage in running shoes. I wear down the cushioning on my Brooks Adrenalines in about 500-600 miles, which works out to be about 3 months in training. I've slaughtered my feet in the past on bad cushioning to the point I could barely walk, so I take no chances. Old running shoes can be used perfectly well as gym shoes, around the house shoes, and even as hiking shoes.

I wouldn't worry about an aerobics class. Think of the number of steps you take in 1 mile. Now think about the number of steps with equivalent impact you take in one aerobics session. Probably not too big of an issue.

Rotating shoes will help with non-mileage related lifetime, and is generally a good idea.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:50 PM on August 29, 2007

What emd3737 said.

Take it from someone who's been unable to run for over a month - you do NOT want to tempt the plantar fasciitis gods...
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:49 AM on August 30, 2007


You should replace them on feel. The guidelines are just that, and aren't necessary for everyone, although they're a good thing for shoe companies.

There isn't much research about this, and the research that there is is equivocal at best (for instance, there's research that suggests that the more cushioning a shoe has the more likely a runner is to get injured wearing it. There is also research that indicates that weekly barefoot running lowers incidence of lower leg injury in runners.). Individual runners may well feel as if they get injured more frequently if they don't change their shoes, but that's anecdote. I know a lot, lot, lot of high mileage runners who go thousands of miles on their shoes and are no worse for wear, which is, of course, just a competing anecdote.

One way that this is discussed on a distance running email list I'm on periodically is to get a newer pair of shoes and use it occasionally. If it feels markedly better than your old pair then it's time to switch. But you should make the decision based on how things feel to you. If you still feel good in older shoes, you should continue to wear them.

(And, not incidentally, if your distance and effort are moderate, I think it matters a lot less that you run in fresh shoes.)
posted by OmieWise at 4:39 AM on August 30, 2007

weekly barefoot running ... running email list

drags up ancient memories... ozzie someone? he still around? ignore this if it makes no sense.

posted by andrew cooke at 4:58 AM on August 30, 2007

I'm a total running noob, having bought my first pair of shoes on Monday evening. The hippie dude at the store (part of a chain that caters specifically to runners) claimed that, in the case of the pair I was getting (Nike), the fabric of the shoe would fall apart long before the sole did. He expected the shoe lifespan to be over 1000 km.
posted by lowlife at 5:04 AM on August 30, 2007

If you don't feel like counting miles, a good way to tell if a shoe needs replacing is if you feel like you haven't stretched enough for your run despite stretching sufficiently. This tends to happen several miles before the shoes are worn out enough to cause major discomfort.
posted by yorick at 5:04 AM on August 30, 2007

it's also worth thinking a bit about the social processes involved.

one way to exercise well (or do anything well, really) is to understand what you are doing. in this case - understand to some extent how the body works, listen to what it's saying, gain experience slowly, etc etc.

the other way is to buy a solution.

a "rule" that says you must replace your shoes after x miles lets you choose the second route. which is a lot easier - instead of thinking, listening, spending time and effort, caring, you can just go shopping. even if it has no real basis, you can see why it's so attractive. one less thing to understand or worry about. what price peace of mind? at least, until you get injured anyway.

if you want to "play safe" (at least in your own local short term frame - let's ignore problems of consumerism and over-consumption) then change your shoes every 6 months. but try to listen to your body too.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:09 AM on August 30, 2007

andrew cooke, is this it?
posted by penguin pie at 6:19 AM on August 30, 2007

ewkpates rule #19: Regular exercise will increase the number of trips to the doctor, not decrease them.

To minimize this increase, replace shoes AT LEAST every 3 months or three thousand miles.

Shoes- something you can buy.
Your knees, feet, joints, ligaments, and tendons- something you can't buy.

Military guys in their 50's often can't run or even walk comfortably. They ran miles and miles in boots.
posted by ewkpates at 7:16 AM on August 30, 2007

pp - may be the same guy. he was on rec.running many years ago.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:18 AM on August 30, 2007

As far as old shoes go, almost all the local running shoe stores will accept shoes for some kind of local charity and see that they're put to good use.

For whatever it's worth, judging whether a given pair of shoes feels "flat" is kind of a hard thing to do, since they kind of settle down gradually over time. The real test is a shootout between your current pair and a newer, equivalent pair.
posted by ph00dz at 7:24 AM on August 30, 2007

Listen to your knees. I know when my current pair are getting worn, because it hurts me to run in them. With a pair in good condition, I don't have knee issues.

When in doubt, replace. A quality running store will accept a return or exchange if the new shoe doesn't help you feel any better. Get fitted for the shoe that works the best for you and for the type of workout you do. While it is true that you can pick up a shoe at a discount place, make sure that you've started by finding the shoe brand and model that works best for you. Once you know what to buy, you can get the next pair cheaper somewhere else if you wish, but don't go to a Foot Locker for your initial set of running shoes. Employees there are trained to sell you a shoe, not trained to sell you the right shoe.

My favorite around-town shoes are my beat up, retired running shoes. They don't have enough bounce to run in any longer, but they are more than comfortable and supportive enough for walking.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:42 AM on August 30, 2007

I get new shoes whenever my feet and knees start to hurt. Don't worry about miles or time.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:51 AM on August 30, 2007

Disclaimer: I am not a runner, nor do I own running shoes.

I am however, taking an interest in starting to run, and in my research, have seen an article mentioning that perhaps, running shoes are the cause of injuries in runners.

This is the internets, so take this as you will.
posted by Arthur Dent at 4:21 PM on August 30, 2007

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