When it comes to chucking out your old faithfuls, you need to know you're doing the right thing. Richie Hedderman of Predator Nutrition takes us through shoe degradation, and when to put those babies out to pasture...
How Often Should You Replace Your Running Shoes
Running is an incredibly efficient way to stay fit. There’s something about the notion that all you need is a good pair of running shoes to get moving! Since running shoes are all you need, it’s no wonder that replacing your pair at the right time is paramount. Don’t get caught up following the exception to the rule — that one runner you know who has never bought a new pair of running shoes is not the person to imitate.
So when exactly are you supposed to replace your running shoes? We’ve all heard of the 300-500 mile window by now, but is that just something made up by shoe companies to get you to buy more? Let’s go over why you need to replace your running shoes and discover the right time to get a new pair.
Why Should I Replace My Running Shoes?
In addition to improving the performance and comfort of every run, preventing injury is a major factor in replacing your running shoes. When your shoes start to deteriorate, your body no longer gets the support it needs and damage is inevitable. Your running shoes should ease the pressure of each foot strike to protect you from injury. When your shoes lose cushioning, you are at a higher risk of incurring an injury.
The British Medical Journal published an article that looked at risk factors for running related injuries. The study concluded that body mass and shoe cushioning put runners at greater risk for injury. Although the subject, in general, is still controversial, research agrees that altered running biomechanics are responsible for injuries and shoe cushioning can change these mechanics.
There are a few areas of the shoe that are particularly important in terms of biomechanics. You’ll be able to see the most wear and tear on the outside fabric, but the real area to focus on is the midsole. This durable, rubber layer on the bottom of the shoe is typically made of EVA foam to help reduce the impact of your movements. Although EVA foam is highly durable, it has a tendency to start breaking down after thousands of steps.
There is no doubt that shoe cushioning degrades over time, causing your shoes to become more rigid and flat. The question is really how that deterioration impacts your running mechanics. Understanding the durability of your shoes, and how it impacts your running over time is pretty important when it comes to preventing injury.
Most of the deterioration occurs in the first 20 or 30 miles you run. You may have noticed this dynamic already because after just a short time the shoes you bought in the store will start to feel different. These small changes, however, won’t impact your running mechanics and shoe support very much because your body adapts.
As your shoes start to lose shape, your body starts to activate different muscles to compensate. If you wear thin, rigid shoes then you can expect your legs to become looser over time. There is a critical moment, however, when your body requires a change in footwear. There might some wiggle room on the exact amount of mileage, but you need to recognise when your shoes no longer have a supportive shape.
How Much Mileage Can You Really Get Out of Running Shoes?
It turns out that the shoe companies were right about the mileage. The American Association of Podiatric Sports Medicine supports the assertion that you should replace your running shoes before you hit 500 miles. The cushioning of the shoe starts to wear out at around 200 miles so it's a good idea to buy a new pair of running shoes at this point and transition them. If you alternate the new pair with your old pair, you will always have a shoe that feels good on your feet.
If your workout depends on a certain biomechanical feature, then you should consider having a few pairs of shoes on hand because you can’t predict when they will start to feel different.
Shoes are rather expensive though. So, you really want to shop around. There are some great online bargains and specials that you can find if you keep your eye out for them.
Don’t fall for any gimmicks to improve shoe cushioning. Listen to your body and you’ll feel the point at which the shoes no longer work as you need them to do. As soon as you can feel a difference in the support, it’s time for a new pair. Ultimately that decision is up to you, but after 500 miles you should really get new running shoes.