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I was recommending running shoes to a friend when he asked me the question “How long do running shoes last?“. I gave him an answer in months based on how long my running shoe lasted. But then I realize that not all runners run on the same terrain, gait, and body weight, so my answer didn’t really apply to everyone.
So I researched what the shoe manufacturers, professional runners, and running shoe specialty stores have to say about the lifespan of most running shoes.
Running shoes last for around 500 miles. That’s around a year if you regularly run for 10 miles a week. But that figure can be influenced by multiple factors including the type of shoe, the materials used in the shoe, the runner, and the running surface.
How Long Do Running Shoes Last?
According to most runners and running shoe experts, a running shoe will last 300 to 500 miles but you’ll be surprised to hear runners claiming that their shoes lasted up to 700 miles while some shoes hardly even got to 300 miles. In the same sense, you’ll be surprised to hear two different runners having different takes on the lifespan of the same shoe.
That’s because the lifespan of running shoes depends on multiple factors like the runner’s weight, running gait, running surface, and the shoe itself.
How to Spot a Durable Running Shoe
Some types of running shoes last longer than others. For example, racing shoes generally have a shorter lifespan than daily trainers. So comparing types of running shoes against one another is inappropriate.
However, there is a way of telling if a running shoe will last longer than that of its kind.
Look how thick the outsoles are – Outsoles tell much about the lifespan of a shoe. Generally speaking, thicker outsoles last longer than thin ones. Also, running shoes with full outsoles tend to last longer than running shoes with strategically placed outsoles.
Check out my girlfriend’s new pair of shoes (photo below). It has a very thick blown rubber outsole and exposes very little of the midsole. This daily trainer will be able to handle her day-to-day workload and will probably last her around 700 miles.
This is a Brooks Transcend 7. A stability shoe with a very soft cushioning.
Feel the structure of the upper – Some shoes have a well-built upper that provides a rigid structure, while others have a flimsy, clothlike upper that easily stretches. If you’re looking for a durable shoe that could handle a workhorse, look for running shoes with a structured upper.
Research the midsole technology – Back then, light and soft cushioning were considered less durable than their counterparts. However, recent advancements in technology allowed for a soft yet durable midsole. To determine whether the shoe’s midsole is durable, do research its technology and read shoe reviews from other runners.
Take the DNA Loft midsole of this Brooks Transcend 7, for example.
Look at the stack height – Shoes with a higher stack height mean more material in the shoe’s midsole. Therefore, shoes with high stack height tend to last longer than minimalist shoes.
Another great example of a very durable shoe is the ASICS GlideRide 2. The only downside is that it’s heavier.
Factors That Affect The Lifespan of a Running Shoe
Generally speaking, heavier runners get lesser miles from their shoes than lighter runners. An 80kg runner may need to start looking for a new pair around 300-400 miles while a lighter 60kg runner can hold it a little bit longer for at least 500 miles.
That’s because heavier runners give the shoe more force than light runners.
Some runners land with the heel while others land with the midfoot. In the same sense, some runners overpronate while others have a neutral stride. Runners run differently and it influences the overall lifespan of the shoe.
Generally speaking, heel strikers tend to wear the shoe faster because all load from the ground contact is received at one of the most critical parts of the shoe, the heel. While midfoot runners distribute the load evenly on a wider platform on the foot, therefore, the shoe wears off slower.
The running surface also influences the lifespan of a shoe. Shoes that run on pavement get lesser miles than shoes that run on the treadmill. Also, shoes that are running on trails may get lesser miles than those that run on the road.
You must choose an appropriate running shoe for different types of running surfaces. That is, use a trail running shoe for trails and use road running shoes for pavement.
The Running Shoe Itself
Shoes are made for different purposes. And some types last longer than others.
Generally speaking, lightweight racing shoes like the Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 get lesser miles in them because they tend to have lesser materials to reduce the weight of the shoe. That means lesser outsoles, lesser foam, and lesser structure in the upper. While some daily training shoes like the ASICS Gel-Nimbus 23 are built like tanks. They have more midsole foam, more outsoles, and have a firmer structure.
As an example, I’ve been training in Brooks Adrenaline GTS, one that I highly recommend for those in need of stability shoes, close to 400 miles now, and still haven’t noticed any change in the cushioning. Sure, the outsoles are starting to wear off, but it’s nowhere close to needing replacement. If you’re interested, you can check its current price on Amazon.
7 Simple Tips to Make Running Shoes Last Longer
At some point, you’re gonna have to change your running shoe, it is inevitable. But there’s something you can do to make your running shoes last longer.
Tip #1: Create a shoe rotation
A shoe rotation is having 2 or more shoes to switch up in training. Though it might sound like you’re going to be spending more, you’re actually saving more money in the long run (considering you’re really serious about running). Having a shoe rotation will significantly increase the lifespan of your running shoes.
That said, If you used a pair of shoes for a long-distance run, you shouldn’t use the same pair the next day to allow the midsole foam to recover and go back to its original stretch.
Here’s an example of a shoe rotation (the following links are links to Amazon):
- Well-cushioned daily trainers: Brooks Glycerin 19
- Speedwork shoes: Saucony Endorphin Speed
- Long run shoes: ASICS GlideRide 2
- Racing Shoes: ASICS METARACER
- Trail running shoes: Salomon Sense Ride 4
Tip #2: Use the appropriate running shoe for your training
You’ll be surprised to hear that there are different types of running shoes that work for different types of running. There are shoes built for speedwork, long distances, daily training, racing, and more. Though you don’t have to buy all of them, having a pair of road running shoes and a pair of trail running shoes is advisable.
If you’re interested to find out more about the types of running shoes, you can check out the full article I’ve written about that.
Tip #3: Use them only for running
While you may be tempted to use them as your casual wear because of the comfort and good looks that come with modern running shoes, doing so will decrease the lifespan of the shoe. Wearing them casually will still put a load on the midsole foam and wear out the outsole rubber.
To maximize the life of your running shoe, use them only for the sole purpose of running.
Tip #4: Dry them after use, but don’t put them in the dryer
Have you ever sweat so much that your shoe feels like it just got soaked in water? Or maybe you get caught up in the rain and ended up with a soaking wet shoe?
It might be tempting to just put it inside the dryer and get on with your life, but running shoes should never be placed in the dryer. Doing so may cause shrinkage or may alter the composition of the rubber midsole.
The best way to dry them is to air dry them outdoor in a shaded area. But if you need them to dry out fast, you can speed things up with the following methods.
Tip #5: Clean them regularly
Running shoes can get dirty pretty quickly. While it’s tempting to just leave it that way, mud and dirt may cause abrasions to the shoe. Add sweat to the equation and it can lead to a foul odor.
As a rule of thumb, wash your running shoes with warm water and detergent every 2 weeks. Also, if you run on a muddy trail, wipe the mud off every after use.
If you’re interested in learning how to wash your running shoe safely, I wrote a step-by-step guide about it in another article. You can check it out after reading this.
Tip #6: Do not expose your running shoes to harmful elements
Leaving your shoes outdoors and exposed to natural elements will shorten their lifespan. After you dried out your shoes, keep them inside your house or in a well-shaded area away from the sun’s harmful rays and rain.
Tip #7: Choose the right shoe
Shoes are not made the same. Some shoes work best for neutral runners while some shoes work best for overpronators. Some are built for people with a normal arch while some shoes are made for runners with low arch/flat feet.
Depending on your running gait, terrain, and intended use, you must choose the right shoe that could handle the work that you will put in.
Before you pick up a shoe, you must first learn how to pick up the right shoe.
Pro tip: If you only have a budget for one shoe, choose a daily trainer with a lot of outsole like a Brooks Ghost 13.
5 Signs That You Need To Replace Your Running Shoes
Unlike car tires which are recommended to be changed every 5 years, I can’t recommend an average time for running shoes. But I can tell you some signs that your running shoes need changing.
#1: You are losing traction on wet surfaces and tight curves
You can tell visually if the outsoles are worn out, however, even if there are still some visible grooves left but you’re already losing traction in tight curves and wet surfaces, it’s time to replace your running shoe.
Running in a shoe with poor traction may lead to injuries and poor running performance.
#2: The landing starts to feel firmer leading to more soreness and aches after a run
When your shoes are put in an activity as repetitive as running, the shoe’s midsole gets compressed from the repetitive pounding. At some point, the EVA foam no longer provides cushioning.
Though you can still run on them, they no longer provide the cushioning required to protect your knees from overuse injuries. Plus, you’ll start to get aches and pains more often. When that happens start looking for a new pair of running shoes.
#3: You no longer feel comfortable
The number one thing I look for in a shoe is comfort. But when the running shoe starts to feel uncomfortable underfoot or does not provide the same snug fit that it used to, then it’s time to look for a new pair. Running with an uncomfortable shoe to save a few bucks will only negatively impact your training. You’re gonna have to buy a new pair sometime anyway.
#4: The midsole foam has lots of wrinkles
The midsole is the part of the shoe that provides cushioning. When you see lots of wrinkles in them, that’s usually a sign that it is compressed and does not return to its original stretch. That usually happens when you use the same running shoe for long durations every day.
A compressed EVA midsole will significantly reduce the bounce and the cushioning in a shoe.
#5: Uneven wearing in the outsole
The outsole of your shoe tells a lot about its condition. When you notice that one part of the shoe is significantly worn out compared to other parts of the shoe, this is usually a sign that it needs changing.
Not only does it tell you the condition of the outsole, but it also tells you that the midsole foam on that particular area is receiving most of the load, and therefore, has worn out faster than the other parts of the midsole.
While the overall built of the running shoe influences its overall lifespan, the runner and how he uses it plays a huge part as well. A well-built shoe will last for 300-500 miles but at some point, you’re gonna have to change your running shoes. On a positive note, you can maximize its lifespan by doing the 6 simples ways detailed above.