Running Shoe Rotation 101: How Many Pairs Do You Need?


You probably heard running shoe rotation from professional runners, running specialty stores, and running vloggers. But do you know why it is important and how many pairs you actually need? 

Honestly, when I first heard about the concept of running shoe rotation, it felt like a marketing gimmick to get you to buy more shoes. But when I asked professional runners for tips on injury prevention, they swore by the effectiveness of a running shoe rotation.

You need at least 2 running shoes in your rotation if you’re doing different types of running and on different terrain more than 4 days a week. This will help prevent overuse injury and increase the lifespan of your running shoe. 

But let’s not stop there. As the title suggests, this is a beginner’s guide to running shoe rotation. So we will discuss what it is, its importance, how to build your running shoe rotation, and a few examples to get you going. 

What Is Running Shoe Rotation?

A running shoe rotation is having 2 or more running shoes that you switch up for different types of running or different running surfaces (road vs trail). 

This may be composed of lightweight shoes for fast runs, cushioned shoes for recovery days or trail running shoes for off road runs and so on. 

Choosing a shoe for your rotation will depend on the type of running you do and the terrain you usually run on. 

Why You Should Rotate Your Running Shoes

Having a running shoe rotation has a number of benefits, but we will highlight at least 5. 

1. Reduce the risk of injury

Running is a very repetitive sport, that is why many runners experience overuse injuries. But did you know that by simply switching up your running shoes, you decrease your risk of injury up to 39%? 

In a 2013 study, a group of researchers conducted research aimed to find out whether using more than one pair of running shoes can help reduce running-related injuries amongst recreational runners. 

After analyzing the reports of 264 recreational runners, they found that using more than one pair of running shoes helped reduce running-related injuries. 

This may be due to the fact that running shoes need at least 24 hours in order for the midsole to expand back to its original form and provide the same cushioning. 

Using the same running shoe before it’s back to its normal shape may lead to a firmer landing and reduce the shoes’ ability to absorb impact. 

Similarly, running in the same shoes puts your body in the same position every time you run. This means, the same muscles are working and the same joints are absorbing the impact. D

As suggested by Runningwarehouse.com, using at least 2 running shoes with a different heel-to-toe drop will put your body in a new position which will transfer most of the impact to a slightly different angle in the body.

This helps prevent overuse injury and train other muscles that might have been neglected when running at a different angle. 

2. Improved performance for different types of running

If you’re a beginner, you might think that running shoes are classified only as trail running shoes and road running shoes. But there’s a whole lot more under each bracket. 

Running shoes are designed for different purposes. There are lightweight/responsive shoes usually designed for fast paced runs, cushioned shoes for recovery days and daily training, energized shoes that conserve your energy for long distances and a combination of these that work for different purposes.

Bottomline is, there’s a lot of types of running shoes to choose from and choosing a specific running shoe for each type will allow you to perform better. 

3. Increases the lifespan of shoes

Running shoes lasts around 500 miles on average. But using the same shoe over and over again without giving it time to expand back to its original shape may destroy it prematurely.

As mentioned earlier, running shoes need at least 24 hours to expand back to their original shape after you use them. 

Using them frequently will not allow the midsole to return to its original shape and will eventually cause the midsoles to collapse and never return to their original shape. When that happens, your running shoe will fail to give you the cushioning it once had and will need to be replaced. 

Check out our article ‘8 Tips to Make Your Running Shoes Last Longer‘ to extend the lifespan of your shoe.

4. Provide Safety

If you’re a fan of trail running like me, chances are, you have training sessions on both the road and the trail. 

Trail running shoes are designed with stability features to prevent you from twisting an ankle, deeper lugs to prevent slipping and some protective features to prevent punctures from sharp rocks and tree branches. 

Using your road running shoe for trail running, especially technical ones, means you’re at risk of twisting an ankle, slipping, and getting punctured by rocks so I suggest getting yourself a pair of road running shoes and trail running shoes. 

Similarly, using a trail running shoe on the road can get very uncomfortable. Most trail running shoes have minimal stack height to provide more stability and responsiveness. Using trail running shoes on the road may feel a little too firm and will decrease the lifespan of your trail running shoes. 

If you’re on a tight budget and looking for a shoe that can do a little bit of both, I recommend the ASICS Gel-Venture 7. It’s a trail running shoe but its cushioning doesn’t rely solely on the midsole foam. It is equipped with Gel technology to help with the cushioning so it should feel decent on the road and trail. The best thing is that they’re so cheap. You can buy them on Amazon. 

5. Gives you different options and running feels

The only way to know which shoe is really the best for you is if you try on different shoes. 

Having two or more running shoes in your rotation will give you different running experiences and allow you to figure out which shoe you prefer for doing a certain type of running.

Do you prefer using a heavily cushioned shoe for long distances or would you prefer a light, responsive shoe so you can go faster even if you’re sacrificing comfort?

Is Running Shoe Rotation Necessary?

Put it this way. You don’t really need a running shoe rotation if you’re a recreational runner who runs less than 4 days a week. You can run every other day and let your running shoe rest for a day before using it again. 

All you need is a good pair of daily trainers like the Hoka Rincon 2 and use them for all types of running. 

However, if you’re following a marathon program or any running program that involves different types of running such as intervals, tempo runs, easy runs, and recovery days, having a second or even a third pair of shoes is recommended. 

Similarly, if you run on different terrains, having a pair of trail running shoes and road running shoes will go a long way in extending the lifespan of your shoes and preventing injuries. 

How Many Running Shoes Should You Have?

If you’re running 4 or more days per week and are doing different types of running, having at least 2 pairs of running shoes is recommended. 

Recreational runners who run less than four days a week are fine with one pair of running shoes, considering they choose a running shoe that can do a lot of things.

A great example of this is the Hoka Rincon lineup. It’s light enough to go fast and cushioned enough for long runs and easy days. 

Similarly, if you enjoy running on both road and trail but don’t have an extra penny to spend, The Nike Pegasus 36 Trail and ASICS Gel-Venture 7 are great choices. 

How to Build Your Running Shoe Rotation

If you think you need to build a running shoe rotation to enjoy its benefits, here are things you should consider when selecting the shoes to include in your rotation. 

1. What’s The Running Surface of Your Route?

Are you running on roads only, trails only, or both? When trying to build out your running shoe rotation, you have to consider the running surface you’re going to run in. 

2. What’s The Support Level of Your Shoe?

Running shoes can be classified into two main categories according to support level. The neutral and stability running shoes. 

Stability running shoes like the ASICS Gel-Kayano 27 are shoes built with stability features that help prevent overpronation. In contrast, neutral running shoes like ASICS Gel-Nimbus Lite 2 are designed for runners with the correct level of pronation. 

Know the support level you need before choosing a running shoe to include in your rotation.

If, for example, you’re an overpronator and in need of stability running shoes. Then you must try to find stability shoes that you can use for easy days, long-distance races, and speedwork.

If you wish to learn more about neutral and stability running shoes, check out this article that explains them in detail. 

3. How Do You Run?

Running can be categorized into 6 running types. There’s an easy day, long/mid-distance run, tempo days, threshold days, fartlek/interval, and race days. 

Though you don’t necessarily have to buy a running shoe for each type of running, you have to consider how you train and what type of running you spend most of your time on. 

Some shoes can be used for 2-3 of these types, but no one shoe can hit all different types of running. That is why having 2 pairs of running shoes for different purposes is recommended. 

I suggest getting a pair of responsive shoes like the Saucony Kinvara 12 that can handle tempo days and short races and a pair of cushioned shoes like the Nike Pegasus 37 that can handle easy days as well as long-distance runs for your first two pairs. 

Running Shoe Rotation Example

Before we end this discussion, I’m going to give you a running shoe rotation example and explain what you should be looking for in a shoe to run in that type.

Running TypeRunning shoeWhat to look for
Easy day1. Brooks Glycerin 19
2. Nike Pegasus 37
3. ASICS Gel-Nimbus 23
4. adidas Ultraboost 21
Look for soft running shoes that can provide good cushioning to reduce the impact that your legs need to absorb. 
Long distance/mid distance1. ASICS GlideRide 2
2. Saucony Endorphin Pro
3. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
Look for shoes that have decent cushioning to cushion your foot on the unforgiving pavement for hours and good energy return to save some energy in the long run. Being lightweight is a bonus. 
Tempo Day1. Saucony Kinvara 12
2. ASICS EvoRide 2
3. Nike Zoom FLy 3
4. New Balance FuelCell Propel V2
Look for lightweight and responsive running shoes to help you go fast on tempo days. 
Threshold1. Saucony Endorphin Pro
2. Brooks Hyperion Elite 2
Look for light running and energized running shoes. 
Interval 1. Brooks Hyperion Tempo
2. Nike Zoom FLy 3
3. New Balance FuelCell Elite
Look for responsive, springy shoes.
Race Day 1. ASICS Metaracer
2. Brooks Hyperion Elite 2
3. Saucony Endorphin Pro
Look for a very light and responsive shoe that propels you forward to help increase your speed.
Trail Running Shoes1. Brooks Cascadia 15
2. Salomon Speedcross 5 
3. Nike Pegasus 36 Trail
4. Asics Gel-Venture 7
Look for a balance of cushioning, durability and grip. In general, a running shoe with a higher stack height has a lower level of stability than minimal shoes. If you need that extra stability, going for a minimal shoe might be an option for you.
Suggested running shoes for different types of running.

These are just my suggestions of running shoes that can be used for these different types of running.

Some of you may prefer using light shoes for long distances over cushioned ones and that’s okay. It all boils down to personal preference.

It’s always best if you try on different shoes for different types of running in order to find your preference.

Also, you don’t have to buy one shoe for all types of running. As a matter of fact, I only have two pairs of shoes. One is a Brooks Adrenaline GTS for road running and a Brooks Cascadia for trail running (I use it for technical, muddy, and downhill trails). I run 4 to 5 times a week, 2 days on the road, and 2 to 3 days on the trail.

My running shoe rotation. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20 and Brooks Cascadia 14

Both of these shoes feel great on my feet and I am yet to find a third shoe I can use for tempo days.

If you need help in choosing your running shoes, I’ve made an article that might help you choose a running shoe. Be sure to check it out.

The Wrap Up

Having at least 2 pairs of running shoes has many benefits including decreasing the risk for injury and extending the lifespan of your running shoes. However, not everyone needs to build a running shoe rotation. 

If you’re someone who runs more than 4 times a week, having a second or third pair of shoes may be worth considering. However, if you’re just a recreational runner running for an average of 5k less than 4 times a week, then you probably don’t need to spend that extra cash on a second shoe. 

Building a running shoe rotation takes months to years. It is a process that cannot be rushed. Just remember that what running shoe you use for a certain type of running will always be according to your preference and comfort. What may have worked for another runner may not necessarily work for you.

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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