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How often should you change your running shoes? Signs to look out for

When to change running shoes is a question we often get asked by our patients. It’s really not a good idea to continue running in worn-out shoes. In this article, I explain what can go wrong if you continue running in shoes that are past their prime and how to know when it’s time to change your running shoes. Remember, if you need help with an injury, you're welcome to consult one of our physios online via video call.


When to change your running shoes - signs to look out for.

In this article:


We've also made a video about this:



Reasons not to run in worn-out shoes

 

Worn-out running shoes have lost the cushioning effect of the foam in their soles. Especially if you're a quite heavy person and you run a lot on hard surfaces without proper cushioning, you can cause yourself injuries like plantar fasciitis, a variety of knee injuries, and even as high up as your lower back. (This obviously doesn’t apply if you’re used to running injury-free in minimalist shoes.)

 

Also, if you're somebody who has a specific movement pattern, like for instance, you overpronate, it means that you're likely going to compress the inner part of the shoe more – whereas if you supinate, you're going to compress the outer part of the shoe more – and the shoe is going to take on that shape. And then as you run, it's going to increase that movement pattern even more, which can lead to more injuries.

 

And then, of course, as your running shoes wear out, especially the top bits, they can also start problems like chafing, blisters, and injuries to your toenails.



How to know when to change your running shoes

 

1. Mileage

The first thing that you can look at is, how many kilometres/miles have you done in them?

 

I'm not talking about just running; walking also counts if you also walk around in the shoes you run in. The general guideline is that you need to start thinking about replacing your running shoes at around 700 kilometres or 430 miles.

 

Of course, this may be more or less for you, depending on a few factors such as:

  • Your weight. Heavier people wear their shoes out quicker.

  • The type of running shoe. Some of them are a lot softer, and you'll compress the underside or the sole quicker.

  • If you have a specific running style, e.g. you overpronate, you're going to wear one part out quicker than the others.

  • The terrain you run on most often. For example, if you do a lot of high-impact stuff like fast downhill running, you may wear your shoes out quicker because there will be higher force compression.

 

How do you keep track of the distance your shoes have covered?

 

My Garmin app allows me to log when I buy new running shoes. So, when I start to feel some niggles, I just look at my app and go, “How many miles have I done?”

 

If you walk a lot in your running shoes, be sure to log your walks also on Garmin or whatever fitness tracker you use. Last summer, I couldn't understand how my shoes were starting to feel uncomfortable after only three months, because I hadn't done that much running. But then, when I looked at my total steps for those three months – my walking and my running, and we were touring in Europe, so we did lots of walking and sightseeing – I realised I did way more than 700 kilometres. So keep an eye on that.



2. Things start to feel uncomfortable

Now, let's face it, very few of us are going to keep constant track of our mileage to decide when to change running shoes. One of the first signs that your shoes might not be right for you anymore is when things start to feel uncomfortable.

 

If your training has stayed pretty much constant and you've not done anything excessive, but you're starting to get aches in your knees or your back, or your feet just feel really uncomfortable after a run, chances are that your running shoes are worn.

 

Also, if you're getting blisters on your feet or you get warm patches underneath your feet just in specific places, those can be signs that you need to be changing your running shoes.


Sore feet is one of the signs that your shoes may be worn out.
Sore feet is one of the signs that your shoes may be worn out.

3. Inspect your shoes

  • Inspect the tread on the soles, like a traffic cop inspects a car’s tyres when they’re intent on finding a reason to fine you. It may not be bald all over; e.g. if you're pronating, it might be bald only on the inside.

  • Take a look at the shape of the shoes. If they look wonky and skew, they’re likely to be worn out.

  • If the uppers look like the dog's breakfast and they’ve got holes in them and they’re just really worn, it's likely also a sign that the rest of your shoes are not going to be doing their job anymore.


If your shoes look old, they likely need replacing.
If your shoes look old, they likely need replacing.

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Maryke Louw

About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 20 years' experience and a Master’s Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn and ResearchGate.




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