When to Replace Your Running Shoes

You may truly want to run forever, but the goal for your favorite running shoes should be more modest. 

You have three ways to tell if it’s time to replace your running shoes:

  • Shoe mileage, typically after 300 to 500 miles
  • Your body tells you via new, unexpected pains and blisters.
  • Signs of excessive wear like worn outsoles or stretched-out heels

How and where you run will affect when your shoes have reached their ultimate finish line. Pavement will wear out shoes faster than a track, a trail or gravel. More robust shoes might last longer, while minimalist shoes will be done at closer to 300 miles. And a heavier person will get fewer miles, regardless of shoe type.

Shoe Mileage

a running shoe with zero mileage, and another with 500 miles of use
Midsole cushioning—made of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) in almost all road and trail-running shoes—is the key to the lifespan of your shoes. Even if all of your shoes’ other vital signs look good, their EVA midsoles will have lost substantial resiliency after 500 miles.
  • If you log your mileage, then it’s simply a matter of planning a retirement party when you reach that 500-mile milestone.
  • Or you can estimate mileage: You might average 10 miles a week, for example. That’ll push you past the 500-mile mark in about a year (50 weeks).
Note: Ideally, you use your shoes solely for running. If you wear them casually, though, those miles also count.

 

Listen to Your Body

trail running shoes in use on the trail

If you’re wary of a one-mileage-fits-all approach, then you can decide when to replace your shoes based on how your body feels during and after runs. If you notice any mysterious new discomfort in your feet, legs, knees, hips or back, you probably need new shoes. 

Other indicators that your shoes are worn out are hot spots or blisters in unexpected places. That can mean your shoes have stretched and your feet are moving around too much.

 

Look for Signs of Wear

detail of worn running shoes
Don't worry about how dirty your shoes are. That's a good thing because it means you've been using them. Look instead for general wear and tear:
  • Are the heels stretched out or broken down on the interior?
  • Are places on the outsoles excessively worn? (A little wear is fine.)
  • Can you see how the shoes have molded to your foot?

Any of these signs of serious wear indicate that it’s time for new shoes.

 

Tips For Extending the Life of Your Running Shoes

two runners standing on a curb in their running shoes

Rotate two pairs of shoes: The benefit is greater if you use different shoes because your body gains a slight cross-training advantage as it adapts to subtle differences in shoe design. Shoe rotation also gives midsoles time to decompress and the entire shoe time to dry out.

Remove your shoes properly: Using the other foot to rake down on the back of the heel to pry off a shoe is bad form. Unlace each one instead and slip it off with your hands. Your shoes will thank you by serving you longer.

Use your shoes only for running: Wearing running shoes around the house or town might make you feel empowered (and comfortable), but it will also prematurely wear your shoes down. They were born to run—not run errands.

 

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Contributing Experts

Elizabeth (Beth) Henkes
Elizabeth (Beth) Henkes

Beth Henkes is a footwear sales lead and fit guru at the REI store in Alderwood, Wash.