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How Long Do Running Shoes Last?

A good pair of running shoes is an investment in your health and comfort. So how often should you replace them? You might hate to give up a favorite pair, or you may be tempted to save a few dollars by wearing them “just a little longer.”

Not a good idea, according to George Roulett, a fitness, swimming and aquatic exercise instructor who also leads the beginner runner program at the OhioHealth McConnell Heart Health Center. He should know — he’s an active runner who participates in triathlons. And with a background in engineering and years of experience working in a specialty running shop, Roulett knows about the design and importance of good shoes.

When to Shop

By the time you see the wear on your athletic shoes, they probably haven’t been supporting your feet properly for some time.

“If you wear through the outer sole, those shoes were probably done two lives ago,” Roulett says.

That’s because the midsole foam wears out about twice as fast as the outer sole. This is critical because the inner structure of a good running shoe is designed for specific foot types, and the way your foot hits the ground and rolls — your pronation.

Most people tend to overpronate. That means your outer heel strikes the ground first and then your foot rolls inward. That causes stress to the muscles, ligaments, tendons and bone structure. So a shoe designed for overpronation will have higher density material strategically placed to help keep the foot in a more neutral position.

“The limiting factor on the life of a running shoe in most cases is the midsole foam that provides your cushioning,” Roulett says. “With each foot strike that foam gets compressed, and then it rebounds a little bit. With a number of impacts, it doesn’t rebound.”

How long does this take? It depends on how much you run.

“For a person who runs about 10 miles a week, that shoe could last a year,” Roulett says. “For a more active runner like me — I run about 60 miles a week — it will only last a couple of months.”

It’s a good idea to have two pairs of running shoes and alternate. Don’t buy two pairs at once, though — wear a pair for a while, and then buy a new pair.

“When it gets to the point where you really don’t want to wear that older shoe, it’s time,” Roulett says.

Take your old shoes with you when you’re shopping. That way, the salesman will be able to assess the wear pattern and how your foot is performing in that shoe.

Where to Shop — and Why

You may be tempted to shop online or buy a shoe you’ve heard about. But that may be a mistake.

“Every manufacturer of quality athletic shoes designs shoes for every foot type,” Roulett explains. “So I highly recommend shopping in person at a specialty running or walking shop. Sales staff know how to fit people with shoes and get the right footwear. That should result in a better fit and experience than buying online.”

Another advantage of going shopping in person: You can try on different shoes and see how they feel.

“Try on two different pairs at the same time, one on each foot, and pick the one that feels best from a variety of manufacturers,” Roulett says.

And while you’re there, consider picking up some polyester or “smart” wool socks. Cotton may be comfortable for casual wear, but it absorbs moisture and holds it against your skin, which can cause blisters and other problems. High-quality athletic socks may cost a little more, but they tend to last longer. And the health of your foot is worth the investment.

“In most cases, you get what you pay for,” Roulett says.

Are you looking to put your new shoes to work? Check out some of the running clubs in town. 

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