Some runners have a rule of thumb - they replace their running shoes every 6-12 months, depending on how much they're running. Although running shoes can come with a hefty price tag, serious runners know that this gear is essential for proper impact absorption, and that it can make the difference between a comfortable exercise routine and all kinds of injuries.
Of course, there's no definitive guide to recycling your old running shoes and purchasing a new pair. If you're having issues, you might return a pair of shoes after just a few miles, for example. That said, wear and tear will certainly have an impact on the relative performance of your running shoes, and it will wane over time.
So how do you know when it's time to give up your favorite pair of running shoes? Here are a few signs that you need to think about getting a replacement pair.
Manufacturer Mileage Guidelines
Running shoes are big business - footwear alone for this sport reportedly pulls in profits in excess of $3 billion a year. Runners are willing to shell out the dough for this vital gear, but it had better meet their high expectations.
It is for this reason that many manufacturers and retailers offer excellent return policies. However, manufacturers would rather not have to swap out shoes, which is why they perform extensive testing and train retailers to help runners find the right shoes for their gait from the get-go.
Testing can help manufacturers determine just how much miles a runner can expect to get from a particular shoe. In general, runners can anticipate about 300-500 miles of viable usage from a running shoe, depending on the shoe and the runner, after which shoes will start to underperform.
Despite testing, mileage guidelines are just that - guidelines. Every runner should track mileage and pay attention to the performance of their shoes when products get into the range where they may start to fail.
If you want a good indicator that your running shoes are no longer performing at peak capacity, starting to feel discomfort when you run is a pretty clear sign. Of course, discomfort could be related to other causes, but you'll want to be aware of particular types of discomfort.
What you want to note, specifically, is discomfort of the foot. When you start to feel discomfort in the ball, the heel, or the arch, there's a good chance you're no longer getting proper support from your running shoe. In this case, it's time to replace your shoes.
There are countless injuries associated with running, but one of the most annoying is blisters. You can get them not only from the wrong pair of shoes, but also from shoes that are reaching the end of their usable life. It is important to note that other conditions could be to blame.
Wearing the wrong socks with your running shoes is a common cause of blisters, especially if you live in a humid climate. Make sure to purchase socks that feature cooling and moisture wicking properties, as well as extra fabric above the heel and ankle to keep socks from slipping below the top of the shoe.
If you've got the right socks, you're not dealing with extreme moisture, and you're still getting blisters, you might want to look into upgrading to a new pair of shoes.
Aches, Pains, and Injuries
When a pair of running shoes starts to go, blisters and discomfort could be the least of your worries if you continue using them. Without proper cushioning and support you're bound to start noticing aches and pains in your feet, ankles, shins, knees, and hips.
You also increase the chances of suffering from injuries related to impact and overuse. Don't let it get to that point. When you start to experience discomfort, aches, and/or pains that you weren't feeling a few weeks ago, tally up the miles you've logged on your shoes - it's likely time to toss them.
Looseness or Visible Wear
Even if you haven't noticed any difference in your own running performance as shoes begin to wear, you may see telling changes to your shoes over time. For example, they might start to wear or come apart at the seams. You could find yourself tying them tighter for a snug fit as they stretch out.
These are indications that your shoes are reaching the end of their usable life and it is time to replace them with a new pair. If you find a pair you love that you can't bear to part with, do what many runners do and buy several pairs at a time so that you have back-up options ready to go at a moment's notice.