When to Replace Running Shoes

You’ve finally found the perfect pair of running shoes.  They have a wonderful fit, and you feel as if you can run in them forever.  Unfortunately after many miles, they are starting to show some wear.   Is it time toss your current pair and replace running shoes?

How much have the shoes been used?
There are several things to consider when deciding if your athletic shoes need to be replaced.  First, how much have the shoes been used?  For runners, a simple guideline is to replace running shoes every 300-500 miles, but there are many factors than can shorten or extend the life of shoes.  For example, a petite runner will generally have less wear than a heavy runner.  The type of running surface can also make a difference as a soft trail will result in less wear than a concrete sidewalk.  For activities such as basketball or tennis, it depends on the frequency and intensity of play as well as the type of court surface.

Check for signs of wear
Next, check for signs of wear on the bottom of the shoe.  Place your shoes on a flat surface and examine them from behind.  Excessive wear of the sole may cause the shoes to tilt to one side.  If the heels are not perpendicular to the ground, the shoes need to be replaced.  For most heel-striking runners, a normal wear pattern is on the outside corner of the heel.  If one typically runs on a road or track with a slope, an asymmetric wear pattern may develop.  A significant asymmetry should be evaluated by a podiatrist as it may be caused by an issue that may be improved through the use of custom orthotics.

Cushioning and support will wear down
Finally, it is important to know that the cushioning and support of shoes will eventually wear down, even if the exterior appears to be in good condition.  Athletic shoes typically have a layer of compressible foam material which loses its shock absorptive capabilities with prolonged use.  Other factors can speed the degradation of the foam such as high heat or UV light from the sun.  Loss of cushioning can lead to injuries such as stress fractures or shin splints.  Another part of the shoe that can wear out is the portion which wraps around the top of the foot.  This supportive portion of the shoe can become over-stretched with use.  When this occurs, the foot has more room to move inside the shoe which can lead to calluses and injuries.

Replace running shoes frequently to reduce the risk of injuries
Good shoes are important in all activities as they provide support, stability, and shock absorption.  With continued wear, the loss of these protective functions can potentially lead to overuse injuries of the foot, ankle, and legs such as plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, ankle sprains, and shin splints.  The decision to replace your athletic shoes depends on several factors, but if your shoes appear worn, it is time for new shoes.

Hubert Lee, DPM, FACFAOM is a podiatrist at CarePlus Foot and Ankle Specialists in Bellevue, Washington.  If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call (425) 455-0936 or visit bellevuefootdoctor.com.

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