How Often Should You Replace Running Shoes?

How often should you replace running shoes?

😲You know, do you...

  • Replace your running shoes at the exact stroke of a couple hundred miles?
  • Wear them until they're completely obliterated?
  • Or is there some other way to determine if it's time to say goodbye to a pair of running shoes that have seen a lot of miles? 

❌FYI...there's no one-size-fits-all answer (It depends).

βœ…But there are a few things you can watch for to keep your feet (and your body) happy to run mile after mile.

In this article, WeeViews Ambassador and ultrarunner Evan Jensen will show you 5 checkpoints that can help you decide if it's time for new running shoes...

When should you replace your running shoes?

😲 Replace your running shoes: Maybe I'll never learn

When I headed out for a casual 8-mile run in a well-worn pair of Hoka Challenger ATRs, the number of miles on the shoe didn't even cross my mind...

But it should have.

πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ By the time I slipped into these shoes for a regular run from city-to-rural and back, they'd already covered a lot of ground from road to trail, including:

I slipped on the shoes, laced up and headed out the door on an easy mostly-road run.

πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ Almost right away, the shoe felt...

  • Mildly unstable, like my foot strike wasn't quite right (especially on the left foot)
  • Harder and stiffer than I remember since I wore the shoes last
  • And then my knee (outer left side) started feeling a twinge of worry (very uncommon for me)

πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ Maybe it will work itself out, I thought.

  • I ran on. I had taken about a week off of running in place of strength training, and figured that might be the reason.
  • But nothing changed. In fact, the uncommon knee pain only got a little more naggy-feeling.
  • And the performance of the shoe started feeling like a real junker.

Frustrated, I started going through a checklist in my mind trying to figure out where my training could be falling short.

  • Then a piece of the rubber outsole on the Challenger peeled off along with a chunk of EVA foam.
  • It wasn't my training, rest days, or mix of weight lifting that needed to change. 
  • It was time to replace these running shoes.

πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ How often should you replace running shoes?

There's more than one way to gauge the RIP-date of your running shoes. 

After running marathons and ultras for 25 years, here's what I look for...

1. How many miles have you ran in the shoe?

πŸƒβ€β™€οΈ 1. How many miles have you ran in the shoe?

If you've covered more miles in a single pair of running shoes than the elusive Bigfoot has across the Pacific Northwest where I live, chances are pretty good it's time to retire those bad boys.

πŸ“ˆ Mileage has been the standard for measuring running shoe longevity for years.

  • One study published in the Journal of Biomechanics even found that the average lifespan for a running shoe is around 300 to 500 miles before it starts to breakdown, performance suffers, and the risk of musculoskeletal issues increase.

πŸ‘Ÿ However, not all running shoes are created equal.

Especially with max-cushioned shoes and the growing number of mid-sole compounds used in running shoes besides EVA foam.

πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ Should you replace your running shoes like clock work after 300 to 500 miles?

  • It's still a decent rule to follow. 
  • But if you're running a ton of miles (I ran about 350 miles during a peak training month last year), dropping $150+ a month for running shoes starts to add up.
  • And it may not be necessary to retire your running shoes simply based on mileage.

If you're not experiencing anything like I did in the trashed Hoka Challengers, you can probably keep those shoes in your rotation a little longer.

2. What's the wear pattern look like on the outsole?

πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ 2. What's the wear pattern look like on the outsole?

Here's another great way to determine if there's life left in your running shoes?

πŸ‘Ÿ Take a closer look at the outsole.

You can see some major wear in these three shoes, especially on the:

  • Outer heel
  • Midfoot

While I'm a fairly neutral runner, wear patterns overtime reveal a lot about your foot strike, push-off, and pronation.

😲 Excessive wear to the outsole of a running shoe can compromise performance.

For example:

  • I was just one run away from grinding off a piece of rubber and EVA foam on the Hoka Challenger. 
  • And it was negatively impacting foot strike and performance. 
  • Simply taking a closer look at the wear pattern would have been a good indicator it was time for these shoes to go.

πŸ‘€ Make it habit to inspect the outsole of your shoe periodically.

Look for wear patterns that match your foot-strike and push-off.

If these areas show major wear, it might be time to replace your running shoes.

πŸ‘Ÿ What if the upper part of a running shoe is trashed?

If you can still tie the shoes or cinch to get a snug fit, and the wear pattern is moderate, you can still get some miles out of the shoe.

After all, some ultra runners cut holes in the top of shoes to make more room in the toe box.

3. How's the midsole material holding up?

πŸƒβ€β™€οΈ 3. How's the midsole material holding up?

πŸ˜ƒ You know the feeling when you step into a new pair of running shoes?

  • Perfect fit. 
  • Just the right amount of cushion. 
  • Fresh colorways.
  • You walk around the room, the store, or go for a little jog and it feels Ah-mazing...

A big piece of the experience is the midsole, EVA foam, or some other proprietary composite of material running shoe companies are using to help you go the distance.

πŸ“ˆ If you've ran a lot of miles in a pair of shoes...

  • And they start feeling stiff
  • Or your foot strike feels harder than it used to be
  • Or the shoe just doesn't have the cushion and return it used to...

πŸ‘‰ There's a good chance it's the midsole material compressing and breaking down...

These are often a tell-tale sign it's time to replace your running shoes.

In my experience, the midsole (and cushioning) in shoes with a bigger stack height (max cushioned shoes), can last a lot longer than running shoes with a lower profile.

4. Got any mystery aches and pains?

πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ 4. Got any mystery aches and pains?

😭 Ever go for a run and start to feel some new aches and pains that weren't there before?

You know...

  • Your knee starts to hurt
  • It feels like the start of an IT band flare-up
  • Maybe that plantar fasciitis is coming back
  • Or your back starts hurting in the middle of a run

☠ Yes. These could all be signs of bigger issues related to overtraining and biomechanical issues.

πŸ‘Ÿ But if you're running fine one day, and then feeling new aches and pains the next that weren't there before, take a closer look at your running shoes:

  • How many miles have you ran in the shoes?
  • What's the wear pattern look like on the outsole?
  • How's the midsole material holding up?

🦡 That naggy-knee feeling I had running in the worn-out Hokas went away after running in newer shoes.

πŸ˜ƒ And I know new running shoes have helped lots of runners in the same way.

5. There's at least one more reason to replace running shoes...

5. There's at least one more reason to replace running shoes...

πŸ˜ƒ You don't actually need them, but...

  • πŸ’² They're on sale (the average cost for new release running shoes is around $150)
  • πŸ‘Ÿ Your favorite pair just got a major redesign, so you stock up on the old version before they're gone forever
  • β›° You're mixing things up with a combo of road and trail running, so you need shoes for both
  • 😜 You have a kind of running shoe addiction like Brandon Mccormick (130+ pairs of running shoes)
  • 🌈 You're obsessed with every new running shoe colorway like Suzanne Swanson. She even said: "I'm a pattern junkie. So when Brooks releases a new version and pattern, it's coming to mamma."
Is it time to replace your running shoes?

πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈπŸƒβ€β™€οΈ The takeaway...

Is it time to retire those running shoes?

Here's what I think after running marathons and ultras for 25 years...

  • Mileage isn't the ultimate deciding factor. Your running shoes could last much longer than 300-500 miles.
  • Just because the outsole is worn down, doesn't mean your shoes are toast. You might have less traction, but if they still feel good to run in, keep them around a little longer.
  • Mind the midsole. In my experience, max cushioned shoes can last a lot longer than the standard mileage recommend for the life of a running shoe. The midsole in lower profile running shoes tends to break down sooner.
  • Achy-breaky? If you go for a run in old running shoes and start feeling aches and pains that weren't there before, new running shoes can often fix the problem.

How often do you replace running shoes?

Tell us about it in the comments.

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Evan Jensen
SANDY, Oregon
2 Following

I help RUNNERS reduce injuries, fix running form, run longer & faster by strength training without running ragged. I'm a NASM...


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