How Often Should I Replace my Running Shoes?

By , Andrew S., SparkPeople Contributor

Running shoes cushion feet during jogging and other high-impact exercises, keeping them comfortable while also preventing injury. Fail to replace shoes when they get too old, and you expose yourself to unnecessary risk. Thankfully, there are a variety of methods you can use to determine whether it's time to hit up the local sporting goods store.

Measuring the Miles

The easiest way to decide when to replace your shoes is to measure the number of miles you've run in them. Shoe manufacturers generally recommend running between 300 and 500 miles in a pair of shoes before replacing them. To monitor your distance traveled, simply employ an activity tracking device to measure the number of miles you cover on each run, then keep a tally of the overall number of miles for each pair of shoes. Once you've run more miles in the shoes than the manufacturer recommends, discard them and buy a new pair.

As simple as this method is, however, it may lead you to discard your shoes too early and waste money on replacements. Shoe manufacturers often understate how long their shoes will last in order to encourage you to buy a new pair. Even if the manufacturer is telling the truth, keep in mind that your shoes may still last longer than expected depending on how and where you run. If you avoid striking your heels on the ground and run only on flat trails, you will be able to run much farther than the average runner in the same pair of shoes.

Pain and Perception

Because running shoes are designed to protect your feet and legs from injury, many runners see pain as a sign that their shoes are no longer properly performing. Of course, no one wants to wait to replace their shoes until after they've been injured, so the trick is to notice the small aches that precede injuries. If you feel a twinge in your feet, have sore arches or feel pain in your shins and knees, your feet likely are not being cushioned enough when they hit the ground during running. It may be difficult, however, to distinguish these pains from the ordinary soreness you feel after exercising. It is thus best to use this method in conjunction with one of the other methods listed here.

Proof in Pressing

This method is one of the few that directly tests the condition of your shoes and takes into account how you use them in particular. To perform the test, put one of your hands inside the shoe, then press down on the shoe's sole with the other hand. If you can clearly feel your fingers from the other side, this is a sign that the shoes have worn thin and will no longer provide the necessary cushioning.

In addition to the press test, you can also assess your shoes by inspecting the mid-soles. If they appear highly compressed, try pressing into them to see if they will compress any further. If they don't, they will no longer cushion your feet and should be abandoned.

The Smell Test

Besides injury, disease is another risk that arises if you wait to long to change your running shoes. As sweat and body soil build up in your shoe over time, the risk of contracting a disease rises, as does foot odor and other unattractive traits. Bad hygiene also accelerates the deterioration of your shoes. Thus, even if your shoes still provide good cushioning, you should discard them if they start to smell foul, especially if the smell persists after you wash the shoes.

While all of these methods will help protect your health and hygiene, there is no substitute for taking proper precautions while running. Always make sure to pace yourself, wear appropriate clothing, avoid risky terrain and drink plenty of water. Consider consulting a professional trainer for tips on the best running techniques and practices. The safer and more comfortable you are while running, the easier it will be to exercise regularly and remain healthy.