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Running shoes demystified: How to know when it's time to invest in new running shoes?


Most runners will agree that before you embark upon a new running regime you need to be properly fit with a good pair of running shoes. But where do you even begin? With so many different brands and shoe types choosing your ideal trainer can quickly become a rather daunting task. The next few articles will be devoted to educating runners on how to navigate the shoe wall at your local running store.

We will cover the following topics:

  • How do I know when it’s time to replace my running shoe?
  • Demystifying the shoe wall:  How do I choose the best running shoe for me?
  • Q&A: The most common questions and issues that arise with running shoes and the answer!

Five ways to tell if it’s time to buy new running shoes:

Earlier this year I got in to a heated debate, nay a rousing squabble… ok fine- it was a respectful disagreement with an elderly man that his 8 year old New Balance trainer was still in its prime. It wasn’t until he slipped on a pair of stylin’ new 990s with the traditional grey and suede upper that he finally conceded. He couldn’t get over how soft and cushioned they felt underfoot (that’s a fresh midsole for you). Not to mention that he kept raving about the snug fit of the shoe (the stitching of upper and laces weren’t stretched and floppy). No take-backs gramps! Just kidding.  :)

But seriously- running shoes DO have a life-span. In general we suggest that you replace your shoes every 400-600 miles, 6-8 months yada yada yada. Instead of using this vague suggestion I implore you to take a good look at your running shoes and honestly evaluate how they feel on the run. Take a look at the list below of the 5 ways to tell if it’s time to buy new running shoes and if you’re still not sure then run yourself into your local running shop with your old kicks and directly compare them to a fresh set.


  • You’re in “the red” and wouldn’t pass inspection. (see pic above)
    • Flip your shoe over to closely examine the tread. Is there any tread left or have you loved it all away on the road? The tread is the most durable substance on your running shoe; the traction provides for a safe push off. In fact, Adidas actually uses Continental tire rubber for the tread on their shoes! If there is no tread left and you are eating into the midsole (the shoe’s cushioning system) then it’s time for a new shoe!

  • Your shoes have carried you 300-500 miles (or so) or you’ve actively used them for about 6-8 months.
    • Many runners love to track their mileage in a shoe to determine when it’s time to replace the shoe. In general this is a great methodology. However, some people are incredibly light afoot, whereas other runners are “heavy” runners. I have seen many runners wear through the cushioning in their shoe in less than 300 miles. I recommend using the mileage/time indicator as just one of many ways to determine if/when it’s time to upgrade.

  • It feels like there is a piece of cardboard strapped to your foot.
    • Even though it still looks like a running shoe I can promise you that after a six months of hard running the cushioning in the midsole will be compacted so much so that the shoe will feel stiff, run flat and is no longer suitable for road running. There will be no more “pop” or kickback left in the cushioning as you have fully worn the midsole down.
    • Developing hot spots on your feet (or full blown blisters) and shin splits or knee/back pain while running may be a sign that you need a new shoe!

  • Strangers can see your toes…    
    • …when your feet are in the shoe!! If there are holes in the upper of the shoe then it’s time to invest in a new shoe.


  • You feel like you have to pull the laces EXTRA tight to get them to stay at tight during the run.
    • Just as the other materials of a shoe have a life-span so do your shoe’s laces. Over time laces will fill with dirt, sweat and debris and will begin to wear. Laces are not the number one reason I would recommend new shoes, but they serve as a good indicator of a well-loved shoe in need of retirement.

Now that we know that you (probably) need new shoes in the next article we will discuss the shoe wall at your local running store and learn about the different categories of running shoes.


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