To Run or to Bin. When should you change your trainers?

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Running is a hugely popular sport. Aside from the obvious health benefits, it is also very accessible: simple equipment does it, no expensive gym membership required. All you really need are the right clothes and, most importantly, a good pair of running shoes. I often find myself massaging unyielding calves and quizzing the owner about the state of their running shoes. So here is some insight (borrowed from various dependable sources – not shoe manufacturers) about roughly how long does a pair of running shoes last?


Why It Matters

When the Greeks ran foot races in the olden days, they usually did so barefoot. And so do the Tarahumaras, to this very day! With the advent of the modern day trainers, our feet are perhaps a little more comfortable and safe from pavement hazards!

Developed to be protective and add traction, running shoes have evolved to incorporate lightweight materials that intend to cushion the foot from the trauma of running. Most cushioning comes from a lightweight foam material injected with air cells designed to absorb impact.

But, like all good things, the foam eventually loses its magic. And according to some researchers, that can happen anywhere from 300 to 500 miles after the first wear. So for a runner doing five 3 mile-runs per week, that comes out to a new pair every five to six months. (Now you know what’s on your Christmas list!).

Others say that you should upgrade to the latest model no later than 8-12 months after purchase, regardless of usage. But then we should also consider the weight of the runner, their gait, terrain they habitually train on etc… There is no simple calculation and, once again, it all depends … However, what we do know with some degree of certainty, is that once the shoe is compromised, the risk of overuse injuries increases.

The Answer / Debate

To help eliminate all those miles of guesswork and resist the manufacturers’ sales pitch, here are some quick signs that those running shoes need to be replaced:

  • Try the press test. Press a thumb into the centre of the shoe, where the midsole is. If the midsole feels tough and unyielding, then it may be time for a new pair.
  • Look for signs of creasing in the sole. If there are noticeable wrinkles in the midsole area, it’s a sign that the foam has been compressed beyond wear.
  • Pay attention to aches and pains as they can be an indication that something is wrong. A little twinge at the bottom of a foot could go a long way in saying that a shoe is past its prime.
  • Compare new shoes with old ones. Comparing an old pair of shoes with a new one gives runners a direct comparison of what feels better. Once an old pair of shoes stops feeling comfortable, then it may be time to change them out.

These days, however, many hit the road running barefoot or in minimalist shoes with almost no cushioning at all. But if it’s decided that cushioned shoes are the way to go, just remember the cushion can only last for so long, get your new soles fitted and keep a log of your miles.

If your calves are still as tight as leather, book yourself in for a calf massage – even just half an hour can make a huge difference!


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20th October 2011