Is It Time for a New Pair of Sneakers?

Running expert and Olympian shares 5 tips for knowing when it’s time to get rid of your old shoes

To say that runners are connected to their sneakers would be a huge understatement. All runners, at a minimum, rely on their shoes—and it’s fair to say that many runners have full-on attachment issues. Whether it’s not wanting to part with the old pair or not wanting to spend big bucks on a new pair, too many runners are logging miles on shoes that are past their prime.

Samantha Clayton, an Olympic athlete, personal trainer, track coach and Herbalife’s senior director of fitness education, sees this problem first-hand. One aspect that makes it even tougher, she said, is that everyone wears down their sneakers at different rates, so there’s no absolute rule for when you should switch them out.

“Many brands test their product to ensure their shoes can last for up to 500 miles of wear, but we are all truly individuals and the length of time your shoes will last depends on so many factors, including how you run, your weight, if you are getting them wet, the terrain that you are running on, how many days of the week are you wearing them and of course the quality of the brand you are buying,” said Clayton. “Basically [the tougher you are] on your shoes the less time they will last. Investing in one or two new pairs per year for an average gym goer/runner is sufficient and if you are an avid exerciser and runner, two to four pairs a year will seem normal.”

While that’s a helpful rule-of-thumb, it’s up to you to evaluate the status of your sneakers. Clayton shared five tips for knowing when it’s time to get rid of your old shoes.

Look: “Most of the time you can simply look at your current running shoes and know that it’s time to get a new pair. Keep an eye out for loose stitching, separation of the glued sole to the shoe or if the heels look stretched out and/or there are places on the outsoles that have completely worn down. However, if your shoes are in good shape, but just look dirty – don’t throw them out. Just clean them up and invest in a new pair of laces!”

Comfort: “We all love to wear comfortable shoes, but if your current shoes have completely molded to the shape of your foot they may no longer be providing you with the support that you need. Also, if your old shoes start to give you blisters or discomfort it may be because they have lost their shape completely and are now affecting the way you run.”

Size: “If your current shoes start to feel too tight or too lose you must get fitted for a new pair. I know we all think that our feet stop growing in our teen years but there are many things that can affect the shoe size that you wear. Pregnancy, weight gain or weight loss can change your shoe size especially the width fitting.”

Function: “Worn tread increases chances of slipping but also indicates an overall aging and breakdown of the shoe’s support. If there are wrinkles and cracks on the bottom of the shoe this is an indication the material in the sole is starting to deteriorate and getting a new pair is essential. If your shoes are making squeaking sounds it’s also a sign that the glue is coming loose.”

Smell: “Most running shoes will smell a little right after taking them off but if your shoes have a terrible odor it’s time to get some new ones, because it’s a sign that they have become permeated with moisture and bacteria. This is an unhealthy environment for feet.”

More Reading:
The 20 Best Running Shoes of 2015
How to Choose the Right Running Shoes
The 10 Best Running Shoe Brands