I often hear people say things like, “Running is such a simple sport. All you need is a pair of sneakers. Just get out there and go.” On some levels they’re right, but the truth is if you’re serious about running, even recreationally, it’s not that simple and it can get quite pricey.
From moisture-wicking activewear and add-on accessories to shoes and race entry fees, the cost of running can add up quickly. Runner’s high may be priceless, but you can get your daily dose of endorphins without having to drain your entire bank account.
According to the National Sporting Goods Association, the average cost of running shoes has been steadily increasing over the years. In 2009 the average sneaker price was $59.43, a 3.2% increase from the previous year. In 2010 the average price increased again by 4.9% to $62.33.
In other words, running shoes aren’t getting any cheaper and they’re arguably the most expensive part of the sport. Plus, since most experts agree that they should be replaced once they’ve been worn out, it’s not like their cost is a one-time fee. That means, depending on how much you run you’re probably shelling out $100 or more for a new pair every few months.
Jason Fitzgerald, a USATF-certified running coach and the blogger behind StrengthRunning.com, says that replacing your running shoes when they start to become too worn (after about 300 to 500 miles, depending on the runner and the type of cushioning) is important for preventing injury.
“The shoe stops absorbing shock, forcing your body to do more of the work. The wear pattern may also result in less support in the sole. For example, aggressive heel strikers will wear down the heel and that will affect foot strike,” says Fitzgerald. “All of these issues can result in injuries.”
No runner wants to deal with an injury, but we bet you’d love it if you could prolong the life of your sneakers and temporarily delay coughing up more cash for a new pair. Whether or not you can actually make your shoes last longer though is mostly up for debate.
Fitzgerald says there’s no real way to prolong the lifespan of a pair of running shoes. “Lifespan is affected by use— running surface, weight of the runner, biomechanics, etc. None of that can be changed much.”
However, he personally feels that rotating between two different pairs of sneakers, a strategy he employs mainly for injury preventing purposes (see tip number 7 here), is one way that runners can possibly prolong the lifespan of their shoes. (Of course, that also means investing in two pairs at once.)
“It might prolong the life of a pair of shoes since you're not putting all the miles on one pair in a short time period,” says Fitzgerald. “You're lengthening its lifespan, so it may allow the foam some ‘recovery’ in between runs. It depends on the type of foam in the shoe, but I think it helps.”
Below are a few more commonly recommended sneaker-saving strategies:
- Store them in temperate conditions, like inside your house instead of in your hot car or freezing cold garage. According to KindRunner.com, the heat of summer could cause the shoe’s material to expand and chilly winter weather might make them harden.
- Never put them in the dryer. Runner’s World says that too much tumbling will break down the shoe’s material.
- Only wear them while running. Since you’ll want to replace your shoes after a certain amount of miles, you definitely won’t want to add on any extra, even if it’s just from walking around or workouts at the gym.
When all is said and done, you may not necessarily be able to make your running shoes last longer than they were intended for, but with proper care and intelligent training you can make the most of their regular lifespan.