Looks (and feel) can be deceiving: The more wear-and-tear on the shoe, the faster its sole and shock absorbers break down, leaving you with a less-than-supportive sneaker that can cause injury.
Experts say that a shoe’s lifespan depends on variables like the type of shoe, your gait, your weight, and where you run or walk. Shoes used mostly on harder surfaces, for example, are going to be worn down more rapidly than if you were to wear those shoes only during workouts on a bouncy track. Same for if you “pound” the ground when you run as opposed to having a softer stride.
Most pros agree that shoes should be replaced between 300–500 miles of use. After that, they lose maximum support and shock absorption, which may leave you vulnerable to injury.
Walkers should be just as vigilant of a shoe’s breakdown. While there’s less shock on your body with walking, there tends to be more pounding since you take more steps than runners do over the same distance. Walkers also tend to land a bit more on their heels, so there may be more wear and tear in that area. Walkers should shoot to replace your shoes every three to five months if you walk 45 minutes at least three times a week.
There are the obvious markers of shoe breakdown, the most telltale being a wrinkly or compressed midsole foam on the outside of your shoe. The foam is critical to the shoe’s cushioning and, once compressed or squished, can invite injury with every step you take.
Other red flags: New aches or pains or sore feet during or after exercise, which may be your body’s reaction to the lack of cushion and support of the midsole, and any obvious signs of overuse, like worn-down tread.
Be Smart About Your Shoes
1. Keep track of your mileage- Fitness trackers like MapMyRun let you select the shoes you wear for every workout
2. Take the shoe flexibility test- Hold the shoe, laces up, and bend the toe back towards the heel. If the shoe folds easily, it’s time to replace them!
3. Switch your shoes out- Wearing different shoes for different activities (think: track shoes, road shoes, trail shoes, walking shoes) will increase the longevity of each pair and make sure you’re getting the maximum support and cushion you need every time you work out.