As someone who has been in the running game since 1999, I can honestly say the one debate that has raged the most over the years has been the lifespan of a running shoe.

How many miles do shoes last? What factors lead to shoe wear? How many pairs should be in a rotation?

The struggle is real and one would think that with the level advanced technology that reigns in our sport we should’ve figured out by now. The reason we haven’t, however, is that since no two people are the same or run the same, there isn’t a single answer.

Still, there are guidelines. I stopped in the Dick Pond Athletics store in Hoffman Estates and spoke to assistant manager Karie Stringer, who passed along a few words of wisdom.

  • A shoe lasts anywhere from 300-500 miles. We all know that, of course, but because shoes are being made with better materials, it’s difficult to see wear patterns and shoe degradations as well as in the past. Stringer suggests taking a shoe and trying to bend it so that the bottom of the shoe is concave. If a shoe can do that it’s broken down and needs to be replaced.
  • Listen to your body. Stringer noted that she gets about 400 miles out of each of her shoes, and then her shins and calves start to feel the pounding of the surface under her when she runs. If little aches and pains start cropping up while running in well-mileaged shoes, it might be time to hold a retirement party.
  • Be diligent in tracking miles. “A mile is a mile no matter where you are doing them. Lots of people run on the roads, but even if you run on a trail or a track (the effect is the same),” Stringer said. “It all adds up.” Even non-running miles. If you use your shoes for gym workouts or recovery day walks, it’s still time in the shoe. Make sure those miles go in the shoe log as well.
  • Rotate shoes, or use shoes for specific workouts. It takes about 24 hours for a shoe to “bounce back” from a run, and if the materials never have time to recover, they will start to break down sooner. Stringer recommends having shoes for odd or even days of the week, or have other shoes for specific workouts, like speedwork or long runs. Shoes have to recover after runs, just like us!
  • Roll out new shoes four to six weeks before a marathon. If a marathon is in the plan, make sure to get some time in shoes to break them in and make sure the fit is perfect before the big day.

No matter how much the sport has changed over the years, the one constant is that the right shoe is still the most important piece of equipment in a runner’s toolbox. The proper shoe is necessary for health and performance, and with the cost of some high-end shoes cracking the $200 mark, it’s quite an investment, too. Following a simple maintenance plan is the best way to stay on the road and get the best return on investment possible.

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