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Ditch the Kicks: How Often Should You Replace Running Shoes?

At each oil change, we are told how much life is left on our tires and it’s easy to tell when they’ve gone completely bald. But what about the life of our running shoes? How often should you replace running shoes, and what can happen if you don’t?

Your running shoes are very similar to tires; they go bald, they can rip apart on the side of the road, and yes, they have a mileage point when it’s best to let them retire. So, how do you know when the time has come to let them go?

Natural Wear

We all have different running styles. You’ve seen it – the duck, the robot arms, the shuffler, the knocky-knees, the heavy heel striker – and these different styles affect the way your foot ultimately hits the ground. Examine the sole of your favorite kicks. Do you notice more wear on one side versus the other? Is the heel or toe “balding” unevenly? Do you always seem to get a little hole on one side, or do your flat feet cause the arch of your shoe to become flat? Whatever the natural wear of your shoe may be, don’t ignore it. It can be an important indicator of how you can improve your running form and can also be a sign of potential injuries to come.

If you notice your shoes are wearing unevenly, getting new shoes will not automatically fix the problem.

Although researchers recommend getting a new pair of running shoes every 300-500 miles, the amount of time your running shoes will last depends on their durability, quality, and your own personal running form as well. Do a quick mid-sole test on your shoes to see how they are holding up. Grab the round stiff part of the heel of your shoe and push in with your thumb to the bottom of the shoe. A new shoe will be more rigid and firm, whereas a worn-out shoe will feel soft and pliable. The exception to this is if you have a barefoot running style and wear a barefoot style shoe that is flexible, like a Nike Free. But make sure your running style matches your shoe type.

how often should running shoes be replaced, durable running shoes

Uneven Wear

If you notice your shoes are wearing unevenly, getting new shoes will not automatically fix the problem. Oftentimes, this is an indicator of a misaligned pelvis or hips, and if not treated immediately can lead to more than just expired shoes. An assessment at Urban Wellness Clinic can identify the root cause of your uneven tread, prevent injury, and help perfect your running form so you can keep moving.

Check your shoes for signs of uneven wear by setting them side by side on a flat surface or tabletop. Stoop down to look at them from the back at eye-level. Are the rubber edges of the heel no longer touching the surface? Are the sides worn more on one shoe than the other? How about if you pick them up and look at the underside of the ball and toe of the shoe? Is it flat where tread used to be?

Flat and Overarched Feet

Feel the inside of your favorite running shoes. Are they flat? Do your footprints look more like tamales? Your flat feet could be wearing down the inside of your shoes at record-breaking speeds. Rather than supporting your feet at each step, your shoes are encouraging your feet to move and land in damaging ways.

how long do running shoes last, durable running shoes

The arch of your foot plays an important part when you run because it acts as a “shock-absorber” each time your foot hits the pavement. Without shock support, you risk heel, ankle, knee, and lower back pain down the road. Dreaded shin splints can occur due to improper arch support and worn shoes as well. Shin splints are defined by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons as, “pain along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia),” and are very common among runners. Although not considered serious and treated with rest, ice, and massage, shin splints can hinder your performance and sometimes linger for months. An assessment to determine why your body is using your shins as a shock absorber can drastically reduce your healing time and make running enjoyable again. Over-arched feet can have negative implications on your body and running form because they cause your ankles to overcompensate into supination, causing a strain on the outside of your shin. This affects the alignment with the rest of your body and makes inversion ankle sprains more likely. Ouch.

Do a form test with your running buddy. Stand on a flat surface, barefoot, and have your running buddy examine your ankles. Do they bow outwards? This is common for people with over-arched feet. Inwards? Flat-feet may be the culprit. Another fun exercise is to have a buddy record your feet in slow-motion directly from the back as you run barefoot. The easiest way to do this is on the treadmill but we find in the clinic your foot spends more time on the ground while running on a treadmill so everyone looks like they are over-pronating. The best way is to have someone record you outdoors from behind and from the side. This gives the most accurate assessment of your gait. Now replay the video. How do your feet land? Do you shift and get over each leg as your strike? What kind of striker are you, heel, midfoot, or forefoot? If you jog barefoot for a few minutes, do you notice any imbalance or pain? Observing the way you run can give you some insight into where you can improve form and where you need more support.

Chiropractic Care and Rehabilitation for Runners

Are your favorite shoes wearing unevenly? Are you seeing opportunities to correct your form and optimize your energy, so you can move more fluidly come time to hit the track? Proper form will not only prevent injury; it will help you run faster, longer, and better. We find that our runners greatly benefit from active release and rehabilitation. Even weekend-warriors can benefit from it to optimize their movements and muscles in the office chair and out. You need to retrain your muscles to support your body in a balanced way, so you aren’t overexerting other areas to compensate. At Urban Wellness Clinic, we can help you get realigned so your exercises are being supported by a fine-tuned musculoskeletal structure. The next time you flip open a box of beautiful, new, squeaky-clean running shoes, you can feel good knowing you, and your shoes, are ready for the hundreds of miles ahead. Happy running!


Best in health,


Dr. Emily Kiberd