Whether it’s a hole in the toe box or worn-out treads, all running shoes that get regular usage will need to be replaced eventually. Running puts a lot of stress on a pair of shoes and some clear signs can indicate when running shoes have worn out.
A good pair of shoes is an invaluable investment for runners at any age or skill level, but unfortunately, they do need to be replaced periodically. Basic usage leads to wear and tear – the more shoes are used, the more their internal structures are stressed.
The general rule of thumb is to replace your running shoes every 300 to 400 miles (although some lighter models may need to be replaced more frequently).
Studies suggest that the structural integrity in even the most durable running shoes starts to degrade after approximately 300 miles. And this loss of support, even if you aren’t consciously aware of it, can lead to lowered performance and even injury.
Wondering how to tell if my running shoes are worn out? You’re not alone! Here are the 8 warning signs that might suggest a pair of new shoes are the correct move.
8 Signs That It’s Time To Buy New Running Shoes
If you’re not sure how much mileage your runners have seen, there are some physical signs to look out for that indicate that it’s time to look for a new pair:
One of the most obvious indicators of worn-out running shoes is the state of the treads. Treads play an important role in the shoe’s structure, offering protection and traction. The bottom of the shoe features a material specially designed to absorb impact, while the tread pattern helps grip the ground as you run, adding stability without sacrificing comfort.
Over time, the sheer impact of the rubber materials against the ground leads to the tread wearing down. In extreme examples, you may even be able to see the foam underneath. For those who struggle with overpronation or underpronation (supination) foot posture, the treads may wear unevenly, which can increase the risks of associated injuries.
When the treads wear out unevenly, this can cause the shoes to become unbalanced. Running shoes should be able to stand up on their own without falling over.
Holes or Tears
Holes, especially in the toe box, are one of the most common signs of damage in running shoes. The friction caused by the big toe rubbing against the upper mesh can cause tears in the breathable material, which get worse over time. Similarly, those who experience a lot of heel movement when running may find that the inner heel material gets worn out.
Unlike the treads, holes in the running shoes can potentially be fixed, especially if caught early on. It’s important to not ignore the issues, however. These spots of damage are a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus, which can lead to a strong odor and issues like athlete’s foot.
See more: What causes holes in my running shoes?
If the sole is starting to separate from the rest of the shoe, this is a sign that the pair has worn out. Unfortunately, sometimes this can be the result of a defective shoe. You can potentially repair this issue by using specialty glue or even a superglue.
The midsole is the material in running shoes that’s located between the upper and the outsole. It is responsible for offering support and flexibility. This is where the cushioning is, as well as the main support structure.
Any creases in the midsole is a sign that the running shoes have worn out, and that the aforementioned technologies have degraded – meaning that the shoes aren’t offering the support and shock absorption they once did.
Another sign that the midsole has deteriorated is if the shoe bends easily.
Soft Heel Cushion
Over time, running shoes may lose their “bounce.” If the heel cushion has started to feel soft or spongy, the running sneaker is worn out.
Pain or Discomfort While Running
The most obvious sign that your running shoes are worn out is if you feel any new or worsening foot pain or discomfort when running. Because the changes in a shoe’s structural integrity degrade gradually over time, you may not notice when the shoes are no longer offering the support you need – but your joints will.
Running already puts a great deal of strain on your body, and if the shoe’s cushioning or structure has worn out, that means more physical force on your joints and muscles. This means that using old running shoes actually increases your risk of a running injury, in the same way that wearing the wrong pair can also be detrimental.
Signs that this is occurring could include:
- Muscle aches
- Pain along the back of your heel
- Shin splints
- Lower back pain
- Aches along our arch (i.e. plantar fasciitis from the lack of cushioning)
- Blisters, especially on your toes or heel
- Stress fractures
Perhaps the least obvious sign on this list is that a negative change in your performance could indicate that you are wearing worn out shoes. Running shoes are designed to not only be comfortable but also to optimize your body’s movements in order to improve performance while running.
Over time, if a shoe’s structural integrity and support mechanisms start to break down, that can actually slow you down.
How Often Should You Replace Your Running Shoes?
Everyone knows that running shoes should be replaced periodically, but how often you should replace your running shoes depends on individual usage.
The 300 to 400-mile rule is a good general guideline, although you may be able to stretch out your running shoes’ lifespan if you take good care of them and perhaps even have multiple pairs to take some of the load off of just one pair. No matter what though, running 5 miles a day will wear out your shoes in a matter of months.
Some runners find it useful to write the date they first start using their shoes on the inside of their runners in permanent marker. If you don’t adhere to a regular running schedule, you may find it easier to just keep an eye out for the aforementioned signs that the shoes have worn out.
How Running Shoes Should Feel
The right running shoe should be comfortable to wear while running as soon as it is broken in. It should feel snug in the heel and midfoot, with adequate room in the toe box for movement. There shouldn’t be any pinching in the right shoe, and the forefoot and heel should have ample cushioning.
Most importantly, running shoes should have a bounce to them. How much depends on not only the style of the shoe but your running style. Still, if you notice that your shoes have lost some of their bounce, that’s a good sign that they’ve worn out!