Everything You Need to Know About Your Running Shoes

A woman running, you can only see her adidas shoes

Shirt, shorts and running shoes are all you need to hit the pavement. Running doesn’t require a lot of equipment or money. But what you shouldn’t save on is a good pair of running shoes. They often make the difference between enjoying running and hating it. Running expert Sascha Wingenfeld stressed the important role your shoes play: Your shoes carry you for hundreds of kilometers through your training. That’s why it is important that your shoe cushions the impact on your body and reduces the stress on your joints and connective tissue.”

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6 Factors that influence the lifespan of your running shoes

There is a wide variety of different shoe models, cushioning systems and stability features on the market from various manufacturers. But how long can our running shoes continue to provide 100% support and shock absorption? “Unfortunately, it’s hard to put an exact figure on the number of kilometers. Numerous tests in recent years have found that the lifespan of your shoe depends on many different factors,” said Sascha. The six most important ones are the following:

Factor #1: Weight of the runner

The heavier the runner, the more wear and tear on the shoe. Sounds logical, and it is! “When you consider that the impact of each foot strike is equal to up to five times your body weight, then it is not surprising that all those kilometers start to take their toll on your shoes. This means heavier runners will put more material stress on their shoes than lighter ones,” said the running expert.

Factor #2: Age of the shoe

Your run training is not the only thing that ages your running shoes; the weather and oxidation also play their part. Over time the cushioning and stability features will grow weaker even if you don’t use your shoes. Like the tires on your car, the materials of the sole will harden and no longer provide maximum support.

A man is running in an urban environment.

Factor #3: Running technique

A dynamic, light-footed and fast running technique, where the foot only makes brief contact with the ground, puts less stress on your shoes. If the runner’s form is rather awkward and undynamic, he or she will pound the ground with his or her entire body weight. This puts a lot of additional strain on the material of the shoes and makes them age faster. Sascha’s advice: “This is why you should be aware of your running form and look for a shoe model that matches your gait.”

Factor #4: Running surface

The surface you run on also influences the wear and tear on your running shoes. If the shoes are mainly used on asphalt, the tread and the cushioning system will be worn down. If, on the other hand, you run on soft, springy forest trails, there won’t be much sign of wear on your soles because the cushioning effect of the ground will soften the impact and relieve some of the stress on the shoe. Nowadays you can find a model for every kind of surface. The market offers the right shoe for every terrain from very light racing shoes for high speeds to sturdy trail shoes for off-road running. So you should know what kind of terrain you plan to run on when you go to buy your shoes,” Sascha pointed out.

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Factor #5: Shoe size

Choosing the right shoe size is also important for maintaining the full functionality of the shoe. Your foot expands as it makes contact with the ground due to the pressure of your body weight. If you choose a running shoe that is too small or fits exactly, you run the risk of stretching the seams. This is why you should buy a running shoe one size bigger than your ordinary shoe. There should be a thumb’s width between the tip of your big toe and the seam of your shoe. Your foot needs this much space to roll without hitting the tip of your shoe.
“Keep in mind that your feet will expand by up to 4% over the course of the day. To account for this when buying shoes, it is a good idea to purchase your shoes in the afternoon or the evening,” stated the running coach.
The proper lacing technique stops your foot from sliding around in the slightly too-large shoes and holds your heel in the right position. This also keeps your foot from chafing on the seams and prevents unnecessary blisters on your feet.

Factor #6: Running shoe model

The type of running shoe has the biggest influence on the shoe’s lifespan. A light neutral shoe that doesn’t offer any support for orthopedic problems will not last as long as a stable trail shoe that guides your foot through the gait cycle. So choose the shoe that best fits your running technique. If you are a runner who has been running injury free for years and has mastered good running form, you can do without stability features and purchase a neutral shoe. But if your foot does not properly control the landing and your ankle rolls inward or outward, you need a stability shoe that can provide your foot with the support it requires. Stability shoes are divided into two kinds: an overpronation shoe that keeps your ankle from rolling inward, and a supination or underpronation shoe that provides you with structure on the outside of your foot.

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Tip:

Keep in mind that there are different running shoe models for men and women. Women require a shoe that is smaller and narrower (and thus has less volume).

4 tips on how to check the age of your running shoe and what model is right for you

Unfortunately, it is very hard to tell while you are running whether you need to replace your current training model with a different shoe. You usually won’t notice the difference in comfort between your new model and the old one until you buy a new pair and try them out. Manufacturers say that the life span of a high-quality shoe is about 500-800 km, which can serve as a good rule of thumb, together with the factors mentioned above. Running expert Sascha has the following four tips for you on how to regularly check the condition of your running shoes.

  • Inspect the tread. The outer sole of your shoes gives you a pretty accurate picture of the condition of your shoes. If the tread is degraded or wore thin, you should think about replacing the shoes.
  • Test the midsole. Push your finger into the plastic foam of the midsole. If this gives easily, the shoe has lost some of its cushioning ability and a new pair of shoes is most likely in order. Visible wrinkles in the material of the midsole is a characteristic sign of old running shoes.
  • Check the stability. Set your shoes on a table and examine the heels. If the shoe tilts to the inside or outside, your foot is not rolling properly when you run. Once again, you should consider replacing the shoe.
  • Examine the torsional rigidity. Twist the forefoot and the heel of your shoe in opposite directions. If the sole of your shoe twists easily, you should quit using this model for your run training and find one more suited to your gait.

The bottom line is that there are too many factors involved to put an exact figure on the lifespan of a running shoe. But it is a good idea to spend some time thinking about the performance of your running shoes. Keeping a running shoes log can help you monitor the age and the mileage on your shoes. The Runtastic app offers such a feature. This way you not only know when you should start looking for a new pair of shoes, but it is also gives you time to work them in before your old ones are completely worn out.

Sascha’s final tip: “My advice would be that when in doubt, it is always better to replace your shoes a little early than a little late. The cost of buying new shoes is made up for by the increased comfort and the reduced risk of injury. That alone makes it worth it.”  

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Sascha Wingenfeld Sascha, health trainer & active triathlete, has been coaching runners from beginners to professionals for over 10 years. "I love my job and I love running." View all posts by Sascha Wingenfeld »