How Do I Know If I Need New Running Shoes?

Pair of ASICS trainers on a shoe box, one dirty covered in mud the other brand new, box fresh

You thought you’d hit a bit of a blip with your running, suddenly you’re not as fast as you had been, you’re feeling a whole heap of aches and pains in places you weren’t feeling them before, and you’re feeling pretty down in the dumps about it all. But stop…before you hang your running shoes up for good, have you considered that it might actually be those running shoes that are causing some of the problems?

Over time your running shoes will start to lose some of the very features that persuaded you to buy them in the first place.  Cushioning, stability and shock absorption all start to deteriorate, which is bad news for your poor old feet, legs and joints. The general advice is that trainers should be replaced every 300-500 miles, but obviously this can be dependent on a whole heap of different factors and so it is therefore incredibly important you get to know your shoes inside and out.

We’ve put together a few simple tests to help you work out whether it’s time for new trainers, because let’s be honest any excuse, right!?!

The Pain Test

This one’s easy, quite simply are you experiencing pain in your joints, suffering from muscle fatigue or shin splints? The most common pain experienced by people whose trainers are kaput is pain on both sides of the knees. This is because instead of the bouncy cushioning, the knees are now taking full impact each time the feet strike the ground. Now, I’m not saying that worn out trainers are deffo the problem, but it could be. To rule out other causes, you should firstly go and get yourself checked out either by your GP or a sports therapist, who will be able to tell you what’s what. If there isn’t an underlying problem, then chances are it’s your shoes.  Take yourself and your trainers along to a specialist running store, one that offers gait assessments and good quality shoe fittings and they will be able to advise you on whether you need new trainers and also help you to select the right model for your feet and running style.

The Distance Test

So the old 300-500 miles rule then…come on there’s 200 miles between those figures, how on earth are we meant to know which one works for us!?! OK so yep, this one you’re gonna need a bit of extra help with, because one person’s 300 mile wear down could be another person’s 500 miles wear down and until you’ve gone through your first pair of trainers you’re unlikely to recognise the telltale signs. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of these signs at the bottom of this post, but essentially what you need to know is that the heavier you are, the harder the ground you run on, and if your running gait isn’t particularly great then your shoes are likely to wear out sooner than a lightweight, grass runner with perfect gait.

The other problem of course, is keeping track of how many miles you’ve actually run. There are a couple of different ways you can this:

  1. Work out an average – If you run roughly the same distance each week then it should be relatively easy to work out at which point you would hit a particular mileage. And when you’ve worked that out you can either mark it on your calendar or set yourself a ‘new trainers’ alert on your phone as a reminder.
  2. Mark your trainers – Next time you buy a new pair of trainers write the date underneath the tongue, so that then you’ll know how long you’ve had them and you can relate it to how often you’ve used them.

Just remember to factor in any events you’ve taken part in as this will up the mileage by quite a bit and try not to get too obsessed by the numbers. You can tell a lot from how a trainer looks and how it feels, the distance is purely a guide for you to start paying more attention to these two things.

The Terrain Test

Where you run plays a huge part in how soon you’ll need to replace your shoes, for instance if you’re a pavement pounder then you’re likely going to need to replace your trainers way sooner than those worn by a treadmill trotter. And if you do a bit of both, or perhaps you chuck in a bit of muddy trail running from time to time too then that’s gonna play all kinds of different havoc to those trainers. Our best piece of advice is to get yourself a different pair of trainers for the different types of running that you do. I mean think about it, you have football boots to play football, golf shoes to play golf, in fact every type of sport or exercise warrants it’s own type of footwear that is most suited to what is required of it, so why should running be any different. Road running is completely different to trail running and really you should be looking at having a pair for each. This comes with the added benefit that if you have multiple running trainers, it gives them a chance to rest in between runs and this helps the midsole foam to return to it’s original shape. Rotating between trainers will mean they’ll not only last longer, but will also ensure you are wearing shoes that are fit for purpose.

One thing to remember if you run off road is that you’re much more likely to notice exterior surface damage to your shoes as they’ll be coming into more contact with mud and water. Whilst this is to a degree purely cosmetic, if you don’t look after them by cleaning them and ensuring they are thoroughly dried out each time, over time the fabric or rubber will start to perish and this will have an affect on the structure of the shoe, which then will affect how well it supports your feet. Alternating trainers will allow shoes to dry out properly and give you the chance to clean them up before your next run.

The Twist Test

This is a great test to do to determine whether the cushioning has been compromised. Test each shoe by holding it at each end and twisting. You want it to feel firm, with very little movement, it should be tricky for you to do this. If however, the shoe twists with ease then it is a clear sign that there is next to zero support and cushion left in them and it’s time to buy a new pair pronto! Flexibility is never a good sign in a trainer and when you place the shoe on a flat surface you want to be able to see it sitting straight and even. Any hint of lopsidedness is a sign that the midsole foam is damaged and basically a lopsided shoe is a lopsided foot, which will lead to injury if you continue to wear them.

The Tread Test

Just because the tread of your trainers has started to wear down it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to throw them out, but there does come a point when it will affect your running and could cause injury over time. The most common place for tread to wear down is on the heel, as this is often the first point of contact with the ground, although depending on how you run you may notice wearing down on the inside of the heel or ball of the foot instead. An unbalanced tread is likely to affect your running gait and this could have consequences on the rest of your body as it tries to adjust. In general, the sole of a good pair of running shoes will last longer than the cushioning and shock absorbency, so if your trainers have worn down to the point of nearly being able to poke your finger through the bottom of them, it’s time to admit enough is enough and dig out that wallet.

The Smell Test

And finally what gives away the age of a pair of trainers more than anything else? The smell!!  OK all jokes aside, it’s not really the best indicator, especially if you are of a particularly whiffy nature, but the older the shoe it goes without saying, the whiffier the niff. To help breathe a bit more life into your trainers it’s all about keeping them as dry as possible. After a run, remove the liner (if possible) and stuff the shoes with newspaper to help absorb moisture – this will also help them to maintain their shape. You can also get various shoe deodorising sprays and scented insoles so give them a whirl, but if all else fails, shove them out in the garage or shed!

So to round up, here’s a few of those tell tale signs that you probably need a new pair of trainers:

  • Outer sole has worn through, revealing the midsole.
  • Too flexible, the shoe can be twisted with ease and you may be able to see creases in the midsole.
  • Your toes start to bruise as they wear through the toe-box, and the shoe upper may begin to tear.
  • One of the soles of your shoes may begin to wear more than the other.
  • One or both shoes is no longer able to sit straight when placed on a flat surface.

If you notice one or more of these signs then it’s new trainer time. Hey we don’t need to be told twice, new trainers? Yes please!


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