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Are Your Running Shoes Past Their Prime?

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A common issue for runners, walkers and fitness enthusiasts alike is knowing when to replace running shoes.  Although the title singles out the running shoe, this applies to all types of athletic shoes: tennis shoes, walking shoes, sneakers, aerobics shoes, basketball shoes, etc. The principle is generally the same. 

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We all know that running shoes do not last forever, but how do you know when it’s time to let them go up to shoe heaven?  Most people continue to wear shoes well after their useful life has ended because “they still look new”. The problem with this concept is that exercising in old worn out shoes can lead to an increase in running injuries due to their loss of stability and shock absorption capacity.   As a general rule, most shoes last up to 500 miles, but the “five hundred mile” limit is more of a guideline than it is a strict rule. With some poorly constructed shoes, the limit will be closer to two hundred miles.  So how do you tell if your shoes are ready to be kicked?  Here are three guidelines for determining when you need new shoes:

Do the Press Test

A shoe’s midsole cushioning may be worn out long before the tread shows signs of wear.  To determine if the midsoles of your shoes are no longer providing cushioning, do the press test. Using your thumb, push on the outsole upward into the midsole. With new shoes, it should be easy to see the midsole compress into lines or wrinkles. As the shoe wears down, the midsole will compress less with the same amount of pressure. Look also for creasing of the midsole material in areas where the heel and ball of the foot would be. A worn out midsole will show heavy compression lines and creases.

Examine How Your Shoes Look

Don’t worry about how dirty they are. That’s a good thing. It means you’ve been using them. What you should be concerned with is general wear and tear. Take a look at your shoes. Are the heels stretched out? Are places on the outsoles worn down? Can you see how the shoes have molded to your foot? These are all signs of excessive wear.

Pay Attention To How They Feel

Your body will know when there is little or no cushioning left in your shoes. If you notice any aches or pains, tightness, or possible shin splints after you’ve worn your shoes, it’s a good sign that you need a new pair. Uncomfortable friction or blisters in unexpected places are other telltale signs your shoes have stretched and your feet are moving around way too much. 

Dedicate a pair of shoes exclusively for exercise to get the most out of its useful life. And since shoes don’t come with built-in odometers (yet), write the date of your first workout on the tongue of the shoe with a permanent marker. It’ll make it easier to figure out when that pair’s reached the end of the road.  For even more accuracy, keep a tally of the mileage in your running or workout journal.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly 200-500 miles can come.


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