The single most important fitness accessory is without a doubt your sneaks. Not only do they help you improve performance and maintain balance, but they also aid in injury prevention to ensure you bounce back from even the most intense exercise. While it’s important to select the right workout shoe for you, it’s also vital to know when to cut ties with shoes that are old and worn down. Here, fitness pros share the main signs that it’s time to get a new pair of workout sneakers.
You’ve clocked 300-500 miles in them (even by just walking around).
Much like the mileage on your car, your running shoes need to be changed out after you take them a certain distance. “The mileage is really dependent upon several things, such as the weight of the runner, the type of shoe (minimalist shoe will get less mileage, whereas a shoe beast like Hoka will get [more]), and the surface you run on,” explains Melis Edwards, MS, running and triathlon coach, and author of Deep End of the Pool Workouts. “If you run primarily on roads rather than trails, your shoes will break down faster … [from] the hard pavement surface.” Bottom line: If you get to between 300-500 miles, it’s time to start shopping for a new pair.
You bought your shoes five to six months ago.
An exercise shoe is typically spent after five to six months of wear and tear. Although it does depend on the frequency, type, and intensity of your workouts, too. “Cushioning deteriorates over time. So, it’s wise to have a few pairs that you’re using at once so that they last longer,” explains Cary Raffle, CPT, an orthopedic exercise specialist in New York City. “If you walk in a pair of shoes all day, the midsole becomes compressed, so the cushioning is shot—rotate and give the shoes a chance to recover.”
You’re in physical pain.
Pay close attention to how your body feels during and after your workouts, especially your knees and lower extremities. “Pain that presents with no trauma to the area or change to the workout program can be a result of shoe fatigue,” says Angelo B. Sutera Jr., DPM, a Pennsylvania-based podiatric surgeon. If you begin to feel these aches, you should take a good look at your sneakers. “Shin splints and lower back pain can be symptoms of your running shoes losing [their] shock-absorption properties and allowing poor mechanics of the foot to prevail,” he adds.
You’re getting blisters.
If you are getting blisters, they may come from sneakers that are stretched out and no longer fitting properly, according to Carol Michaels, ACE, ACSM, fitness trainer. “Good footwear is essential because foot, knee, hip, and back issues can develop from wearing worn-out sneakers for long periods of time,” she says. Additionally, the discomfort caused by the friction and pressure associated with wearing the wrong shoe should be enough to deter you from purchasing the same pair.
You’ve worn past the bottom tread to the midsole.
Turn over your shoe, and you’ll likely spot a white area just under the tread. This is the midsole. If you see any wear and tear here, it’s time for new shoes. The compression of this area is also important. “When you press on the midsole with your finger, it should compress,” says Melis Edwards, MS, running and triathlon coach, and author of Deep End of the Pool Workouts. “If it doesn’t, you need new shoes.”
The midsole is your shock absorber—like perfectly inflated tires on a mountain bike. So if you can no longer compress this area, it’s time for a new pair.
Your heel counter is not firm.
Take a look at the back flanks of your shoe—the area that supports your ankles and rear foot. If it doesn’t feel firm to the touch like it once was, it’s time to replace your workout footwear, Dr. Sutera says. To test, put the back of the shoe between your thumb and index fingers. Pinch the sides to see if the shoe’s structure is broken-in.
You’re still breaking them in after a few days.
“A good pair of sneakers should feel comfortable as soon as you put them on,” says Natasha LaBeaud Anzures, elite runner and national team member for Canada. “Don’t let a salesperson rope you into buying a pair with the latest bells and whistles if another pair feels better. Otherwise, you may end up with a pair that you are constantly breaking in and trying to make more comfortable over time.”
Always pay close attention to how your shoes feel overtime during your workouts. When it’s time to buy a new pair of workout sneakers, head to a store where experts can help you figure out exactly what type of sneaker you need for your workouts.