Regardless of whether you’re a recreational runner jogging around the neighborhood or training for a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or full marathon, there are not many other sports out there that require as little equipment as running. You obviously need the right clothes, but much more important is a good pair of running shoes. So how do you know when it’s time to trade in your old pair of shoes? And just how long should a pair of running shoes last? Read on!
What’s The Evolution?
We’ve come a long way over the past several thousand years, when the Greeks started out running in the real Olympic races barefoot and naked. We now have tons of running clothing and accessories to choose from, as well as the continued improvement of the modern day athletic shoe. Today’s running shoes have evolved to incorporate lightweight materials that cushion the foot from the trauma of running, and developed to add traction and protection. Most of the cushioning comes from EVA foam EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate, a non-toxic synthetic compound that creates super lightweight and flexible footwear that is quite shock absorbent). However, over time, the EVA loses its shock absorbent properties. According to most credible sources, this can happen anywhere between 300 and 500 miles after the first wear. For those of you who run an average of 5 times per week, running for 3 miles each run, that averages out to a new pair of running shoes every 5-6 months.
So What If I Don’t Pick Up A New Pair Right Away And Keep Running On My Old Pair?
Well, once that EVA foam wears out, you increase your risk of overuse injuries. This is in large part because the material has lost its shock absorbing capabilities. While there are some overuse injuries that appear minor (such as shin splints), others can be much more serious, like tendonitis or stress fractures, requiring significantly more serious treatment. A good way to prevent this from happening? Trade in your old shoes regularly for a new pair!
Now you may be wondering…”Why do the experts give such a large range in terms of mileage for the right time to replace your old running shoes?” The answer lies in the fact that not all runners weigh the same or have the same foot strike (what part of your foot contacts the ground). Both of these facts affect the cushioning of shoes in different ways. So to be certain of when it’s time to replace your old shoes, and to eliminate the miles and miles of guesswork, here are 4 quick signs to look for that can determine if your running shoes need to be replaced:
1) Pay close attention to aches and pains–As previously stated, don’t ignore the warning signs your body is trying to tell you. From the ache of shin splints to the deep throbbing of achilles tendonitis to the sharp, stabbing pain of a stress fracture, you need to get this checked out by a musculoskeletal expert, i.e., a Physical Therapist. If you’re just experiencing a slight “twinge” at the bottom of your foot, it could be an indication that your shoe is past its prime.
2) Try the press test–Press your thumb directly into the middle of the shoe, where the midsole is. If the midsole feels “cushy” with some “give,” then you should be ok. However, if the midsole feels “tough and unyielding,” then it may be time for a new pair of running shoes.
3) Look for signs of creasing in the sole–Look at the midsole–now use your thumb to press on the outsole into the midsole. If the midsole is showing heavy compression lines before you press into it (and doesn’t compress much when you do press into it), it’s usually a sign that the cushioning is fairly worn out.
4) Compare new shoes with old ones–Try on an old pair of running shoes immediately before you try on a new pair. This will give you a direct comparison of which pair feels better (and once an old pair of running shoes stops feeling comfortable, then it may be time for a change).
Even though there are many runners out there who actually run barefoot, or at least in minimalist shoes with almost no cushioning at all (and a whole other blog post for a different day!), those of you who do run in cushioned shoes must remember that the cushioning only lasts for so long. Replacing your running shoes on a regular basis should help to keep you running comfortably and, therefore, more healthy in the long run!
If you or someone you know is having difficulty running due to discomfort, don’t wait to seek help. Call my office at once at (302)691-9055 or visit my website at www.wildermanphysicaltherapy.com to schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation to determine how Physical Therapy can help. Don’t delay–schedule now!