“If you start to feel as though you’re not getting the performance that you had before, or if you’re starting to get new aches and pains,” it might be time for a new pair, Dr. Conenello says. Anything from soreness in your heels to knee pain could signal the end of your sneakers; blisters or chafing in new places could also be a sign. Many runners notice they have a type of ache that only appears when their shoes are close to their demise, whether that’s shin splints or hip soreness, Metzler says.
Finally, you might also just notice that running feels…different. “When you get a new shoe, it feels light and lively and bouncy,” Metzler says. Older pairs, meanwhile, lack the same spark or pizazz. “The shoe feels dead. And that’s coming from that foam being worn out or compressed to the point that it can’t be rejuvenated.” As a result, your pace may slow even if you’re expending the same amount of effort, making running more laborious and less, well, fun.
2. Your shoes literally look a little worse for wear.
In addition, there are some red flags you can see with the naked eye. Check the hard rubber outsole; if it’s worn through on the sides or bottom, that’s a problem, Dr. Conenello says. Every runner has some asymmetries, so you might notice this on one side more than the other.
The midsole may also appear wrinkled or compressed, a surefire sign it’s not delivering the same amount of cushion or spring. You can also try bending or twisting each shoe, Ornelas says. As the foam breaks down, they’ll become more flexible—so if your shoes are a lot bendier than they used to be, they may be past their prime. It can help to repeat this test over time, or compare to a new pair of the same model for a point of reference.
Finally, inspect the counter. If the heel seems to be leaning one way or the other, appears bent in, or is otherwise misshapen, consider moving on, Dr. Conenello says. Same if you have holes in the fabric upper. And all these signs are even more significant if they’re combined with aches, pains, or that “dead” sensation from broken-down foam.
3. Your shoes hit a specific mileage.
Like we said above, tracking the mileage isn’t foolproof, but it can help you determine how often to replace running shoes—especially if you combine it with some of the other signals mentioned above. What’s more, it’s a lot easier than it used to be.
When Metzler was a collegiate runner, he’d write the date he bought each new pair of shoes directly on the foam, in permanent marker. These days, you can use running apps like Strava or Garmin Connect, which allow you to choose which shoes you were wearing on each run so you have an automatic tally of the total mileage you’re putting on them.
Shoes don’t magically expire at any given number, but you can track trends over time. “At least it gives you an idea—when I wear this shoe, I feel good for 400 miles, whereas when I wear this shoe, they only feel good for 250 miles,” Dr. Conenello says. It might even help inform your future purchases.
How to make your running shoes last longer
We know those kicks aren’t cheap, but there are ways to get a little bit more out of them.