Let’s face the undeniable fact that running shoes are expensive. Certainly, not as pricey as other fitness gear such as bikes, GPS devices, golf clubs or water skis, but we all want to optimize the miles and use we get out of our running shoes. Unfortunately, many of us don’t take very good of them and they will wear out prematurely.
But, if you treat your running shoes well, they’ll take good care of you and your feet. But if you abuse your shoes, chances are they will wear out quickly and lose the ability to cushion and protect your feet.
Here are some common Q&A’s about of shoe abuse and the corrective steps you can take to extend the life of your running shoes:
1. After running, my shoes often stink. What can I do to avoid this obnoxious odor?
Air them out. Remove the insoles and allow the shoes to dry in the fresh, open air in direct sunlight. Hang the insoles up on a clothes line.
Often, odor develops from the glue and other materials used to make running shoes. To counter these disgusting smells, air the shoes out and/or use baking soda underneath the insoles. Just sprinkle a little baking soda underneath the removable insoles. Baby powder can help too.
Other times, the odor is a by product of running without socks. Plenty of runners don’t like to wear socks, but the problem with that is they sweat directly into the insoles of their shoes. Once that moisture builds up, the shoes can develop a terrible odor. Often, the smelliest part of the shoe is the insoles (or sock liner). If the insoles are extremely stinky and airing them out doesn’t seem to help, buy an over-the-counter replacement pair.
2. My shoes get soaked all the time, especially in the summer when my feet sweat so much. I don’t have anyplace convenient to air them out. Can I just place my shoes in the clothes dryer?
Definitely not. Drying your running shoes in the clothes dryer is not advisable. Running shoes won’t survive well in such fast, hot drying conditions. The midsoles and outsoles are held together by glue which will be compromised by the heat of the dryer. The heat will also weaken the upper and cause it to crack and weaken.
If you can’t dry your shoes outside in direct sunlight for an hour or so, dry your shoes out in front of a fan. But make certain that wet running shoes are completely dried out before running in the same pair again.
3. Can I at least wash my filthy shoes in a washing machine?
Sorry, not a good idea either. The detergents used in washing machines are harmful to the glue in your shoes. The best way to clean your shoes is to use a soft-bristled brush (a toothbrush is fine) and wash away the dirt and muck with a mild soap and water. Remove the insoles first. Then, allow the shoes to completely dry. Or just remove the insoles and hose the dirt off the shoes. Dirt, especially from the Lady Bird Lake/Butler Trail, won’t hurt the shoes or reduce its life, but the shoes look awful. Cleaning them up is always a good idea after a long, hot trail run.
4. Will using two pairs of the same exact model extend the life of my shoes?
Not really. Shoes don’t need a “rest” day like you and I do. Shoes are made of glue, foam and synthetic materials. The midsole foam gets compressed over the course of a run, but it “bounces” back to its normal self in about the same time it took to compress. That is, if you go for a two-hour run, the shoe’s cushioning element—the midsole– recovers completely in about two hours. Waiting a day or two certainly won’t hurt, but it doesn’t help much either. The only caveat is if you are doing two workouts in a single day, don’t wear the same pair of shoes for both runs.
5. My running shoes are very comfortable. Can I also wear them for basketball, soccer, volleyball, ultimate frisbee and tennis?
Sure you can. You’ll harm the shoe’s running life, but you can wear running shoes for just about anything. Not only will wearing your running shoes for basketball or any other court sports, prematurely trash the uppers and wear out your shoes, you’ll mark up the basketball, volleyball and tennis courts with the black outsoles of your running shoes which won’t make you very popular.
Running shoes are designed for straight ahead motion, not lateral sports. To play basketball or tennis, you need side-to-side support which running shoes don’t provide. For a sport which entails plenty of jumping such as volleyball, a shoe specific to volleyball is the best way to go.
Even wearing your running shoes for casual use around town, will reduce their life. Best bet is to use worn out running shoes for casual wear.
6. How many miles can I expect from my running shoes?
We get this question all the time and there simply isn’t a good answer for every runner and every model of shoe. But when pushed, we throw out the best ballpark estimate: With normal use of a high quality pair of conventional training shoes, you can expect to get between 300 and 500 miles. Why reliable estimates are difficult to make is different shoes are made with different materials and construction. Some shoes are more durable than others because of the materials. Also, runners are constructed differently and some are harder on shoes than other runners. Bigger runners will get fewer miles out of the same exact shoe than a small runner will. Runners will get fewer miles out of racing shoes, lightweight trainer-races or minimalist shoes than training shoes. A heavier shoe is generally more durable than a lighter shoe.
Still, 500 miles is about the max for most runners. True, some runners get many more miles (others, get fewer) out of their shoes, but eventually the midsole foam lose the ability to cushion and you will no longer get the protection you need to run safely. If the shoe feels much firmer than it did a month ago, it is losing its ability to cushion.
How can you tell if the shoe is worn out? If a shoe’s upper is twisted and the midsole appears to be crushed and brittle, it’s time to get a new pair. There are also other subtle warning signs such as an unusual ache or pain after an easy run. Often, it’s your body saying, “Go the store and get a new pair of shoes!” Better to buy a new shoe a bit early than too late.
A good hint is when you first start running in a particular pair is mark that date down on the tongue of the shoe. If you run 30 miles a week, you’ll know that after 15-20 weeks from that date is about time to begin thinking about buying a new pair. Writing the date eliminates the guesswork of how old a certain pair is.
7. What are the most durable running shoes on the market?
Although durability is such an individual matter and depends on a number of factors, some of the most durable shoes on the market have stood the test of time and include the Asics Gel-Kayano, Brooks Beast and Adrenaline, Mizuno Wave Paradox and Wave Prophecy, Nike Air Zoom Pegasus and Saucony Omni and Hurricane.
8. Is it worth it to get my running shoes resoled?
Probably not. Resoling used to be popular, but all resolers did was put a new outsole on the shoe. Resoling has faded because it can’t extend the life of the midsole which is where almost all the cushioning takes place. Once that midsole is worn out (which usually occurs before the outsole wears out), the shoe is shot.
9. What can I do to extend the life of my running shoes?
Air them out after every run, change the insoles periodically and store the shoes in a cool, dry place. Never store your shoes in a hot car for an extended period or outside during the winter. Also, don’t leave wet shoes in a gym bag. It’s also not a good idea to wear them in the Barton Springs spillway after a long, hot run.
Certainly, the best way to extend the life of your shoes is only wear your running shoes for running. Even wearing them around town or at the gym will wear out running shoes quicker than if you wear them just for running. And never wear running shoes for other sports. Nor should you use your best pair of shoes for mowing the lawn, hiking or soccer games with your kids. Instead, wear your worn-out running shoes for those activities.
Use running shoes only for running and they’ll last longer and provide you with at least 300-500 miles (if not more) of supportive, comfortable running.