Your running shoes play a significant role in your performance as a runner and can be a gamechanger. But once you’ve got yourself the right pair, you still have to buy another pair after you’ve run enough miles in them. So how long should used and unused running shoes last?
The average lifespan of a pair of running shoes is between 300 and 500 miles. Although we primarily measure the age or lifespan of running shoes in miles rather than how long you’ve had them, every pair is different, and running shoes can also “age” if they go unused.
Some of the factors that lead to the wearing out of a pair of running shoes include the conditions they’re stored in, their design or composition, and the runner’s habits.
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Additionally, the runner’s form, gait, the surfaces you’re running on, and the temperature all play a role in how long their running shoes will last.
How Many Miles Do New Running Shoes Last?
Most experts would say that you can expect to run roughly 400 miles (±644km) in a pair of running shoes before you need to buy a new pair. But you may only get 200 miles or so if you are using ultra-lightweight shoes and do a lot of road running, for example. On the other hand, a heavier pair on a runner with good form, who only runs on grass, will last far longer (sometimes over 500 miles).
Shoes are made to be flexible and responsive to wherever you’re running/walking. If your shoes lasted forever they’d be made of iron! But shoes are made of foams, plastics, and rubbers, all of which wear down over time.
One tell-tale sign, if you don’t know how many miles you’ve run in your running shoes, is that you’re starting to feel more aches and pains in your feet and legs without a change in your routine. This means that the lightweight foams, mid-soles, and carbon fiber plates are no longer cushioning the impact of your feet hitting the ground or helping you to “spring” back up after each stride.
This is especially true of your foot arches–if you feel like your arches are aching, then it means the primary support of the shoe is compromised. This is where you need to listen to your body carefully–do you feel this pain when your shoes are new but broken in? (10 miles or so)
So, the number of miles you run in a week determines how long your running shoes will last. If you’re only running 10-20 miles a week, they can last as long as 25 weeks (6 months). If you’re training for a marathon, you’re going to have to replace your shoes more frequently.
For this reason, some runners might consider buying several pairs of the same shoes at once while their shoes are on sale, storing the others while their current pair wears out.
Creating your own personal “shoe storage” by buying several pairs in advance makes a lot of sense! Although expensive, if you find a pair that you really like then sometimes it’s easier to buy what you want now. Shoe manufacturers constantly are bringing new models and retiring old ones, and the new models might not fit exactly the same way.
Buying many shoes in advance does have its downsides, though as we’ll talk about in the next section.
Do Running Shoes Have an Unused Shelf Life?
Asics and New Balance do not recommend storing shoes for any length of time.
I contacted two prominent running shoe manufacturers and they both said the same thing. Here is the email I got from New Balance:
We would not recommend buying shoes and storing them for later use. Regardless of wear shoes can deteriorate, especially the adhesives used to hold the shoes together. We would recommend only purchasing when you are ready to use them.New Balance
That being said, I did my own research on some of the materials that are used in shoes, and I found that many materials do indeed have a shelf life.
You can expect your stored, unused shoes to last for 2-3 years without issues if stored carefully.
Just like the runner’s habits determine how long a pair of running shoes can last while they’re being used, the temperature and the materials used in the manufacturing process play an essential role in how a pair of running shoes age while not in use.
So, you need to understand how your running shoes are manufactured if you want to know how long they will last if you’re not using them. Most running shoes will have rubber soles that grip the pavement and add durability, while the mid-sole is typically made out of a foam that absorbs shock. Neither is built to last particularly long, however.
And, what you’ve got to be more concerned about if you plan to store a pair of shoes has more to do with the upper part of your shoes, which are typically stitched together and attached to the midsole with glue.
According to this manufacturer, some rubber products (a primary material of many shoes) have a shelf life of between 3-5 years, and this study estimates that EVC foam has a shelf life of around 2-3 years before significant changes happen to the foam.
However, rubber and EVC foam are just examples of some of the materials used in shoes–one of the more vulnerable materials is the glue itself.
However, if your shoes are subjected to hot environments (like a shed or a garage or attic), then after 6-12 months, your shoes will start to break down little by little even if you never use them.
If stored in extreme heat, then the glue that keeps the shoe together could deteriorate more quickly.
They won’t be unusable, by any means, but they won’t offer the same support that a brand new shoe would. As a result, they might feel stiffer, and it will reduce their lifespan.
You may be thinking that you’re going to have to spend a lot of money on running shoes because you are one of those runners that clocks in 30 or 40 miles per week. A lifespan of 10 or so weeks seems far too short for the money you’re paying for the pair of running shoes that are perfect for you. But there are some tricks for preserving your running shoes and extending their lifespan.
The cushioning foam and rubber soles will be affected each time your feet hit the ground. Over time, your shoes aren’t giving you the improved traction, elasticity, or support anymore. It will leave you susceptible to injuries or joint pain. To get the most out of your running shoes, try out some of these tricks!
Run On Softer Surfaces
Often the convenient and only option for runners is asphalt–however, if you have a dirt road or packed grass to run on, so much the better. Later on in this article, I go into more detail about running surfaces.
One of the best things you can do (especially if you like to buy multiple pairs of running shoes) is to rotate a few shoes. By doing so, you can expand their lifespan, giving the foam in your shoes time to decompress, dry, and bounce back. If your shoes aren’t spending every day on the roads, the track, a treadmill, or the park grass, they get time to “rest” and recover.
Alternating between shoes not only increases their lifespan but also gives you the chance to switch between different styles of running shoes that may target other muscles while you’re running.
Use a Pair of Shoes That Promotes Good Running Angles
It will also help your cause to get a pair of shoes fitted by a professional to fit your foot size and the arc height. Running in a pair of shoes that don’t fit your needs means they will inevitably be run “on” the wrong way. It’s just as bad for the shoes to be worn by the wrong runner as it is for the runner to wear the wrong shoes.
Dry Your Shoes Thoroughly and Quickly
And, if you have been running through wet trails, during or after a rainstorm, you need to ensure that you dry your shoes properly. Allowing your shoes to soak not only makes them smell bad, but they’ll also start to feel uncomfortable. And, worse yet, the drying out process, if not handled properly, could lead to deterioration of the materials in your shoes.
To dry your shoes out, remove the insoles and fill your shoes with a paper towel or newspaper. Set them aside so that they dry properly and the moisture is absorbed into the paper. Let them dry for a few hours or overnight, remove the paper, and they’re ready for use again.
Don’t Leave Your Shoes Out
You need to protect your running shoes from the elements as well. Do not leave them out in the sun, rain, or snow for too long because that’ll lead to the degradation of the materials in your shoes that you’re so desperate to avoid.
How To Clean and Dry Your Shoes
Also, avoid cleaning your shoes in the washing machine and never put them in the dryer. Instead, clean them with a toothbrush and a rag by hand. The hot water temperature in the washing machine (a cold cycle is okay if you insist on using the washing machine) makes the glue in your shoes degrade faster.
Use Your Running Shoes For Running
This tip comes from Fleet feet: Finally, you should only use your running shoes for the surfaces they were designed for, and you shouldn’t use them for anything besides running. One way to lose track of your mileage is to be wearing your shoes at other times, which will contribute further towards their deterioration. And if you’re using track shoes for road-running, they simply won’t last as long because they weren’t designed for that surface.
So if you’re looking to get the most miles out of your shoes, these simple tricks don’t require much effort and will make life a lot easier for you while also saving you some money in the long term.
Don’t Replace Your Shoes
One option unpopular with shoe manufacturers is to simply not replace your shoes. Although at some point you have to–my old running shoes are losing their soles and have holes in them–the mileage recommendations are only recommendations.
Injury is possible with older shoes since the suspension systems wear out over time–but if you listen to your body, feet, ankles, knees, and hips, you can know if you’re shoes are performing their proper function.
Which Surfaces Wear Down Your Running Shoes the Fastest
Concrete and asphalt will wear down your running shoes faster than other surfaces due to their hardness.
We’ve already spoken about how the conditions of your running route can affect their lifespan. Still, there’s a lot to be said about the terrain you choose to run on and how it can accelerate the deterioration process.
The most popular running surfaces are asphalt/concrete, grass, treadmills, and synthetic tracks. And when you’ve got the appropriate shoes for the terrain you’re running on, each type will age differently.
It’s a tricky question to answer because you can’t compare the various designs in terms of durability. Trail running shoes are designed for durability, while track running shoes are designed for speed. But, consider the following when choosing which surface to run on for a longer “running life”.
Concrete and Asphalt
Concrete and asphalt are incredibly hard surfaces and do more damage to your shoes than any other surface due to the fact that they are so hard. Your shoes are absorbing thousands of pounds of cumulative force against hard concrete during a typical run.
Additionally, if you’re running from bad form (such as dragging your feet), your shoes can wear out even faster.
Treadmills vary in hardness from machine to machine. However, it’s a far better surface to run on than asphalt because it’s softer, and it’s smoother to run on than grass. If you’re trying to get the most mileage from your shoes as possible, treadmills are a good option.
Synthetic tracks, like roads, are pretty hard-surfaced but aren’t as hard. They’re made for runners to reach maximum speeds, and so are track running shoes. The difference, however, is that you aren’t looking for exceptionally high mileage on the track because you’re generally running shorter distances. And track shoes, which use thin soles and lightweight material, are supposed to feel like bare feet, with no traction. So, as you can imagine, they last for far fewer miles.
The grass is a very low-impact surface, but it is also very muddy and uneven, which can contribute to uneven wear. Additionally, when you run on the grass during wet weather, your shoes will get muddy, and you’ll have to go through the drying and cleaning process, which also contributes to deterioration.
Each surface has its upsides and downsides, and it ultimately boils down to you, the runner, and your preferences. I love trail running the most because I love the diversity of scenery. But, treadmills are great because they’re accessible at the gym, you can run on them at any time of year, and because they don’t wear out my own running shoes as fast as other surfaces have. Your preferences will vary and so will how long your shoes will last.
What To Do With Old Running Shoes
Before you toss your running shoes in the bin, remember that the point of a running shoe is to help you run, but it doesn’t mean that they are useless. In fact, you can use your old running shoes for working around the house. I use my old running shoes for painting, mowing the lawn, and other activities where I want something covering my feet.
If you have ultra-lightweight running shoes, they can be used as water shoes! If you’d like to learn more about what types of shoes work well as water shoes, read our article, here.
How To Store Unused Running Shoes
Keep your running shoes in their original box with paper stuffed inside the shoes stored inside a cool dark place between 50F to 80F protected from humidity. If you don’t have the original paper that came from the shoes, you can use a newspaper.
Understanding how to make your running shoes last longer while they’re being used and preserving them when they’re out of commission are two completely different stories.
Heat and humidity are bad for storing a pair of running shoes away for an extended period. The glue will break down faster, and the foam will soften and wear down when exposed to too much heat and humidity. On the other hand, your running shoes’ foam will decompress and become harder if it’s cold.
So you need to find a closet with moderate temperatures that won’t be exposed to too much moisture and humidity. If you’re not planning to use them right away, you can just keep them in their box, but if you’ve already taken them out, keep the paper in the box! It fits your shoes perfectly and will help absorb moisture. Doing this will not completely fix the deterioration of the materials in your shoes over time, but it will slow the process down.
Even though we’ve learned a lot in this article–remember that this information may not apply, forever. There are all kinds of new, lightweight shoes being released by brands like Nike and Adidas. They’ve been working on more economical designs, using lighter materials.
Most running shoes’ foam is manufactured with EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate), a copolymer, to create the foam. However, the new generation of running shoes, such as the Nike Vaporfly 4%, (see on Amazon) are explicitly designed to help the best marathon runners in the world achieve sub-two-hour times.
Newer models of running shoes use extra compliant foams infused with helion, polyurethane, or carbon dioxide. These new foam formations have been developed to improve speed and performance but not necessarily improve support or longevity.
So they’re going to require more care than the older models. Also, because newer shoes are being manufactured with different polymers, they’ll react differently to hotter and colder temperatures, they’ll wear out differently to EVA material, and your running form will probably change too (source). So all of the various factors that we’ve discussed here will change somewhat – although the same principles will apply.
As you’ll be able to tell by now, extending the lifespan of your running shoes requires you to pay attention to a lot of things that you may never have heard of before. But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for keeping your shoes in optimal condition while you push the boundaries of your performance levels.
You need to know your goals; you need to know which surfaces you prefer to run on; you need to consider how you store your shoes when they’re not in use; you have to consider the weather conditions. You have to clean them properly!
And once you’ve made your mind up, you now have all of the knowledge you need to tailor the perfect plan for yourself. But you need to plan your running shoes’ maintenance if you’re going to get it right.
So, the best advice I can give is just to be aware of the running conditions as well as your running habits, monitor how many miles you’re running, and make a plan to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your running shoes and make sure to change them when they’ve reached the end of their lifespan.
If you’re a hardcore runner, your new running shoes probably won’t be lasting you too long. You can clock up 300–500 miles pretty quickly if you’re training for a marathon. But there are ways in which you can expand the lifespan of your running shoes if you take good care of them both when you’re using them and when they’re not in use.
Newer models of running shoes may present a more significant challenge, but knowing which conditions are good and bad can go a long way towards working out the right way to take care of your shoes and get more out of them while performing at the highest level.