The Life of a Shoe

The Life of a Shoe

Getting the most bang out of your shoe buck.

Running shoes straddle a fine line between fashion and function. Of all running shoes sold, 80% are used for activities other than running—such as everyday living. Runners are a wardrobe staple and can be worn with almost anything.

However, not all running shoes are created equal. A good quality pair of runners will provide better cushioning, impact protection, and support in a lightweight package compared to a casual pair of kicks that look cute with your jeans.

When you decide to take the plunge on investing in a proper pair of running shoes, you need to wrap your head around the fact that what you are buying is a piece of equipment—arguably, the most important piece of equipment you’ll own as a runner. Running shoes are to runners, what golf clubs are to a golfer and you should treat them with the same care.

So what IS the expected lifespan of a running shoe? Of course it can vary greatly depending on the user and what the shoe was designed for, but the average running shoe should last between 600 and 800 KM (~475 miles). So how long is that? If you run 5 KM three times a week for 50 weeks you get to 750 KM. For the average recreational runner, you get about a year out of your shoes. If you’re running higher milage, you will get less time (because you achieve the distance sooner). If you’re heavier set, you will get less KMs, so factor those things in when setting your own expectations. 

The most important thing you can do to maximize your shoe's life is to rest your shoes! Just like you rest your body after a workout, you must rest your shoes. After your run or race, take them off and do not use them for anything else. No grocery shopping, no picking up your kids, no mowing your lawn. Running shoes need a good 24 hours between workouts to allow the materials to rebound and come back to their original state.  

When it comes to caring for your shoes, don't put them in the washing machine. Detergent, hot water, the machine's agitator or drum are all going to be so hard on your shoes. Spot clean the outside if you must, hose them off if they are really muddy, but resist the urge to put them through the machine.

If your shoes are starting to get smelly, you CAN remove the factory insole and throw that into the wash with your other technical gear and use a tech wash. Regular laundry detergent will trap odours in the fabric, but tech washes rinse clean. Air dry those bad boys. You can also use sneaker balls to absorb the odours or make a tea tree oil spray and spritz the inside of the shoes and even your feet! Tea tree oil is a natural anti-fungal and nice and cooling when sprayed on your feet.

When your shoes are finally done, you usually feel it first and it can happen seemingly over night. You'll finish a run and think, “Why does my ankle/knee/hip hurt?” Take a look at your shoes and if you see creasing in the midsole foam then the foam is likely packed out and isn't absorbing impact anymore. Also look at the tread pattern and if the outsole is worn down and smooth, the shoes are ready to be retired.

Here's a shoe that is half-way through it's running life at about 300 KMs. Creasing is starting to show in the midsole, and the outsole is getting slightly worn. 

A shoe starting to show some wear

Many people will use their packed out shoes for general everyday use, or you can donate them to a charity that distributes gently worn shoes to the homeless—a great way to extend the life of the shoes beyond their initial purpose.

To recap:

  1. Use your shoes for running only
  2. Rest your shoes!
  3. Spot clean only and air dry
  4. Re-use or donate (You can drop your gently worn shoes off at Cowichan Valley Running and we will send them to ShuGuy Ministries!)

Hope you found this helpful! If you're still not sure if your shoe has bit the dust or not, bring 'em down and we'll take a look for you! If you have any questions, let us know in the comments.

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