Do I Really Need New Running Shoes After 500 Miles?

Tim Ebl

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It might be good advice, not just shoe sales propaganda

I love my Merrell trail runners. They fit great and my feet never seem to get sore. They have a Vibram sole, which is supposed to last a long time. But I can feel them wearing out. How far have these shoes taken me? I did the math down below, and I was surprised exactly how many miles a newbie runner and trail hiker put on these shoes in just a year!

When you hear that shoes only last 200 to 500 miles, at first it sounds silly. Is it true? Do they lose their cushioning and need replacing so fast? And can you still deal with the smell? It’s up to each runner to make the call.

I’ve seen dudes out running in shoes that look like they went through World War Three, with holes in the sides and no tread left. Now that’s extreme.

If you’re like me, you get your favorites and then don’t want to wear anything else. I tend to wear my shirts until they have holes, and I want to do the same thing with shoes. I have to pay attention to the actual state of my footwear, not just my feelings about it.

Are You Feeling Pain?

If pains are starting in your feet, shins, knees, or hips during or after running, it might be a sign that your shoes are giving you grief. The experts say that this is one of the first things to look into to prevent injury. I’m inclined to agree with the experts, but not because they are so “expert.” It’s because of my long relationship with leather work boots.

I know, boots have nothing to do with running. Or do they?

I spent years on my feet all day at construction sites. When I was broke and young and dumb, I would buy the cheapest steel-toed boots I could find and wear them until they were falling off my feet. At up to $200 a pair, those things were expensive! At the same time, my hips and knees were always sore. I never connected it to my footwear.

Eventually, I got more money and activated more brain cells. I bought a better pair of boots. Surprise! The pain went away. It felt great!

Six months later, my hips started hurting again, then my knees. Same job, same hours. Let’s do the math: 60 hours per week, and 26 weeks, is 1560 hours on my feet. If walking speed would be at least 2 miles per hour, I was putting the equivalent of 3000 miles on those boots. And they are built a lot tougher than a spongy, soft running shoe. No wonder the running gear gets worn out!

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Running Terrain Makes a Big Difference to Shoe Lifespan

Do you do all of your running on a treadmill, or on the pavement? Then you will probably get entirely different lifespans from your footwear than I do.

I run (and hike) almost all my miles on loose gravel, sand, and dirt. I can’t wear runners with soft soles because tiny rocks get embedded right in the rubber, which is really annoying and ruins the sole faster. Nothing is as fun as stopping frequently to fix a shoe by prying a pebble out of the bottom. Since I switched to trail runners, I’ve noticed a lot fewer problems, and they don’t seem to wear out nearly as fast.

Your Body Weight and Your Body Mechanics

No shaming here, but everyone is different. I’m short and light, so each stride puts a little less force on my shoes than if I weighed 25 pounds more. My weight is a function of my height. If I was six foot two, I would be wearing out my shoes faster. The same thing goes for your body mechanics. One person is going to be more or less efficient than another, and step differently.

This is another area where expert advice could help. I plan on getting my gait examined by a gait-ologist this summer, once we aren’t all locked down. In the meantime, I’m paying attention to my form as much as I can.

How Much Do You Run?

A guy like me who is just a part-timer will go through fewer shoes than an ultra-marathoner, no doubt. But as I increase my weekly mileage, I’m going to have to pay attention to my body and be ready to make adjustments.

My favorite Merrells have been with me for just over a year, and I used them for some hiking as well as running. The average mileage is 20 miles per week, for 54 weeks. That’s 1080 miles, give or take. It’s about three-quarters walking, so the running mileage on these shoes is around 300 miles.

I’m going to go with my gut on this one. They feel worn out. I noticed in the last few runs that my left knee is a little sore, and they just don’t feel comfy. Time to say goodbye to my old friends and get a new pair.

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I'm an author, yoga enthusiast, and meditation instructor. I spend a lot of time outdoors with activities like running, hiking and camping. My writing is all about the humorous side of life and personal growth, habits ,mindfulness, and outdoor adventures.

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