As all amateur and professional athletes know, running shoes are not built to last forever. Though there is not enough data on the topic as of yet, Dr. Miguel Cunha of Gotham Footcare in Manhattan has his own expert recommendation as to when a person’s running shoes should be replaced. He suggests thinking of running shoes the same way you would think of a car. The more mileage that a car has on it, the more it is prone to deterioration and failure. Similarly, the more miles that a pair of shoes has been run in, the more likely it is that the shoe has worn down and is less effective as a result.

Dr. Miguel Cunha claims that the sweet spot when it comes to running shoe lifespan is between 300 and 500 miles. For a marathon runner, that might mean replacing your running shoes every few months, while for a casual runner, this might mean replacing them once per year. The reason that the mileage indicator is spread over such a wide range is because other factors like weight and foot strike also determine the lifespan of a running shoe. Both of these factors affect the cushioning of the shoe, including which part of the cushioning wears down first and at what speed.

No matter your level of intensity when it comes to physical activity, it’s important to remember that running shoes are not a lifelong commitment, and that wearing running shoes past their prime can not only be uncomfortable but can lead to injury and even foot ailments. Continue reading for Dr. Miguel Cunha’s expert advice on the key signs that your running shoes are on their last legs.

The Signs of Wear and Tear on the Shoes

To determine whether your running shoes have finally had enough, Dr. Miguel Cunha suggests using the following techniques:

  • The Midsole Press Test: Take your thumb and press it into the center of the shoe, where the midsole is. This area should feel soft and cushy. If it feels stiff and inflexible, this is likely a sign that it’s time for a new pair.
  • The Top of the Shoe Test: After going for a run, take your shoes off your feet and examine them. Specifically, focus on the top of the shoe. If the upper part of the shoe remains in the shape of your foot, even after you’ve taken them off, it’s a sign that the shoes are worn out. A “healthy” pair of running shoes should bounce back to their original shape.
  • The Drop Test: Take your shoe and hold it a few inches above a hard surface, such as a hardwood floor. Drop the shoe from this height and notice what it does when it lands. Does it rock back and forth for more than half a second? If so, that is a sign that the cushioning has lost its bounce and the shoes should be replaced.
  • The Comparative Test: Try on a brand-new pair of running shoes, and then immediately afterwards, slip on your old pair. This will give you a direct comparison of which shoe feels better and more supportive on your foot. A key indicator that an old pair of shoes should be replaced is when it stops feeling comfortable; however, it’s often difficult to realize this without trying on a new pair and remembering what a pair of running shoes should feel like.

The Signs of Wear and Tear on the Body

Dr. Miguel Cunha claims that wearing running shoes beyond their expiration date can be downright dangerous. Poor, worn in running shoes have the ability to cause discomfort, which can lead to injury or various foot ailments. As one of the leading podiatrists in Manhattan, he knows firsthand that an ill-fitting shoe is often the culprit when it comes to foot disease. Specific signs to watch out for are aches and pains in and around the foot. Whether in the heel, toes, balls of feet, or arch, foot pain is often a sign that the shoes you’re wearing are past their prime. Another symptom to watch out for is black toenails, as black toenails are a result of the tip of the nail bed touching the front wall or top of the shoe. This repeated interaction can cause bruising, blistering, or even the nail lifting off the nail bed, all of which are more common when the shoe’s cushioning has grown tougher.

Dr. Miguel Cuhna’s Final Thoughts

If you’re experiencing foot pain or discomfort, be sure to visit a doctor. They will be able to assess whether it’s an issue with your footwear and recommend a running shoe that suits your body and level of physical activity.