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Should you alternate your shoes?


Should you have more than two pairs of shoes?

A general rule of thumb should be to purchase a new set of running shoes at least once a year. If you are doing 20km or less a week of running, then one pair of shoes a year may suffice. If you are a regular runner or training for the longer events, then you should be looking at having at least 2 pairs of shoes on the go at any given time. These shoes should not be identical and should be purchased at different times and be dedicated to specific training sessions.

alternatingshoes2Have two different shoes

Running is a very repetitive movement performed in a relatively limited range of motion and for extended periods of time. Some chronic injuries can develop simply from the foot being in the same structured and shaped shoe for every run. Using a different running shoe during the week creates different stresses on the feet. This reduces the chance of a repetitive strain injury. The second shoe can have the same type of features, but will mold slightly differently to the foot allowing very subtle changes to the muscle use. E.g. high mileage runners

Plastic memory

There is a theory that plastic deformation occurs to the cushioning compound following each run. It’s a well-known fact that running exerts 5-8 times your body weight and a significant amount of ground reaction force occurs with each step. Deformation is bound to occur to the cushioning. Rotating the shoes you use may allow this cushioning to ‘regenerate’ ready for the next use.

Use lighter weight shoes for speed & races

When you run faster your running form usually becomes more coordinated and efficient. You don’t need to have the same amount of support & cushioning under your feet. In fact, the more you have, the faster you are likely to fatigue. Light weight running shoes, racer trainers, and racing shoes are all designed to allow easier flow of our running, with little effort at toe off. E.g. light weight trainer/racers.


Choosing a shoe should be related to the surface on which you run. Trail running shoes are a classic example of being specifically designed for the more rugged terrain. The outsole has more tread than road running shoes to cope with the mud & rocks, and the midsole is usually lower to the ground so the foot can adapt more quickly to the changing surface. Track runners need to be in more flexible shoes in order to cope with the constant circular motion. Wearing a chunky midsole while doing speed on the track, significantly hinders the foots ability to move. Similarly, cross country shoes need to be light weight and more flexible, again to cope with the uneven surface and more frequent turns.

Wet weather alternative

There is nothing more frustrating than a wet pair of shoes. Not only will you increase the chance of blisters, but the pungent smell of a wet running shoe combined with sweaty feet is something that will drive you to the dog house. Allowing your shoes at least 36-48hrs drying time will also increase the lifespan of your shoe by allowing the plastic memory (mentioned above) to regenerate and be ready for your next run.

When do you buy the second shoe?

If you are considering a second shoe for training, and your main reason is to vary what you wear, purchase the shoe 1-2 months after the first. This means that you should never be caught out with an old pair of shoes.

How do you know which shoe to buy?

Ask the experts!! The staff at intraining are knowledgeable and have tried and tested many different shoes. Our trained staff will analyse your running style outside in a variety of similar shoes to ensure you are wearing the most suitable and comfortable for your running gait.

You can also refer to the footwear matrix on the intraining website. This is particularly helpful if you need to branch into a second training shoe. The matrix clearly shows similar shoes in each brand by stability and the weight.

By Margot Manning
intraining podiatrist, coach and runner