Are your shoes worn out?

How to tell if your shoes are worn out…dead shoe walking

A commonly asked question is “how do you know when your shoes are worn out?” With improved production methods, the outsole (the part that makes contact with the ground) of the shoe often shoes very little sign of wear even after hundreds of kilometres. Conversely, if you have wide feet, or toes that poke up while running, you may prematurely wear a hole in the upper but still have a shoe that is otherwise perfectly function. For most shoes, the main area of concern is the midsole of the shoe where the cushioning is.  There are a few signs to be aware of including leg fatigue, increased impact noise, and loss of recoil in the ‘dead shoe test’.

As a general rule of thumb, expect to receive approximately 500-800km of life from your running shoes (that is 3-4 months of running 40km per week). Obviously lifespan can some can obtain a greater life with some only able to obtain 300-400km until the shoe is worn out. A variety of factors affect this, including runner weight, terrain, running gait, frequency of running (you obtain a greater lifespan by alternating two or more pairs of shoes) as well as other factors that are runner dependent.

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Key signs you need to replace your shoes

  • As your shoes wear out, you may find that your feet and legs are feeling more tired than usual. This is usually a subtle change over time and not apparent unless you try on a newer pair of shoes.
  • Older shoes often make a ‘thud’ sound when they hit the ground, as opposed to a quieter and smoother contact.
  • The ‘Dead Shoe Test’ involves bending the front half of the shoe in half, downwards towards the sole. In old and worn out shoes there will be little resistance and lesser recoil. This would suggest that the shock absorbing ability of the shoe is fading.
  • Look at the shoes from behind – if they are tilting excessively inwards or outwards this may suggest that the shoes need to be replaced.

The durability of a shoe depends on several factors including

  • The thickness of the midsole (generally thicker soles give higher mileage)
  • The density of the midsole (firmer is often better for durability)
  • Amount of use – shoes worn daily wear out relatively faster (consider rotating a couple of pairs instead)
  • Foot strike patterns – excessive pronation, supination, or forefoot running will unevenly wear the shoes resulting in their early retirement

Worn out shoes can be a contributing factor for injuries, so remember to replace them regularly to keep you running at your best. If you are unsure of whether your shoes have reached that ‘gone too far’ stage, come visit the staff at the intraining Running Centre for a FREE ‘dead shoe’ assessment.

By Doug James (podiatrist, physiotherapist and runner at intraining Running Injury Clinic)