When Is It Time to Replace Your Shoes?
If you’ve ever wondered how long you can pound the pavement (or trail, treadmill or gym mat) before turning your kicks in for new ones, here’s your answer.
Sitting in my closet right now are 20-odd pairs of shoes of assorted types and colors. Some are for walking, some are for working and some are for working out. I have my favorites and the more I use them, the more comfortable they feel to me. The average age of the shoes in my closet is five years—maybe six. According to LA-based podiatrist and foot surgeon Ebonie Vincent, DPM, that’s an injury waiting to happen. “I get patients who are like, ‘I’ve had these tried-and-true shoes for five years.’ That’s not good,” she says. “That’s when people start getting shin splints or ankle injuries or even tendon problems. You’re doing the same activity but with less and less support.”
In fact, says Dr. Vincent, at a minimum you should replace most types of active footwear once a year. “You want to pay attention to signs like if one side of your sole is flatter,” she says. “Or if you have flat feet or are a supinated walker, you can tell by looking at the heel how your foot is resting in that shoe as it decreases function.”
Of course, the lifespan of a shoe depends in part on what you use it for—and how often you use it. Follow this guide to get a better idea of when it’s time to restock.
How often: 4-12 months
Expert tip: The lifespan of a sandal depends on the quality of construction and how often they are worn. “Sandals are typically seasonal but here in California, people wear sandals all year round,” says Dr. Vincent. “Sandals don’t provide much support for your feet or your ankles. Rubber-soled sandals are not going to withstand your body weight pressed up against the concrete for very long.” As a rule though, fashion sandals will last a bit longer than your daily commuters, since they’ll be spared the wear and tear of many miles. To assess the state of your sandals, look at the very back of the heel. If the rubber is heavily worn, or if it is compressed significantly more on one side than the other, it’s time for a new pair.
How often: 3-9 months
Expert tip: Cross-training shoes can last a few months or nearly a whole year, depending on the type of workout you’re doing and how often you work out. Sessions that involve kicking a bag (which places stress on the toe box) or box jumps (tread wear) will use up the shoes faster.
How often: 4-6 months
Expert tip: “Most runners can tell when their running cadence changes as their feet pound away at the shock absorbers in their shoes,” says Dr. Vincent. “The faster that goes away, the greater risk you put yourself for shin splints or stress fractures.” If you’re a regular runner, you can also estimate your shoes’ lifespan based on the amount of mileage you put on them. For most runners, 300 miles is a good time to consider a new pair.
How often: 6 months
Expert tip: The most important thing with trail runners or hiking shoes is not the tread wear, says Dr. Vincent, it’s the ankle support. “I like to hike dirt trails,” she says. “When you’re dealing with rougher terrain especially, you want as little play around the ankle area as possible.” You’ll know it’s time to replace your trail shoes when they start to feel more like slippers than support systems.
How often: 6 months
Expert tip: “If you’re playing every day, don’t wait too long before using new shoes,” Dr. Vincent says. Stutter-stepping, pivoting and jumping all take a toll on shoes’ lateral stability, and once that wears down, it raises the risk of injury to your ankles and your knees.
How often: 6-12 months (unless you spot a crave-worthy colorway or style you simply can’t say no to, of course)
Expert tip: Shoes you wear to get you through your day (or night) that don’t take any real pounding from hardcore exercise will likely last longer than your dedicated trainers. Keep an eye on the laces and lining of the tongue (wear here causes abrasion when you walk). With lifestyle shoes, you are more apt to notice general wear and tear on the uppers (scuffing, creasing and dirt) than you are to spot sole degradation. In truth, replacing your fashion footwear is as likely to come down to seasonal trends as it is the state of your treads. No guilt there—a fresh look is just as important as a comfortable fit (bonus points when you have both).
How often: 10-12 months
Expert tip: Unlike running shoes that take a pounding, walking is lower impact, so the wear and tear on your sneakers is less. Nevertheless, arch support and cushioning break down over time, as does the heel counter. If your feet start to ache after long walks or you find yourself getting a so-called Charley horse in your instep, it’s time to trade these shoes in for a fresh-out-of-the-box pair.
Remember, even if you treat your sneakers well, eventually, the materials will break down. But you can save your body from a similar fate by keeping your shoes fresh. “Make sure you’re getting the best support out of your shoes as possible,” says Dr. Vincent. When you’re working out hard, “you definitely don’t want to have your shoes be a source of pain.”
*Shoe replacement times are meant as a guide. Times are an estimate and will vary based on frequency of wear and type of use.