Shoe Retirement 101: When Should You Retire Your Running Shoes?

It is an accepted fact that all shoes will eventually reach their so-called “retirement” after a long (or short) period of  usage. Although the life span of each pair lasts differently, all of them present signs of wear over time. Runners should take notice of these signs to prevent possible problems and injuries in the future. 

To better explain things, I will use my own running shoe as an example in this article. I bought a NIKE Lunar Forever 2 way back in 2013.  It was the only running pair I had in that year. As a consequence, it became my training and performance shoes in all my runs. The LF2 was my all-around shoe until I had an enough number of other running shoes for my rotation. The Lf2 lasted for almost 3 years (not bad) as I declared its retirement a week ago.  So…

What are the factors that a runner must consider before retiring his/her pair?


 I used the Lunar Forever 2 in all of these 21km runs in 2013 (The LF2 reached 105 kilometers already within 5 events only). The distances I covered during training and preparation isn't included yet.

The lifespan of a shoe is directly linked to its mileage. As the runner increases his/her distance during training and races, the quality of the materials that make up the shoe lowers at the same time. Most lightweight shoes last for 300-400 miles while premium trainers last over 500 miles. The durability of the shoe also recedes faster based on the frequency and intensity of use. 

Using a GPS-watch as a mileage recorder

If your weekly mileage is over 100kms per week, you might need to change your shoes every 3-4 months (The type and durability of the materials used in the shoe will play a significant factor here). 
The Lunar Forever 2 is a lightweight Neutral trainer I used in most of my long distance runs. Most of my personal bests were ran using the LF2. Based on my estimation and running record, the LF2 has accumulated more than 600kms already. That is more than half of the least expected life span for a lightweight shoe.

It is important to be aware of the distance covered by your running shoes so you can assess whether the pair is nearing its maximum term of use and should be replaced. This could be done by tracking a the number of races you have attended and measuring the mileage you achieved for each week.


Here are some of things you should observe while using your shoes: 

            A.) OUTSOLE: 

Most of the outsole patterns in the forefoot and heel area have faded after hundreds of kilometers.
            One of the fundamental purposes of the outsole is to provide traction. As time goes by, the patterns or treads of the outsole fade because of the constant contact it has with the ground. Shoes lose traction and become slick when used in roads, especially on wet grounds. This might cause injuries or affect your performance. Most of the faded parts of the outsole can be seen at the forefoot region and heel area of the shoes. 

            The traction of the LF2 (present) isn’t as reliable when it was at its prime. You can see on the pictures the faded treads of the LF2’s outsole.  

            B.) MIDSOLE: 

The midsole shows signs of wear

          The midsole is the cushioning that reduces the impact received by your feet during landing phase (except in extreme minimalist shoes). The midsole compresses every time it receives impact. It will continue to compress (and decompress when at rest) until it can no longer give you that “comfy” or bouncy feel over time.    

You may use your thumb and forefinger to squish the midsole and see how much it would compress. A worn-out shoe will compress easily. It means that the shock absorption of the midsole has deteriorated.   

Most of the running lines of NIKE  utilizes the Lunarlon Foam. The amount of cushioning of the LF2's midsole has decreased significantly in 3 years because of the constant mileage beating it received during runs. I can still recall how the cushioning of the midsole felt before. It was buttery smooth. Unlike now, I feel the solidity of the ground below me.


 Shoes become more flexible every time it is used. Remember that the flexibility of the shoes may vary depending on its type and the amount of support the original had. Too much flexing may lead to minor or major foot injuries including how your biomechanics and pronation works. To test the current flexibility of your shoe, hold both toe and heel of the shoe and try to fold it. . This will test how much give the shoe has. If you can almost fold it in half, it means that the shoe has become too much flexible. It means that it might have exceeded the advised flexibility for your feet.


This is a picture taken after I halted my training after 5.47 kms. My left knee started to feel sore.

                Runners know their shoes more than anyone else. You don’t need to be a seasoned runner just to know when your pair has already tapped out. You may be having the same observations like the following; 1. The level of comfort or bounciness of the shoe has lost. You can almost feel the ground underfoot. 2.) You're starting to get knee pains, shin splints, muscle soreness, or your old injuries have returned after each run. This may become more noticeable if you weren't experiencing these problems before. 3.)  Several parts of your shoe are showing signs of deterioration or damage, and 4.) It looks really worn out.

                Runners are advised, if they can afford, to have at least 3 pairs for running. This will give an ample time for the cushioning (midsole) of the shoe to decompress while you are using another pair. 

               There are some cases wherein runners are “forced” to retire their pair early. This might be caused by the mismatch between the built of shoes and their natural pronation or biomechs. It is only logical to STOP using the shoe if it is causing pain or injury to your body. Also, this can be avoided by understanding first the must-have qualities of a shoe that would complement with your body.  Nobody wants to purchase a pair only to retire it earlier than expected. 


As the saying goes: "The only permanent thing in this world is CHANGE".  Running shoes will be replaced sooner or later, depending on how we use them. Runners should be aware of the current status of their shoes for them to perform and enjoy the sport without problems or injuries. Early retirement of shoes can be avoided by knowing the right shoes that would best fit your body. Remember, running should always be a HAPPY experience!



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