How to Care for Running Shoes to Make Them Last Longer

Running shoes

Verywell / Amelia Manley

We hate to break it to you, but that pair of running shoes you have been hanging onto for three years even though they make your feet hurt? There is no way to extend the life of those bad boys.

As Emily Duane, RRCA certified running coach and former employee at Boulder Running Company so succinctly puts it, "They're dead. It's time to turn them into yard work shoes."

But as you sadly retire your old favorites and head to the store to scout out a new pair, there's some good news. With the right care, you can maximize the life of the next pair of shoes you buy.

True, they will eventually go the same way as your last pair, and all the pairs that came before—all running shoes have a shelf life, after all. But that doesn't mean you can't take steps to extend the life of your running shoes. Here are some tips on how to care for your running shoes so that they last.

Save Your Running Shoes for Running

It can be incredibly tempting to buy a pair of running shoes, and immediately turn them into your "everything" shoes. Why not throw them on before you run a few errands, or use them while you do yard work? And certainly, it's a hassle to change shoes after your run if you've got a few other things to take care of before heading home.

Well, as comfortable, and convenient as it can be to use your running shoes for more than just running, what you end up doing is reducing the life you will get out of your shoes for actual running. This is because shoes typically have a mileage-related shelf-life.

Various factors can affect this shelf life, including your own body weight and foot shape, but every mile you use your running shoes for activities other than running is one less mile you'll get to use them to run.

"Save your running shoes for running," Duane emphasizes. "If you're using an app or a spreadsheet, it's really easy to keep an eye on how many miles your shoes have accumulated from running. However, using your running shoes for all the other things, makes it hard to track the miles on your shoes."

Rotate Your Running Shoes

It's no secret that running shoes can be expensive, but when the budget allows, it is a good idea to keep a couple of pairs of running shoes in rotation. Just as your own body needs time to rest and recover between runs, you're putting a lot of stress on your shoes. By allowing them time to rest, you just might maximize their lifespan.

"It's ideal to have more than one pair of shoes," says Duane. "If you wear the same pair every single time you go for a run, especially if you're running daily, they aren't getting a much-needed break. The foam in the midsole needs time to decompress, and the insole and uppers need to air out."

Use the Right Shoes for the Type of Running

There are reasons why there are different shoes for tracks, roads, and trails. Different types of running shoes are specifically manufactured to be suited for the surfaces you're using them on. And if you end up using your road shoes on a rough trail run, you can expect them to wear down faster.

"Once you start taking road shoes on gravel, rocks, and roots, the outsole rubber and any exposed midsole foam that peeks through the rubber will start to wear down much quicker," Duane confirms.

And the same concept applies to the types of runs you're doing — the shoes you're using should match the run. Different shoes work better for different types of runs.

"Maybe you'll want something extra cushioned for an easy recovery day, or something light and springy for a speed work day," Duane says. "Those light and springy shoes often have less rubber on the outsole, which means more of the midsole foam is exposed and touching the ground, making them likely to wear out much faster.

So if you're using the light shoes for every run, rather than rotating between shoes based on the training you're doing you will end up having to replace your shoes more frequently.

Add Running-Adjacent Cross-Training

If you're trying to get a few more weeks or months out of every pair of running shoes, cross-training might be the way to go. Activities that mimic running, but don't place as much (or any) wear on your shoes, can be alternated in on a regular basis to give your shoes a longer shelf life.

"Pick something that is 'running specific' to maximize the benefits," Duane suggests. "This means activities that mimic the motion of running, and can include walking on the treadmill or outside, using the elliptical trainer, or even cycling.

If you have access to a pool, give your shoes a break and take a stab at pool running, Duane adds. Or in the winter, go cross-country skiing instead.

Avoid Putting Your Shoes in the Washer, Dishwasher, or Dryer

When your shoes get dirty and smelly, it can be tempting to throw them in the washer or dishwasher to brighten them up, but Duane says if you want to get the most out of your shoes, skip the machine washing and drying.

"Shoes don't belong in a washing machine or a dishwasher—not even on the top rack," she says. "The hot water can damage the materials and cause bonds to break down faster. A little dirt never hurt anyone."

If your shoes are extra crusty, Duane suggests knocking the soles together to get the big chunks off. Then, take a dry dish or nail brush to them to get the rest off.

"You can try wiping down the surface with a damp cloth," Duane suggests.

For these same reasons, you should not throw your running shoes in the dryer, even if they get soaked during a run in the rain. Instead, remove the insole.

"If you have newspaper, stuff some in there to help absorb the moisture." Duane says. "Just don't put your shoes in the dryer. The heat can break down the bonds and materials much faster."

Untie Your Shoes Before Putting Them On and Removing Them

We've all been guilty of it. Instead of untying your running shoes to take them off, you step on the heel of your shoe with your opposite foot to help hold it in place as you step out of the shoe.

And the next time you're ready to go running, it's a hassle to untie and re-tie that same shoe, right? So you might as well just jam your foot back inside before you head out for your run. Unfortunately, these shortcuts may save you a few seconds on the front and back end of your running routine, but they won't save you at all when it comes to extending shoe life.

"You're not doing your shoes any favors," says Duane. "Stepping on the heel to pull your foot out and jamming your feet into tied shoes breaks down the heel cup faster. If you insist on leaving your shoes tied, use a shoe horn to help your feet slide in and out without bending the heel, and consider getting elastic laces to convert your shoes into a more slip-on style."

Store Running Shoes Safely Between Runs

It's important to think about the conditions in which you're storing your shoes between runs. Exposing them to extreme heat or cold, or simply throwing them in the back of your closet may do more harm than you think.

"Crushing them under other shoes wears down the upper faster," explains Duane, "And extreme temperature swings aren't great for the midsole. Not to mention, extreme heat can cause the midsole to harden or shrink, while extreme cold can cause stiffness, too."

So while you may be inclined to leave your shoes in your car or on the patio after each run, it's best to bring them inside to a temperature-controlled spot, and give them space to sit, unbothered by other shoes or sporting goods.

Get Fitted

It may seem like a pain to head to a running store to get fitted before buying your next pair of kicks—it's so easy to just order a pair online, right? The problem is that if you buy shoes that don't fit right, you're likely to have them wear down quicker.

"Getting your feet in the right shoes—style and size—will help you find a shoe that lasts longer," Duane explains. "Many people are running in shoes that are way too small; that makes a difference in how they wear out."

Also, if you pronate or supinate, stability shoes will be structured with extra support for that motion in your gait, Duane says. These shoes will last longer than if you're wearing a neutral shoe.

When To Replace Your Running Shoes

While the life of your running shoes is likely to fall somewhere in the 300 to 600 mile range, it can vary significantly. Tracking your mileage is a good way to get a feel for whether you're closing in on your next trip to the running shoe store, but there are a few other telltale signs that it's time to switch out those kicks.

"Your body might start giving you signs that your shoes are hitting their limit," says Duane. "Joint pain, lower back pain, pain in the feet and arches, as well as sudden hot spots and blisters are dead giveaways."

She says that your legs might also just start feeling particularly tired after your runs. But beyond physical complaints, your shoes are going to start looking more worn as well.

"If there are tears or wear spots on the upper (inside and outside), your shoes are toast," Duane says. "When you look at the outsole, if it looks like a bald tire in spots, they're done."

And of course, if you've been wearing them for years, their timeline has run its course.

A Word From Verywell

Running shoes can help carry you across miles and miles of indoor and outdoor terrain, but every pair of shoes has a lifespan. Failing to replace running shoes regularly can lead to aches, pains, and blisters.

While getting the most out of your running shoes is important, it's equally important to know when to throw in the towel and purchase a new pair. Take care of the investment you've made in your running shoes and treat them well, but don't get so attached to a single pair of shoes that you end up using them past their shelf life.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How often should you wash running shoes?

    Generally speaking, washing running shoes is unnecessary, particularly if you plan to use a washing machine or dishwasher. Hot water can damage the bonds in your shoes. If your shoes are particularly dirty, it's best to use a dry brush to wipe off the dirt, then use a wet cloth to wipe them as clean as you can.

  • How long are running shoes good for?

    The length of time you can continue using a pair of running shoes depends on many factors, including your foot shape, running gait, and weight, as well as the terrain you're running on and the type of shoe you're using.

    A general rule of thumb is that running shoes last between 300 to 600 miles, although some studies indicate that good shoes can last longer than 600 miles. By tracking miles with an app or spreadsheet, and paying attention to how your feet and legs feel during and following your runs, you can get a feel for how long your shoes will last.

  • Do insoles extend the life of running shoes?

    Insoles are unlikely to extend the life of running shoes, although that may depend on the type of wear your running shoes are experiencing. Given that running shoes can wear down on their outers, the midsole, and the inners, adding cushioned insoles is unlikely to do much to prevent the wear and tear on the running shoe itself. Most people use insoles for extra cushioning or to meet another need.

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hennig EM. Eighteen years of running shoe testing in Germany – a series of biomechanical studiesFootwear Science. 2011;3(2):71-81.

By Laura Williams
Laura Williams is a fitness expert and advocate with certifications from the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine.