It's no easy feat to find a pair of running shoes that offers the perfect combination of style and comfort…without a cringe-worthy price tag. And when you finally do find them, it's that much more frustrating when you realize you’ve worn through them in what feels like just a month’s worth of miles.
Luckily, simple adjustments to everyday habits can extend the life of your favorite kicks (and may help prevent injuries that come from working out in worn-out shoes). We caught up with John Henwood, 2004 track and field Olympian and New York City-based running coach, who explained how you’re cutting your sneakers’ lives short and suggested simple sole-saving tips.
Runners and gym-goers should wear their sneakers for workouts only, warns Henwood. While it may be tempting to keep your gear on after a sweat session, logging extra miles in your kicks adds unnecessary wear and tear and shortens their lifespan, which typically only lasts about 500 miles. After your workout, change your shoes and socks, Henwood adds. “You’ll extend the life of your sneakers and also ward off fungus caused by moisture and heat between the toes, which can lead to odor and athlete's foot.”
It’s a double-edged sword: Keeping your shoes clean can extend their life, but throwing them in the wash can damage their arch support and construction. The solution? Use a foaming cleanser (like KIWI Sport Heavy Duty Cleaner) and an old toothbrush to scrub the outside clean, suggests Henwood. If your shoes smell, sprinkle baking soda on the insoles and let it sit overnight. Tap out the excess powder in the morning and you’ll be stink-free and good to go.
Keeping your kicks in the car is a great way to stick to a fitness regime—if you always have your gear on hand, you’ll always be ready for a workout. But on very hot or cold days, you’re better off rallying your motivation a different way. “Exposing sneakers to extreme temperatures for long periods of time causes the fabric and structure of the shoes to break down more rapidly,” explains Henwood. “Instead, store your sneakers indoors, in a cool, dry place to extend their life.”
“Stepping on the heel of your sneakers to kick them off, or forcing your foot into them without first undoing the laces, causes wear and tear by stretching and bending them out of shape,” warns Henwood. Squeeze more miles out of your kicks by taking an extra few seconds to untie the laces and get in and out of your shoes the proper way. You can’t be that lazy, right?
If you always wear the same pair of sneakers you could be shortening the lifespan of your kicks while also increasing your risk for result-wrecking overuse injuries. According to a 2013 Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports study, runners who rotate between multiple pairs of shoes reduce their risk of injury by 39%, compared to runners who stick to one pair. Why? Researchers aren’t certain, but it may be because various shoes distribute impact forces differently, which helps reduce repetitive strain on the same areas of the body. “Rotate between two or three different models with the proper pronation support for your foot,” suggests Henwood.
Running in the rain feels great on a hot day, but if you do it too often you could be wearing down the arch support and construction of your shoes. If you can’t dodge the elements, avoid drying your shoes with direct sunlight or heat, like a dryer or radiator, which can break down the strength of the shoe’s adhesives. Instead, “remove the insoles and stuff your shoes with newspaper to absorb the moisture and help keep the shape of the shoe intact,” suggests Henwood. “Replace the newspaper every three to four hours to speed the rate of drying. While they’re airing out, store them in a cool, moisture-free area and avoid wearing them again until they are completely dry, which can take up to two days."