A quick Google on this will find figures that range from about 500 km upwards to 1000 km, and others that replace them when they fall apart or start developing holes. You quickly suspect the lower end of the range is heavily influenced by the shoe manufacturers and the upper end by die-hard skinflints who won’t replace anything until it’s literally falling apart.
Well towards the upper range, here’s the story of one pair of 1000 km running shoes, which have been used weekly (on and off) for the last five years. After each use, they’ve been dried out thoroughly, and that’s after being used in some mucky conditions that have included deep mud, cows**t and salt water. Of course, they’ve been rinsed with water after those baptisms of filth, but never cleaned in a washing machine which some suggest to do. I’ve been fortunate to be able to use these as a part of shoe rotation that’s included far too many shoes, including mainly running with barefoot shoes which really work for me.
Before going ‘barefoot’ with minimal shoes, the 1000 km Gel Landreths were on the way to the bin. I was under the impression that running shoes should feel like running on 30 cm deep foam and that the support they gave was good. But they go well being rotated with barefoot runners, and will be replaced wholly by those in time.
Of course, had I not been given the opportunity to review a pair of Merrel Sonic Gloves, I’d have chucked these shoes out in the belief that I was begging for injury after using these for a set period of time. Even so, they’ve got good tread and the sole springs back as they did when new, probably as they’ve been cared for and I had the luxury of rotating them.
It’s also recommended in some circles to retire shoes simply on the shoes age as they deteriorate, apparently, quite quickly. Here’s a claim that you do so after 12 months, but these are already five years old (I was surprised to find!) and still going strong. I’m also what could be described as a ‘heavier’ runner, so following conventional wisdom I would have replaced my shoes ages ago. As I took to minimalist running immediately I suspect that I run quite lightly towards the forefoot, and certainly never heel strike, and so It’s possible that a lighter runner could have a style that means they run ‘heavier’ than I do and cause increased wear.
It’s essential to listen to your body. If you suspect that you’re getting niggling injuries because your shoes are getting old, then change them. Though, as always with niggling injuries, do we really know what’s causing them? Shoes are a convenient scapegoat.
There’s also the smell to consider! After 1000 km, these don’t smell of roses, but don’t clear the room. Compare that to a 400 km pair of fabric Inov8 walking boots which can stink out the office if left there overnight and now require the judicious use of deodorant in order to be let in the house. If they were my runners, then they’d be out!
So, with a bit of a spruce and repairing the hole that’s developed on the ankle (on both my pairs) as I must have slightly freaky ankles, I’m going to see how long they really do last. I’ve only just thrown them in the washing machine as well, something I’m inherently suspicious of doing, but I reckon a few washes during the shoes lifetime’s going to outweigh any disadvantages. I usually give them a quick clean in warm water with some detergent, or Tech Wash if I’ve got some, spray with some fabric boot proofer before drying slowly and giving them a final spray of shoe deodoriser for extra measure. I could add shoe whitener, but I don’t mind the lived in look and don’t’ want my shoes that white.
Of course, you might have started this article expecting an answer, and I’m emphatically not going to give you one. I think that running the shoe till it’s unserviceable will work for me, as does running with minimal support. Perhaps you’re reading this and depend on maximal cushioning, in which case this will probably won’t work for you. There’s also your running style to consider as well as how well you look after your shoes. If you throw them wet in a corner between runs, you can’t expect them to last as long as well cared for shoes.