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How To Check If Your Running Shoes Need Replacing

How To Check If Your Running Shoes Need Replacing
How To Check If Your Running Shoes Need Replacing

Checking Your Running Shoes For Wear

The Outsole: How To Check If Your Running Shoes Need Replacing

As mentioned in a previous blog the outsole can typically wear at the outside heel area of the shoe. Other than simply looking at the sole of your shoes to see if there are obvious signs of break down of the outsole material you can check for wear in a couple of other easy ways when look at how to check if your running shoes need replacing:

  • Checking for wear of the outsole of your shoe in the outside heel area can be done by having a friend watch you walk or run from behind looking to see if there is noticeable collapse of the outside of the shoe as you strike the ground. This will occur if the harder outsole material is worn in this area and the shoe collapses as the softer midsole compresses when you strike the ground.
  • Another way to check for signs of wear on the outsole is by placing your shoes on a table in front of you and then looking at them from the back of the shoe. If the outsoles are worn then the shoes will be leaning to one side (if this is the case the midsole cushioning is most likely worn as well).

The Midsole: How To Check If Your Running Shoes Need Replacing

The midsole of your shoe is classically made of Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) a foam material. The midsole as previously mentioned is designed to be shock absorbing as well as controlling of excessive foot motion in some shoes. Over time this EVA will compress and then will not shock absorb and rebound as well as the material did when new, also when worn the midsole will fail to control excessive foot motion and sometimes may compress and deform unevenly as it breaks down over hundreds of miles. A shoes midsole may well be worn out before the outsole shows any signs of wear. Some tips for identifying midsole wear include:

  • As your running shoes wear out the midsole material can become more flexible and rather than flexing at the ball of the foot towards the front of the shoe the sole may continue being able to flex further back in the mid foot towards the middle of the shoe. If your shoes are able to flex further up the shoe not just towards the toe area then this makes it difficult for the foot to form the rigid structure it needs for propulsion.

To test for this take your old shoes to the shops and compare your old shoe to a new model of the same shoe. You can try bending your shoe in half (upper to upper) and try twisting the shoe (like wringing out washing). Also try checking the forefoot stiffness because as the midsole material breaks down you will be able to compress the width at the front of the shoe squeezing sole to sole, with a new shoe you will generally find yourself unable to compress the shoe in this way.

A worn out midsole will allow your running shoe to be twisted and compressed more easily than a new shoe full of life.

  • Whilst at the shops another thing you can do to check the midsole wear of your old shoes is to put on the new pair comparing the feel of this to your current shoes. If the cushioning in your shoes feels “dead” in comparison then they probably need to be replaced.
  • Another way is to examine your old shoes is to look for creasing of the midsole material. A worn out midsole will have wrinkles and creases in areas of high stress, creases that aren’t there in new shoes and are signs of the EVA material losing some of its ability to rebound and shock absorb.
  • As with the outsole, midsole wear will also be indicated by your shoes showing signs of unevenness when you put them on flat surface like a table or the floor.

The Heel Counter: How To Check If Your Running Shoes Need Replacing

The heel counter helps prevent excessive heel motion when your shoes are in need of replacing this is one of the areas to break down and become a potential risk of injury:

  • When broken down the heel counter will feel flexible when compressed side to side.
  • The heel counter may appear to deviate towards one side when looking at the shoe from behind.
  • If you apply firm pressure half way up the back of the heel and it collapses under your thumb pressure this indicates the heel counter is worn out.

Break down of any of these areas in a shoe can at the very least impact running performance if not put a runner at risk of injury. So it is always a good idea to learn how to check if your running shoes need replacing before injury lets you know their time was up.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on How To Check If Your Running Shoes Need Replacing should consult his or her general practitioner, podiatrist, physiotherapist or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.


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