A fresh pair of workout shoes is a wonderful thing. Whether you’re a runner, a HIIT enthusiast or someone who likes to mix things up, there’s comfort in feeling supported by a solid set of sneakers.
But as your shoes absorb the impact of your sprints, squats and skips, they wear down over time and need to be replaced once they’re no longer properly protecting your feet. Ideally, you want to replace sneakers before this happens to avoid injury.
Technically, running shoes are meant for running and cross trainers are meant for HIIT workouts, but the reality is that most people usually wear the same pair of sneakers for all their athletic endeavors (which isn’t recommended ― read more on that below). So for the purposes of this article, we’re referring to the sneakers you wear for the bulk of your movement.
Paul Hunter, a personal trainer and the owner of Grayton Beach Fitness in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, put it succinctly: “Shoe bills are less than doctor bills and time off.”
But how often do you need to replace running shoes or workout sneakers? We tapped some experts to get answers.
How often should I be buying new sneakers?
The exact answer will depend on a number of factors, but in general, experts recommend replacing your sneakers every 300 to 500 miles (that’s helpful if you use an app to track your runs) or every six to eight months, whichever comes first. For super active individuals, this time frame may be as short as three months.
Where your sneakers fall in this range will depend on things like frequency of use and type of activity. For example, Dr. Saylee Tulpule, a podiatrist for Foot and Ankle Specialists of the Mid-Atlantic, said a person who does HIIT workouts multiple times a week will need to replace their shoes more often than someone who takes a leisurely 30-minute stroll a few times per week.
“There are many other factors to take into consideration as well, such as shoe material, the terrain a runner runs on (treadmill versus trail) and a person’s weight and foot type (flat versus high arched),” Tulpule said.
How to tell when your sneakers are toast
Even if you’re not tracking miles, there are physical signs that indicate it’s time to buy a new pair of sneakers. Excessive flexibility is one of them.
“Running shoes are designed to be flexible in the forefoot because that’s where your bones are flexing, so if you’re seeing flexibility in the forefoot, that’s not a super big concern,” Brittany Gleaton, associate footwear product line manager at Brooks Running, told HuffPost. “But if it starts to flex in the midfoot and heel, that’s a really good sign that you need a new shoe because shoes are not designed to be flexible in those parts of the foot.”
Not sure if your shoes have too much flex to them? Dr. Wenjay Sung, a podiatrist at Methodist Hospital of Southern California in Arcadia, California, recommends taking each shoe in your hands and twisting it.
“If the shoe feels weak, as if a simple turn of the wrist can bend it out of alignment, then it’s time to replace your sneakers,” Sung said. “Even if one shoe is still strong while the other is weak, it is prudent to replace both sneakers.”
Excessive wear on the outsole of the shoe is another red flag. This can take the form of the tread wearing down or even disappearing in some parts.
“Typically, the midsole will break down before the outsole. If you are seeing wear in the leather or even the foam on the outside of the shoe, that’s a good sign that the midsole is probably already broken down,” Gleaton said.
Tulpule has her patients inspect their shoes for wear and tear, especially if they don’t know how many miles they’ve already put into the shoes. Noticeable signs of wear and tear include holes in the toe box or upper, a worn-down outsole (in extreme cases, the shoe rocks to one side when placed on a flat surface) and a general lack of cushion in the midsole.
Health problems that can plague you if you don’t replace your sneakers
“Shoes are meant to provide arch support, shock absorption and cushion, and over time these factors wear out quite easily with walking and exercise,” Tulpule told HuffPost. “Achy or sore feet can be a sign of poor shoe quality and can indicate a need for replacement.”
Wearing sneakers past their prime can “result in strain to the joints, ligaments and muscles of the feet and ankles and can certainly lead to injury and pain,” she said. “No one wants injury while trying to stay active!”
Sung said regularly replacing sneakers can help prevent athlete’s foot. Plus, it’s useful to keep up with the technological advances of sneakers.
In short, safety is the top reason to replace your sneakers regularly.
“Often the cushioning of the midsole, the area between the insole (where your foot is) and the outsole (the harder rubber part that touches the ground), is the first to go. It’s responsible for the overall cushioning and arch support,” Hunter said. “A decrease in cushioning leads to an increase in shock to the body, while wearing of the arch support leads to the ability of the arch to fall, thereby increasing demands of the body’s supportive structures, including bones, ligaments, tendons and muscle overuse.”
Tips for extending the life of your sneakers
If you’re the type of person to splurge on sneakers or have a favorite pair you’re not keen on getting rid of in a few months, there are some things you can do to keep them around for a bit longer.
First, have an extra pair of shoes (or two) on hand so that your sneakers get a break. This is particularly relevant for sneakers used for running and other high-impact activities. Gleaton recommends rotating running shoes daily (at the minimum) to give the foam in your shoes time to fully decompress.
“By rotating your shoes, you’re giving them time to breathe so they can come back to their full potential versus running in them again the next day and continuously flattening them,” she said.
Second, have activity-specific shoes and do your best to only wear those shoes for their intended activity. If you’re the type of person who exercises and then immediately goes to do errands or meet up with friends, you may want to consider packing an extra pair of shoes to prolong the life of your workout sneakers.
“Walking adds miles to your shoes, so to extend the life of shoes — particularly for running, where you need the most protection — I’d suggest keeping those shoes only for running,” Gleaton said.
Need a new pair? Here are 20 favorites that Amazon reviewers say are astonishingly comfortable.
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A supportive pair of Skechers
These shoes are what running dreams are made of because they have a shock-absorbing midsole, a 1.5-inch cushioned heel and a soft fabric lining that won’t feel weird with socks.
Promising review: “This athletic shoe fits me better than any other brand or style I have tried. I have wide feet, but women’s wide shoes are too narrow for me. I am not a runner, but I play tennis and walk quite a bit. They are well constructed, give me excellent support and put a spring in my step!” — Mikasa collector
Longer runs require excellent cushioning, and these shoes will feel like clouds on the feet. They have an EVA foam midsole and a footbed with plenty of toe room.
Promising review: “I have wide feet and have always had a tough time finding decent running shoes that don’t end up squeezing my toes and forefeet after a few runs. These NB running shoes came in X-Wide, which is what I need for long-run comfort. Lower price than their premium brand, too.” — Charles Brown
These shoes check off all the boxes for style and durability. They’ll stabilize feet during workouts and look great with basically every pair of athletic leggings.
Promising review: “I have somewhat wide feet, so when I got the shoes I thought they might be too tight, but the material stretches and the shoes are very light and comfortable. They are inexpensive with an interesting design. No binding around the ankles or pinching at the widest part of my feet and no time at all to break them in until they conformed to my foot shape. They have been comfortable both during normal walking and during exercise.” — Charles St. Charles III
Hit the trails with these kicks that have supportive overlays and a durable rubber outsole that’ll help prevent slipping and sliding.
Promising review: “I’ve been buying the Saucony TR model of shoe for years, since the TR7 (now we’re up to TR12). The fit is the same, and these shoes are great for running on non-paved surfaces (i.e. dirt trails, in the Cook County Forest Preserve). Also great if you like to walk, these shoes provide superior stability for whatever activity you’re doing (running, walking interval training etc). Good value.” — Amazon Customer
Run without soreness, thanks to midsole cushioning and a memory sole insert that’ll provide good support for heels and toes.
Promising review: “I love these shoes! I have wide feet, so I was really glad to be able to order in wide and they are so comfortable. Super cute and on trend as well. They are really light and breathable, so I wear both with and without socks.” — Lindsay Osborne
Add a pop of color to any running look with these shoes that come in a bold colorway and have interior bounce cushioning. Reviewers also say they provide a comfortable ride.
Promising review: “I bought these for the intention of having another running shoe, but in all honesty, the Signal Pink color is what really lured me in. They are beyond bright making them both eye catching and hopefully safer for those early morning runs. I can honestly say they were comfortable on the first wear and didn’t leave me with any lingering foot pains either. Definite winner!” — Diedra L.
Designed to fit like a glove, these sneakers provide ample cushioning, breathability and stability during running workouts.
Promising review: “Under Armour is quickly becoming one of my favorite shoes. Great style and they offer wide sizes which can be hard to find. This is my second pair and I’m already looking for my third pair. I’m in the 300+ category and anyone who is a member in good standing in that club knows that weight can destroy a shoe if you aren’t rotating them. They last so much longer and wear so much better if you can do it. I recommend these for anyone looking for an economical good looking shoe that looks good and wears comfortably.” — Paul “The Answer” Paz
With a memory foam sock liner and comfy footbed, these sneakers will leave any runner on cloud 9. They also come in many colors, so getting dressed for workouts will be a breeze.
Promising review: “Love these shoes! If you wear slightly thicker socks, you may want to go up a half size. I promptly wore these for three days straight at Disneyland after only wearing them for about a week prior and had zero blisters! They were so comfortable! These are more of a slip on shoe. There are laces but you don’t need to undo them to get the shoe on or off. There is no tongue like a normal shoe so the laces seem more like a decoration. They can tighten the shoe somewhat though if you feel that they are too loose.” — Albert
These shoes channel both style and functionality with a cool knitted exterior, great arch support and a breathable design.
Promising review: “These lightweight shoes are very comfortable. They come with extra insoles that provide more support than the ones that are in the shoes when they arrive. I ordered a size 10, concerned about room in the toes due to peripheral neuropathy and they had plenty of room to spare! I would definitely recommend these to a friend.” — Kerri
Ideal for runners who prefer a more natural stride, these shoes have a gel cushioning system that helps minimize shock during impact.
Promising review: “This athletic shoe met my expectations in every way: Fit was true to size, with a good finger width between toe and end of shoe. This shoe gives greater than moderate support, but not so much that my arch is sore at the end of an active day. The width is exact, with no rubbing on either side. I spent an eight-hour day in these puppies with little or no time off my feet and they did the job. My feet were supported, cushioned and comfortable. As a bonus, they are very sharp looking with the colored flares over the white background. And they clean up great!” — windsweep
They’re inspired by running. With a mesh design and a snug fit, these slip-on shoes can basically become an extension of your feet.
Promising review: “I bought this pair because laced-shoes are always a pain to put on due to my back pain/injury. But, this one doesn’t even require hands. You can slip them on right out of the box, and the shoe fits comfortably (a bit snug, maybe). I am NOT going back to traditional shoes after this one. No hands to put on your shoes. Brilliant.” — Amazon Customer
Because sometimes all the bells and whistles aren’t necessary. Still, these shoes come with a honeycomb insole that’s designed to reduce stress on your feet, and the bottom of the shoe features a bumpy texture that provides traction inside and outside.
Promising review: “Bought these as indoor workout shoes, and they are exactly what I wanted. Lightweight, comfortable, cheap, and nondescript. I can easily slip these on and off, which is a bonus.” — Michael Deuser
Ideal for people who love to switch up their workouts. In addition to being designed for indoor and outdoor running, these lightweight shoes with stretch-mesh accents are also great for yoga and the gym.
Promising review: “I absolutely love these shoes. This is my second pair. Very comfortable, true to size and great price. I use these to workout in. I do various workouts and the shoes are great for everything. Running/ walking, weight lifting, high intensity/ jump training and kickboxing. Good tread on the shoes so you don’t slip. Hardly any break-in time.” — cindy fenyus
They’ll allow you to focus solely on your running. These shoes provide neutral support and soft cushioning that’s ideal for road running and cross training. They’re also very smooth and stable, so you can use them on a variety of terrain.
Promising review: “First time I ordered a shoe online. These fit PERFECTLY. I jogged around my house the day I received them trying to find something wrong with them but they’re perfect! Everyone has their own brand and I’m now sold on Brooks. I run 55–60 miles a week and need a sturdy, durable, comfortable shoe. Brooks is it for me.” — EnjoyTheJourney
Great you’re looking for nostalgia while you break a sweat. These shoes sport a molded sock liner and durable rubber exterior to support your feet while you run.
Promising review: “The Reeboks are extremely comfortable and supportive with modern insoles in already comfortable classic footwear. They also have a very nice and comfortable lining and tongue and they are light, flexible and super quiet while walking on hard surfaces and the dragged soles are excellent on dirt, rocks and gravel. They seem to be as good quality as Reebok has ever been. Size fits as expected.” — Haztive Dominica
You don’t have to worry about breaking these in because they’re that comfortable. They boast a snug fit and manage to support your entire foot, but are lightweight enough that you won’t feel bogged down.
Promising review: “These shoes are incredible. They’re very padded and help with stability while running. They are definitely true to size so make sure you know your actual shoe size! I have a ton of foot issues but these accommodate my custom orthotics for working out. I’m in love with these shoes!!!” — Lauren
Perfect if you’re looking for peak comfort thanks to a padded collar and tongue, as well as a cushioned insole. Reviewers love that even with their sleek appearance, these sneakers don’t skimp on support.
Promising review: “This is a great running shoe with very good support. Nike shoes often have different structures which tend to bother my feet. Often the arch support is either too narrow and makes your foot feel jammed into the shoe, or it offers too much support and ends up making your feet hurt something fierce. This particular shoe has great support and cushion for the constant jarring of jogging/running.” — Thomas Maier
So you can run, walk and hike to your heart’s content. Aside from some lightweight gel cushioning, these shoes feature reversed lugs on the bottom for optimal uphill and downhill traction on a variety of outdoor surfaces, especially trails.
Promising review: “I love these shoes! I’ve been having knee pains while running and needed to get a pair that better supported my underpronation. These were perfect, and I haven’t had pain since. I run anywhere from 3–10 miles on a run, five days a week.” — Amazon Customer