Running shoes wear out before they stop working – road report – considerations when buying running shoes

Bruce R. Wilk

This article is the second of two parts,

One problem a consumer faces when trying to select a new pair of running shoes is the lack of standardization in categorizing shoe type. Running shoes are categorized by different and confusing terminology, for example “structured cushioning” or “a performance shoe.” One manufacturer’s stability model might claim to prevent the foot from overpronating just as well as another’s motion control model. Manufacturers also may radically change models and keep the same name, such that shoe function changes without informing the retailer, much less the consumer.

Therefore, look at the shoe yourself. Compare arch support, tread width, firmness and gel cushioning among several model shoes. Stability shoes are adequate for average-weight runners as well as overpronators with low arches. These types of shoes are usually built with a rigid plastic wedge or high-density foam in the arch of the shoe for added support, ideal for overpronators. Well-cushioned shoes are recommended for those who run 40 miles a week, as well as runners with high arches. Built with a thicker cushioning, they provide extra protection in the midsole for high mileage.

Runners in store for racing flats should search for shoes with lightweight uppers. Racing flats should also have a thin tread and flexible sole to ease the push-off stage of the stance phase. On the other hand, performance trainers are characterized by thicker treads, added heel cushioning and more arch support than racing flats. It is crucial to keep in mind your specific training needs when selecting a shoe.

How to Decide When Shoes are Worn Out

In lieu of counting mileage, follow these tips to tell when it’s time for a shoe change.

* Pay attention to the ride. How does running feel? Worn out shoes provide less shock absorption and support, so the ride will change.

* Inspect the shoes to make sure they are glued together properly. If the midsole is tearing apart from the upper aspect, it’s time for a change.

* Inspect the shoe from the rear on a level surface. The entire upper aspect of the shoe should sit evenly on the sole without leaning to either side (Figure 1). If the shoe leans, it cannot support your foot.


* Using a tape measure, measure the medial and lateral vertical distance from the top edge of the posterior sole surface on which the shoe is resting. The shoe’s sole should rest level to the surface. Compare these distances within each shoe (Figure 2).


* Rock your shoes in and out on a level surface. Apply both downward medial and lateral forces to the shoe to test its ability to withstand rocking. If the shoe excessively rolls inward or outward, it will not stabilize your foot.

* Push into the shock-absorbing gel pocket in the midsole using your thumb to check for firmness. In addition, apply both downward medial and lateral forces to the upper aspect over the heel counter to check for height loss. The shoe should withstand collapse to properly absorb shock and stabilize the foot.

Remember, too, that moisture wears out shoes. A wet shoe cannot stabilize the foot as well as a dry one, and the shoe will stretch out prematurely. In addition, wet shoes cannot absorb shock as effectively and will tend to overcompress. Rotating pairs so they have a couple of days to dry out before running in them will help. Even still, the materials in the midsoles of shoes tend to oxidize more quickly in hot or humid environments. Do not keep shoes in an overly-heated area like the trunk of a car.

Running in proper shoes will help you enjoy the sport, prevent injury and improve performance. Follow these steps, shop in a reputable store and pay attention to model changes so your shoes will last longer and you will run better.

Make a Date of It

Consider writing the date you first wear your new running shoes some place on the shoe that will last–perhaps the midsole. Then record a hatch mark for every 10 or 20 miles run. This will serve as a simple and accurate record of shoe use and will help you remember the age of the shoe.

Leon J. Hoffman, PhD, AMAA member

Bruce R. Wilk, PT, OCS, is a certified physical therapist and the director of Orthopedic Rehabilitation Specialists in Miami, FL. Maritza M. Valdez, BS, works with Bruce as a physical therapy aide.

COPYRIGHT 2003 American Running & Fitness Association

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

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