Some of us tend to hold onto things a bit longer than we should. This sort of attraction can be even stronger when it comes to items we wear.
You might live with someone who will not throw away that shirt from summer camp two decades ago until every last atom of it has dissipated into the atmosphere. Heaven help you if they have the same attitude toward their underwear!
But what about your shoes? You might have a faithful, casual pair you love, or a trusty set of running shoes that have carried you over many a mile. They might feel comfortable enough—or you might be used to how they currently feel—so is there really any harm in continuing to use them after some wear and tear?
Unfortunately, there very well can be.
Wrecked Shoes Can Make for Wrecked Feet
Shoes are not just for protecting your feet against sharp rocks, hot asphalt, and discarded pieces of gum. They are good for these things, of course, but they are also looking out for the structure of your feet.
A good pair of shoes provides support and cushioning for the daily stresses of moving and exercising. This includes lessening impacts on the heel and forefoot, and providing support for the arch. Unfortunately, our feet just don’t tend to be conditioned well to take daily running on hard surfaces all on their own.
As we use our shoes, the materials made for cushioning and support get worn down over time. Eventually, they don’t become as effective as they need to be, which can lead to excess stress being placed on parts of the foot.
This is especially likely if there is a structural abnormality in the foot that already shifts extra forces to certain areas. You’ll see these parts of a shoe wear out faster than the rest (and you may benefit greatly from custom orthotics, depending on the case)!
Without support and cushioning, feet are more likely to ache and suffer from overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis or even stress fractures. Refreshing your footwear when needed can help prevent these problems from developing.
How Do I Know When I Need New Shoes?
Not all shoes will wear out at the same rate. Some are made of stronger materials, some receive a much more intense beating from their owners, and so on.
While there are some general timeframes you can find for shoe replacements, it is better to keep an eye on things yourself to determine whether your shoes need replacement sooner or later. Fortunately, these signs are not too difficult to spot.
When considering a pair of running or walking shoes, you can start with a loose guideline that most pairs are built to endure 350-500 miles of use. Of course, unless you’re tracking your mileage or have very consistent routines, this might not mean a whole lot to you. Also be on the lookout for the following:
- Check the treads. Just like tires, the treads on your soles should not look worn down. If they do, regardless if it’s just in one or two areas, it’s a sign that your shoes are on their last legs. (However, it can be very helpful to keep an old pair of shoes like this around. Looking at how your treads have worn down is a great way for us to determine any gait or structural abnormalities you may have.)
- Wrinkling and creasing. Yes, shoes can develop wrinkles. If you see wrinkles or heavy creases along the sides or bottoms of the soles, it’s a sign that “wear and tear” is leading to a breakdown.
- Lack of flatness. If your shoes do not sit flat on the ground or a table, that means some areas have worn down more than others. You will most often find this in the heel area—but wherever that tilt is coming from, it’s time for a new pair of shoes right away.
- Ankle deterioration. The bottoms of your shoes are not the only places that withstand regular wear and tear. If the upper portion of your shoes, where your ankles should be receiving support, are looking broken down, it’s important to address that. Ankle stability is always a high priority, and you don’t want to catch yourself unsupported.
Regardless of how your shoes may look on the outside, a good indicator of needing a new pair is how your feet feel within them. Really consider that feeling the next time you go walking or running. If your feet are starting to hurt, it’s time to get a new pair of shoes.
Time Can Take a Toll as Well
Even if you haven’t worn a pair of shoes that often, pure age can sometimes have a significant effect on their stability. Materials can easily dry out, depending on where they’re kept, and quickly degrade.
If you have a pair of shoes that are generally new but haven’t been worn for more than a year, keep a close eye on them and prepare yourself for the potential need to invest in a brand new pair if they start breaking down.
We’ll Keep You Running
If you are unsure about the condition of your shoes, there are two great places that can help:
- Your local running store.
- Us, your friendly podiatry team!
You should especially see us if your feet or ankles have been consistently in pain, or you notice your shoes are wearing out wildly on one side or end more than another. Addressing these types of problems now can help prevent worse problems in the future.