How to Know When to Replace Your Workout Shoes

How to Know If Your Workout Shoes Are Toast

By Jerry Morgan

When it comes to working out, failure is a good thing. Bringing your muscles to the quivering brink of structural integrity is what makes muscles stronger. But when it comes to your footwear, the last thing you want is failure. Unlike muscles, shoes are not bound to the same laws of recovery. Once they’re done, they’re done. Use them past their “expiration point” and they may be doing you more harm than good.

It becomes important, then, to understand how long your shoes might last given your chosen workout regimen and how to know when they’ve expired.


How Long Do Workout Shoes Last?
When it comes to shoes, you really do tend to get what you pay for. Shoes that are purpose-designed with higher-quality materials tend to last longer. But no matter the manufacturer, studies have shown most shoes exhibit similar wear in one very important area: compression capabilities, or their ability to absorb the shock of you jumping.

According to research published by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the average running shoe loses 50 percent of its compression capability in 300 to 500 miles of use. Researchers concluded that most shoes should be replaced within that mileage window or every six months, whichever comes first. But how do you calculate that when your workout doesn’t center around running?


How Your Specific Workout Affects A Shoe’s Lifespan
What does your workout entail? If it’s Shaun T’s INSANITY, your workout is bound to include a lot of intense cardio and you’ll essentially be racking up those simulated miles, in addition to jumping. In this case, those compressive forces may wear out the integrity of the shoe a bit faster than just taking a jog every morning.

Programs like Body Beast and P90X definitely have their moments of high-intensity, foot-to-floor exertion as well, but in general these workouts will be more forgiving on your shoes than INSANITY or T25. The same applies if you’re a gym-goer who trains mostly with weights: You can expect markedly longer shoe life with these types of workouts.

And if you are a runner, the life of your shoe depends on intensity. Someone who runs sprints, for example, will be translating exponentially more force through the sole of the shoe than someone who just walks. If you are a sprinter, you may want to condense the NSCA’s six-month recommendation a bit.


Signs Your Shoes Are Done
So, how do you know if your shoes are ready for the circular file? The best way is a simple visual inspection of the shoe itself.

Don’t just look on the underside of the shoe. Take the time to inspect areas that display wear long before, such as the midsole, which is visible from the side of the shoe. If the midsole shows excessive horizontal creasing or wear on the areas that absorb the most load – the heel and the ball of the foot – then it’s probably time to toss them.

You can also perform what’s called a press test, where you press on the outsole (read: bottom) of the shoe and inspect for compression. If the outsole gives very little, that means that the material is highly compressed and doing you about as much good as a set of snowshoes on hardwood.


Have other fitness gear related questions? Post them in the comments!


Related posts


  1. Tabitha Rawson said:

    I still have a hard time knowing what exact TYPE of shoe I should be purchasing for HIIT trainings. When I started P90X3, I started in a running shoe and had a hard time. I did end up switching, but still had a hard time choosing the right type of shoe

    • Andy B said:

      One of the most common recommendations I see for HIIT-type workouts is to wear cross trainers. Have you tried those? Keep in mind that our feet can be pretty sensitive, even to the point where replacing a pair of shoes with a brand new pair of the same model might not feel the same (or even comfortable anymore). I have a whole collection of old shoes that I used to use to help me find replacements, and it was always a chore. Since them I’ve moved to using minimalist, thin-soled toe shoes. If the workout I’m doing has a lot of jumping and other moves which will result in impact on the balls and/or heels of my feet, I’ll wear toe socks and at least workout on rubber flooring (and maybe a ploy a mat), it might take awhile to get adjusted, but I find that those shoes are the best all-around shoe for me when it comes to pretty much any workout I’m doing. I’d be happy to share more info on that if you’d like. Good luck shoe-shopping!

      • Tina Ferris said:

        More info on the toe shoe would be great. I’ve been wearing cross trainer shoes and while doing any impact workout…my get start to burn 🙁

        • Andy B said:

          Tina, where do you feel the burning–in your feet or elsewhere? And when you say “impact workout,” are you talking lots of jumps or something else? I wouldn’t recommend getting right into toe shoes since they do require a breaking in period, but you might have several options open to you.

        • S Ayanna Miller said:

          I have the same problem with foot burn during HIIT, and I think that I even have a hairline fracture in one of my metatarsal (foot) bones now. My floor is tile, and my shoes may not be helping me. This is of great concern!

    • Tom Hirt said:

      I recommend going to a running store that provides personal fitting services. They watch how your walk, how you run, and provide the correct size. You would be amazed to what we jam our feet into thinking snug is king. But have the toes crunched up causes all kind of alignment side effects. I was blowing out my calfs every other week until I was properly fitted. It’s well worth the time and money to seek out these personalized stores and get actual expert help.

  2. Chris Konig said:

    What about going barefoot for HIIT? I’ve found that no shoe works for all aspects. I have plantar fascia and supination.

  3. JuicePlusKim said:

    I tell my clients to write the date they bought the shoes inside the shoe, or on the outside. Another client of mine writes it in her planner. When shoes are on sale, I often buy 2 pair, and switch them out.
    Pretty simple if you feet hurt, they are not the right shoes for you, or you need a new pair. Listen to your feet. 🙂