When Do I Need New Shoes?

Feb 14, 2020

Nothing lasts forever.

As much as you love that comfy, reliable, fashionable pair of shoes, sooner or later you’ll have to leave them behind and move on with your life.


But it’s for your own good! While we understand the emotional connection you might have to your current pair, the truth is that even the best shoe will break down in time. And if you don’t have a pair that can properly cushion and protect your feet, your risk of developing pain, fatigue, and injuries goes through the roof.

That being said, it can sometimes be hard to discern where, exactly, the line is between “good enough” and “not good enough,” especially with a pair that has already served you well for a while. Hopefully, this blog will help you do just that!

This is not an exhaustive list, but here are a few signs and indications that it might be time for a new pair.

You’ve Racked Up Too Many Miles

Every second you stand on your shoes, and every time your foot strikes the ground when walking or running, the cushioned insoles and midsoles of your shoes get just ever so slightly more compressed. They can only “spring” back so many times before they start to wear down.

How many miles you can go on a single pair varies depending on things like your weight, your gait, the surfaces you walk or run on, and the quality of the shoes themselves. However, a good rule of thumb might be about 250-400 miles for running shoes, and up to 500 miles for walking shoes.

If you enjoy running or brisk walking for exercise, it’s always a good idea to track your mileage to give you an idea when your shoes will likely be ready for replacement.

You Notice Obvious Signs of Wear

To be honest, obvious wear is often more of a “late stage” sign of a shoe that needs to be replaced. In other words, if your shoe is starting to look visibly distressed, you probably should have replaced it a while ago.

Some clear indicators include:

  • Treads that are worn down
  • Wrinkling or compression lines along the side of the outsole
  • Holes or separations between the outsole and the upper

Additionally, tread wear may be able to tell you something about whether your shoes were really right for you in the first place, or if you have a more significant foot problem that needs to be addressed.

If you have a “normal” gait, the areas of most significant wear should generally be concentrated around the outside-middle of the heel and the inside-middle of the ball of the foot. If your shoes show excessive wear in other areas, or unequal wear between left and right shoes, you may have a gait issue that needs to be corrected by a specialized pair of shoes and/or removable orthotics.

When Do You Need New Shoes?

You’re Starting a New Sport

Far too many people make a very common mistake: they assume that, as long as they have a pair of “athletic” shoes, that should cover them for any sport or activity they might consider trying.

Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case. There’s a reason why basketball shoes tend to have high collars and thick, heavy soles, while running shoes (for example) tend to be as light and streamlined as possible.

In short, each type of sport or activity stresses the feet and ankles in different ways, and sport-specific shoes are designed to offer the support and protection to match. If you are thinking of starting a new sport or workout routine, or have several sports that you like to play, it’s important to have an appropriate pair of shoes designed for the particular risks of each activity.

Father Time Caught Up with Your Shoes

Even when sitting in a closet, shoes are susceptible to breakdown and degradation just due to the passage of time.

Most athletic shoes, for example, have their major components held together with glue. Over time, that glue dries out and weakens, meaning your shoes might start to break apart even if you never wear them.

Another example? Shoes made with polyurethane (PU) can literally disintegrate due to a natural process called hydrolysis. Essentially, exposure to moisture gradually causes the material to become brittle and inflexible. PU is often found in the soles of athletic shoes, but also in many dress, work, and safety shoes.

Certainly, certain types of shoes will last much longer than others. But if you haven’t worn a pair in a long time, give it a quick check before putting it on and heading out for the day!

Your Feet Simply Aren’t the Same Size Anymore

Feet don’t stop growing during the teenage years. In fact, they don’t stop growing ever!

Well, that’s only partially true. What’s really happening isn’t so much growth as it is gradual flattening of your arch over time. As the arch gets lower, your sole spreads out, getting wider and even a little bit longer, too.

This process can happen especially quickly if you’ve been pregnant recently. In addition to carrying some extra weight, pregnancy triggers the release of hormones that cause joints to relax. One side effect is that feet can spread out a relatively large amount in a short period of time. And even after giving birth, they’ll likely more or less stay that way.

The lesson? Even if you’ve been the same size “forever,” always measure your feet anew each time you go shoe shopping.

Your Feet Are Starting to Hurt

It’s the most basic, simple principle.

The reason we suggest you do all the things above—track your mileage, get sport-specific shoes, check for wear or degradation, etc.—is because we want you to replace your shoes before they get to the point where they can’t protect and support your feet anymore.

But regardless of how old or how worn out (or not) your shoes are, an onset of foot pain and fatigue should always be a concerning sign. At the very least, something needs to change—maybe your shoes, or maybe something else.

If your feet are hurting and new shoes don’t seem to be doing you any good, make sure you give the team at Heartland Foot & Ankle Associates a call. Bring in your old pair of shoes, too!

Not only can we make recommendations for what you should be wearing, but we can also provide comprehensive treatment options to address your pain, including advanced therapies like MLS laser.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lockwood at our office in Bloomington, IL, please give us a call today at (309) 661-9975.