Once you’ve gotten into running, what was once one of the least expensive hobbies can really start adding up – high-quality running clothes for every kind of weather, fancy GPS watches, and heart rate monitors. While most of these aren’t necessary, even for advanced runners, there’s one additional purchase you really should make once you start running regularly: an extra pair of running shoes.
Regular runners should have at least two pairs of running shoes in rotation. Some shoes are better for specific purposes; for example, you may want to use one pair of shoes just for your long run or keep a separate pair just for trails. Even if the shoes and uses are similar, rotating can help prevent injuries and extend the lifespan of your shoes.
Keep reading to learn all the reasons why you should have at least two pairs of running shoes.
6 reasons to rotate your running shoes
Famously, running has a low barrier to entry. It doesn’t require any specialized gear, or a ball and a bat, or a membership of any kind. You need nothing more than a pair of running shoes to get started.
That’s not to say that your gear is unimportant, however. Your choice of running shoes can make or break your running experience. A bad pair yields injury and constant discomfort, while a good pair can help you achieve the much-sought-after runner’s high.
Furthermore, runners might actually want to consider having multiple pairs of running shoes. Why so?
Here are six compelling reasons to rotate your shoes:
- Shoes for every speed
- Shoes for every surface
- Helps prevent injuries
- Improved cushioning
- Extends the lifespan of running shoes
Let’s take a look at each of these reasons to find out why exactly you should invest in more than one pair of running shoes.
Shoes for every speed
A well-structured running routine has variety. A typical week might have a couple of easy runs, an interval or tempo run, and a long run on the weekend.
Rotating your running shoes allows you to have a pair of shoes for every type of workout. Easier runs as well as long runs require shoes with lots of cushioning and support, whereas shorter runs require lightweight shoes suitable for up-tempo pacing.
Most of your runs should be easy: 80% to be exact. For runs such as these as well as longer runs, experts recommend comfortable shoes with lots of cushioning. But what about the other 20% of runs?
These runs should be performed at a higher intensity and much quicker pace than easy runs; the shoes you run in should accommodate this.
Having a second pair (or even more) of running shoes allows you to have the right type of shoe for sprint workouts, like intervals.
While it isn’t a crime to use the same pair of running shoes for various styles of workouts, having a pair for different speeds is advisable.
Shoes for every surface
Similarly to having shoes for every possible speed, it’s nice to have shoes for every possible terrain.
Rotating between multiple pairs of shoes allows runners to be well-equipped to run on different surfaces. Specifically, runners will enjoy much better trail runs by rotating between road shoes and trail shoes.
If you’re anything like me, you welcome a good trail run from time to time. It’s an opportunity to challenge yourself and as a bonus, you get to be in nature.
Having a pair of shoes for trail runs is crucial. Trail running can be dangerous without the right gear; road shoes don’t have the necessary tread, so you may slip and slide.
Even moving between concrete and a softer surface like a track, it’s nice to have multiple options to fit your running needs best.
Helps prevent injuries
Nothing is more annoying than a nagging injury for runners. From plantar fasciitis to a pulled hamstring, nobody likes being injured.
Luckily, rotating between running shoes has the potential to lower your risk of injury while running.
Switching between multiple pairs of running shoes can lower their risk of running-related injury. Namely, injury is prevented because switching shoes prevent any muscle imbalances.
Injury prevention practice encapsulates many obvious activities: good nutrition, lots of sleep, stretching, foam rolling, etc. It also includes rotating your running shoes!
A study published in 2015 found that recreational runners who swapped between at least two pairs of shoes lowered their risk of injury by 39%. The study cites “parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes” as a protective factor, indicating that rotating running shoes can help prevent injury.
By switching shoes, runners can avoid muscle imbalances. Runners who run in the same pair of shoes may experience muscles compensating for gait issues, subsequently leading to imbalances.
Swap your shoes to equalize your muscle development and avoid annoying injuries.
Running shoes’ main job is to cushion your feet and provide support for your arch. The foam in a shoe’s midsole holds the majority of this responsibility.
Rotating running shoes means the foam in a shoe’s midsole will have adequate time to recover. Foam requires time to rebound in order to provide ample cushioning for future runs.
Without time in between runs, the foam in the midsole of running shoes can be worn down very quickly. With this wear and tear comes an inability to provide the proper support for runners.
Foam is a material that needs time to rebound before compression. Rotate running shoes to make sure your foam can rebound and do its job!
Extends lifespan of running shoes
For how much a nice pair of running shoes costs, we definitely want to wear them for as long as possible (safely, of course).
Rotating running shoes can extend the lifespan of both pairs of shoes. This stems from less frequent usage, which results in less overall mileage on a shoe and allows the midsole foam to decompress in between runs.
It’s a no-brainer: if you wear them less, they’ll last longer. Right? Well, yes, but maybe not in the sense you are thinking.
Rotating shoes will likely add to the lifespan over time because each pair of running shoes is worn less frequently. However, considering we like to measure lifespan in miles, what good is this?
Good news: rotating also gets more miles out of every shoe. Similar to letting the midsole foam recover for better cushioning, total decompression of the foam lengthens the shoe’s lifespan.
With hundreds and hundreds of running shoe models to choose from, how are runners ever supposed to find their perfect fit?
Runners can experiment with different brands and models by rotating their running shoes.
A large part of finding a good pair of running shoes is experimenting. How are you supposed to know what you like or prefer without trying new things?
Rotate your running shoes to gain insight into what you enjoy running in. Maybe a certain brand or model becomes your favorite. Better yet, what you find out can help guide your future purchases, saving you money in the long run!
How many pairs of running shoes should you have?
Now that you’re hooked on rotating between multiple running shoes, it’s time to figure out just how many pairs you need.
The number of pairs you should have depends on your training schedule. One pair will suffice for runners who run once or twice a week. Runners who work out three or more times a week should have a minimum of two to rotate between, although there is no such thing as too many running shoes!
Chances are, if you’re only running a couple of times a week, you have no need for more than one pair of shoes. This is based on the assumption that your runs are spread out by a couple of days at least, and that your runs are not incredibly strenuous or on crazy terrain.
However, if you’re running more frequently and switching up your workouts, this warrants at least two pairs of kicks. This allows adequate recovery time for the midsole, spreads out mileage across pairs, and allows you to try different models to find your favorite.
Having more than two pairs of running shoes will only exacerbate this effect, so there’s no harm in owning more than two pairs; it’s not like running shoes expire!
If you can afford it, the more, the merrier.
How long do running shoes usually last?
A key component in running shoes is lifespan. They aren’t cheap and runners want to know if they’re getting a good bang for their buck.
Lifespan can be measured in time or miles; our measurement is in miles because it provides a more objective measuring stick than time.
Running shoes last around 300 to 500 miles. Lifespan will vary based on the intensity of training, the terrain you run on, and personal details like weight and footstrike.
The rule of thumb for running shoes is 300 to 500 miles. After this distance, the shoe’s cushioning is bound to be ineffective and the tread on the outsole is likely to have eroded away.
However, this number varies from runner to runner. Two big indicators are running surface and personal characteristics.
Runners running on trails or sizzling concrete will see their shoes wear down much faster than runners who do most of their miles on a track or treadmill.
Personal characteristics also make a difference. Heavier runners will experience a quicker breakdown of their shoes as they have to provide more support than for lighter runners. Additionally, footstrike affects how the pattern on the outsole wears down.
Lastly, if you aren’t sure of the status of your shoes, here are 5 signs that you could stand to replace them:
- Experience nagging pain after every run
- Feet become extra sore after running
- Tread is worn out
- Midsole has no rebound when you press on it
- Running in newer shoes feels substantially more comfortable
- About the Author
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Joshua Bartlett is a professional amateur when it comes to running – basically, he takes his mediocre running ability very seriously.
As the Editor-in-Chief at Saltmarsh Running, it is his job to make sure that readers get only highly-researched and comprehensive questions to all of their running questions.