10 Tips to Get More Mileage out of Your Running Shoes

After a while the cost of running shoes can really pile up!
After a while the cost of running shoes can really pile up! Image of Salty’s current rotation.

Did you start running thinking it would be a cheap sport? Oh, how quickly the shorts and bras and race entries add up — not to mention the shoes! Sure, the barefoot route would eliminate this expense, but the majority of us want to remain shod.  And even if you found a dollar on every single run, that still wouldn’t come close to covering the cost. Knocking out 70-80 miles per week, I’ve certainly gone through my fair share of shoes that are only supposed to last for 300 or so miles.  Read on for 10 ways to extend the life of your running shoes!

1. Wear running shoes only for running. Save a pair of retired running shoes for walking and chores.

2. Don’t machine wash your shoes. If you’ve got a serious mud crust or stink problem, try the garden hose or bathtub. I do break this rule when I donate shoes, washing with just a touch of detergent.

3. Avoid temperature extremes. In other words, don’t store your shoes in the car in the winter or in the summer.

4. Stuff them with newspaper after they get wet. Stuffing them with a wad of newspaper (or junk mail!) will speed up the drying process without needing to resort to the heat vent or dryer (see #3).

5. Rotate your shoes. Basically, this means having 2 or more pairs of running shoes that you alternate. Contrary to what some say, shoes don’t need time to “recover” or decompress from pounding. However, you may be able to eke out a few more miles without injury by using older shoes sparingly and treating your legs to newer cushy shoes on other runs.

I rotate 6+ pairs of shoes and regularly exceed 500 miles per pair.
I rotate 6+ pairs of shoes and regularly exceed 500 miles per pair.

6. Track your shoe mileage. Learn what mileage cap works for you. If you’re rotating, this will help avoid using the oldest shoes too often. It may also help you avoid injury! A few years ago I noticed occasional heel pain. From my log, I noticed it seemed to be associated with a particular pair of shoes and removed them from my rotation. Voila – cured!

7. Run on softer surfaces like dirt, wood chips, tracks or the treadmill. While there’s ambiguous evidence on a hard surface’s effect on cushioning properties of the shoe, a hard surface like the road or sidewalks will certainly cause more wear and tear on the outsole. Speaking of the outsole …

8. Pay attention to the type of outsole when purchasing new shoes. The outsole, or bottom outside of the shoe, is my weak link – I’ve worn through it before! When shopping for durable shoes keep in mind that carbon rubber is more durable than blown rubber, so ask the salesperson what the material is if you’re concerned.

9. Consider your weight. While a 5 or 10 pound loss isn’t going to make a big difference, keep in mind that most of us probably put more stress on our shoes than 100-pound Desi Davila.

10. Buy local. With online shopping, you may end up retiring shoes early due to poor fit. Ask an experienced sales associate at your local running store to help you find appropriate shoes for your body.

How many miles do you get out of your shoes? Any other tips?

I'm a 20-year veteran of competitive running, USATF certified coach, mom of a toddler -- and still trying to set PRs. I write about training from 5k to marathon, motherhood and competitive running, and the elite side of the sport. The 5k is my favorite race (16:56 PR) but I've got a score to settle with the marathon.

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  1. I still back using a boot dryer to dry shoes immediately after running. It doesn’t increase tread wear, but it does decrease smell over lifetime.

    The Brooks Launch 2 that I just spent the last few weeks in lasted 330 miles.

    Desi’s London Olympics shoes are in a shadowbox upstairs at the Hanson Royal Oak store. There is like no wear on the tread. They don’t even look like she wore them.

  2. I generally tear up the outsole of my right shoe after only about 100 miles (in less than two weeks). I have tried single calf, leg, glute and foot strengthening exercises, seen a podiatrist about the problem and gotten an orthotic. These have mostly cleared up achilles issues I used to suffer from but I have seen no improvement on the shelf life of my shoes. I would love to find a way to extend shoe life and be kinder to my wallet.

    1. Oh my! That’s a lot of shoes! That’s really interesting that it shows on your shoes and not injuries. Have you tried different kinds of shoes … notice that one brand is worse for you than another?

    2. Interesting! What part of the outsole (lateral, medial, forefoot, heel, etc)? All the way to the midsole? Check to see if your shoes are blown vs. carbon rubber. I notice a huge difference between certain shoes.

  3. Salty, the lightweight trainers that are best for my gait (Brooks Pureflow4, and previously Asics Gel Lyte 33-3) tear up in the same manner and in about the same amount of time. I also run in Hokka’s, which last about twice as long, but they also tear up in the same place.

    1. Interesting! I used to blow through Mizuno Elixirs (I miss them!) in about 250 miles. I never thought I’d be a Nike-girl, but I have to say I LOVE their Lunar Glides. They are the first shoe I can get 500+ miles out of. Maybe try a pair of Nike Lunar Flyknits or something close to the Pureflow and see if they work better for you. I’d be interested if you have a similar experience with them.

    2. Send us a photo of the wear pattern! Lets problem solve this. I also like lightweight neutral trainers but mostly racing flats. I might have some suggestions for you – I;ve tried lots of shoes. 🙂

  4. I usually have 3-4 pairs of the same shoe model that I rotate, and then I have one pair of the same model specifically for races. I usually expect about 350 miles on my shoes, and then that’s when I start to really pay attention to wear.