While runners can spring for fancy watches, wireless earbuds, and other expensive gear, you truly only need a pair of shoes to hit the road. The right fit prevents injuries and keeps you moving comfortably during workouts, but it can come at a price: A typical pair of trainers runs around $110 to $150.
Once you’ve left your local running store, you’ll want to properly take care of them to log as many miles as you can. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
Watch for wear and tear on your shoes—and your body
Experts often recommend that runners replace their shoes every 300 to 500 miles, and that can happen pretty quickly if you’re training for a marathon or half-marathon. Mobile apps like Strava track the shoes you have in rotation, but if you’re not into keeping a detailed log and recording your daily mileage, it can be difficult to keep track.
Rebekah Mayer, a USA Track & Field Level 1 coach and wellness advisor at E Squared Health in the Minneapolis area, prefers to take note of certain body cues as a signal that it’s time to swap out her shoes.
“I can feel the difference when my shoes are getting old—things start to ache or my plantar fascia will feel a little tense and unhappy, so I replace my shoes by feel more than a certain number of miles,” she says.
“I replace my shoes by feel more than a certain number of miles,” Mayer says.
Mayer also recommends keeping an eye out for wear and tear on your shoes themselves, such as if the wearables on the rubber and foam on the outsole are breaking down, or if the upper is starting to get worn and your toes are starting to poke out of the top. This could mean that your shoes are too small, but if you know that’s not the case, then it’s more likely that your shoes are ready to be retired.
Stuff wet shoes with newspaper to air-dry
If you get caught in the rain while running, rest assured that your shoes aren’t done for. The best way to let them dry is to fill the insides with crumpled newspaper—which is more efficient at absorbing moisture than other kinds of paper—and set them outside for a few hours. This trick also works if heading outdoors is part of your regular routine and you live in an extremely humid climate. During summers in Houston, my shoes will often be soaked in sweat after a long marathon training run.
Rotate between multiple pairs of shoes
Mayer rotates between regular road trainers, trail shoes, and flats for fast workouts depending on her plan for the terrain and type of run she’s doing. But even if you’re doing mostly easy runs on pavement, she still recommends having at least two pairs on hand at a time.
“Rotating your shoes is not only helpful in extending the life of those shoes, but it can also help you feel better between each of those runs, as it can sometimes take more than 24 hours for shoes’ foam to really bounce back,” she explains.
Hand-wash shoes when you run into a mess
If you get into some mud and want to clean up your shoes, Mayer recommends hand-washing them with a mild detergent in the sink or even the shower if you think they need a good rinsing.
According to Mayer, it’s OK to run particularly grimy shoes in the washing machine, though do so sparingly as it’ll increase further wear and potentially damage them. Before tossing them in, opt for the gentle cycle and tightly tie your shoes to help them retain their normal shape. And whatever you do, don’t put your shoes in the dryer, as the heat will cause them to break down, Mayer says.
Be mindful of how you treat your shoes post-run
It can be tempting to kick off your shoes when you’re done with a run, but to keep the heel of your shoe in good shape, it’s best to take the few seconds to bend down and untie them, Mayer says. Think of it this way: The job will be done when you have to put them on for your next run, anyway.
When it comes to putting your shoes away, Mayer recommends storing them in a cool, dry place because heat can cause the soles to break down faster, and to avoid stacking a lot of shoes on top of each other.
Finally, keep your running shoes for running
Oftentimes, people who are just starting to run will wear their running shoes to the gym, do housework, or run errands. Beware: Mayer says all of these things will eat into the lifespan of your shoes.
“Outside of a really nice pair of dress shoes, you’re probably spending more money on running shoes than you would on shoes for those other activities, so conserve the lifespan of those running shoes and wear something else when doing those things,” she says.
Here are some of our editors’ favorite shoes for a little inspiration.