PlaySafe AT Home: The Importance of Maintaining Proper Footwear on Preventing Injury

So, you found a favorite pair of shoes that you love to train in, but how do you know when it is time to replace them for a new pair? Although breaking in a pair of shoes may feel good on your feet, there is a point when that “break-in” can turn into a “break down”. Just like any other sports equipment, your shoes have a lifespan based on how much use they get. It’s hard to part with a pair of comfortable shoes that support your feet but with each step, you’re breaking down that support and cushioning. Between 300 to 500 miles or 1 million walking steps, your shoes are dead and need to be replaced.

Not maintaining proper footwear can lead to a variety of injuries, not only to the feet but also through the entire lower extremity. Common injuries due to improper or worn-down footwear can be shin splints, Achilles tendon pain, and plantar fasciitis. Along with an increased likelihood of spraining an ankle due to decreased support, more stress on knees, hip, and lower back pain. In severe cases, this stress can also lead to a stress fracture in both the foot bones and the tibias. A worn-out shoe can exaggerate the biomechanical issues that you already have. As we use our shoes, we wear them out most in the area where we overload them most, so the part where you need the most support is the first area to degrade.

Of course, when you should replace your shoes can vary based on quite a few factors, including the quality of construction, how well they are maintained, and where you use them.

Athletic shoes take a lot of wear and tear because of starting, stopping, and changes in direction. When you run, the pressure you put on the shoes is multiple times your body weight. How you utilize your shoes changes how often they need to be replaced as well. As a runner, if you run an average of 4 miles a day, 4 times a week, then shoes should be replaced on average every 6 months. However, an athlete that is not strictly a runner, or alternates shoes more for different activities, can replace their shoes closer to every year.

Besides new or unusual pains, there are other ways to tell when it is time to replace your shoes.

Looking at the midsole of the shoe, which is the foam part between the bottom of the shoe with treads and the upper part with the laces, if it has started to wrinkle deeply it is wearing down the cushioning. It can also warp if the shoes are not well taken care of, heat, sun, moisture can all damage the midsole. Another sign is if you have flat spots in the outer sole, where the tread has become completely worn down, or the back edge of the heel gets warn to the point of angling.

Rotating your shoes is a good way to prolong them and help you notice when they are worn down. Start wearing a pair of shoes and