Do Running Shoes Have a Shelf Life?  Do They Expire !

How long have you been training in your favorite pair of shoes? Six months or more? How are your feet feeling? Those telltale signs of pain and discomfort could mean that your shoes are about to reach their expiry date. Keep wearing them, and you’ll do irreversible damage to your body.

Buying shoes on sale that you plan to run in ‘one day’ may not be the best decision, either. Why? Because shoes, even when not worn, can degrade over time. A big part of this is how they’re stored. More on that later.

So, do running shoes expire? Whether sitting in a box, on a shelf, or being used for running, running shoes will eventually degrade or wear out and will need to be replaced. In other words, running shoes have a shelf life and they do expire. It is estimated that the shelf life of a running shoe is around 2 to 3 years. The good news is that there are ways to identify if they are worn out or expired.

How Long Can I Store Shoes Before They Degrade?

Some people collect shoes, which they choose to display and never wear. There are others who shop at sales with a view to ‘one day’ wearing them. What they don’t factor in is the fact that shoes, when stored, can degrade in 2–3 years. Why?

Shoes need exposure to fresh air. Without it, the glue and the soles will eventually dry out, the heels will break away or crumble, and finally, they’ll fall apart. 

Not much can be done to avoid this, but storing them in a purpose-made plastic container can hasten the damage. These types of containers block airflow and natural circulation. The result is mold and moisture build-up, which in turn dries out the shoes, causing them to degrade.

If you must store them, the original box works, provided you keep the shoes stuffed with the paper they came in. If it’s gone, newspaper will do. This extra action allows air to get in. Store them in a closet away from high humidity. They’ll still degrade over time, but not as quickly.

How Do You Know If Running Shoes Are Wearing Out?

Time used, how they look, and the way a foot feels in them are the ways to know when running shoes are about to reach the end of their usable life. 

Here are the three ways to know if your running shoes are ready to retire.

1. Mileage

When training or joining events, you’re putting your shoes under enormous pressure. Would you believe that in around 10 minutes of running, your feet can hit the ground up to 1,500 times? That’s a tremendous amount of wear and tear on your shoes.

Most experts recommend that 350–500 miles are the limit for running shoes.

Once they’ve clocked up this much mileage, wear and tear should be evident.

2. Appearance

If your shoes are approaching their 400-mile mark, it’s time to give them a closer inspection. In particular, check out the thread—the part of the shoe that hits the ground. 

Look for tears and holes on the top and side of the shoe.

Next, look underneath. The soles are one of the first things to wear down. Once these get depleted, stability, shock absorption, and support are significantly reduced. And that leads to trouble for your feet and legs.

Also, check out our post “Do Running Shoes Stretch? (Simple Guide For Picking The Right Size)

3. Pain

“No pain, no gain” is the mantra of weightlifters globally. Not so for runners. Any form of discomfort from the knee down could be the beginning of a whole world of problems for you. 

The wear and tear I mentioned above, especially the lack of shock absorption, could cause shin splints, joint pain, and muscle fatigue. (Source)

Without proper cushioning, every step could mean permanent damage.

Spending that extra money on new shoes rather than hospital bills is better.

How Often Should I Replace My Running Shoes?

The answer to this is like asking, “How long is a piece of string?” Every runner is different and uses their shoes in their own way and under various conditions. Without being able to give a fixed time period, there are some tell-tale signs to look out for: (Source)

  • They’re worn so much you can see the soft inner foam.
  • When placed on a flat surface, one or both shoes can’t stand up.
  • Your toes are wearing through the toe box.
  • The midsole feels soft, and you can press it in easily.
  • One sole is worn more heavily than another.
  • The heel counter feels less supportive.
  • You can feel the road through any part of the shoe.
  • You start to experience any form of blistering or pain.

If you notice anything mentioned above, it’s a sign that your shoes might be nearing their expiration date. All of these things can be hurried along if you’re unsure of a few factors.

What Factors Affect a Shoe’s Expiration

Three primary factors can hasten a shoe to degrade. Being aware of them can extend their life. A person’s build, running style, and terrain all contribute. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Your Build

You can’t do much about genetics. If you’re taller or heavier than the average runner, chances are you’ll go through shoes slightly faster.

The good news is that if you have the money, in this era of bespoke design, they can be tailor-made for you to last longer.

2. Running Style

Are you a heel or a forefoot striker? Unsure? Check out the bottom of your shoe. Unless you have the perfect stride, you’ll notice more wear either at the heel or under the toes.

There are shoes specially made that assist with either style, helping to reduce wear and extend their life.

3. Terrain

It may sound obvious, but some runners out there use their shoes on all terrain. Please don’t do this! Use your trail shoes for the forests and fields and your road shoes for general running.

The wrong shoe on unsuitable terrain will significantly increase their degradation. 

You can buy shoes that match your requirements, but they will eventually run out of use. Incorrect storage practices can also hasten a shoe’s demise.

Should I Wear My Running Shoes Every Day?

The secret to extending the life of shoes is a simple one. Only use them for what they’re intended for, running. This recommendation means that once you’re done with your exercise or event, remove them and replace them with regular shoes. 

Some people wear their shoes all day, from their run in the morning until late in the evening. This extra wear and tear will quicken their expiry date. 

Keep your running shoes for that activity only. Wear leisure shoes for everything else.

How to Extend Your Running Shoe’s Life

There are ways to extend a running shoe’s life. Some are common sense, and others are not immediately thought of but are beneficial. Here are five tips to maximize a shoe’s existence. (Source)

  • Have multiple pairs: Use one pair purely for running events, and have two training pairs; by alternating them, you’ll have three sets that’ll last an extremely long time.
  • Choose your running surfaces wisely: Asphalt roads and concrete pavement, while the favorite of most runners, wear your shoes down. If you can, try to find packed grass or a dirt road to run down.
  • Don’t leave them outside: Nothing will hasten your shoes’ demise than being exposed to the elements. Yes, they need access to fresh air, but not rain, heavy winds, or constant sunshine. Keep them indoors as much as possible.
  • Dry them thoroughly: Trail or rain runners need to take extra precautions afterward. Remove the insoles, fill the shoes with paper towels, and let the moisture absorb for a few hours. Toss out the paper towels, and the shoes are ready for subsequent use.
  • Clean them properly: As tempting as it is to throw them into the washing machine, don’t! The temperature of the water and the tumbling motion will hasten the deterioration. Instead, hand wash them with a toothbrush and rag.

Also, check out our post on”How Often to Clean Running and Cycling Shoes? How To Wash Them!

Take care of your shoes, store and clean them correctly, and rotate them when possible. You can extend their shelf life and avoid replacement costs a little longer.


An extreme triathlete who have competed in dozens of triathlons including IronMans and Extreme triathlons.

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