If there’s one area where I can't seem to find a way around paying a bundle for something I need, it’s athletic shoes. Twist, turn and try as I may, I still end up spending $150 a pop for a new pair. I do believe my feet are worth the expense. However, in lieu of getting lucky at sales, another way to get more for less is to learn how to extend the useful life of my pricey tennis shoes. Here's hoping these tips can help us both!

Mileage expectations per pair: are yours realistic? 

The useful life you get out of your athletic shoes can depend on a number of factors. These factors can include (but are not limited to) the type of workouts and/or training you do, the brand of athletic shoes you choose, the terrain you work out on and even your local climate. Your weight and height, the frequency of workouts, and how your feet fall on the ground can also affect the amount of mileage your shoes deliver.

Mileage guidelines:

  • Casual runners/fitness enthusiasts (10 miles per week):250-300 miles every six months. If this describes you, then you may need to purchase a new pair annually.
  • Regular runners/fitness enthusiasts (20 miles per week): 300-500 miles every six months. If this describes you, then you may need to purchase a new pair semi-annually.
  • Serious runners/athletes (30+ miles per week): 500-1,000 miles every six months. If this describes you, then you may need to purchase a new pair quarterly.

Useful life:

  • For most athletic shoes, 500 miles is about the limit of useful life. Read on for tips to ensure you get every mile worth of usage out your shoes!

10 Tips to extend the life of your athletic shoes

Each of these tips can ensure you get the maximum mileage out of your pricey athletic shoes.

1. Buy two pairs

While it may seem counter-intuitive from a cost perspective, the truth is that, by rotating two identical pairs of workout shoes, you can even double the useful life of each pair. This is because the rotation allows for more drying out time (a key part of life expectancy) and foam insole regeneration.

2. Use wicking to absorb moisture

There are a few ways to use natural wicking to keep moisture from embedding itself into your athletic shoes, and turning into mildew, mold and disintegration of the structural integrity of your shoes. You can wear moisture wicking socks and also add special insoles to wick away moisture. Perhaps most importantly, you can just use paper towels or balled up newspaper to absorb away the interior moisture from sweat and humidity in between uses—this is the best way to dry out your shoes.

3. Resist the urge to wash and dry

Whatever you do, do not put your athletic shoes in the washer and dryer at home. If you absolutely need to wash and dry your shoes, bring them to a dry cleaner. A dry cleaner will not damage the integrity of the seams or interior foam (what gives your feet support in all the right places). But heat from your home washer and dryer can distort the structure of your shoes over time.

4. Repair minor damage rather than replacing them

If you have a great pair of athletic shoes that has plenty of useful life left in them, but you notice a seam coming unraveled or a rip or tear starting to spread, consider bringing them to a "shoe doctor" rather than replacing them with a new pair. These repair costs tend to be minor cost-wise and can make your shoes nearly as good as new again.

5. Wear them for workouts only

If you regularly run errands before or after your workouts or training, wear your athletic shoes for workouts only. Keep another pair of shoes with you to change into before and after working out. In this way, you will not risk damaging the interior cushioning and seams through casual wear and tear.

6. Tie and untie your shoes each time

What is most important here is not that you tie and untie your shoes, but that you don't do things like stepping on the heels or toes to pull your shoes on and off, which can distort the structure and weaken the seams. By taking a few extra seconds to untie your shoes and slip them on, and then untie them again to slip them off, you preserve the structure of your shoes for the duration of their useful life.

7. Buy the best shoe your budget permits

This doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive, although it might mean that in certain cases. But here, it does not pay in terms of life expectancy to purchase a cheap pair of dedicated workout shoes. You will actually get more for your money by buying shoes that are well constructed and built to withstand the toughest workouts to their full mileage capacity.

8. Protect your shoes from temperature and weather extremes

Very hot or very cold temperatures can cause us to strip down or bundle up. In the same way, your athletic shoes will react to temperature and weather extremes, although the effects may not immediately show themselves. The integrity of the exterior material—the leather and stitching—and the interior soft foam insoles, will not bear up to maximum capacity without protection.

9. Buy the right pair of shoes for the type of workouts you plan to do

There’s a reason different pairs of athletic shoes are labeled for different types of activities—for example, running, walking, cross training, etc. Be sure to buy the right pair of athletic shoes for the activities you want to engage in. Your feet and your shoes will thank you!

10. Store your shoes properly

If you are not going to use your shoes for a day or two (or a month or two), store them in a cool, dry place. This will prevent mold or mildew from forming without your knowledge.


10 Tips to Get More Miles out of Your Pricey Athletic Shoes