Monday, April 22, 2013

Do minimalist shoes last as long as regular runners?

By Ryne Melcher

Unlike wine, shoes do not get better with age. While a collector may keep a pair of Nike Air Jordan 11s buried somewhere in the closet and they would have huge EBay value, those shoes from a performance and usage standpoint would be worthless.

Shoes have a lifespan typically of around 400-500 miles (650-800km for the metric system folks). This total is not just relating to the miles you spend running in the shoe.  If you use that shoe for other activities and as your daily walking around shoe, that mileage gets added to your running tab!  

A common question asked is how much time does it take to hit 400-500 miles.  That answer is very unique to you.  For a marathoner or ultra distance runners, some hit that benchmark after 4-6 weeks.  For the weekend warrior working towards an occasional 5km or 10km run, that number pushed closer to 6-8 months.  If you keep a running log making a note of the miles you put on certain shoes naturally gives you a clear idea of when you hit the magic number when it becomes necessary to replace your shoes.

At Kintec one of the recent systems we have implemented is a shoe expiry email trigger.  The system automatically sends you an email reminder a few weeks before your shoes are set to expire.  How does it do that is a perfectly logical question!  Our fitting experts factor this into determining when that email gets sent when you are in seeking to purchase shoes from us.  Along with an array of questions about your athletic intentions, history etc our trained staff will be picking your brain about the amount of usage you intend to put on the shoes thus doing the equation for you!

What happens at that 500 mile mark?

Don't worry, mile 501 isn't anything that will land you in the hospital with a career ending running injury because you didn't make it back to get new shoes in time.  As you draw closer and closer to the 500 mile (800km) mark the cushioning and the support systems in the shoe become less and less effective.  The shoes may still look in usable condition but without the support and/or cushioning the shoe just isn't performing to it's best capabilities.  And if you are planning on doing an event or race, don't run the final few miles of your shoes race day, have a newer pair slightly broken in.  Like a car, mile 50 is a lot smoother of a ride than mile 500.

Does a minimalist shoe last 500 miles too?

Less is more!  Or is it less is less?!  Short answer, no, typically your more minimalist/racing flat type shoes are a shorter life span somewhere in the 300 mile (500km) range.  There is less to those shoes so naturally they break down faster.

Does having multiple pairs of shoes help?

Absolutely!  Shoes need a rest just like your body does.  It takes up to 24 hours for the cushioning system to rebound to its full value after a lengthy run.  Naturally if you wear that shoe to do your coffee runs, shopping, work etc, you are breaking down that shoe much quicker.  

While I could write forever about shoes, I will sum up with the following take home messages:
  • Shoes DO in fact expire
  • Different shoes work for different people
  • Wear athletic shoes for athletic endeavors and casual shoes for casual endeavors
  • Ask questions to your knowledgable trainers at Innovative Fitness, or drop by Kintec to chat with a Fitting Expert.
Happy trails!

Ryne Melcher is Kintec's Running Clinics head instructor. He has been at Kintec for over 5 years and has managed our Vancouver, North Vancouver, and Port Moody locations. Ryne has also been running ultra marathons for over the last 18 years, and represented Canada 7 times at the World 50 Mile Trail Championships. He is also the Canadian record holder for fastest 50 Mile Trail Runner, and a member of Montrail's Ultra Marathon team.

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