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Time to Change the Tires

December 26, 2011

(Caveat: I do not work for a sneaker company, nor do I receive any benefit, save the occasional Tweet, from them.)

Hello, my name is Runner and I am a heel striker. Although there is no official diagnosis anywhere in my medical history, I have engaged in this type of activity ever since I can remember.

According to a Harvard study, which I am inclined to believe, this is not a healthy habit. My feet hit the ground hard, but the ground hits back even harder. This makes it all the more obvious to my legs when the support cushioning in my running sneakers begins to give way. Conventional wisdom says to change your running shoes after 300-400 miles. This is variable, of course, depending on body type, running form, running surface, and the shoes themselves. Regardless, the importance of knowing when it is time to switch out the old ones for a shiny new set of sneaks may mean the difference between solid performance and disastrous injury.

Part of my Adrenaline collection, old and new

For some years, I have been loyally running in what Brooks calls their most popular shoe, the Adrenaline GTS. Someday, I plan on trying out their minimalist Pure Project line to really work on my running gait. For now I am sticking to what I know. So it is extremely important for me, as it should be with every runner, to know when sneakers need changing. Like driving with a flat tire, no runner wants to come up lame because of old footwear.

To illustrate this point, allow me to offer a painful story from my recent logs. With the problem of being a hard heel striker, I often notice my sneakers break down around the 300-325 mile mark. I had already put over 350 miles on my current pair of sneakers. I am also quick to tell people that I can easily recognize knee pain as the firsts signal to the end of a shoe. Arrogantly proud that I had far exceeded my previous mileage record, I ignored the possibility that the dead shoe pain could manifest anywhere in my leg, not just the knee. So I headed out that weekend morning intending to be out for almost two hours.

Instead of cutting my long run short at the first sign of pain in my Achilles, I pushed the mileage ever so slightly. When you feel otherwise strong on a run, no leg fatigue or stomach cramps, it is hard to shorten it because of a little ache in your heel. But by the time mile twelve passed I was hobbling along with considerable pain. Even though I felt reasonably happy with my time when all was said and done, I barely made the four blocks limping over to my local running store for a new pair of kicks.

Again, let me stress the importance of maintaining awareness about your running sneakers. Though variable, they all will break down at some point. After that long run of mine, I had to shut it down for four days with a healthy dose of ibuprofen, ice, and rest. When I finally got out with the latest Adrenaline update, it felt like I was floating. Anyone who has seen me run knows it appears nothing like a graceful butterfly (you can stop laughing now). So take my word that it just felt great. I still felt a slight soreness in my Achilles but knew it was better protected. The icing continued, but active recovery was in progress.

Whatever model running sneaker you wear, be conscious of how your legs feel in them as they progressively wear down. Know yourself and know your shoes. Your body will thank you.

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5 comments

  1. I have no idea of how many miles are on my sneakers, I measure mine in YEARS. What is the CW for those of us who just treadmill? But maybe I’m more of an athlete than I thought; I have suffered a torn Achilles and a torn rotator cuff.


    • Again, it depends on how your foot hits your the ground and a number of other factors- to include speed, duration, type of sneaker, etc. But a treadmill is definitely considered a “hard surface” with the likes of pavement. Softer surfaces include tracks, golf courses, or trails. Just need to be wary and mindful of your sneakers and how your body feels.

      As for being an athlete, nobody else tells you whether you are one or not. If you think you are, then you are. And this Runner agrees!


  2. Thanks for a great reminder how important new kicks are! In the middle of my 5 1/2 mile run the other day, I had to stop due to hip pain. After reading your article this morning I checked my sneaker mileage and I had run over 450 miles on my Brooks Adrenaline (shoe coincidence)! So before my run today, my running buddy and I went to our favorite running store and bought new Brooks- he runs in The Beast. Keep up the good work and all the wonderful advice.


  3. i wear the same shoes, but quit tellin everyone the secret to my speed! -neal


    • It’ll just push you to run harder… or even smarter!


  4. Haha graceful butterfly. Priceless!



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