Going the Distance

When to Retire Your Gym Shoes! by Monique Kabel

You know it’s time to toss out the old faithful gym shirt when it looks more like a garage rag than a tank top.  You also know when those small holes start appearing in your gym shorts, and it has seen better days, it is probably time to replace them. But did you know, that your gym shoes also need to be given a good once over every 6 months or sonner, depending on the milege you put on them.   

Replacing gym shoes is easily overlooked. Because we typically only wear our gym shoes while in the gym, we expect their life span to last a lot longer than any other shoe worn every day. Even though realistically, they are the pair of shoes we all own that take the hardest beating.

I recently started experiencing severe foot pains during my daily cardio sessions. After some investigation, I decided to take a hard look at my gym shoes. I remember over a year ago, going to a local sport’s store and purchasing a reasonably priced pair of cross trainers. The salesman ensured me that they would be comfortable in all the different styles of training I would be performing in them. From heavy squats, walking lunges and even running.

What he had failed to mention, was that any shoe used for training, should be replaced once every 6 months or 300-500 miles, to prevent any kind of impact/stress-related injuries.

The normal force of impact for a runner is about 2.5 times the bodyweight with each footfall. Impact increases with fatigue and speed. Improper muscle adaptation to activity is related to most types of injuries and stress fractures, and also various knee problems.

Thickness in the heels can be especially harmful. Studies have shown that heels greater than ½ inch can cause significant dysfunction in the muscles which control the Achilles tendon, and even the quadriceps muscles at heel strike. Also, in one study this results in a 2.4 % decrease in one’s VO2max, which is significant, and goes to show how something so small can change can impact the whole body.

Bad shoes can cause problems in the metatarsal joints as well. These problems are very common in athletes, the result of wearing shoes, most commonly ones that don’t fit the properly. Over time, hammertoes, bunions, and other problems develop as the bones and joint become permanently changed. 

With all that being said, there are ways to prevent damaging your feet. When shopping for your fresh set of gym shoes stay aware of the following:

You should not have to “break in” a shoe before it fits perfectly. It should not have to “stretch out” to fit. Shoes should feel completely comfortable when you first put them on. 

Always measure both feet while standing on a hard floor. Most people do not measure their feet when buying new shoes, even though their size may have changed. Our feet get larger with age because they spread out, especially in woman.

Allow time to find a proper fitting. It may take you a few pair of shoes or a few different stores to find the right shoe.

With this information, you should be able to gain some perspective on what a vital role our feet really do play. As athletes, we tend to be harder our own bodies than the average person. In turn, we should take better care of them. Our feet carry us through life; they literally take us everywhere we need to be. We
should treat them with some TLC! Out with the old…in with the brand new shoes!