To get the best from your running shoes, you have to treat them right
Everyone has a favorite running–shoe story, and this is Mike Roche’s. Roche, a 1976 U.S. Olympic steeplechaser who’s worked for several shoe companies, was living home from work one day when he noticed that the poor guy in the car next to him had mistakenly left his shoes on the car’s roof Roche didn’t want the guy to lose his $80 investment, so he honked, caught the driver’s attention and pointed to the shoes.
Did the fellow slam on the brakes and rescue his shoes? Nah. He made a face, pinched his nostrils with his hand and sped off. Roche quickly got the picture: the shoes stank so bad the driver didn’t want them inside his car.
What makes running shoes smell so bad? In a recent informal poll of our running friends, this question came up over and over again as the most perplexing. You’ll find the answer below, along with other answers that can help you keep your running shoes in prime condition after you bring them home from the store.
Q: Okay, so what makes running shoes get smelly, and how can I prevent it?
A: Sometimes odor develops from the glues and other materials used in running–shoe construction. To counteract the problem, you can buy over-the counter deodorants to put in your shoes between workouts. Or you can use a familiar home remedy dust the inside of your shoes occasionally with baking soda.
Some runners develop problems with shoe odor because they run without socks. Their feet sweat directly into their shoes, and the perspiration builds up and festers. Wearing socks or dusting or deodorizing your shoes can lessen or eliminate this probIem. Some runners do suffer from excessive foot perspiration, which can be treated by a podiatrist.
The shoe’s sockliners (also called the insoles) can be a problem area for odors. If yours get smelly, you can pull them out and wash them, or simply buy a new pair of sockliners.
But the best thing you can do to prevent your shoes from getting smelly in the first place is to keep them dry.
Q: What am I supposed to do after a run in the rain or after a hot race when my shoes get wet from all the water rve poured over my head? Can I put my shoes in the clothes dryer?
A: No. Running shoes aren’t intended to survive fast, hot drying. The midsoles and outsoles are held together with cements that lose their effectiveness above 120 degrees, and the midsoles themselves will age prematurely in highheat conditions. Heat may also cause the uppers to crack and weaken.
Drying shoes in direct sunlight isn’t a good idea, either. Direct sunlight can cause midsole foams to shrink and deteriorate. What’s left? Putting your shoes on shoe trees (to help maintain the shape of the shoes) and letting them dry at room temperature for several days. You can also try drying them in front of a fan.
Q: My shoes are often in bad shape when I get them home from a race–wet, smelly, crunched up from being stuffed in a bag that’s stuffed into a corner of the car trunk Any suggestions?
A: Buy a serious athletic bag that’s vented at one end, and always keep a pair of shoe trees in the vented compartment After the race, immediately put your shoes on the trees and in the vented compartment. As soon as you get home, take your shoes out of the bag and put them in a good place for drying. If necessary, pull out the shoelaces lift back the tongue and let your shoes get really dry.
Q: How can I clean my running shoes when they get dirty? Can I wash them in the washing machine?
A: No. The detergents used in washing machines can create chemical reactions with shoe cements and certain colored pieces of the shoes that could actually cause your shoes to break down at a faster-than-expected rate. Running shoes are lightweight because they are made predominantly from synthetic materials the best way to clean these materials is with a soft-bristled brush (even a toothbrush), mild soap and cold water. After cleaning, allow the shoes to dry thoroughly before running in them again.
Q: Is it worth it to own and u6e two pairs of running shoes at the same time? Should they be the exact same model or different models?
A: Yes, it’s definitely worth it. Your shoes need “rest” days during a hard training week, just as you do. While buying tvo pairs of shoes at once may seem like doubling the expense, it isn’t. Owning two pairs of shoes that you can rotate will actually add to the longevity and functioning of your shoes.
If you’ve found a pair of shoes that seem to work well for you (definition: you don’t get injured), it makes sense to buy two pairs of those shoes and rotate them. But there’s another strategy that also makes sense: Buy two pairs of similar but not identical shoes. Because your biomechanics will be slightly different in the two pairs of shoes, this strategy may help you avoid the kind of overuse injuries that result from constant repetition of the exact same movement
Q: How many miles can I expect from my new pair of shoes?
A: We were waiting for that one. It’s the question runners ask most often about their shoes, so we wish we could give a simple answer. Unfortunately, we can’t. That’s because the biggest part of the answer doesn’t come from the shoes, it comes from you and your unique running characteristics. In general, lighter, more efficient runners will get more miles from their shocks than heavier, less efficient runners. Running on soft surfaces such as grass or wood chips also increases shoe life.
We’re always hearing from runners who daim that they’ve logged more than 1,000 miles on a favorite pair of shoes and haven’t had any problems, but we’re skeptical or at least thinking, great, but why push your luck? The smartest runner isn’t the one who logs the most miles before getting sidelined by a knee injury. It’s the one who switches to a new pair of shoes and never gets the knee injury.
The best rule of thumb is to expect no more than 500 to 700 miles from your shoes before it’s time for a new pair. At this point, the foams in the midsoles may be broken down to such a degree that they’re no longer giving you the protection you need. Some of the breakdown occurs much earlier. Don’t risk running beyond the point of protection.
When are you right on the edge? When you begin to notice an ache or pain despite no change in your training program. This could be your body’s way of telling you that it’s time for new shoes. Listen to your body.
Q: Midsole protection sounds important. Is there any way I can check the health of my midsoles?
A: Good question. Midsole protection is one of the most important functions, if not the most important function, of a technical running shoe. To pick up where we left off above, the simplest and best system is to chart the actual number of miles you run in each pair of shoes. Keep track of the total in your training log, right along with the descriptions of your workouts.
You can also put your shoes on a flat tabletop once a week and eyeball them closely from an sides, especially from behind. If the midsoles have become excessively compressed (which means they’ll give you less cushioning protection), the shoes may lean one way or another. This is a warning sign running shoes should always be as straight as possible.
Excessive midsole compression is something you can feel with your whole body if you have a ready comparison. Wear your old running shoes to your local running store and try on a new pair of the same shoes. Walk around in the new pair for a minute or two. Feel the difference? Are the new shoes providing more cushioning between your feet and the floor? If so, it’s probably time to buy that new pair. If not, your old shoes still have some life in them.
Q: Can I extend the life of my shoes by having them resoled or by applying a liquid outsole product?
A: You can extend the life of the outsole this way, but that’s not the same as extending the safe, functional life of the shoes. Remember, the midsole is where the action (and the protection) is. A spanking new outsole can’t change the reality of a worn midsole. Play it safe: don’t extend the life of your outsoles unless you’re sure the midsoles are still in good condition.
Q: Is there anything I can do that will extend the functional life of my running shoes?
A: Sure. Everything we’ve mentioned above, plus one other wear your running shoes only for running. They weren’t meant for tennis, basketball moving the lawn, wading through trout streams or casual everyday wear. If you take reasonable care of your running shoes and don’t use them for nonrunning activities, they’ll give you hundreds of miles of comfortable, pain-free running.
Here are the five worst things you can do to your running shoes. Avoid these mistakes and you’ll get the most from your shoes.
- Wash them in the washing machine.
- Dry them in the clothes dryer.
- Let them get wet and stay wet.
- Wear them for nonrunning activities, especially tennis and basketball.
- Kick them off by dragging one foot over the other. This will destroy the heel counter and other stability devices.