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Four painful consequences of running in worn-out shoes

The ramifications of running in worn-out shoes are serious, and likely to result in overuse injuries

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Trying to extend the life of your shoes may be a noble effort to get every last step out of them, but at what cost? Shoes are the medium between your foot and the ground. They influence how your foot, leg, thigh and hip respond to the impact of ground contact. Therefore, not only is it important to pick the right shoe for you, your training objectives and body, but it is just as important to make sure your shoes are in good condition.  

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Related: 5 signs you need new running shoes

While some may suggest you can get up to 700-800 kilometres in a good pair of running shoes, that is an overly optimistic stretch. When it comes to the impact running has on your body, being overly conservative is probably the best practice. A good rule of thumb is when you get up to 400km in your shoes, start shopping or subbing in a new pair of running shoes to your lineup. This way you can still run in your older shoes while running on gravel or soft terrain, but have a fresh pair of shoes for workouts or long runs. This way you will be able to extend the life of your shoes well into 500-600km. (Advice: after 500km, it is probably best to retire your shoes. However, this does depend on the make of your shoes and durability).

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It is also worth considering having multiple pairs of shoes that you split your runs with. This tactic won’t make your shoe last longer, but it will mean that you don’t have to buy shoes as often. Also, you can get different shoes that complement each other. For example, purchasing one pair of high-drop, high-cushion shoes for easy days and a low-drop, minimal shoe for speed days is a good idea. This variability allows you to work slightly different muscle groups and keeps your shoes fresher, longer.

Related: 5 simple tips to make your running shoes last longer 

The ramifications of running in worn-out shoes are pretty serious, and likely to result in overuse injuries like plantar fasciitis, patellofemoral syndrome, shin splints and IT band soreness. 

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common injuries that occur when running in worn-out shoes. As one may predict plantar fasciitis has to do with inflammation of the plantar fascia, which spreads from the medial side of the calcaneus (heel bone) to the ball of the foot. Commonly, the pain experienced with plantar fasciitis is localized to the medial aspect of the heel bone, as well as the medial arch of the foot. This is because when the fascia is stretched during the landing phase of running, stress is placed at the heel. Thus, when inefficiencies in gait, foot or shoes are present, plantar fasciitis can develop. 

Have plantar fasciitis? Read more. 

Patellofemoral Syndrome (aka Runner’s Knee)

Runner’s knee is commonly characterized by pain behind or around the kneecap (patella), that most often occurs when climbing or descending stairs, squatting, or during activities such as running or cycling. The injury is thought to result from increased pressure on the patellofemoral joint which may result from a combination of increased activity, quadriceps imbalance and tight stabilizing structures such as the iliotibial band.

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Have runner’s knee? Read more.

Shin Splints

Shin splints, also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, is the most common overuse injury among avid runners and multisport athletes. The pain usually occurs gradually and is often the cause of biomechanical irregularities, changes in training, chronic overuse and/or the sudden change in footwear. Thus making it crucial to be aware of your training load and running shoe condition. 

Have shin splints? Read more.

IT Band Syndrome

Sharp, stabbing pain on the outside of the knee is the most common symptom. It tends to be most noticeable five to ten minutes into a run and usually forces a runner to walk or stop running altogether. A common cause for IT band soreness in runners, is running in worn-out shoes. This can be also influenced by a lack of strength in the gluteus medius muscle. A muscle used for single leg stance stabilization. 

Have IT band soreness? Read more.