Is this a thinly disguised post giving you permission to buy more running sneakers? Yes, but not only that. Does every runner NEED to do it? No, but there really isn’t a reason not to. If you’re tackling a training program that has runs on back to back days, or you run every day it is something to think about though. There are comfort benefits, financial benefits (if you try really hard) and maybe even injury prevention reasons to own more than one pair of shoes, even three or four, but unfortunately not seven. The first time I heard about the concept I was like YASSS that makes sense and I went right to sportcheck. So here are the reasons you might want to do it.
As always I’ll start with the main reason just in case you don’t read the whole post, but you wouldn’t do that right? Most running shoe soles are made of a material called EVA foam which compresses after a run and can, some suggest at least, take some time to spring back. It’s hard to say how long that takes but some experts suggest it takes more than 24 hours depending on a number of factors. Those factors include; the surface you run on, your weight, the age of the shoe, the thickness of the sole, your step, the weather, how wet they are and how long your last run was. That’s a lot of factors right?
Some brands make some styles out of materials that don’t have that issue anymore. I don’t know a lot a lot about all the different brands, models and materials on offer but I do know that supposedly the material in Adidas Boost series don’t have this issue so I assume other sneakers out there could be similar too. But the majority of brands still use EVA for the majority or at least some of their runners. But there are other good reasons to rotate your runners too.
It can be way better to have a running sneaker option for a given run beyond just matching your outfit better, but in the age of insta that’s a thing. Sometimes your feet get wet or your sneakers get dirty and need to be washed. Then they need time to dry. If you have two (or more) pairs you don’t have to put them in the dryer which is REALLY bad for that EVA foam stuff, probably the other sole materials too.
Also sometimes a great pair of sneakers lets you down. Perhaps it was the socks fault but you could end up with a blister or just a raw hot spot that’s bothering you. If you have another pair of sneakers you can take a break, even a long one, from the offending pair and heal. You’ll see how this factors into my strategy and why I’ve let a third (and occasionally 4th) pair into the rotation.
Spend less (or at least the same)
Isn’t this going to cost you a fortune though? No not really. You’ll have to buy these sneakers eventually anyway it’s sort of like summer and winter tiers for you car. They’re going to last the same milage anyway you’ll just have them for longer. And… there’s no cost to switching like there is with tiers. If you only have one pair they have to be a great pair because they are for long runs, speed work and races but you’ll also be wearing them for shakeouts and recovery runs and Christmas themed fun runs when something cheaper would do. You can save your expensive shoes for when you need them and burn through your cheaper pair on recovery runs. Plus we’ve all had that experience of your big toe making an appearance outside your upper and then you need a new pair right now! If you have a fallback pair maybe you can wait for a sale or at least for online delivery from a cheaper source.
But having multiple pairs of shoes does mean you should be tracking your milage on each pair. Sure you could have some sort of paper notebook. Actually if you’re going to do it that way keep it in code so one day thousands of years from now people of the future will put great effort into deciphering it. It can be your final practical joke. But seriously a notebook, spreadsheet or note on your phone is way too hard for this. Your current running app or another one can do it for you. I know Nike Run Club does it but others do too. Just tag your shoe after your run and you can see at a glance when your sneakers are reaching their expiry. Usually 500 – 800 km depending on the runner. When they’re getting close start looking for a deal.
The right shoe for every run
I occasionally run on trails, not crazy hard trails and not that often but when I do it’s nice to have a trail shoe. Trail shoes are also better for the bit of snow I encounter in the winter. In the past I usually had a cheaper pair of trail shoes in the rotation for winter, trails and to run junkier miles on and another more expensive running shoe for runs with goals. That way I kept the miles off my more expensive shoes. I still employ this strategy to a certain extent it’s just that with heavier training seasons in the summer I want a third pair of lighter shoes on the go so I can leave my heavier trail shoes at home when it’s really hot.
You could have lighter race shoes in the mix, really, really expensive shoes for ‘special runs only’, minimalist shoes if that’s your thing or what ever else you want in there. There really isn’t a reason to run in the wrong shoe on the regular just because you only have one pair.
Trying to dry wet shoes with newspaper, wearing sneakers with different socks to avoid blisters, shopping under emergency circumstances, realizing your shoes will be dead on race day, training in shoes past their prime and doing a really long or important training run in brand new shoes with no idea how they’ll act is all unnecessary stress you don’t need. By having at least a couple of shoes in your rotation you’ll always have a reliable standby pair if you need them.
Race day choices
Now I have two race ready choices on the go for training season. I like the Asics Gel Cumulus sneakers and in season I like to have two pairs on the go. One older with a few miles left on them and a newer pair I actually plan to wear on the big day. While training for a half this year I battled blisters for a couple of weeks in peak week. For a time I thought I might even wear my old Boston Boosts for the race (with lots of miles on them still) even though I didn’t really want to. Since then I try to keep two pairs that I could technically run my next big planned race in. Not as much of an issue since the longest race I usually do on a whim is a 10k but it’s nice to have a choice for last minute races too.
What I do
I mentioned before that I typically have a better pair of shoes for races, long runs and speed work on the go in addition to a cheaper pair of trail runners for junk miles, winter and actual trail runs. The last three years I’ve hit the half marathon distance and since then I’ve had a second better pair on the go since I’m going through those more intense miles in a bigger way.
Usually as one of those pairs is really, really nearing it’s end of life like my cumulus 18’s with the tiniest of toe box holes I’ll tuck it away for a potential mud run or something similar. Things like mud hero, spartan races, dye races et cetera can really ruin a pair of shoes and it’s nice to have a pair that you can literally just throw out when you’re done. The thing is these races are often over uneven or slippery terrain so it’s nice to have a decent pair of sneakers while you do them.
I also switched to Asics at the start of this year and went all in very quickly before I burned up my Adidas Boston Boost 5’s. That turned out to be a great thing because this spring half training I started to have blisters. It was great to have a totally different pair of runners to fall back on that rubbed in entirely different places for a break. They’ll likely be with me for a year or more yet for how often I’m wearing them but I’ll keep my eye out for a very, very cheap pair of runners from a different brand. I might find a new pair thrifting (though that seems ambitious), eBay or a local sneaker shop does a get a second pair for a dollar sale I might take advantage of at some point down the line. After my sneakers are done for running I use them for biking if they are slim or for work. I like trail runners the most for work. I also have a very, very old pair of light Reeboks with quite a few holes in the toe box that I call wharf shoes. Occasionally we have to work in the water, often racing the tide to fill a crib and little rocks and shells can really make a mess of your feet.
Despite what you might have heard sneakers have always seemed to wash well for me in the machine on a regular cycle. But I believe them when they say your runners loose a lot of support if you put them in a hot dryer so I let them air dry if I have to. I do my best to not wash or certainly dry a pair of sneakers that are still in my running rotation but it has happened. By the time they hit 600 km they are typically pretty dirty or have an overall layer of grime that makes the whole upper a few shades more grey. Sneakers with too much wear or milage are great to wear around the house as a much more supportive alternative to slippers. It can help you get more support as you go about your day and prevent injuries in training. By all means wash and dry your old sneakers for this purpose you’ll be surprised just how well they clean up!
I’m almost afraid to out you by asking how many pairs of running shoes you have in your rotation? We all might have a few extra pairs over necessary but how many do you think is the bare minimum for you to have on the go?