Do Running Shoes Expire? Mine Broke.

Do running shoes expire? After reading multiple articles on the topic and talking with a few local retailers, I can tell you it is clear as mud.

Some swear by the mileage rule. Depending upon how hard you run, your shoes are good for 300 to 600 miles. Some say to keep the mileage in mind, but also that you will know it’s time to replace when you feel aches and pains. That sounds a little late to me.

And some say you need to replace your running shoes every 12 months regardless of how much you’ve worn them, if at all. The claim is that the material of which the shoes are made deteriorates on its own and after a year (even if just sitting in the box), will not provide the cushion and support needed for running. Sounds like a profitable business model to me.

Here are my problems with this:

  1. The people saying this are the very people who will profit from having the running world believe one year, regardless of wear, is the point at which you must replace your shoes.
  2. If this is the case, we need an expiration date on every pair of shoes and clearly marked on the box. If it can be put on milk, eggs, even Budweiser uses a “born on” date, surely the athletic shoe industry can figure it out.

Here’s what got me going on this. My shoes that were 15 months old (from date of purchase) fell apart. Yep, a piece broke right off the bottom of the shoe as I was walking–not running–my dog. These shoes had about 150 miles on them. Well under the mileage benchmark, if that’s your school of thought. However, at 15 months, according to some, they were “expired” regardless of the mileage.

ASICS Gel Cumulus 15 with broken lug
My shoe actually broke (ASICS Gel Cumulus 15)

I went to the store where I purchased the shoes to find I was beyond the store’s 12-month return policy and that I should work directly with ASICS. ASICS responded promptly with their criteria for having defective shoes replaced, along with the necessary paperwork for me to complete. After talking with the folks at the store and a runner friend of mine, I decided to not return the shoes because apparently, due to my shuffling style of running, I cause excessive wear in a minimal number of miles. It is likely that ASICS would have determined the shoes were not defective, so I saved myself the postage and tossed them in the trash. I am not faulting ASICS for this particular pair of shoes. Weird stuff happens to me, and I’m chalking this up to my Charlie Brown style of luck.

But, the big find here is that ASICS directed me to the manufacture date on the tongue of the shoe. Bingo! The shoes were manufactured 6 months before I purchased them. Some retailers are saying the shoes deteriorate regardless of wear and must be replaced after 12 months, even if they just sit in the box. If that is so, I paid $115 for a half-life pair of shoes because they were already 6 months deteriorated in the stockroom? Give me a break.

Folks, this doesn’t sit well. I sent a query to ASICS to get their opinion on the “replace every 12 months” theory, and they said it is “half right.” They stated that performance running shoes break down with time, and if a shoe sits in the box for two years and has never been worn, it has only about 50% of the life left in the shoe. The EVA cushioning hardens with time and loses its shock absorption. They pointed out that this is industry-wide and not just an ASICS issue (I figured that much).

So here’s your math problem for today. If a pair of shoes is:

  1. In the box for two years and has never been worn, and
  2. Has about 50% of the life left

Wait, what? Help me here–how much wood could a woodchuck chuck? I mean, how much running can a running shoe run…?

A kind running friend took pity on me and explained it to me: if the shoes are new in the box for two years and have about 50% of the shoe life left, that means the shoes are good for approximately 200-250 miles of running (since the mileage rule is, on average, 300-600 miles). That pretty much makes the replace every 12 months idea a bunch of hooey.

Given the above, that also means if the shoes are new in the box for one year, they would have the full shoe life remaining, correct? Again, the replace every 12 months theory seems to be losing traction.

To get to the bottom of this, I checked around at local athletic stores. Reputable stores. The sales associates told me this:

  • Store #1: Did not know how long a running shoe should last; no idea whether it would be miles or age. I’m assuming the athletic store gig is temporary for this associate.
  • Store #2: Replace every 6 to 7 months, depending on how much you wear them. Six months if you run a lot; one year would be pushing it no matter how little you run.
  • Store #3: Approximately 500 miles; never heard of the age rule. I said that I have a pair of running shoes I purchased three years ago and have never worn them (this is true–I simply don’t like the shoes) and I was told those should be fine.

Bottom line here seems to be that nobody knows. Call me crazy, but I really, really liked the ASICS Gel Cumulus 15 and have replaced them with the 16. I tried on some others, but nothing compared. I’m learning to run without shuffling, but again, I have a manufacture date of six months ago. Bets on how long they’ll last?

New version of the running shoe. ASICS Gel Cumulus 16.
ASICS Gel Cumulus 16

What’s your favorite running shoe and how often do you replace them?


2 thoughts on “Do Running Shoes Expire? Mine Broke.

  1. Kelly,
    Thanks for the story. I’m writing to see if you recall the code that indicates the manufacture date of your shoes, because I’m having a problem with a new pair of Asics running shoes that are the same model as the replaced ones and would love to know their dates of manufacture.

    1. Hi Pete, unfortunately, I did not save the manufacture date code. The same thing happened with the second pair of Asics I bought. As of late, I have not had a need for running shoes, but when I do, I’ll try another brand.
      Thank you for reading, and I hope you have better luck with your next pair of runners!

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