Whether you are an athlete who enjoys running in shoes until your feet are falling out of them or you are an athlete who buys new shoes at the first sign of wear, rotating your shoes will only benefit you. Although runners are often hesitant about buying multiple pairs of running shoes at once in fear of a bill that soars into the hundreds of dollars, they often forget that an intelligent investment in the present may save them money in the future.
How Shoe Rotation Helps
The science behind shoe rotation is simple – your shoes need time to recover just like your body does. Every step that you take while running takes a toll on the muscles, tendons and bones in your legs, hips and feet. The cushioning in your shoes is there to absorb some of the shock that occurs when your feet strike the ground. So, the cushioning reduces the amount of stress that running places on the body and thus helps to prevent injury. However, as shoes endure the constant stresses of running, their ability to absorb shock decreases as the mid-sole compresses over time. Although this mid-sole compression is inevitable, shoe rotation helps to slow down the process, thus extending the “life” of a pair of shoes. It does so by allowing the mid-sole cushioning to decompress for a longer period of time. For example, if you alternate between two pairs of shoes, the mid-sole has approximately 48 hours to decompress between runs as opposed to the 24 hours that it would have if you wore the same pair of shoes every day.Since I began rotating my shoes, I’ve been able to run approximately 200 more miles on a pair of shoes than I was able to when I didn’t rotate. As an athlete who runs close to 3,000 miles per year, the additional 200 miles per pair of shoes has nearly cut my shoes per year total in half, while it has also saved me money and helped keep me, for the most part, injury free.
A Few Strategies to Consider when Rotating Shoes
One strategy for shoe rotation is to rotate between one “newer” pair of shoes and one “older” pair of shoes. Switching between the two shoes will allow your body to recognize when the older pair of shoes is “dying” because you always have a less worn pair to compare it to.
Another strategy for shoe rotation is to switch between different models, and even brands, of shoes. The primary reason for this is that some shoes tend to force your body into working certain muscles more than a different pair might. So, if you rotate between two different pairs of shoes that suit you, you may be able to avoid “molding” yourself to a certain running shoe while you will also work different muscles over the course of your training runs. If this strategy is combined with the first recommendation, it is likely that your body will be able to adapt to the constant changes in shoe models that companies inevitably make over time.
Shoe rotation is also effective for athletes who want to cater their shoe choice to different types of runs. For example, if you are doing a short, fast run one day, you may not want a shoe with a lot of cushion. Instead you might choose a shoe with increased flexibility to allow you to run faster by transitioning onto the forefoot. Or, if you are going for a longer, slower run, you may want a shoe with additional cushioning to help protect your body from the prolonged pounding that will result.
About the author: Jake Shoemaker is currently a senior at Dartmouth College where he competes for the Cross Country and Track and Field teams. Jake competed in a variety of sports as a kid, but settled on running, following in the footsteps of his brother – USA Triathlon Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker. Following graduation Jake hopes to pursue a career in education or journalism. He enjoys teaching swim and spin classes, cooking and watching ‘his’ Boston Bruins.