Barefoot running shoes differ from regular running shoes in several key ways. They are very light, have a wider toe box and more flexibility. But the biggest difference is that they have very little cushioning and foot support (which is what makes them minimal). Because they have less support, there is little padding to become overly compressed. Many minimalist runners love that they can wear their shoes longer than regular shoes. But minimalist shoes are still an investment so you want to make them last as long as you can. What can you do to extend the life of your running shoes?
1. Pick a good fitting shoe
Since a minimalist shoe should fit pretty tightly, you want one that fits well. If it is too loose or too tight, it will create blisters or wear unevenly. Take the time to try on several brands to see what works for your foot. For starters, the Vibram Five Fingers Bikila usually fits well.
2. Buy newer shoes
When you buy new shoes, they should be new, right? What do I mean? If you buy deeply discounted shoes, they have probably been sitting on the shelf for a while. The materials the shoes are made of will start to break down a bit as they sit. So the newest model, while a bit more expensive, will also have been manufactured fairly recently. The materials your shoe is made of will be new as well.
3. Try different brands to see what works well for you
Everyone has a different stride, body shape, and general way of running. Some shoes might wear quickly for you while another brand may last you more than 500 miles. Just as each runner is different, each shoe brand and style is different as well. Also, if you have only been wearing one brand for a long time, you might try a different one to see if you should change shoes or the one you usually wear is the perfect shoe for you.
4. Choose shoes with carbon rubber outsoles rather than blown rubber
Carbon rubber outsoles are more compact and last longer than blown outsoles. Carbon rubber outsoles are typical of premium barefoot shoes
5. Only wear your shoes for running
It may be tempting to wear them for running errands, mowing the lawn, or getting some housework done, but this puts wear on them. If you save them for running, you can do more running in them.
6. Run less pavement and more trail if possible
Harder surfaces will wear down the sole faster. Grass and dirt are more forgiving surfaces for the sole.
7. Improve your running form
Minimalist shoes are designed to take most of the force in the midfoot section. If you strike your foot on the heel or towards the toes, the shoes will wear there, instead of where they have stronger or thicker rubber. A light, quick step reduces wear on the shoes.
8. Lift your foot with each step or stride
Don’t drag your foot along the ground which will wear out the tread much more quickly. This goes along with having a good running form. If you pay attention to problems with your form and steps, you will run more efficiently which translates into better wear on your shoes.
9. Put the date you bought your shoes on one shoe
Marking the date with a sharpie near the sole lets you know when you bought the shoes. If you prefer not to mark on your shoes, make note of the purchase date somewhere you can find easily! If you know when you bought the shoes you can know how old they are and better guess how many miles your shoes have seen. This helps take the guess work out of how quickly your shoes wear out.
10. Have 2-3 pairs of shoes to rotate
This is especially important if you run a lot of miles daily or run more than once a day. Rotating shoes allows the shoes to get less constant use and to dry out after a wet or muddy run.
11. Clean your shoes regularly
If you run a lot of trails or live in a wet climate, you have probably had running shoes change to the color of dirt. Dirt, debris, and (if you are like me and grab a quick bite after a run) food stains can build up and break down the upper fabric or mesh of your shoes. It is best to clean running shoes by hand, with a small, soft brush to best care for them. Personally I use the OXO Good Grips Deep Clean Brush which has worked surprisingly well.
12. Dry your shoes out completely using indirect sunlight or an air vent
You do not want your shoes to get too warm, which can also break down the upper fabric. Removing the insoles while they dry can speed up this process too.
13. Avoid using the dryer to dry your shoes
The heat and tumbling of the dryer can put extra wear on them.
14. Don’t place your shoes outside, in the sun, to dry
Again, exposing the shoes to heat unnecessarily breaks down the shoe materials. Save the rough handling for your runs!
15. Store your shoes in a clean, cool, dry spot where they will not get compressed
Throwing them in the entryway, by the door to the garage, or in the floor of your care will just break down the shoe faster. You invested money in buying them and invest quality time running in them, so treat them well.
16. Don’t force your foot into your shoes
It may be habit to jam your shoes on and head out the door. But taking a couple minutes to slide your foot in gently and lace them up or strap them on saves some wear on your shoes.
17. Untie the laces or undo the straps to remove the shoes
Taking a couple minutes to remove them gently after your run is good for them.
18. Spray the uppers of your shoes with waterproof spray
This helps keep the dirt and water off a bit more.
19. If the uppers of the shoes start wearing, consider repairing them
With minimalist shoes, the uppers usually wear out faster than the sole. Patching tears or using shoe goo can give you some more miles out of them.
20. Consider wearing socks
Many minimalist shoe wearers like the freedom of not wearing much on their feet. But wearing socks cuts down on odors.
21. Place balled up newspapers in your shoes
Do this when you are not using them to absorb moisture and odors. Odors may not damage your shoes, but it can sure make them unpleasant to have around the house!
22. Sprinkle your shoes with baking soda overnight occasionally
Baking soda absorbs odors and makes your shoes smell and feel a bit fresher. Be sure to shake off the baking soda before you wear them to run, unless you would enjoy poofs of powder escaping for your first few steps.
23. Keep your shoes away from Fido or Fluffy
Pets can chew up a good pair of shoes. If your pet likes to use your other shoes as chew toys or scratch toys, be sure to keep your running shoes in a safe spot.
24. Check the midsole for wear
With minimalist shoes, this is where you will see wear first. Wear on the upper does not indicate the shoes are worn out.
25. If your shoes are wearing out really fast, it is possible you need to lose excess pounds
Heavier runners wear shoes out faster, especially if they have a heavy footfall as well. Losing weight can be difficult, but there are many runner diets online to help you lose some weight (and possibly feel healthier as well). Careful eating and lots of miles can help you have the healthy body you want. And enjoying your shoes makes each run more pleasant.