Why Rotating Running Shoes is a Must & How Many Shoes to Alternate

Huffing and puffing along side running group buddy Denny (yes the over 6’6, 75 year old who kicks my butt), we started chatting about being the only two in the group sporting some kickin’ Hokas. He may or may not have laughed at how bright mine were as I pondered why he went with the all white option, but we both agreed they were both necessary to rotate running shoes.

As the miles progressed and the conversation veered this way and that like the path, we found ourselves back to the topic of running shoes and both proclaiming that one of the keys to staying injury free was multiple pairs of running shoes!

Listen up, if this man can run marathons injury free at 75, for MANY YEARS on end, it’s sound advice!

Do you really need an excuse to buy a new pair of running shoes??

Of course.

Let me help you justify it to anyone who might ask why your current plethora needs another friend {it’s like finding a stray kitten, you want to cuddle them all}.

How many running shoes should I have?

This is a trick question because you can’t have too many.

But if you’re running at least 4 days a week a minimum of 2 pairs, allowing you to follow the tips below about rotating running shoes.

How long should running shoes last?

It’s been said the average lifespan of a running shoe is roughly 500 miles. This is going to vary depending on:

  • how heavy you land
  • the surfaces you run on (treadmill shoes last longer)
  • the frequency of your runs
  • whether or not you rotate your shoes
  • read more on when to replace running shoes

Two pairs of shoes is great, but I’m telling you that the best marathon running shoes are ones you’ve worn for maybe a month or two, while rotating with another pair.

Should we rotate the same shoe or different types?

We will touch on both below, but in truth I like to rotate in both ways.

  • If you have a model you swear by and you’ve been injury free a long time, then yes you can simply rotate two pairs of the same running shoe model.
  • If you have had some injuries, I’d recommend you rotate different styles of running shoes
  • See below for the benefits of rotating different models.

rotate running shoes

What is the best running shoe?

I’m throwing this question in because it’s asked so often.

While I believe the particular running shoe you need is very dependent on your running form, foot strike, surface and personal preference….if forced I would say this is the best running shoe.

I have now gone through 5 pairs because I found it great for both training and racing.

Why do they change running shoes every year?

Nothing frustrates a runner more than find out their favorite running shoe has been released in a new model. Why? Well we know what we like and we aren’t positive we’ll like whatever they did!

  • New technology that could make the shoe lighter or more durable
  • Updates based on feedback from many runners
  • Updates to current materials and colors that are popular
  • Because if nothing changes it’s a lot harder to get your attention or media attention to keep sales rolling

Why You Should be Rotating Running Shoes

AH ha, let’s talk more about how rotating your shoes makes them last longer and why it’s actually really important for injury prevention. I know I talk A LOT about tips to prevent common running injuries, but it’s the worst thing to happen besides having your favorite running shoe model suddenly change.

1. Eliminate Potential Muscle Imbalances

If your body is used to running in the exact same shoe all the time, but it’s not the perfect shoe for you (often it’s not) then it will compensate for muscle imbalances, which creates stride issues and eventually pain.

This study showed those rotating running shoes through at least 2 models were 39% less likely to get injured.

And here Saucony goes in to a more detailed explanation:

“Our bodies are best at doing one thing: Adapting to the environment and the stresses we expose them to. For runners this means that our bodies adapt to the stress of running, becoming fit and strong. But… because running is so repetitive, it can occasionally overstress our bodies, especially when we increase training intensity.

Every step loads the same tissues in the same way as the previous step.  Running shoes can affect how the stress of running is distributed within the tissues of your body.  By wearing different shoes on different days, you may avoid overloading any one muscle, tendon, bone, or ligament while simultaneously strengthening others.

2. Enjoy More Cushioned Running Shoes

When I worked onsite at New Balance creating their wear test program, the shoe engineers (yup it’s a massive job) told me that cushioned shoes can need up to 24 hours to fully bounce back and thus stay in the proper form to support your foot.

Thus giving them time to return to their full cushion makes them feel better, prevents injury and prolongs use. Bonus points because it’s wonderful when your shoe just feels softer too!

If you love cushion like I do, checkout these Nike Epic React! nike react

While you can add in some insoles that provide cushion, this doesn’t mean you’ve corrected the actual break down of the shoe.

As the functional breakdown occurs, it will actually change the way your foot lands, which changes your stride.

3. Different Shoes are for Different Runs

I think different shoes are meant for different types of runs and I’m not alone. This is a key reason we rotate running shoes.

different running shoes affect running kinetics and kinematics at or before heel strike but not at mid-stance — University of Cape Town research

While I love my minimal shoes (those with a lower heel to toe drop like the Saucony Kinvara), I learned the hard way that over 18 miles my knees and feet weren’t so pleased, but for short workouts they’re a great way to stay focused on connecting to the ground.

The more cushioned HOKA made me feel comfortable in longer runs by reducing the overall pounding. But again, on super long runs if you start to shuffle rather than pick up your feet, beware these can lead to trips! However, they are often the preferred shoe of many ultrarunners, so maybe I’m just clumsy! Read more about choosing maximal or minimal shoes>>

Of course, you’ve also go options for a stability or other foot corrections, which I’m going to detail below.

I think these can be helpful to wear as  part of your rotation, especially when coming back from an injury and working on your muscle imbalances. In fact, I’m testing out the best insoles for runners, to help provide my knee more support as my legs build back up post surgery.


Types of Running Shoes?

Confused by what are the different types of running shoes. Have no fear, I am hear to give you a quick and easy breakdown, along with a recommendation from shoes that I have tested over the years or heard from other runners really met their needs.

Neutral running shoe:

Shoes that are designed for the average runner who has no issues with their gate. I recommend most runners opt for these and work on correcting muscle imbalances instead of the shoe doing the work for them.

✅Example: Nike Epic React – the shoe I mention above as one of my favorites for fit, comfort and cushion.

Stability running shoe:

For runners that want help to correct a foot that rolls inward, often due to weak hips, but could also be caused by flat or low arches.

✅Example: Saucony Liberty ISO also provides a great cushion and yup I’m a fan of some good cushion.

Motion control running shoe:

For runners who have moderate or severe overpronation. These running shoes have stiffer heels and medial supports, this is basically the next step from a stability shoe.

✅Example: Asics Gel Kayano is on to model 26 because the shoe is a long time favorite that they have a continued to tweak.

Minimal running shoe:

Shoes that have a smaller heel to toe number, usually between 4-8mm.

✅Example: The Saucony Kinvara is a long time favorite of mine and shoe you will often see me wear. It lasts, it’s minimal but with a light amount of cushion. And yes, I totally will buy the older model to save money and love it just as much as a new version.

Maximal running shoe:

Shoes that have a larger built up sole, which is designed to provide a lot of cushion. To the surprise of many they are also a low heel to toe ratio, which is often a feature of a minimal shoe.

So they’re great for both cushion and being ideal for eliminating issues of a high heel, like heel striking.

✅Example: Hoka Bondi is my current favorite for a great feeling of cushion the day after a long run where my legs feel a bit more tired.

Hoka Clifton review

Barefoot running shoe:

Shoes that put very little between you and the ground, usually having a separation for each toe. Personally, I don’t love these for most runners because I’ve seen a high rate of injuries when people switch to these.

Zero drop running shoe:

A step up from barefoot, you could actually enjoy some cushion, but the shoe will have no difference from he heel to the toe making it similar in style to the benefits of barefoot running.

Example: Altra Running Shoes have cornered this market and do an incredible job.

Trail running shoe:

Seems obvious, but trail running shoes are designed to provide you with more traction and grip. They work not only on the trails, but to get you running in the snow all winter with a little more stability. I have done a lot of trail running in road shoes and for sure, I wish I’d simply made the switch sooner.

Example: Brooks Cascadia is a style I’ve used

Beyond the actual names and types due to differences, there are just the types of shoes you use for different workouts.

Here is a good article on the different uses and example shoes:

LONG RUN shoes need to support you when you fatigue, and when your running form deteriorates over the run (this is normal!). Long Run shoes are your heavier shoes and give more support and cushioning than your FAST RUN shoes.

FAST RUN shoes are designed to go fast. They are lighter, have less bells and whistles, and are much more flexible to allow the foot to move fast through the heel to toe transition.”

Then of course you have trail runs, which is a whole different ballgame and obviously requires a different shoe!

4. Feed the Fun

Fine this is probably not the best reason ever, but I LOVE my shoes. I love the colors matching my shorts, I love that some pairs make me feel crazy fast and others feel like a warm blanket allowing me to get comfy to run for hours.

Basically if a new pair of shoes or having different shoes gives you a mental boost then why not?

I absolutely have certain shoes that I put on and just know they are my SPEED shoes or my RACE shoes. Mental games are a big part of running well.

Need an excuse to buy new #running shoes?? Read this! #injuryprevention Click To Tweet

5. Run Stronger

You might not be in a place to go on a super long run with a minimal shoe, but really want to try it for some speed work.

  • Using a minimal or zero drop shoe allows you to build strength in those smaller feet, ankle and calf muscles that are challenged in a lighter shoe.
  • While a stability shoe might help on an easy day to reteach you how to maintain that good foot position and give you a chance to build up the hip strength needed to move away from them to a neutral shoe all the time.
  • Rotating shoes means that your body does not adapt to one style and therefore get lazy, which leads to muscles turning off.

types of running shoes

6. Running Only Shoes

Yes having two pairs of running shoes means double the cost…but not really, you were going to need that second pair eventually. You’re just doubling up now, instead of later.

SOOO to extend the life of either your 1 pair or both pairs make sure they are used for running ONLY.

That’s right, walking or other cross training in your shoes can change your foot pattern in the shoe and of course increase the speed of their retirement party.

Prolong the life of your running by not wearing them for all your daily activities. It’s so easy to grab them on the way out the door, but if you want that pricey pair to last you’ve got to stop.

I started keeping a couple pairs of running shoes that are retired from mileage, but still feel really good by the front door. Now I can grab them instead of my current trainers and of course eventually they all make their way back to the running store for recycling!

Now learn how to pick the perfect running shoe and go shopping with the added knowledge that you are really doing yourself a favor!

How many pairs of shoes do you currently own?

How many different models do you run in?

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Why Rotating Running Shoes is a Must & How Many Shoes to Alternate is written by amanda for

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