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Originally Published: Jan 18, 2018

Maintaining and getting the most out of your running shoes is a battle, especially in a location where dealing with the brunt of all four seasons can be a challenge. Sweat, rain, snow, mud – the list goes on and on. And, while runners should make an effort to keep their shoes clean, making sure they’re functionally sound is even more important. We caught up with Ragged Mountain Running Shop co-owner Mark Lorenzoni in Charlottesville, Virginia to discuss tips and tricks for keeping your shoes in good working order.

Make sure you’re wearing the right shoes.

If you’re not wearing the right shoes, keeping them in good condition isn’t going to matter. “Always buy shoes for functional reasons. You need a pair of shoes that will keep you going,” Lorenzoni said. “You should never buy a pair of running shoes for fashion reasons.” Nowadays, with the amount of variety in colors and design, finding shoes that are the right style and the right fit is much easier than it used to be.

Be wary of the washing machine.

“You can only wash your shoes in the washing machine once, maybe twice, in their lifetime,” Lorenzoni said. “Putting them in the washing machine [and getting them that wet] erodes their midsoles and midsoles are the engine of a shoe.” If you have to wash your shoes in the washing machine, Lorenzoni says to make sure you take the inserts out first and wash on the gentle cycle.

Never put your shoes in the dryer.

“Never, ever put your shoes in the dryer. You will ruin them,” Lorenzoni said emphatically. Why? Exposing shoes to extreme heat will alter the shape of the shoe, making them “not your shoes anymore. Fit is so important.” You should also keep shoes away from any major heat source like a wood stove or a space heater for the same reason. Similarly, you should never leave shoes in a hot car. “The inside of a car can get upwards of 190 degrees on a hot day. Those temperatures will melt the glue in your shoes,” Lorenzoni warned. 

Clean your shoes gently.

Lorenzoni said you can buy shoe cleaner or use a basic household agent, such as 409, to clean your shoes. Gently scrub the shoes with some cleaner and a soft brush (an old toothbrush works really well!). To dry them, take the insert out and stuff your shoes with paper towels and then put them somewhere where they can breathe, like the front steps or a deck. The paper towels will soak up the excess moisture, and air drying is the best way to ensure shoes hold their shape.

Don’t let the condition of your shoes fool you.

If you exercise mostly indoors, your shoes might look fine–but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be replaced. “That’s the challenge of exercising indoors,” said Lorenzoni. “[Shoes] stay so clean looking and the treads stay intact so that you can’t tell that the shoe is done when, in reality, it’s done.” Lorenzoni said those who exercise outside are more likely to know when it’s time to replace their shoes. “You can really tell that [a pair of shoes] is done. You have visible clues–worn out treads, fading, stains etc.”

The weather affects the life of your shoe.

You should get approximately 400 miles out of a pair of running shoes. However, different factors, such as the weather, can really affect the lifetime of your shoes. “In the summertime, you sweat more. Like last July, we had 23, 90+ degree days,” said Lorenzoni. “All that sweat going down your legs and into your shoe corrodes the midsole, which is the engine of the shoe. You might only get 250-300 miles out of shoes if you’re exercising outside in hot weather.”

A little preparation goes a long way.

“Air drying shoes when they get wet is so important,” said Lorenzoni. “A lot of people don’t usually do much to prep for the next run. Maybe they ran in the rain or through puddles. They don’t think about how shoes being wet will affect their structural integrity.”  Again, Lorenzoni recommends giving yourself a few minutes to take the inserts out of your shoes, stuff the shoes with newspaper or paper towels, and then set them outside in a shady spot to dry. As a result you will see a big difference in the lifetime of your shoes.

The goal is to prevent injuries.

“We need to do these things to ensure the integrity of the shoe and work to prevent injuries from happening,” said Lorenzoni. “When the midsole–the white strip of soft material that runs the length of the shoe–is altered, it’s going to change the mechanics of how your foot and shoe interact while you’re exercising. Your stride, shock absorption, etcetera–all of those things could be affected. And that leads to unnecessary pain and/or injuries.”

Visit the club location nearest you to learn more about running best practices:

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