How Long Does it Take Shoes to Recover from a Run?

At least a few times a year, I have a conversation with runners about whether running shoes last longer if you own more than one pair and rotate through the shoes rather than wearing the same pair over and over again. The story goes that two pair of shoes rotated last as long as three, or something like that. (For my own shoes’ sake, I try not to run every day.)
There are even some who believe that running shoes take exactly 26 hours to recover from a run, so if you don’t run two hours later day after day, you’ll basically need two or more pair of shoes in order to let your shoes do whatever it is that they do over those 26 hours. Some think it takes even longer for synthetic footwear to recover, including “Gear Guy” from Outside Magazine:

Thing is, Michael, you don’t need one pair of shoes, you need two. Shoes need at least 48 hours off between runs in order to dry out. Shoes that have a twin also last longer, of course.Â

There is also a 24-hour theory based on the time it takes foot fungi to die off between workouts, courtesy of The Running Times:

Long runs with less than 24 hours of recovery are hard on runners and hard on shoes. While Dan is fortunate to have a body that can pull it off, shoes are just shoes. They need to dry thoroughly between workouts, otherwise the billions of bacteria thriving in the perpetual humidity of the shoe’s interior will help the shoe fall apart faster and maybe even threaten Dan’s streak with a gnarly case of athlete’s foot.

Alternating between two pairs gives the shoes plenty of time to dry between workouts, which is good for the shoes and even better for keeping Dan’s feet fungus-free. The shoes last longer and Dan stays healthier.

Probably the most authoritative sounding quote I could find on this issue comes from a personal blog referencing the The Competitive Runner’s Handbook, which states:

In his book, “The Competitive Runner’s Handbook�, Bob Glover says, “Studies show that by alternating two pairs of shoes they’ll last longer than three pairs used consecutively.� He also says, “Rotated shoes retain 80% of their cushioning after sixty runs of an average of 5 miles (300 total miles) compared to only 60% for those not rotated.�

I couldn’t find any links to said “studies” but it sure sounds authoritative.
While researching this post, I actually came across what sounds like a logical reason for rotating shoes, but it had nothing to do with shoe maintenance. Instead, it focused on injury prevention and suggested that your body is better off transitioning in and out of new shoes rather than going cold turkey from one pair to the next:

Rotating Running Shoes

What’s your biggest fear as a runner? Injury, of course! It’s important to do all we can to prevent injuries. Shoe rotation is at the top of my list. Ever notice how your body “signals” you to buy a new pair of shoes? Running in worn-out shoes results in aches and pains in your legs, knees and hips. You can prevent this unnecessary pain by rotating between two pair of running shoes. How’s it work?

1.First, start with two pair of shoes that both have less than 250 miles on them. If they’re the same model, mark one pair as A and the other B. To rotate most effectively, keep track of the mileage you’ve put on each pair.

2.The newest pair (lowest mileage) should be used for your longer runs and your competitive racing.

3.The older pair (highest mileage) should be used for your shorter runs, inclement weather runs or your offroad runs if you aren’t using a trail shoe.

4.Keep the older pair in the rotation until you’ve run 450 miles in them. At that point, it’s time to “boot” your old pair and bring a new pair into the rotation. Continue this cycle and you’ll be doing everything you can to prevent worn out shoes from placing you on the “disabled list.” Effectively rotating your shoes takes the guess work out of replacing your shoes and saves you money because your shoes will last longer. It will also save your body from the “wrath of the worn out running shoe.”

Can anyone find an actual study explaining whether shoes “need” recovery time?

8 thoughts on “How Long Does it Take Shoes to Recover from a Run?”

  1. I’m sorry, but after reading the bit about all the bacteria growing in running shoes I got a little too grossed out to focus anymore. I think I finally found the excuse I was looking for to stop running.

    I have no studies to cite, unless you consider a study done by me, on me, with an n of 1. I have found that having two paoirs of shoes to rotate does lead to a longer life for each pair. But now I am off to dip my feet in a boiling bath of alchohol so they can get sanitized.

  2. If it FEELS like they last longer, I suppose that’s enough reason to double down at the running store. Boiling alcohol, eh? Once your feets are sanitized, you could use the remnant liquid to make Feuerzange Bowle.

  3. Shoot, I’m not worried about my running shoes being a bacterial shopping mall, I’m worried about my dress shoes, those babies are on for the long haul (40ish hours/week) compared to running shoes (

  4. Hmm, I guess my lack of encoding knowledge messed up the finish of my last posting…I tossed in a less than symbol, sorry, rookie error.
    But I went on to say ‘less than 10 hours per week’. I guess I need to study blog coding in addition to shoe shopping.

  5. Dressing shoes are pretty nasty. Much less breathable too.

    I’ll try to add a comments preview feature so you can see for yourself what you’ve screwed up before it goes live to the world.

  6. Oh crap. Dress shoes are diseased too? I’m going to spend the rest off my life in sushi restaurants so I don’t have to wear shoes. I’ll be damn uncomfortable since I’ll have to sit on the floor for the rest of my life, but at least my shoes won’t have their own microbacterial ecosystem.

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