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The expert consensus seems to be that shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles or thereabouts, as they will by that point no longer have their original characteristics. Fair enough.

But the rated lifespan of an artifact can be very different from its absolute maximum lifespan. Suppose you set out on the Appalachian Trail in a good pair of newish running shoes, and tried to wear them for the entire 2190 miles. Could they possibly last that long, or would they physically fall apart before the end of the trail?

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    Probably unanswerable - it would depend on the shoe construction (materials, stitching, type of shoe), conditions on the trail (how wet, how rough the surface is) and whether you do any maintenance on the shoe. Also, would you consider boots to be shoes or not?
    – bob1
    Apr 25, 2023 at 21:14
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    Anecdotally, my first pair of bedrock sandals lasted me ~5 years of basically daily wear. That included "street" wear, backpacking, raft guiding, etc. Bedrock FAQs say 700-1000 miles is the lifespan, but I was well over 1000 miles. So while there are probably shoes that could last the entire AT, I think most would fall apart along the way, even with maintenance
    – noah
    Apr 25, 2023 at 21:50
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    @rwallace maintenance is possible - washing off mud and re-waterproofing boots is all maintenance. Most serious hikers carry a simple repair kit with needle/thread that might be used to re-attach the tongue, or repair a hole, or sole to upper, depending on construction.
    – bob1
    Apr 25, 2023 at 22:02
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    Sadly (@bob1) most modern running shoes, hiking boots etc. have the soles glued to the uppers, meaning a repair by stitching isn't as easy as it might be. And that tends to be where mine fail (or the soles wearing out)
    – Chris H
    Apr 26, 2023 at 13:24
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    @ChrisH Yeah, I'm aware of the glue issue. It is certainly an issue I have had with Nike shoes, but I've not had it with most other brands that I've used over the years. Soles wearing out and internal padding coming off are my usual issues.
    – bob1
    Apr 26, 2023 at 21:02

2 Answers 2

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I don't know what 'experts' you've heard, but trekking shoes that can't make at least 1000 km are a very low quality ones.

The 'recommended' mileage for running shoes in popular apps is often as low as 600/700 km, but even cheap (but modest) running shoes like those from Decathlon cat do at least 1000 km. Trekking shoes have usually much harder soles, less optimal for running, but more durable. My best result on running shoes is 1800, but the soles were wear down almost completely, reducing their grip to the point where they could be used only on paved trails comfortably. However, I'm not buying top priced brands.

On the top are the good brand heavy trekking shoes with good quality soles, eg. Meindl with Vibram soles can handle many thousand km before they wear down (some people claim doing 6000km or more, but admit shoes having reduced water resistance in the meantime). Note that they are really heavy, putting extra strain on your knees. They are ideal for snow or mud, but fast pace on a paved road could be a torture for your joints.

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    It very much depends on the terrain - I've had vibram soles wear through in 1000 km of urban use (karrimor hiking shoes - I've got the equivalent boots and they've lasted years longer on softer ground, but I can't estimate the distance) . Also of course vibram is a brand and brands cover various price and quality points.
    – Chris H
    May 6, 2023 at 11:35
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To add two more data points:

My best pair of heavy hiking/trekking shoes from LOWA lasted me about 1500-2000km. Most of that with a heavy pack (20kg and more) and over rough terrain. They were full leather and since I took care of the shoes with bees wax and tallow they were still very water resistant towards the end. What eventually gave in was the interior: the inner sole and all the inner leather lining and padding simply disintegrated and disappeared over time, until I was essentially walking on the moulded plastic parts.

I bought a very similar pair next. There was some even rougher terrain involved (GR20 in Corsica) and I had to replace the Vibram sole after maybe 800-1000km. That cost a pretty penny, but I expect these shoes will easily last me some 500-1000km more now, and they are already perfectly worn in.

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