How can I tell when my minimal running shoes go bad?

Let me explain.

Conventional Wisdom

The conventional wisdom of marathon runners is that running shoes will eventually 'go bad'. That is, at some point the shoes will still work fine for walking around the house and working in the garden, but they have "lost their bounce". At some point (roughly 400 miles) your standard pair of, say, Nike running shoes will start to feel like the soles are made of concrete.

Standard running shoes lose their bounce.

What about minimal running shoes?

I am training for another marathon in a pair of minimal running shoes (New Balance Minimus). And I know I have run 600 or 700 miles in this one pair of shoes.

But minimal running shoes have no "bounce" to start off with. Just super thin soles. So... does that mean I can run in them until they have holes in the soles?

Do minimal running shoes 'go bad' too? Or do they work just fine until they're holey?

  • Do the 'conventional wisdom' is more wisdom or more marketing catchword? Jul 25, 2013 at 16:45
  • Oh no, I think the 'conventional wisdom' is just from experience. I know several runners personally who say that after you run enough miles in a pair of Nike's they start to feel like you're running with wood planks strapped to your feet. I think the rubber they use in modern running shoes just loses its elasticity. Jul 25, 2013 at 17:35
  • +1 for the skeptical treatment of conventional wisdom, which is not supported by the scientific evidence. Kong, Candelaria, and Smith found that cushioning affects comfort, but not stresses, because people subconsciously adjust their motions when they feel stresses; comfort is correlated with lack of injury, but since stress doesn't change, this suggests some more complicated set of interrelated variables. There are other studies by van Mechelen, Davies, and Bredeweg that apparently contradict one another a lot and don't lead to a clear picture. See bit.ly/1ixFrqP for some discussion.
    – user2169
    Mar 11, 2014 at 19:33

2 Answers 2


It's less about the type of shoe, but how your run in it.

Minimalist running shoes should not "wear out" in the traditional sense since they have little or no padding to compress. Because many are just soles, then running until that sole is gone is perfectly fine.

It is important to note that the reason they don't have (or need) that cushion is because "minimal" running shoes encourage a more natural style of running (where you use your foot-spread, ankles, and knees with more elasticity to absorb shock).

"Traditional" shoes with their 3 inches of padding encourage poor running style (straight legged heal strike in front of the body) and thus need the padding to compensate. When the padding goes, you risk injury since your body isn't designed to take that kind of beating. If you run with a more natural gait in traditional shoes, then you don't need to worry about the padding going on them either.

As an added bonus, since "minimal" or natural styles of running tend to have less abrasive force on the impact (flow along the pavement rather than skid your heel against it) you might notice your soles lasting longer than traditional shoes as well.

  • I think you're right. My minimal shoes seem to be lasting longer and I can't think of any good reason to trade them out. Jul 25, 2013 at 15:50

I agree with the fact that as the sole of the shoe gets thinner it becomes harder.

Which would be awkward for running purposes. It also depends on how you land. If you land on the ball of your foot (if you don't, you should), the layer at the sole at the heels remain flexible for, to be more precise, compressible, which is required.

The reason I am saying this all, is because when I started running, I had a bad habit to land on my heel rather than the ball, which was one of the reasons, that I lost the mileage of the shoe. (Here, mileage is: miles it would remain good for running, and also, the no. of miles I would go with the same effort).

The time when you start feeling stress in your joints despite of running (with the technique that you have been following and so, the way you used to run without having troubles), is the time when you can say that you may need a new pair of shoes, since a lot depends on Shoes in the matter of Joint pains with runners.

  • This isn't true for minimal (i.e. little/no padding) shoes. If anything, as they get thinner (due to wear not compression) they get softer.
    – aucuparia
    Nov 23, 2020 at 11:17
  • @aucuparia: True. Recently I have had the minimalistic shoes, the sole remains softer as the sole worn out.
    – WedaPashi
    Nov 24, 2020 at 5:42

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