A couple of weeks ago I took part in my seventh half marathon. Pre-race I was amped – I’d bought and worn in a new set of rigid, lighter shoes with form-fitting socks and had fantasies of being fleet footed.

Who doesn’t love new workout gear? But how do you know when you need to legitimately update it?

New shoe for you?

As far as shoes go, the advice I’ve received from running coaches who’ve covered thousands and thousands of kilometres more than me, is that shoes need to be replaced after 800km – but who the hell has an odometer on the bottom of their shoes? And it’s all too easy to say, “Nah, they’ll be right…” (the point at which a passing podiatrist looks at you in despair).
My last pair of shoes had seen at least two half marathons plus all the training that goes with it – in short, they looked like they’d been on a wild weekend in the jaws of the neighbour’s floppy-eared mutt.

So I searched out a more practical rule of thumb – if you’re covering about 8km three times a week, you’re looking at a new pair every eight months. Push them much more beyond that, and you risk injury to your limbs and lower back, as the shoes aren’t as effective at absorbing the impact of your foot striking the pavement. 

Shoe age testing

Musing over a balding sole or loose stitching on the top of your footwear isn’t enough to judge if it has done its time, however. Instead, you need to get hands-on. It’s time to send your shoes to the big footwear graveyard in the ground if you can twist the shoe easily, or if when you dig your thumb into the EVA foam (the white stuff) on the midsole, it doesn’t have any give left. Actually, even better, you can send those worn-out suckers to a charity like Shoes For Planet Earth http://www.shoesforplanetearth.com/ who distribute them to people in need. 

Socks need attention too

Next it’s time to check your socks. Old ones will break down and stop offering any cushioning. And if they have holes in them, or move around on your feet, they’ll make running uncomfortable and cause blisters. Swap to a new set made with a synthetic or wool blend and I guarantee it will feel like you’re slipping on a second skin. Avoid cotton socks (and T-shirts), as they’ll rub when they get wet, and stay wet, causing chafing and blisters, unlike moisture-wicking clothes. 

Rock your body 

What about the rest of your gear? If it’s looking a touch retro and a lot saggy or smelling a bit stinky, it sounds like you’re clinging onto old clothes that are putting your health at risk (never mind earning a cocked eyebrow from the fashion police).

Anything that doesn’t fit the way it used to, like a pair of shorts with lining that used to hug your man berries but instead flaps around, should be top of your list to replace. Same goes for compression gear that no longer compresses. 

Wardrobe maintenance pays

If you want to stop that major fitness clothing investment from suffering an early death, be diligent with how you take care of it. Don’t chuck your Lycra shorts or compression suit in with your normal clothes when you’re doing your laundry if you use fabric softener, because this will affect their breathability and sweat-wicking powers. A gentle wash with similar fabrics is best.

So, it’s time to throw open the doors of your wardrobe or peer into your drawers and get forensic with your workout gear. Your well-supported blister-free body will thank you for it.

Paul Taylor