QT: How Necessary is it to Rotate Your Running Shoes?

Are you a shoe rotator?

Many runners are.

There was a question in last month’s Q&A about the lifespan of running shoes, and it got me thinking about shoe rotation.

The more I thought about it, the more questions seemed to bubble to the surface.

It seemed to me like it might be worth fleshing out the questions a bit and discussing some of the reasons behind why it might not be a bad idea to rotate your shoes.

And also why it might not be necessary to rotate your running shoes.


Rotate Shoes?

First of all, before we get into the weeds a bit, it would probably be wise to make sure we are all on the same page.

When I’m talking about rotating your shoes, all I’m referring to is the practice of not wearing the same pair of shoes on consecutive runs.

Some people rotate between two pairs of shoes.

Other people might have multiple pairs in the rotation.

Either way, when I’m talking about rotating shoes I’m simply referring to the practice of not wearing the same pair of shoes for multiple runs in a row.

The Rationale for Rotating Shoes

There are a few different reasons that some runners decide that rotating their shoes makes sense.

And there is certainly some validity to each reason.

Extend the Life of the Shoe

When do you need to replace your running shoes?

Once you’ve logged a certain number of miles, right?

What does matter is the foam in the sole of your shoe.

Most running shoes these day have a certain amount of cushion, aka foam, between your foot and the ground.

That foam is there to help provide comfort and protection for your feet while you are wearing the shoe.

As such, when you finish your run the foam of your shoe has been somewhat compressed due to the impact forces of running.

Once you take the shoe off, the foam begins to decompress and will eventually get back to it’s original state.

By rotating your shoes, you give the foam more time to bounce back/decompress.

Theoretically, this will extend the life of your shoes.

Prevent Injuries

For the same reasons that rotating your shoes may extend their lifespan, a shoe rotation may also reduce your chances of injury.

When the foam of your running shoes are compressed, they don’t absorb the forces of running as well.

But guess what? The impact forces of running are still present.

So if the shoe isn’t absorbing the force, then your body is.

Switch out the shoes, allow the foam to fully decompress between each run, and that may help keep some niggles at bay.

Work Your Feet in Different Ways

Another reason that some runners rotate shoes is to work their feet in slightly different ways.

How so?

By having different types/styles of shoes in the rotation.

If you are rotating between shoes with different drop heights, how you run is likely to change depending on which shoes you’re wearing.

As such, you’re working your feet slightly differently every day.

Everyone Should Rotate Their Shoes, Right?

Don't Think You Need a Running Coach?

I’m a shoe rotator, but I can also recognize that not everyone needs to rotate their shoes.

Who doesn’t need to rotate shoes?

If you run in very minimal shoes, I can’t see any real reason to rotate your running shoes.

Shoes that have basically no foam in them don’t exactly need time to decompress.


How Many Pairs of Shoes are in Your Rotation?

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2 replies
  1. Katie
    Katie says:

    What if, on an average week, I’ll run with Shoe A (road shoe) on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday and then Shoe B (trail shoe) on Saturday. Would I still benefit from having a third road shoe to alternate with Shoe A?

    • Denny
      Denny says:

      If you’re not having any issues, then you don’t necessarily need to add another pair of shoes to the mix. That said, adding another pair to the mix so that you’re not wearing the same pair of shoes on Tuesday/Wednesday isn’t a terrible idea. Totally up to you though.


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