Alright, you’ve started your running and you are getting into some good shape for your first 5k. You are warming up and cooling down to make sure you don’t get injured, but have you checked your shoes?

This is one of those things beginners usually overlook. They decided to get in shape and sign up for the Turkey Trot, go to their closet and dust off those 5 year old trainers they have been using for everything from mowing the grass to walking the dog. They smell bad and they look sorry. This is just setting them up for an injury.

You may be asking why you need to get good running shoes (I mean, they cost so much right?) But trust me, they make a world of difference. Good shoes are literally the platform for your running. They support your feet. They protect your feet, ankles and knees from all the pounding. They even help keep your whole body aligned as your take each step.

So how do you know if you need new shoes? Here’s a couple points to consider:

  1. Outsole

The most obvious clue that your shoes need replaced is the outsole. Usually this is just called the sole. It is the tread on the bottom of your shoes. If it is worn down and starting to get smooth, replace your shoes.

  1. Midsole

This is a very important piece of the puzzle. The midsole is the part of the shoe that provides the cushion for your feet. It is that foam part you can see from the side. Do you see it? Are there little creases starting to form along the side? Yeah, that means it’s time to let go.

The foam needs to be able to bounce back to provide cushion. Over time it loses that ability. One tell-tail sign this has already happened is those little lines you see. Replace those shoes now!

  1. Heel Counter

This is a little less noticed part of shoe wear. The heal counter or cup is the hard part of the shoe around your heel. This helps hold your foot in place. Over time it will get soft and your foot will start to slip. This can lead to less support and then injury. Feel that and if it has a crease or is getting soft, it’s time to replace those shoes.

  1. Smell

No one wants smelly shoes, but that smell can indicate more than you might realize. First of all, shoes stink if they have been used. What I’m talking about here is that nasty gross smell that makes your spouse tell you to put your shoes in another room.

This smell is really a sign of some nasty fungus or bacteria growing in your shoes. You don’t want to be running in that. It can make your feet more susceptible to getting athletes foot or some other nasty foot fungus. If it’s gotten to that point, replace your shoes. Another point here… NEVER wash your shoes in a washing machine. At least not if you want to run in them. Water will break down the midsole and make it lose it’s cushion.

  1. Feel

This one is very subjective. But that’s OK, because it’s all up to you. If your shoe just doesn’t quite feel like it use to, something might be up. I’d run through the points above and chances are you’ll find something wrong. But even if you don’t, your shoe should feel right. If it doesn’t, you may need to replace it. You don’t want to be worrying about your shoes each run. If you are, it’s time for new shoes.

Now obviously running shoes aren’t cheap. But here are two ways I like to save some money and still have nice running shoes.

  1. Rotate shoes

Get two identical pairs of shoes and rotate them each run. This gives the midsole a chance to bounce back and recover before your next time running in that pair of shoes. This will cost you some more money up front to get two pairs of the same shoe, but it will save you in the long run. Depending who you ask, this method will actually make these two pairs last as long as three pairs would have if you had only used one at a time. (it also gives you more time before you have to look for a new shoe style because the brand discontinued your shoe…)

  1. Hand-me-downs

I’m not talking about using someone else’s shoes when they replace them… that’s a bad idea. But setting up a hand-me-down system in your own wardrobe is a great idea. As far as tennis shoes go, I only even replace my running shoes. When a running shoe get’s replaced, it becomes my everyday shoe. After putting hundreds of miles in them, I’m alright walking around the state fair in them, or in the rain, or mowing the grass, or wherever. That helps me get a little more life out of the shoes. By the time they are totally shot, I’ve got a newly replaced running shoe to take its place.

So what do you say? Is it time to replace those shoes?