It’s a simple but interesting question: is it really necessary to rotate your running shoes?

Today, Coach Sage Canaday explores this topic:

This is a great question, and one that a lot of people seem to ask me. But before I get into the details, full disclaimer that I have been sponsored by HOKA for over 10 years now. However, I have had exposure to other shoe brands as well as experience being a shoe fitter, fitting hundreds of people’s feet.

Truth be told, there’s a lot of individual variation when it comes to running shoes, and I’m not sure I can give everyone the answer of “yes, you must rotate your shoes every X numbers of days.” Regardless, I will touch on the hot topic of “should you rotate your running shoe” towards the end. But before I do that, I’ll also go into a few more things I want you to think about when choosing what shoes are right for you.

Shoe Models Can Change

The first thing I want to point out is that shoes can change based on their iteration, even if they’re the same model. For example, HOKA released the Clifton 1, which I wore years ago at the Boston Marathon. However, the next year brought the Clifton 2, with some changes. The Clifton 2 had a different fit—it was narrower and felt different. Even if it’s called the same thing, and this is across all brands, you could get a lot of different design differences. It could affect the width, the fit of how your toes interact in the shoe, it could affect what size you wear in that specific model, it could affect the ground feel, and how much traction or rubber material you’re getting on the bottom. Don’t assume that you can simply rotate the same model of shoe if you’re using different generations. Take time to experiment with how the newest generation works for your feet!

Your Form Can Affect the Shoes You Wear (And Need)

Another thing to consider is everyone has a unique running form with characteristics that might change over time. We have different heights, stride lengths, and running speeds. On a uniform surface like pavement or tarmac, which has high impact forces, road shoes are designed to cushion that blunt force. But you need a shoe that works with your foot in order to achieve this dynamic.

If your form changes over time or you start running more miles each week, the traits of what shoe is perfect for you may change. To determine the ideal shoe, it’s important to have your feet examined by an experienced running shoe specialist who will watch you run or walk barefoot and observe how you run in different pairs of shoes. They will also spend some time assessing your arch and the shape of your foot. Fitting your foot into the right shoe is an art!

The Bottom Line

I think it’s good to have a variety of shoes to rotate through. I think it helps preserve the longevity of the shoes because you’re not always compressing the same foam every run, especially when I’m ramping up mileage and running twice a day on pavement. Sometimes it’s beneficial to have a morning shoe and an evening shoe if you’re doing two-a-days.

I realize I have the luxury of being sponsored by a shoe company like HOKA which provides me with a variety of shoes. This is a big advantage that not everyone may have, but I do rotate between different shoes daily, often based on how I feel. You could also opt for a more minimal, super lightweight shoe for speed days, such as tempo runs or track workouts, or for running on softer surfaces like a grass turf field or a treadmill.

I can’t give you a single recommendation for which shoe to use, but I think it’s good to have at least a couple of different pairs of shoes to rotate between, just like it’s beneficial to have various road or trail routes to run on softer surfaces occasionally.

For those living in a big city and always running the same paved loop, it’s still good to mix up the surfaces. Stressing your feet in different ways can help you dial into your natural running form and ultimately avoid injury and pain from overuse and impact forces.

That’s all for this week.

Happy running!

– Coach Sage