Running Shoe Rotation: Rotate Your Shoes For Better Running

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If you’re an avid runner, there’s a good chance that your idea of a great birthday gift is yet another pair of running shoes. Should someone open your closet, a tower of retired running shoes might topple over, and several pairs of trainers probably line the doorway to leave your house. 

You may even have a somewhat encyclopedic knowledge of running shoes, able to identify the brand and model with just a quick glance.

If any of this speaks to you, you’ll love this: having multiple pairs of running shoes is actually a great idea. Known as your “running shoe rotation,” a lineup of two or more pairs of running shoes that you alternate between for your runs during the week has numerous benefits besides just scratching your itch for more running shoes.

Even if you’re not a gear-obsessed runner, and fall more in the camp of wearing your running shoes so long that they hardly hold up in one piece by the time you finally tie the laces for the last time, you will want to keep reading to learn all about rotating your running shoes and why having a running shoe rotation can be a good habit to adopt.

In this guide, we will cover: 

  • What Does Rotating Your Running Shoes Entail?
  • Benefits of Rotating Your Running Shoes
  • Factors to Consider When Making a Running Shoe Rotation

Let’s get started!

Different pairs of running shoes hanging from the wall.

What Does Rotating Your Running Shoes Entail?

Having a running shoe rotation, or the practice of rotating your running shoes, involves having multiple pairs of running shoes to choose from when you go running. 

Different running shoes are worn on different days, enabling you to cycle through your running shoe rotation from day to day. 

For example, you might wear a cushioned neutral training shoe like the Hoka Clifton for your recovery run on Monday, a lightweight shoe like the Saucony Fastwitch for your speed workout on Tuesday, and then go back to your Hokas for your distance run on Wednesday.

Some runners have quite a few pairs of running shoes in their running shoe rotation, while others stick to just a couple pairs, depending on a variety of factors.

A woman tying her running shoe.

Benefits of Rotating Your Running Shoes

Besides a convenient way to eliminate the often difficult decision of deciding between two or three different pairs of running shoes that you really want, there are several benefits to rotating your running shoes:

#1: Rotating Your Running Shoes Can Reduce the Risk of Injury

Studies have found rotating your running shoes can reduce the risk of running injuries by up to 39%, which is probably the primary reason that all runners should continue rotating between at least two pairs of shoes.

Rotating your running shoes ensures the shoes provide the cushioning and stability they should. If you cycle between different types of shoes, you further reduce injury risk by giving your body a slightly different set of stresses throughout the week, minimizing overuse.

Two pairs of running shoes up against a wall.

#2: Rotating Your Running Shoes Can Prolong the Life of Your Running Shoes

Most running shoe experts say that rotating your running shoes prolongs the life of the shoe by giving the EVA foam in the midsole ample time (at least 24 hours) to rebound between runs before getting compressed again.

This can prevent the premature breakdown of the materials.

#3: Rotating Your Running Shoes Can Save You Money

Although the initial cost is higher, a running shoe rotation can cut down on your yearly running shoe expenses.

Because rotating your running shoes can potentially increase the lifespan of each pair of shoes, you can save money over time by maintaining a running shoe rotation rather than relying solely on one pair. 

The longer each pair of running shoes last, the more mileage and value you get out of the shoe.

A bunch of running shoes on the floor with a heart in laces in the middle.

#4: Rotating Your Running Shoes Can Improve Your Workouts

Wearing a running shoe designed for the terrain or workout you’re doing can potentially improve your performance. For example, a racing flat can help you feel fast, so if you only wear your racing flats for races and key speed workouts, you can reap mental and physical benefits from your footwear. 

#5: Rotating Your Running Shoes Can Help You Learn Your Preferences

When you can only test out a pair of running shoes for a few minutes at your local running store, it’s hard to get a real sense of what the shoe is like. You can end up with a perfectly good pair of running shoes, but there might be a pair that fits the shape of your foot slightly better or has an insole that provides support in a slightly different way. 

By rotating your running shoes, you have more exposure to a wider variety of running shoes, so long as you incorporate different models in your running shoe rotation. 

Use your running shoe rotation as an opportunity to be a “running shoe tester.” In other words, rather than buy two pairs of the same brand and model, try broadening your horizons with different models, running shoes made by different brands, or most importantly, different types/styles of running shoes.

Then, truly envision yourself as a running shoe tester (perhaps a dream job for all of us?). Keep notes in your training log about what you like or don’t like about the different shoes in your rotation, and then use that data to make more informed decisions when it’s time to replace one or multiple pairs in your lineup.

A running shoe rotation with several pairs lined up.

For example, maximal shoes, or shoes with ultra-thick cushioning, have been found to increase leg stiffness, but oftentimes runners find maximal shoes to feel initially dreamlike in a running store as if running on fluffy clouds. 

However, after finishing a long run in these sneakers, your legs may be aching in ways you didn’t expect, signaling the fact that perhaps the cushioning is too much, the shoes are too heavy, or they don’t provide the support you need to maintain the optimal structure of your foot. 

In another example, you may find the toe box in ASICS shoes seems to run narrow. Over time, you might develop pain in the ball of your foot, indicative of metatarsalgia, and a clear sign that it’s time to swap brands or look for a model that offers a roomier toe box.

By using yourself as a case study or an ongoing n=1 scientific investigation, you can start to hone in on exactly what footwear works best for you as a runner, leading to more comfortable miles and potentially reducing the risk of injuries.

Four pairs of running shoes lined up.

Factors to Consider When Making a Running Shoe Rotation

Theoretically, as long as you have at least two pairs of running shoes you could choose to wear on any given run (meaning, they are out of the box and ready to be worn), you have a running shoe rotation. 

However, for best results, you’ll want to consider several different factors when strategically developing your running shoe rotation to maximize the benefits of rotating your running shoes, including the following:

  • Training volume: The higher your daily mileage, the more important having a running shoe rotation becomes and the greater the number of shoes you should use.
  • Preferences: If you like to feel like you have options, or enjoy having “speed day” shoes, shoes for trails, highly cushioned shoes for days your legs are sore, etc., you may have more shoes in the rotation.
  • Individual biomechanics: Certain runners need a greater degree of stability and motion control out of a running shoe, others tend to get certain injuries, so switching up shoes more often can help prevent overuse injuries by varying the stresses on your body.
A close-up of a salesperson holding up a running shoe.
  • Workout frequency: If you run doubles, multiple shoes in your rotation is ideal in order to ensure you have dry shoes to wear and to give the EVA foam time to rebound between workouts.
  • Terrain: You can have trail-specific shoes or shoes you like for the treadmill or track.
  • Race goals: If you’re a competitive runner, you might consider racing flats for races and certain speed workouts.
  • Climate: Running in wet shoes is no fun, so if you live somewhere where it rains a lot, or in a tropical location where your running shoes get sweaty, rotating your running shoes will ensure your shoes are dry when it’s time to run.
  • Budget: Obviously the more shoes you have in your running shoe rotation, the higher the initial cost, so consider what your budget is and work within your means. You can sometimes get deals if you buy multiple shoes at once.

It probably didn’t take much persuading, but are you now convinced you need to start collecting a couple more pairs of running shoes for your very own running shoe rotation?

One thing to be sure of when buying new running shoes is that they fit correctly. You don’t want to take them home only to find out on your first run that they are too narrow or too wide. Take a look at our handy guide before you venture out for your next purchase: How To Choose Running Shoes.

Running shoes drying on a fence in the sun.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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