Hearing the "last click" as your favorite pair of sneakers dies is a universal experience. You can't wear them anymore because they're too dirty, the soles have completely flattened, or holes are appearing in the toe area.
It may seem as though you just bought those shoes yesterday, but in reality, they may be years old and show no signs of wear. In either case, your favorite sneakers will eventually "pass on," for lack of a better term.
To what extent, though, should these sneakers hold up? What is the typical lifespan of a pair of shoes?
On the topic of how long a pair of sneakers should last, opinions from both scientists and shoemakers vary widely. While some say you should toss your kicks after a year, others insist they can last for years.
Your favorite pair of sneakers has a unique life cycle that depends on a variety of factors throughout the course of their use.
Learn more about the sneaker life cycle and how long your shoes should last by reading on!
Yes, but it depends on the sneaker.
It is important to remember that the life cycle of sneakers can vary depending on the brand and the type of sneaker being discussed.
Converse or other fast fashion sneakers aren't going to hold up as well as a pair of sustainable comfort knit sneakers made from post-consumer plastics. Fast-fashion sneakers are designed rapidly to accommodate specific emerging trends. It's possible that your new pair of shoes won't last as long as you'd like due to the low quality of the materials used.
It's a sad truth of consumerism that many businesses deliberately create low-quality goods with the goal of encouraging rapid product turnover and repeat sales.
Some shoe companies, however, like KOKOLU, have managed to successfully merge form and function to produce a timeless shoe that will remain a staple in your closet for years to come. Our mission is to lessen the textile industry's ecological footprint by designing products that are both fashionable and fun to use.
A shoe made from low-quality synthetic materials, for example, will wear out much faster than one made from high-quality organic or recycled materials.
It's only logical that extending the life of your sneakers would be a priority if you're concerned about the environment.
How Active You Are Makes a Difference
How long your sneakers last is proportional to how much use you get out of them. If you regularly use your sneakers for running, hiking, or climbing, you probably put a lot of strain on them. Conversely, if you're the type to take things easy and wear your sneakers only around the house, you might be waiting a while before they show any signs of wear.
There is zero embarrassment attached to either option.
You can't be physically active without a sturdy pair of sneakers, but it's inevitable that they will wear out after some time. In fact, there is a risk of injury if you keep working out in shoes past their expiration date. Therefore, it is essential to work out while wearing well-maintained sneakers.
Wearing the same pair of sneakers to the gym every day will cause them to wear out faster than is ideal, but shoes in general have a shelf life.
It is up to you to determine how active and fit you want to be, but it is undeniable that the more often you wear out a pair of shoes, the sooner you will need to buy a new pair.
In this Case, Quantity Is Not Everything
However much we may adore them, shoes are not sentient beings; this is a fact that everyone can agree on. In light of this, it is unreasonable to expect a shoe's lifespan to be quantifiable in the same way that the age of a dog, cat, or human being is.
Shoes have a finite lifespan that fluctuates with factors like how often they are worn, the quality of their construction, the level of wear and tear they endure, and so on.
There is no hard and fast rule about how often you should replace your shoes with new ones.
However, there are telltale symptoms to indicate that your shoes have run their course. You'll know it's time to bid your old kicks farewell if you try them on and notice any of the following problems: damage, misshapenness, discomfort, looser fit, or extreme filth.
Sneaker Culture, Deconstructed
The factors that should be considered when deciding whether or not to retire your kicks have been uncovered, allowing us to analyze and categorize the various states through which sneakers pass.
Brand new and straight from the shoebox
Your sneakers were manufactured somewhere, transported to a department store or shoe store, and put on display for you to buy. Then fate brought you together as you strolled (or scrolled) by, and instant attraction ensued. Forget about it; you needed them.
At this point, shoes are at their optimal best. They've never been worn before, but they're brand new and ready to be broken in.
A pair of sneakers has a beginning in the shoebox and an end on your feet, but every cycle has to start somewhere.
The active period of a shoe's life cycle occurs after it has been broken in and has become a regular shoe hookup.
Like we've already established, this time frame is entirely contingent on the person wearing the shoes. Someone could be using their sneakers on the daily for activities as varied as running on a treadmill, hiking, playing pickup basketball, and so on.
Conversely, someone else might wear sneakers more casually, reserving them for days when they know they'll be on their feet for longer (such as shopping days). As long as your sneakers are being worn, this timeframe counts as part of their lifespan.
This is the Time to Recycle
Everything that's good must eventually end. You can say goodbye to your beloved sneakers, because the same holds true for them. Shoe replacement is required at this stage because the shoes are worn out and falling apart. Sometimes this lifecycle is cut short because you've grown tired of a certain pair of sneakers.
For whatever reason, this is the end of the line for these shoes.
When their useful lives are over, hundreds of millions of shoes are discarded annually and end up in landfills, where they pollute the environment and take almost a millennium to decompose. Even though throwing away your old sneakers may feel like the most logical and final step in the sneaker's life cycle, you don't have to. Avoid adding to the local landfill by finding alternative uses for your old footwear.
It's a simple next step in the life cycle of your shoes to recycle them. The most trustworthy and best option for our planet and humanity is to donate your old shoes to Soles4Souls or to your local shoe retailer, but there are other places where you can recycle your shoes.
Donating used shoes to Soles4Souls extends the life of the shoe, benefits those in need, and keeps them out of landfills.
Even if your shoes are too worn out to donate, you can still drop them off at a shoe store, as these establishments often accept and responsibly dispose of worn out footwear.
Instead of ending your sneakers' "life" by letting them rot in a landfill, recycle them and give them a new lease on life.
In Sneakers Forever
Inevitably, your sneakers will reach the end of their useful life, and you'll have to let them move on to the recycling process.
Although it may be difficult to quantify the lifespan of a sneaker, this does not mean that there isn't one. Every pair of shoes goes through a cycle of being bought, worn, and, ideally, reused.
The most important thing to remember about your sneakers is that they can be recycled. It's crucial that everyone adopt eco-friendly habits. You can make a huge difference by recycling your sneakers after they have served their purpose.
And when your current pair of shoes finally do give out, you can replace them with something both fashionable and environmentally friendly by shopping for a pair of KOKOLU's eco-friendly comfort knit sneakers. In terms of style, they're a move you won't be sorry you made.
SoleScience Custom Orthotics | When to Replace Old Shoes
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: How to Prevent Exercise-Related Injuries
The Truth About the Sneaker Mountain and Why Some Soles Last a Millenium in a Landfill | Fashion | The Guardian.