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5 Ways to Determine When You Need a New Pair of Mens Sneakers

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5 Ways to Determine When You Need a New Pair of Mens Sneakers

They may be dirty and a little smelly at times, but this does not necessarily mean that a pair of men ’ s sneakers needs to be replaced. There are better ways to tell if the shoe’s structure is breaking down (or has already) to the point where the sneakers are no longer useful. First, owners should know the different parts of a sneaker to be familiar with the terminology as they read on to the steps for determining replacement. The five methods for determining replacement are designed to help buyers know when to keep and when to toss. Next, tips will be given on how to increase the longevity of a new pair of sneakers. Finally, helpful shopping tips make finding replacement sneakers easier.

Anatomy of a Sneaker

In order to better understand how to look for wear and tear on a pair of sneakers, one must be familiar with the names of the different parts of the shoe. The following chart lists and defines these parts.

Shoe Part



The front part of the shoe in which the toes sit

Toe cap

Extra leather, rubber, or other reinforcing material at the very front of the shoe where scuffs and wear are common


The back part of the shoe in which the heel rests

Heel counter

A stiff form, often of plastic, that maintains the shape of the heel

Heel tab

A loop of material at the top of the heel that assists in pulling the shoe onto the foot


What is commonly referred to as the "sole," this is the bottom surface of the shoe, which contacts the ground


The thickness or cushioning between the insole and outsole, visible from a side or rear view, sometimes measuring an inch or more


The inside horizontal surface of the shoe on which the entire foot rests


Everything below the foot (insole, midsole, and outsole)


Everything above the sole, covering the top and sides of the foot


The front part of the upper


The sides and rear portion of the upper

Ankle collar

The top of the shoe that encircles the ankle and is frequently padded


The flap that covers the instep of the foot, over which the laces are tied


The reinforced holes through which the shoe laces are threaded and tied

Additional terminology is used for dress and other types of shoes, but this chart features the essential parts of a sneaker or athletic shoe.

When to Buy New Sneakers: Use Your Senses

While the general rule is to replace a pair of athletic shoes every 500 miles, not everyone writes down or memorizes every step they take in their shoes. Moreover, it is hard to determine how many miles are run or walked in a basketball game, in the gym, and so on. The best way to tell if a new pair of sneakers is needed is to gain as much information as possible by using the five senses (with the exception of taste; even a brand-new pair of sneakers will not rank highly in that category).

1. Look at the Sneakers

All shoes get dirty and grungy, but this in itself is not an indicator of wear. Almost all shoes can be cleaned up somewhat and made to look fresh; however, there are signs of deterioration that can be visibly detected with a quick inspection.


Turn the shoe over and look at the bottom tread. Worn tread increases chances of slipping but also indicates an overall aging and breakdown of the shoe’s support. Treads that have worn thin in particular spots may indicate pronation problems, meaning that the foot tends to roll to the outside or inside when it strikes the ground. Also, look for wrinkles and cracks on the bottom of the shoe, indicating a deterioration of the material in the sole.


Examine the insole to see if it has become compressed and conforms to the shape of the foot. If the footprint is permanently indented in the insole and visible, this means that the cushioning has been flattened out and is no longer able to do its job.


The upper is not crucial to foot health; it is more of a protective covering and a means to keep the sneaker on the foot. That being said, aging and breakdown of the upper are indicative of overall wear and possibly a sign that unseen deterioration is taking place as well. Holes, loose threads, or the upper coming unglued from the sole are all signs that a sneaker is past its prime.

2. Touch the Sneakers

Turn the shoe onto its side and try to squeeze the midsole by pushing the bottom of the shoe towards the top of the shoe. If there is plenty of air and cushioning left in the midsole, wrinkles will be apparent. If there is little to no give and no lines appear, that means that the midsole has already been compressed and is unable to cushion the feet adequately. On the other hand, if lines and wrinkles are visible without any pressure, that means that the breakdown process has begun.

Also, flex and bend the shoe. New sneakers are stiffer and become more flexible over time. A supportive sneaker should not easily bend in the middle; one that does is not sturdy enough to protect the foot.

Listen to Your Body

While it’s possible to feel the sneakers in order to detect wear and tear, it’s also possible to feel signs in one’s own body that the sneakers are no longer performing. When the cushioning in any pair of shoes begins to break down, the body will notice it before the brain does. Unusual and uncomfortable sensations in the feet, legs, hips, or back are signals that footwear is no longer performing as it should. These sensations may be felt while wearing the shoes or afterwards. Muscle aches and joint pains may become a problem. More serious or lasting problems that can result from wearing old sneakers include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and stress fractures.

4. Listen to the Sneakers

Everyone is familiar with the squeak of basketball shoes on a gymnasium floor, which is fairly normal. On the other hand, sneakers that start to squeak after a period of silence may be trying to say something. Squeaking can indicate that parts of the shoe are coming loose or unglued. It can also be the result of tread wear or shoes that are sopping wet (which causes damage if the shoes become wet frequently). While not a primary test, new sounds from formerly quiet shoes may be a sign that it is time for a new pair.

5. Smell the Sneakers

It sounds like a joke, but a permanent "fragrance" emanating from those shoes is a sign that they have become permeated with moisture and bacteria. This is an unhealthy environment for feet. All shoes smell right after they are removed from the feet, but a lingering odor is a telltale sign of age.

Make the Next Pair Last Longer

Good sneakers are expensive, and if they are worn frequently, they will wear out relatively quickly, usually in about six months to a year. Luckily, there are several easy ways to improve the longevity of the next pair.

Use the Laces

Shoe laces are there for a reason. It may seem cool or just easy to pull or kick shoes off, but this causes damage to the shoe uppers over time. The shoes and particularly the ankle collar will stretch, resulting in a poor fit and possibly blistering around the heel area. The upper may also start to separate from the sole with repeated improper removal.

Buy Two Pairs

If the budget allows for it, always buy one pair of sneakers for street wear and keep another pair strictly for sports activities. Buy the best athletic shoe that can be afforded for the ultimate comfort and safety; by reserving it strictly for sports use, the life will automatically be extended. The fashion sneakers may be less expensive or of a slightly lower quality and still be sufficient for walking and performing day-to-day activities.

Owning two separate pairs of sneakers also gives each pair a chance to air out and dry out between wearings. Wearing one pair of sneakers constantly almost guarantees that they will be damp with perspiration and harbor microorganisms that can break the shoe materials down.

Air Them Out

Whether a man has two pairs of sneakers or one, one of the keys to increasing the useful life of the shoes is to ensure that they stay dry. Rotating to different shoes is helpful. On casual days in warm weather, consider switching to a pair of sport sandals or flip-flops.

Light and air discourage the growth of many bacteria and fungi. When the shoes are not being worn, they should be taken out of the gym bag and placed on a flat surface, away from each other and not touching any other shoes. Do not throw them into a dark, closed closet or pile them on top of other shoes. Giving the shoes space increases air flow between, around, and through the sneakers, which helps them dry out and stay fresh. Also, loosen the shoe laces enough so that the tongue can be flipped out to open up the shoe for increased ventilation.

Use Odor Fighters

Sprinkle some baking soda inside the shoes after they are removed. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer that also absorbs moisture.

Odor-fighting insoles can also help. In fact, any removable insoles will help, as they can be removed once they become smelly. Replacing the shoe’s original insoles is more of a hassle and more costly, but it may be less expensive than buying a new pair of shoes if odor is the only problem.

Practice Good Foot Hygiene

Feet should be washed with deodorant soap during every shower or bath. Clean between the toes and use a brush to scrub the toenails. Inspect the feet and take care of any problems or suspicious symptoms. Conditions such as athlete’s foot, corns and calluses, and even toe jam involve a buildup of dead skin cells, which bacteria love to feed upon, thereby increasing foot and shoe odors.

Where to Find Men’s Sneakers

Sneakers may be bought at department stores, sporting goods stores, running stores, shoe stores, or online. Consider buying two pairs at once, as discussed earlier. Look for "Buy One Get One" or "BOGO" specials.

Shoes that have been on a shelf or in a warehouse for several months or more will actually decrease in cushioning power, as air leeches out of the spaces in the cushion material. So, if the shoes are on sale, check with a sales clerk to see how old the shoes are. A clearance shoe may not be a bargain if its life has already been cut due to its age.

There are stores that offer a discount for bringing in old sneakers. Some of these companies actually test the worn shoes to develop new technologies; others recycle the shoes. Even if there is no monetary bonus for doing so, recycling an old pair is a good idea.

How to Buy Men’s Sneakers on eBay

eBay simplifies the sneaker shopping experience. Through the Fashion portal, go to Men ’ s Shoes and click on the Athletic footwear icon. From there, choose from among Athletic Sneakers, Basketball Shoes, Running, Cross Training, Skateboarding, or Walking styles (as well as other types of athletic footwear that do not fall under the Sneaker classification).

You can easily narrow the listings to those that match your shoe size and width. You can also shop by searching for particular brands or colors. Shoppers who are on a budget may be interested in pre-owned sneakers; however, check descriptions carefully and ask questions of the seller regarding the age and condition of the shoes. Entering a price range for new or used shoes will also help with budgeting as you search the available listings.


To summarize, anyone who depends on sneakers for true athletic-level support, comfort, and protection should replace the sneakers as soon as there is any doubt as to their performance. Those who wear sneakers primarily for fashion can be more lenient about replacement. Regardless, learning the parts of the shoe will make a consumer more knowledgeable when it comes to shopping for those replacements and keeping an eye on the condition of their current shoes. By looking, touching, listening, and smelling, one can determine if it is time to get a new pair of sneakers. Tips on handling shoes and keeping them clean and dry will extend the life of any athletic footwear or footwear in general.

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