Gear Q&A: When to Replace Shoes

by: Jon Levey May 10, 2013

AP Photo

I love how my tennis sneakers feel after several months of on-court abuse. They’re so much more comfortable than new sneakers. But I also know it’s smart to change them. How long should I play with shoes before replacing them?—Dan Z., Cranston, R.I.

You’ve probably heard that if you wait until you’re thirsty to have a drink, it’s too late—you’re already dehydrated. I feel the same way about shoes. If your traction is compromised, or after playing you feel more soreness in your ankles, knees or lower back than usual, your kicks have already passed their expiration date. They should have been banished to the locker room in the sky; attachment to a particularly comfortable, attractive, or lucky pair be damned.

Need new shoes? Check out our 2013 Shoe Guide.

However, how long it takes a player’s shoes to outlive their usefulness is not an exact science. Some factors include frequency, style of play, and court surface. A serious baseliner hitting hard courts several days a week will do more damage to his shoes than a casual doubles clay-courter. Depending on how often or aggressively you play, your footwear may need replacing every few months, or once a year.

But rather than turn it into a guessing game, I find it simpler to pick a specific date to replace my shoes. For instance, I play all year round, with the greater frequency over the spring and summer seasons. So I choose a day in the winter (January) and another six months later (June) to replace my shoes. This way, my shoes straddle the busiest parts of my tennis calendar, leaving plenty of tread left for the fall and winter months which see less court time, but more hard court play. Speculation and sentiment are taken out of the equation.

Jon Levey is an editor-at-large for TENNIS. You can e-mail him here.

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