Good running shoes take on lives of their own.

The right running shoes can become fast friends. (OK, the left ones can too. Sorry, had to go there.)

I guess it’s time for me to say goodbye to some special pals. But it’s hard. It’s really hard.

It’s easy to grow rather attached to a super pair of sneakers.

Hey, we’ve all picked some real losers over the years – shoes that pinched, rubbed, scraped, or even tripped us up on the road or trail. These downer duds, which felt fine in the shoe stores, likely cost us king’s ransoms.

Breaking up with bad sneakers is pretty easy. We may grieve over the wasted coin, but we don’t miss the painful shoes. It’s a whole different story with running shoes we have grown to love.

When we find the right matches, it’s like starting wonderful partnerships.

First, we parade around in our new kicks, showing them off and breaking them in to ready them for running. We know we’ve overspent for these flashy sneakers, so we’re sort of proud of their shiny colors. We tie the laces neatly when we put them on, and we untie them gently when we take them off. We try not to scuff them up, if we can help it.

At this point, we treat our new running shoes sort of like we treat new cars. We cringe to consider the first scrapes or scratches. But this is a passing phase.

Pretty soon, we grow more comfortable with our new footwear friends. We put them to active use, probably alternating runs with older pairs. We wear them on clean runs, but we pull out weather-worn shoes for trail runs or muddy jaunts. We still lace these new sneakers up carefully, but we may sort of slip out of them after returning from runs.

As time goes on and this trusty footwear sees more mileage, we may even slip them on and scuff out to our cars, pressing down the heels. That’s the early drill on race mornings, when we grab bagels and juice and leap into the driver seats of our cars before slipping our feet all the way into our sneakers and lacing them up.

At this point, we’ve forged a fast friendship with our footwear. We have grown comfortable together.

How many pairs of sneakers should one runner own?

Eventually, we realize that our older pairs have passed their prime.

They’ve carried us faithfully for 400, 500, 600, or 1,000 miles (or whatever distances we have decided merit taking them out of our running rotations). So we retire these prized pairs, sending them into new careers as street shoes.

We cannot bring ourselves to toss these faithful old comrades into the Goodwill bag or onto the donation heap at the end of a running race. That day will surely come, but we have to sort of warm up to the idea.

We know what that day will look like. It will probably arrive when one of us tries to add one more pair of new running kicks to the overflowing shoe bin in the garage or the no-vacancy shoe rack in the closet. Or perhaps a spouse, roommate, or other loved one will simply sigh and ask:

“Gee, how many pairs of sneakers do you actually need?”

Seriously, folks. It’s a progression. Maybe it’s more like a life cycle. Running shoes go from brand-new to light use to go-to racing to everyday wear to total destruction. Is that so difficult to understand?

The middle pair has soul, but not much sole. Time to go.

Still, point taken.

OK, I will donate my oldest pair – the favorite mushy-soft Nikes with the worn-thin soles. I’m about ready for some new primo running shoes anyway. The black Brooks have probably seen 1,500-plus miles.

But can I still keep the flexy old Filas? (They’re still pretty great for knocking around town.)

Photo/s by LAN/Runderdog
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