When to Phase Out Sports Gear for Safety Reasons

Sports gear should be replaced for safety

When it comes to sports, especially athletes who are serious about their performance and further opportunities, equipment plays a big part in a lot of different aspects of the game. From how well they play, to how long, to if they can at all since there are a lot of requirements – sports gear can very quickly become a pricey addition to giving up evenings and weekends to get to practices or watch games. Unfortunately, some sports require more equipment than others and, for safety’s sake, need to be replaced more often.

From structural integrity to an entire change in your form that puts more pressure on your bones and joints, phasing out gear is integral to those who participate in sports regularly. If you’re not sure if you or your child’s equipment needs to be replaced, we’ve done the research for you and have come up with a list of sports and their subsequent equipment that needs to be inspected, monitored, and renewed once their time in the safety parameter is up.

Running Shoes

When it comes to specialized sports gear, running is one that doesn’t require an entire bag of different items. However, the equipment it does require – running shoes – are a very important detail that contributes both to performance and safety.

As shoes wear out, they will:

  • Lose tread, which can lead to slipping
  • Develop fabric holes in the top
  • Lose sole cushioning, which leads to more impact on your muscles and joints and more strain in your tendons and ligaments, and even stress fractures
  • Cause your gait to change with the deterioration of material

To avoid this, it is recommended that you change your running shoes out every 300-500 miles or 4-6 months. Pay attention to your runs, though, and if you run more than that, it could be sooner!

Signs that shoes (include cleats!) are getting worn down and need replacing:

  • You feel more sore or have aches and pains in your feet, ankles, knees, hips, or spine
  • You get new blisters/the shoes are uncomfortable
  • The shoe shows excessive wear or breakage on the interior or exterior
  • The shoe doesn’t feel like it protects you anymore


So many sports require cleats to play; you’ll often find that cleats are not interchangeable between each individual playing field. Even so, some are similar in regard to how long you can wear them, and others are quite different. Sports gear that is categorized as non-running shoe footwear is just as important as running shoes, but with the highly differential nature between pure running and running during a game, need to be treated differently, as well.

  • Cycling:

For these specialized cleats, it’s recommended that they’re replaced every 3,000-5,000 miles cycling or when you notice them either beginning to get stuck in the pedal or not catching on.

  • Soccer:

Usually, every season does a number on soccer cleats. By the time a full, higher-intensity season is finished, they might be holding on by a few threads! For a lower-level season, such as a recreational or school league, cleats will usually last for a couple of seasons, but replace when they begin to lose shape or form holes, since every position will have a different playing style and intensity, which affects the life of the boot.

  • Football:

Like soccer, football cleats will usually only last for one season. Depending on the surface that you’re playing on, though, you may be switching from one type of cleat to another, and each pair will last a little longer.

  • Baseball/Softball:

In general, baseball and softball cleats will last around 6 months to a year, or approximately 1-2 years of weekly games, depending on how often they’re used. If they are used in a higher league, where practices and games multiple times a week occur, then it will be much shorter. Cleats should provide stability, grip, and acceleration; once they stop giving that, it’s time to invest in a new pair.

  • Honorable mention: Skates:

With skates, since the actual fabric and material part never actually touch the ice, more often then not, it’s only the blade that needs to be replaced. It’s recommended that the blades be replaced once they are dulled down to lower than 3/8″ at the center of the ball of the foot area or the center of the heel area. In regard to the material part, you should be on the look out for loose rivets, holes, proper stiffness and support, and quality of the blade holder.

Mouth Guards

As a general rule, you should be replacing your mouth guard after every season or every 6 months. Not only does this provide cleanliness and sanitation, but mouth guards become less effective with use, thinning out and fraying and not being able to protect your teeth as well.

However, especially with younger mouth guard-wearers, there are some circumstances that they should be replaced sooner. These are:

  1. If it gets damaged, thins, or deformed
  2. If your mouth is still growing or you are undergoing orthodontic treatment
  3. If your bite has changed (losing baby teeth or getting wisdom teeth removed will both change a bite)


Depending on the sport, again, helmet replacement has a different time frame, especially in reference to the material it’s made with and how it’s used.

  • Bike helmets: Every 5-10 years depending on amount of use. More biking = sooner. Less biking = later.
  • Football helmets: The CDC recommends every helmet be replaced entirely every 10 years, but reconditioned and recertified every 2 years.
  • Batter/catcher helmets: After 10 years, batter helmets are not eligible for recertification and should therefore be replaced. However, some helmets are recommend not to recondition/recertify at all, and should be replaced every 3-5 years, depending on the quality of it.
  • Motor sports and equestrian helmets: Every 5 years is the standard, but if the material shows any signs of extreme wear and tear such as cracks, tears, breakage, or loose parts, its essential that it’s replaced sooner.


There is a lot of nuance to softball and baseball gloves, which are the two sports that use them for safety reasons along with performance.

The life and safety that a glove provides depends heavily on the use and care put into the glove. For higher leagues, the normal life of a glove is about 2 years, and then noticeable wear and tear begins to show, and the replacement happens. In order to protect the thinly covered bones in your hand from the intense and often fast-moving projectiles that you’re trying to catch, your glove needs to be up to the task of giving you the best performance and the best protection.

It’s important to phase out gloves when:

  1. The padding feels thin and your hand feels unprotected
  2. The material feels dense and heavy when you use it
  3. There is a ripping, cracking, or other physical deficiencies
  4. The form is floppy, formless, and doesn’t hold shape anymore

Bats and Rackets

With these types of very necessary pieces of sports gear across the board, phasing them out can be a question of safety, especially when considering average breakage points and whether or not the gear breaking would put anyone at risk at any given time, but more often than not, this category of gear can be phased out when it loses its functionality.

Baseball bats, with as much as they’re thrown around in proximity to other players and fans, are probably the riskiest of the items in this category, and their time in the hands of players usually lasts from 1-3 years. Especially with wooden bats, which break and shatter more often than composite and aluminum bats, there should be consistent and often inspection of bats to make sure that there are no physical deformities, rips, tears, or sharp edges present.

Tennis, pickleball, squash, badminton, etc. rackets should be inspected for any fraying of the strings, as well as any exposed material underneath the grip of the racket that might cause you pain when it twists and shifts as you play. The materials begin to break down with the nature of the game – flexing and bending in a way that, overtime, will distort the racket and cause structural degradation. It’s suggested that, on average, around every 2 years, you might want to start looking for an upgrade.

Protective Gear/Pads

In football, with as much contact as there is, it’s important for the safety gear outside of helmets to be properly cared for, reconditioned, and replaced. Shoulder pads should be cleaned and sanitized after every use, reconditioned every year, and replaced every 3-4 years. Sometimes, the retired pads can be reused and passed down to the junior varsity team for practice or a younger league that isn’t as intense as others are, but protective sports gear needs to be up to standard and able to prevent injuries in those situations for them to be ethical.

Have You Had a Sports Injury Near Louisville, KY?

If you or someone you love has suffered a sports injury in the Louisville, Kentucky-area, board certified sports medicine physician Dr. Stacie Grossfeld at Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC can help. Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC is accepting new patients, and same day appointments are available. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, please contact Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC today at 502-212-2663.