Running is great exercise. It burns a lot of calories, improves coordination, and is one of the best ways to strengthen your heart and even your bones! The endorphins you release while running can also improve your mood and beat stress—in fact, many people say that the ‘runner’s high’ is one of the best rewards of this sport!
But before you get into a running routine, you need to invest in a good pair of shoes. Sneakers aren’t enough. Your shoes should absorb 2.5 times your body weight each time your feet strike the ground. Otherwise, you put yourself at risk for injury. Here are some tips.
1. Know your feet.
Everyone walks (and runs) a particular way. Some people tend to turn in (or ‘pronate’) their feet; others turn them out (or ‘supinate’). Take a good look at your favorite pair of sneakers and see where they’re most worn out. This will give you an idea of where you should get the most support.
You should also look at your arch height. To do this, wet the soles of your feet and then step on a piece of paper. Look at your foot print. If you see your whole foot, then you have low arches, and your body may compensate by overpronating. If there’s a thin gap between the heel and toe, than you have high arches, and probably compensate by supinating. ‘Neutral’ walkers/runners (who neither overpronate or supinate) leave a print where there’s a wider gap between the heel and toe—almost half of the width of the entire foot.
If you overpronate or have low arches, look for running shoes that have stiff padding on the inner sides and a dense midsole (made of polyutherane) to stabilize your step. You can also ask the store for running shoes that have ‘motion control’
If you supinate or have high arches, look for running shoes that have curved or semi-curved lasts, a midsole made of compressed EVA, and a flexible outsole. Or, in layman’s terms, you need good cushioning with padding in the heel or right under the ball of the foot. This will help you give a comfortable ‘rolling motion’ as your heel hits the ground.
Curved or semi-curved lasts are also good for ‘neutral’ walkers/runners, but look for running shoes with blended EVA-polyutherane midsoles. Ideally, the pair should have a middle level of motion control, cushioning and stability.
2. Look at where you run.
Do you run on sidewalks or on trails? Are you a ‘weekend runner’ and do this primarily for recreation or exercise, or are you planning to join races or competitions?
These factors will affect what the soles of your running shoes should be made of. If you run on rough terrain, you’ll need more durable materials. It’s best to go to a sports store that has a good selection of running shoes, and then explain to the sales people what your running regimen will be like.
3. Consider the weight of the running shoes.
Heavy running shoes can literally weigh you down. As a general rule, motion-control shoes are the heaviest. Stability and cushioning shoes are lighter.
Assuming you have no problem with your arches, you will be most comfortable in stability shoes since they aren’t designed to change or compensate for your natural stride. But those who do supinate or overpronate do need the special support—even if the shoes are heavier, the curves and padding will prevent injury and ‘stress’ on your feet, so you’ll be able to run longer without feeling pain.
However, if you’re a serious runner that’s out to join competitions, the weight of the shoe is definitely crucial to your performance. Go for lightweight training shoes. Unfortunately these won’t have any ‘therapeutic’ features, but your coach can help you look for ways to adjust your gait or strengthen your foot muscles.
3. Shop with the right socks.
When you go buy your running shoes, bring the socks that you’d probably wear with them. This will help you pick the accurate size, and make sure that there’s plenty of room to wriggle your toes. Some people suggest buying shoes in the afternoon, when your feet have expanded/swollen from walking around.
4. Give the shoes a ‘trial run.’
Don’t just slip on the running shoes when you try them on in the store. Lace them up, and jog in place and jump. This gives you an idea of the kind of support/cushioning they provide, plus their weight and the way they ‘feel’ on your feet. Bend your feet, too (by tiptoeing around, and crouching with your heels slightly off the ground) to see how flexible the soles are.
5. Get customer reviews.
Good running shoes can be expensive—but it’s really better to get great shoes that will last you long time, than waste money on a cheap, uncomfortable pair that you’ll never wear again. To get the best value for your money, research on what fellow runners say about different brands. There are just some things you can’t find out in the few minutes you spend trying out shoes in a store. For example, is the shoe fabric ‘breathable’? Does it feel hot and constricting after a few jogs around the block? Or, how does the sole hold up against rough, rocky mountain paths? Learn from the experiences of other runners and check what they say in forums and blogs.