Running is hard work, but it’s such an easy sport to begin. You don’t need a $1000 bike, racquets, clubs, a court, a gym or a boat. Just lace up a good pair of running shoes and you’re out the door. Running shoes are the only necessary equipment, but they are fundamental to a good running experience.
If you can’t find a pair of running shoes that works for you, it’s likely you’ll give up the sport entirely or suffer through it with needless pain or injury.
Running is tough on the hips, legs and feet. But unless you have a congenital problem requiring a special attention by a sports physician, the running shoes on the market today are designed to protect you from the stresses of relentlessly pounding the pavement. If they don’t, if you repeatedly suffer from lower leg pain, blisters, calluses, sore knees, or a host of other problems, it could be that you’re wearing the wrong running shoes.
They may be too long or short, they may not match the shape of your foot, they may be too stiff or too flexible for your needs. As incredible as it may seem, regular long-distance running should not hurt beyond normal muscular soreness during gradual training to higher mileage. If it does, it often means something is wrong with your equipment rather than yourself. By following a few simple guidelines you should be able to try several changes of shoes until you find a pair that’s suitable. If that doesn’t work, get yourself to a physician familiar with running injuries to help you find the source of the trouble.
Starting the search
There are so many running shoes to choose from you may wonder how to begin the search. Examine your feet first. There are three basic shapes to both feet and running shoes – curved, semi-curved and straight. If you stand on a sheet of paper and draw around your bare feet, the outline should match the shape of your shoes. Bring the tracing and your old pair of sneakers, which may have their own story to tell, shopping with you.
Reading the Runners’s World magazine for a preview of the new shoes coming on the market can surely help.
The most important question you should ask yourself before choosing running shoes is is how much and what kind of running you intend to do. If you’re running only an occasional mile or two, the shoes you buy don’t have to handle the rigors of someone running 50 miles per week. The same may be true if your running is restricted to a comfortable health club track rather than concrete sidewalks.
Runners can start with shoes at the lower end of the price scale for a basic, low-mileage training shoe, but should expect to pay more for special features such as extra cushioning for heavier runners or motion control devices.
Comfort cannot be stressed enough. The shoe must feel very comfortable from the first moment. Running shoes should not require much of a breaking in period. If they don’t fit, don’t think they’ll feel better in a week or a month. Spending the time to try on and compare plenty of different models will pay off.
Replace a worn pair of running shoes by mileage rather than looks. Shoes begin to lose support your foot long before the carbon rubber bottom shows wear. If the shoelaces that once were snug and short seem to have grown, consider what’s happened to the rest of the shoe.
Shoes should fit with no slippage in the heel, with the arch support in the proper place and with plenty of room, both height and length, in the toebox. Many models offer special lacing systems to customize the fit, and your shoe salesperson should show you how to use them. Shoe manufacturers offer several different technologies using air, gel, water or pumps, but they’re all about the same and perform the same function, cushioning. Choose running shoes that fit your foot first.
Choose running shoes based on the characteristics of each particular model. Some are noted for flexibility, some for cushioning, some for their extra support features like heel counters and arch support. The major companies all offer some fine shoes, but fitting these shoe characteristics to your own feet should be of major concern.