One of the joys of running is that you need very little equipment to participate. Of course there are plenty of running gadgets and goodies that companies would love you to spend your hard earned cash on, but you really can get by without them. There really is only one essential item that you shouldn’t scrimp on – and that is your trainers.
Your trainers or running shoes will help limit the chance of getting injured and make your running experience a lot more comfortable. Whilst you may start out in your gym trainers or tennis shoes they are not a long term option and you should get yourself along to a specialist running shop as soon as you can.
Running shoes have been designed specifically for running and to support the foot (and therefore the body) in relation to the movements that come from running. There are different types of running shoes depending on the amount of support an individual needs, but generally they are classed as;
Neutral – for runners whose running style is generally efficient and the body follows the natural movement patterns that the musculo-skeletal system was designed for!
Stability – for runners who pronate when they run (typically the foot rolls inwards).
Motion Control – for runners who supinate when their foot strikes the ground (foot rolls onto the outside edge).
Getting the right shoe is important so take the time to get some advice from a podiatrist or biomechanics service. The upfront investment is worth it to reduce the chance of injury and spending money on shoes that don’t work for you.
When it comes to shoe manufacturers pick the most comfortable shoe for you. Don’t be swayed by branding or colour scheme. Mizuno, Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Saucony, Asics and Brooks are some of the most popular brands, all reputable and all producing great running shoes. However each company builds their shoes on a different last and to a different design – some will suit your foot shape, some won’t. Go with what works for you.
When you go to get your shoes fitted make sure you take your running socks with you, try to go in the afternoon when your feet have spread a little more as this will enable a more realistic fit. Don’t be surprised if you end up with a shoe 1 – 1.5 sizes bigger than your day shoes. The feet will need the room after a long run. Take your time in selecting your shoe, don’t be forced into a hasty decision and make sure you at least run around the shop in them. Some shops will have a treadmill or may even let you run in the street outside.
At the moment, one of the current trends in running is to run barefoot. This phenomenon has arisen mainly due to the publishing of a very well written and enjoyable book called Born to Run, its author Chris McDougall having spent time with the Tarahumara, a tribe with super-endurance who shun modern running shoes and run either barefoot or in minimal homemade sandals. There is a large following of the barefoot revolution, swearing it has eliminated injuries, increased speed and changed their gait. And there is plenty of evidence to support these claims, but in the modern world it is not necessarily a realistic option.
However there are now several companies producing shoes that mimic being forefoot – such as the Vibram Five Fingers. These are definitely worth a try, but wear them in slowly as it can take time for the foot to strengthen sufficiently to cope without the cushioning and protection of a conventional trainer.