As winter comes to an end and spring begins, more people take their exercise to the outdoors. Running provides one of the easiest ways to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and take your exercise to scenic areas near you. This guide can help new to experienced runners gear up and gear down to prevent a trip to the specialists.
Anatomy of a running shoe
Running shoes have two main sections: the upper and the lower sole. The upper contains the fabric part of the shoe, generally made of breathable materials to keep feet from becoming overly sweaty. Parts of the upper include the laces, tongue, toe box, heel tab, and heel collar. The laces keep your shoe on your foot while the tongue protects added pressure from the laces.
A toe box is the front of the shoe where, naturally, your toes go. Shoes that accommodate your toes can prevent cramped spaces and swelling during running, making this section one of the most considerable for an optimal running experience. The heel tab and collar work together to keep the upper around your heel, and should comfortably hold your heel in place without excessive rubbing or movement.
The sole consists of two major parts: the midsole and the outsole. The midsole contains foam in between the insole and the outsole. This section determines how padded your shoes will be. This can add extra thickness and cushioning for extra comfort, or cater to more minimalistic padding for thinner, lighter shoes. Most mainstream brands include patented materials and fabrics throughout the midsoles for specialty designs and purposes. Lastly, the outsole directly connects shoe-to-ground with its rubbery bottom for added grip and impact points.
For more detailed information, check out the Running Shoe Guru’s article, “Anatomy of a Running Shoe – with Infographic.”
The right shoe
To find the right shoe for your needs, consider the basic anatomy of the shoe and what purposes you intend to use them for, i.e. trails, pavement, gravel, sand or otherwise. Before buying shoes online or in the store, try different sizes, styles, and brands to find the most comfortable and compatible fits. Some shoe stores, like Fleet Feet Sports, have associates trained to help recommend the right fit and style for your foot. For any concerns or questions related to foot problems, consult your doctor for issues regarding plantar fasciitis, hammer toe, fat pad syndrome, or others to better inform you of shoe recommendations and remedies.
Types of Running
Depending on your experience, your location, or your preference, many styles of running are available to try. Cross-country runners use natural terrain like grass, dirt, and gravel. Typically along unnatural paths, some routes are unmarked with narrow trails allowing a runner an organic outdoor running experience. Organized cross-country races traditionally range anywhere from 2.5 miles to 7.5 miles.
Taking running to the streets and sidewalks is a common way to expand your terrain within town. Flat pavement and cement sidewalks can provide a solid surface for new to intermediate runners, while also providing a change of scenery from the treadmill or gym. The hard surface may prove painful or jarring at first, so plan accordingly to ease joints and muscles into your new routine.
Trail running is similar to road running with less impact on your ankles and knees, depending on your trail of choice. Pavement can be worse for your knees than dirt or grass, making trail running a better strengthening exercise for familiarizing yourself on a run.
Start where you are. As a beginning runner, odds are you aren’t out for a 5 mile trek. Gradually work your way up to running, and start with a light jog with intermittent increases. As a guide, start with three, 20 minute runs a week. As you become familiar with your own stamina and running style, you can phase out the walking to add hills or extra variations to challenge your body. Once you build consistent endurance, set goals with allotted times and distances to measure your progress.
Maintaining an active body with regular exercise can add strength and stamina to your runs without the risk of unnecessary injury. Lifting weights or adding strength training exercises like yoga, cycling, and swimming can improve your body's ability to handle the added stress on your joints and muscles.
On days that you run, always incorporate a stretching routine to warm up and cool down before and after workouts. Muscle strains and tears are frequent occurrences for active runners, making stretching a preventative measure for most injuries.
As you begin your running journey, you’ll likely experience some soreness and pain. Listen to your body to determine whether you’re experiencing uncharacteristic pains to prevent further damage or permanent conditions. Are you noticing severe ankle pains? Stop running; consult a specialist to evaluate the seriousness of your condition. Even mild pains should be seriously considered before continuing your running routine. Stay informed and stay observant of symptoms like swelling, pinched skin or nerves, bruising, stiffness, and an inability to support your weight. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your doctor to get back to running the way you love most.