Running on the Right Foot
Congratulations! You’ve just committed yourself to a fitness program that includes running. Now what?
Here’s how to start it off on the right foot, literally.
Proper running shoes aren’t a luxury, they’re the necessary piece of equipment that will take you from plop-plop-plopping down the street or trail to producing a more natural, comfortable foot strike that will help lessen your chance of injury as your program progresses.
You can buy running shoes from places like Kohl’s, Dick’s or online stores, but you won’t be getting the custom fit to your foot that you will by stepping into a reputable running shoe store like the Emmaus Run Inn.
“My background was to go to school to make shoes and orthotics,” explained Chris Schmidt, owner of Emmaus Run Inn. “What we offer is an evaluation of your foot type. We’re going to measure it properly, evaluate the foot for what type of shoe is best, and then have them run on it outside the store or inside on a treadmill to make sure we’ve matched them up with the proper shoe. I’ve trained all my staff to do this.”
Running shoes, like feet, come in many shapes, sizes (and in the case of running shoes, brand names). Schmidt said there are a few simple things to know about feet, especially your own.
Some people have high arches, some low arches, some medium arches, and from there, there are flexible arches and rigid arches. The ideal is to have a somewhat flexible arch that acts as a shock absorber.
All feet “roll” when striking the ground from heel to toe. Pronation is a small amount of roll from the outside of the foot to the inside of the foot, which is considered normal.
People with higher arches tend to under pronate, which is when the foot doesn’t roll much toward the inside and stays on the outside edge.
Finally, people with flatter feet usually see their foot strike roll in too much, which is over pronation.
Schmidt said that determining a person’s pronation pattern goes a long way into putting them into the proper type of shoe, whether that’s cushioned, moderate support, stability or motion control shoes. Each type is designed for a specific type of pronation.
Beyond that, Schmidt said running stores give a person a chance to test more styles to find a shoe that is a perfect fit for them.
“People are very different when it comes to feel,” he said. “Some people want something that feels really soft. That’s a feel. I always prefer something a little firmer. What I might love, the next person might hate. We can find something based on what they need that feels more comfortable to them, instead of them finding a comfortable feel that doesn’t really provide the function they need for their foot.”
Proper running shoes are a great start for your running program, but there’s some other gear you will find useful as well.
Clothing – Schmidt recommends wicking-type fabric. For summer, lighter weight running shorts with liners and running shirts should have wicking properties to pull the sweat away from the skin and allow the fabric to dry quickly. Cotton is not a good choice because it retains moisture, gets heavy, and in the winter, can cause you to get cold and stay cold once it gets wet.
Socks – Just like with running clothing, Schmidt recommends wicking-type of materials. Gone are the days of the white sock mandate for athletic activities. “We probably sell more of the black and darker socks now than we do of white anymore,” Schmidt said.
Caps and sunglasses – Protecting your eyes is critical, no matter how much or how little time you spend outdoors. Caps and sunglasses are personal preferences, but the beak of the hat keeps the sun out of the eyes and provides shade for the face, and proper UV-rated sunglasses protect your precious vision.
Sunscreen – An absolute must to protect your body from the sun’s harmful rays.
Hydration packs – As you begin to run longer distances, hydrating during your run is a key component to success and safety. You can utilize anything from a handheld water bottle with a strap, to a running belt that holds water bottles, to a hydration pack that you wear on your back.
Goos and gels – Again, like hydration, the longer you’re out, the more energy you need. When runs or walks start approaching 90 minutes or so, energy goos and gels provide a much needed shot of nutrients to keep you from bonking or “hitting the wall.”
Watches – You can use anything from a simple stopwatch to the most sophisticated watches that record temperature during your run, steps taken, pace, heart rate and more. Your budget determines what you need.
Music – In these days of distracted driving, you don’t want to be a distracted runner. Schmidt recommends the Aftershokz type of headphones which don’t cover your ears. They transfer the sound through bone conduction, keeping your ears open for important sounds around you.