Ready to take your running to the next level (and yes, just starting out counts!)? There is one thing you should know before you pound the pavement: The shoes you wear matter.
Running shoes are designed to help you run longer and faster without any injuries. Most running stores have specialists on hand to help analyze your gait – that's runner's lingo for "watch you jog and tell you what type of shoe is right for you." Your best bet to get the correct shoe and avoid injury is to let the experts help.
Here's what they look for:
Arch. Depending on how high your arch is, you will want to look for specific shock absorption qualities in your shoe. A runner with high arches is more likely to feel the shock of hitting the ground through her lower legs. This runner should choose shoes with plenty of cushioning. People with normal arches should seek out structured cushioning, while those with flat feet will want to look for shoes with lots of support, as flat feet tend to cause poor natural shock absorption.
Motion. The way you push off on your foot, called "pronation," determines the best type of shoe for you, too.
· Neutral pronation. If you push off evenly from the front of the foot, you have "neutral pronation," which means your body absorbs the impact when you run, rather than your knees and joints.
· Supination. Runners with "supination," also called "under-pronation," push off from the small toes at the outside of the foot when running, which can result in a high-impact landing. These runners need plenty of cushioning and flexibility.
· Over-pronation. If you push off from the large toes along the inside of your foot when you run, you "over-pronate," which can lead to knee and joint injury. The best shoes for this type of runner offer stability and motion control.
Strike. The way your foot hits the ground also plays an important role in finding the right shoe. Determine whether you strike the ground with your forefoot, midfoot or heel. Runner's World suggests the Asics GT 2160 for runners with a forefoot (toe) strike, since it has a softer gel and foam midsole. This helps absorb impact when the toe hits the ground. Midfoot runners should look for shoes with good stability to support the whole foot when it hits the ground, like the Adidas adiStar Ride 2. Those with a heel strike should choose a shoe with extreme heel cushioning like the Puma Complete Velosis 2.
Location. Where will you be running? "Road" running shoes tend to be designed for pavement and other even, hard surfaces (like a treadmill), and are usually light and flexible. If you prefer to run in the woods or off the beaten track, consider the "trail" category of running shoes. These shoes can suit most pronations, but may also have features like rugged outsoles, water resistance or special construction designed to keep debris out.
With the right shoe, you can reduce your risk of injury and be a more efficient runner. And a healthier runner is a happier runner!