One of the great things about running is that you really don’t need much to get started. The most important piece of kit is some comfortable running shoes or trainers. Of course you’ll need clothing too, but you can start out in a pair of jogging bottoms or shorts, and a t-shirt until you’ve been for a few runs and want to do it more regularly.
What is a Gait Analysis?
You can spend well over £100 on a pair of running shoes, but if you’re new to running you can get a basic pair for much less. And once you’re running more often you will be in a much better place to decide what you need from your shoes.
Before you do buy your first pair of running shoes, it’s a good idea to get a free gait analysis done in your local store so you can find the most suitable shoes for you. This generally takes the form of a quick run on a treadmill to determine your running style, which can be an important factor in helping you to avoid injury. Your running gait, consisting of five main phases, is the way your foot strikes and leaves the floor with each stride. The five phases are:
- Stance: when your foot first strikes the ground.
- Loading: From when your heel hits the ground to the moment your forefoot touches down.
- Mid-stance: The point where your heel starts to lift and your forefoot flexes.
- Toe-off: When your foot leaves the ground.
- Swing: The time between your foot leaving the ground and touching again.
Gait analysis can be used to see how your foot rolls as you run, and if there are any misalignments with your ankles or knees as you land. Once your gait has been analysed you’ll know whether you have an overpronation, an underpronation, or a neutral stride so you can find the shoe that suits your running style, with comfort and support being key.
Pronation refers to the way in which your foot rolls inwards as it strikes the floor. It’s your body’s way of distributing impact, and a natural part of the gait cycle. Understanding your pronation type is important for selecting the right type of running shoe and ultimately could help you to avoid injury.
- Overpronation: applies to around 70% of the population. As the foot touches the floor, it rolls inwards excessively, transferring weight to the inner edge of the foot, instead of centering it on the ball of the foot. It’s also common in runners with low arches or flat feet.
- Underpronation: also known as supination, happens with the ankle doesn’t roll inwards very far when landing or pushing off. This causes a jarring effect and shock through the lower leg. It’s common in runners with high arches.
- Neutral: pronation is when the foot rolls inwards naturally (around 15%), distributing weight evenly and helping to absorb shock. On push off, there is an even distribution of pressure from the front of the foot, and this is exactly what we want to achieve. If you’re an over or underpronator, the type of shoes recommended to you will be those which aim to give you neutral pronation.
What running shoes do I need?
There are two main categories of running shoe; structured and neutral. Structured shoes are recommended for runners who are mild to moderate overpronators and who generally have low to normal arches. These runners need a shoe with good support and midsole cushioning. Neutral shoes are recommended for most runners. They don’t offer much support or cushioning as it's not generally needed for runners which are midfoot or forefoot strikers with high or normal arches. Your gait analysis will determine what sort of runner you are.
When it comes to size, it’s really important to try different brands and sizes on. When you run, you increase the amount of force being put through the foot, which causes the foot to spread inside the shoe. This means that your shoes could start to feel a bit small after a couple of miles. As a general rule there should be a thumbs-width of space between the top of your big toe and the front of the shoe. This may mean going up a size to what you’d normally wear day-to-day.
It's advised that you replace your running shoes around every 12 months or so (or after 300 miles). This is because the foam cushioning in the sole loses its springiness after continued use. 300 miles may sound a lot if you’re a beginner, but it’s worth keeping a running diary so you can keep track of how many miles you’re doing.
What clothing should I wear for running?
If you’re going out running, you’ll want to wear something comfortable. Don’t wear anything that will restrict your movement, which doesn’t mean you have to go out head-to-toe in lycra, but it’s a good idea to wear moisture-wicking fabrics. You’re sure to work up a sweat whilst running, even if you’re a beginner and doing easy runs to start with, so clothing which will draw moisture away from the body and dries quickly will be much more pleasant, whether that be leggings or shorts, a t-shirt or a hoodie. Avoid cotton as it will hang on to your sweat, making your clothing heavy and uncomfortable.
Get yourself some anti-blister socks. They usually have a double layer which protects your feet, and significantly reduces the risk of blisters. It’s also a good idea to invest in a good sports bra. The breasts are only supported by two weak structures (skin and ligaments), so a sports bra will provide the support you need to help prevent breast pain and limit the movement when running. And if you’re running after dark (or early in the morning), stay safe with hi-viz clothing and a clip-on light to make sure you’re visible to others, especially cars.
If you’re going to be running more regularly, you might also want to get yourself a hat and gloves for the cooler weather, a running belt or small backpack for carrying your belongings, or perhaps a smartphone armband. And a water bottle is a must for keeping hydrated.
What is Trail Running?
Most of your runs will likely be on tarmac or concrete (pavements and roads) or on grass at your local park. Of course if you are lucky enough to live by the sea, a run on the beach is an excellent workout, and the perfect way to clear your mind. Then there’s trail running, which combines running and hiking, as it generally takes place on hiking trails or mountainous terrain, which can be more challenging than road and track running due to steep ascents and descents. Trail running is not recommended for beginner runners as injuries are much more common due to the uneven ground, but it’s definitely something you can work up to once you become a more confident runner. And you will need a proper pair of trail running shoes, which are usually heavier than your usual road running shoes would be, as they’re designed to support and protect the foot on rugged terrain. They will have more durable soles and a more aggressive tread pattern.