By CHRIS MORRIS
Running as a fitness tool or for enjoyment has hit its stride in the past decade. More people, of all ages, have realized the benefits that come from lacing up a pair of shoes and hitting the pavement.
But, it’s not that simple.
Before starting a running regimen, there are several factors you must consider in order to avoid injury and to make the experience more enjoyable. The most important first step is to be fitted in a pair of running shoes.
While choosing a shoe may not seem difficult, it’s important to be fitted properly by professionals in order to avoid injuries, according to Pacers & Racers owner Mike Stallings.
He said while a specific brand of shoe may work for one person, it could be totally wrong for another. While your buddy may wear Asics, New Balance may be the best shoe for you.
“Not one size fits all,” said Stallings, who opened his running store in New Albany in 1998.
Choosing the right shoe is a must in order to fully enjoy the 92 benefits a person receives from running, Stallings said, but he added nothing good can be gained from wearing the wrong shoe.
“You are just setting yourself up for injury,” he said.
Stallings and his staff take each customer out in front of their store and have them walk or run a few yards under their supervision. From there, they work on finding the right shoe for that person.
“If you have a flat foot, we have a shoe for that,” he said. “Some runners hit the pavement on the outside of the heel, some on the inside. Some people strike the pavement with the ball of their foot while others we fit in what we call neutral shoes. You need to be fitted properly before starting a running regimen.”
And running styles change, which means a shoe that worked for someone five years ago may be totally wrong now which is why Stallings said you always need to be fitted.
“Even in families people have different styles, different makeup,” he said. “When you don’t get fitted properly you are just asking for trouble. That is why we don’t sell on the Internet. You can’t buy anything from us on our site. You can’t just assume you know what kind of shoe you need because body mechanics can change.”
He also said it’s important to know when a shoe is worn out. He says a running shoe starts breaking down around 400 miles. Stallings also said you can tell if it’s time for new shoes if the tread starts to wear or when your body starts telling you in the way of knee and hip pain.
And he said never run in walking shoes.
“You can walk in running shoes but you can only walk in walking shoes,” Stallings said.
MORE THAN JUST SHOES
Along with the proper shoes, Stallings tells runners to develop a training program that is right for them. They include:
• identify goals
• alternate hard and easy days
• build cross training into schedule
• increase mileage and workout gradually
• allow for flexibility in workouts
• keep a training log
• evaluate progress regularly
Fred Geswein, a longtime runner and coach, said it’s important for new runners “not to do too much too fast.”
“You have to give yourself plenty of time to adjust mentally and physically,” he said. “The older you are and the more out of shape you are, it will take you longer to adjust. When you look at the elite runners, they are built for running. Most runners today are not. You have to adjust to that.”
Geswein said more people are running today to stay fit, which he said is a good thing. However, he tells runners to ease into a regimen.
“I see a lot of people who have been running for about six months who want to do a half-marathon or a full marathon. You should give yourself a year,” he said. “Ease into it. Don’t follow a friend who has been running longer. Listen to your body. There is nothing wrong with 5ks. You’ve got to enjoy it or you won’t stick with it. Some people run a half or full marathon and never run again or have a bad experience and quit.”
Geswein also said you have to have the right equipment to enjoy running, which includes shoes, and to dress appropriately. He said it’s important if you run in the dark to wear something reflective.
“People can see now that they can do it and achieve their goal,” he said of running. “You don’t have to be a four minute miler to run. When I was younger, you ran to be competitive. Now you run to be fit.”