To get out there and run doesn’t require a great deal of high tech equipment. Most people can start out with some suitable clothing and a good pair of trainers.
I have been teaching British Military Fitness for a long while and in that time I have seen all sorts of outfits and clothing combinations turn up at the park. From thermal outfits in the mid-summer heat, to vests and shorts in the winter. I have even seen someone try to do class in wellington boots and the worst has to be someone attempting class in a suit. Yes a suit!
Whilst clothing options can be an expression of your inner-self, what you put on your feet requires a little more thought. One of the questions I get asked most often is ‘what trainers should I wear when running?’ With developments in the fitness industry you can buy a shoe to cater for almost every need but to ensure you’re wearing the right pair. What makes a pair right for you will depend on a series of factors including your running style and the terrain on which you’re planning to train.
Everyone has an individual style - some people heal-strike and others forefoot-strike. Those who heel-strike could find themselves over-pronating, supinating or running in a neutral style as the foot strikes the ground. Depending on which of these you display, you may need a structured running shoe to correct the instability. To ensure you get the most appropriate shoe for your style, you should visit a running store to get a gait assessment. Staff at the store will assess your style and match you to a shoe that provides the correct level of support in the correct places.
If you are a forefoot striker and you are less likely to have any instability issues and you should look for a neutral shoe, one that doesn’t provide corrective support. You could also explore decreasing the heel-to-toe drop of your shoe, reducing the cushioning and helping to transform your running into a more natural and efficient style. Decreasing the heel-to-toe drop is specifically important in advanced runners and those who have transitioned their running style to a forefoot-strike. The heel-to-toe drop of a structured running shoe will be around 13mm, while a neutral shoe will be around 7mm or less. When reducing the heel-to-toe drop you should also look for a wide-fitting shoe. This is because, when your foot hits the floor it relaxes and spreads out, acting as a shock absorber. As you push off it then recoils like a spring to propel you forwards into the next stride. If you’re wearing a tight fitting shoe it will limit the spreading of your foot, causing your foot to lose its flexibility and hindering your running performance.
In addition to your running style you should also consider where you’re planning to run. If you’re looking to eat up the tarmac then there’s a huge variety of shoes that will do the job. However, if you mostly run off-road you should invest in a pair that have increased grip and provide additional stability when running. When the ground is wet and uneven you’ll appreciate these additional features, as they’ll give you the traction you need to avoid injury and the confidence to run faster across the terrain. There are lots of companies out there that produce shoes in this area. My preference is Inov-8 – a company that is really putting some thought into fantastic shoe design.
So, now you have enough knowledge to choose the right shoe, but how long should it last you? The general rule is to change your shoe whenever it becomes no longer fit for purpose. Obvious signs are holes in the fabric or lack of grip on the sole. If you train a lot shoes should last you around 6-8 months or approximately 500 miles. Beyond this, the shoe will lose its shape and cushioning, impacting negatively on your running style and increasing the risk of injury.
Now your feet are sorted out, we can turn to your clothing. To be really honest, as long as you feel comfortable and it doesn’t hinder performance you can wear what ever you like. But there have been some great advances since the cotton t-shirt and shorts of yesteryear. The most important thing is to wear clothing appropriate for the weather conditions. Thermal layers are great in the winter months and some of the best products out there for the wet weather are Sealskinz. They provide excellent protection and make exercising in the cold and wet weather a lot more comfortable.
In the summer months it is important to protect against UV rays, heat stress and general fatigue. Along with lighter fabrics, you should invest in a hat to keep the sun off your face and head. If you do find yourself over-heating, one of the easiest ways to cool down is to pour cool water onto your wrists and neck, or to soak a towel or t-shirt in water and wrap it around your neck. This will bring your core temperature down quickly and prevent further over-heating.
Hopefully this has helped you in your choice of running attire. I look forward to seeing you and your new kit at a running club soon. Just be sure to leave your wellies at home.