Thinking of taking up running? Great! Running not only strengthens your legs and feet, but your heart and lungs too. Considered a high-impact exercise because technically both feet can be off the ground at the same time, running offers an aerobic cardiovascular workout that gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat. What should you know before you throw on some sneakers and head out the door?
Not all running shoes are made equal. Depending on your own arch and pronation, as well as the type of running you are looking to do (road running versus trail running, for example), the type of shoe you invest in may vary. A lack of stability, flexibility and arch support in a shoe can lead to improper form and even injury.
Understanding body mechanics is essential to making a habit out of running – body mechanics include your gait, or the way you walk, and whether your foot supports proper pronation. Pronation is simply the natural inward rolling of the ankle when you walk or run which absorbs the shock of the impact when your foot strikes the ground. When you overpronate, your foot and ankle are rolling inwards more than they should resulting in little to no arch, or flat feet. And when you underpronate, your feet are rolling outwards resulting in a higher than normal arch.
Prior to picking up running, make sure that you get your feet measured and you speak with the specialist at the shoe store about your foot type and the terrain you plan on covering, Their insight and recommendations can help you find the perfect pair of running shoes to power a healthy new habit.
Stretching is Important
Stretching prior to running and sometimes after is key to preventing injury and possibly extending your time to exhaustion. From your hamstrings and quads, all the way down to the tiny tendons in your toes, the scores of muscles, bones, and tissue employed in the act of running is amazing. Stretching and strengthening leg, ankle and foot muscles helps you warm up and run longer and faster without hurting yourself.
Calf stretches aid in preventing Achilles Tendinitis, the inflammation of the tendon connecting the calf muscle to the heel bone, while foot and toe stretches help keep the plantar fascia ligament limber preventing painful plantar fasciitis. Strength-training exercises targeted towards the hips in turn help stabilize the mechanics and flow of your body’s entire movement in running. Look online, talk to your doctor, or visit a gym to learn more about stretches and strength training that is especially beneficial for running.
Orthotics May Help
Shoe inserts that help alleviate your improper pronation or foot ailment (like hammer toe, metatarsalgia, or plantar fasciitis) also promote proper alignment and arch support. While custom orthotics cost more money, if the severity of your pronation or foot condition calls for it, your doctor or podiatrist may recommend you get custom orthotics specially made.
You can usually find helpful inserts over the counter at pharmacies, big box stores, or grocery stores though. Usually made from materials including gel, silicone, foam, plastic or graphite, inserts vary by size and design, i.e. a plantar fasciitis insole targets arch support and cushioning specifically to the plantar fascia tissue that runs the bottom of the foot while hammer toe inserts spread the toes and help prevent rubbing and skin irritation.
Safety is Important
Like any exercise, safety to yourself and others is important; hence, where you run matters, whether you’re road running on asphalt, hitting the trails, starting on treadmill, or running on grass. Road running might mean you are in the company of cars – practice safety by wearing bright and reflective clothing that makes you more visible, aiming to run on sidewalks as much as possible, and trying to avoid high-traffic zones.
Trail running can be even trickier even though it offers a softer surface for your feet. Uneven land breaks, tree roots, rocks – all of these trail staples can quickly lead to injury if your foot lands on an angle or you trip and fall. Treadmills can test your endurance a bit more as the pace never slows even as your energy fades, however, they offer a safe running surface that reduces stress to your back, knees and feet (and offers no complications from cars or other trip hazards).
Running can literally (and figuratively) take your breath away – offering both a stress release to a tough day as well as self-confidence in completing something you never thought you could. In addition, running can be great exercise that in combination with a balanced diet helps you maintain a healthy weight, fight high blood pressure and heart disease, and boost your immunity. So what are you waiting for?
About the author:
Jessica Hegg is the content manager at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle she works to share valuable information aimed at overcoming obstacles and improving the quality of life for others.