When people pick up running at some point in their lives, it’s usually for health or recreational purposes. For someone who has never really run before, it might look as simple as slipping on a pair of sneakers and finding the nearest sidewalk. Let a couple weeks or months go by and it might be a challenge to not give up in exhaustion and discouragement.
Even if you don’t plan on becoming “a serious runner,” there are some things to keep in mind to stay injury-free and not become lax about your running goals.
Why shoes matter
While all running shoes are generally decent, the correct shoe is based on the individual, and what works for some might not work for others, said Richard Ybarra, general manager of RunTex at The Triangle.
Ybarra recommended people get themselves fitted for the correct shoe when at a store, where an expert can examine the shape of the foot and how the body moves while running and walking.
For example, a runner who overpronates rolls toward the inside of his or her foot and needs shoes with strong inner-arch support. A runner who supinates rolls too much toward the outside of his or her foot and needs shoes that emphasize cushioning to help absorb shock.
The biggest mistake people usually make when buying shoes is buying a size too small, Ybarra said.
Not only are most running shoes manufactured slightly smaller than dress or casual shoes, but feet swell during exercise and other physical activity. People should buy a half to a full size larger than what they normally wear, he said.
Ybarra said running shoes range from $85 to $140, although a runner should be able to purchase a high-quality shoe for no more than $100.
Another mistake people make with shoes is kicking them off instead of untying the shoelaces, Ybarra said. After an extended period of time, the laces stay tight on the front and the heels loosen, causing the back to expand. This can cause irritation when running, pain in the heels and Achilles tendon, and even blisters, he explained.
People should also replace old shoes regularly, or six months to a year for someone who runs an average of 15 miles a week.
“Changing shoes can be like getting an oil change,” Ybarra said. “You can base it on how much mileage you’ve gotten on it. Typically you change shoes after 350 to 450 miles, 500 maximum.”
Factors that also affect how fast someone wears down their shoes include body mass, how often a person uses their shoes for physical activity besides running and the type of surface on which a person runs.
“Concrete breaks a shoe down faster than grass,” he said. “A 6-foot-4 inch, 300-pound man will wear down his shoes faster than a 5-foot, 100-pound woman.”
First-time runners should take it easy in the beginning and set a goal, said nutrition senior Jonathan Tam, the Recreational Runners captain for the Texas Running Club.
“Maybe start out with 2 miles the first week and then slowly build up your mileage,” Tam said. “Sometimes people are too unreasonable with their goals at first and try to run 5 miles without prior training. That’s bad and you can injure yourself because your body hasn’t adapted yet.”
Even athletes or people who are returning to running after a break should avoid starting too much too soon, Ybarra said.
“Cardiovascular-wise, an athlete might be in shape for a 7-mile run, but the bones and muscles aren’t going to be used to it yet,” Ybarra said.
Stretching and doing a short jog to warm up the muscles is also important in avoiding pain and injury. It is also good to do a cool-down jog — the length of about one lap around a track — instead of walking suddenly after a run to ease the heart rate down, Tam said.
Many first-timers become discouraged and quit running because they find it painful and boring, Tam said. Running with a friend can make running more relaxing and social, he suggested.
The Texas Running Club consists of three groups who meet every night: cross country/track, marathon and recreational. Beginners who are not interested in competing — or competing quite yet — can choose to run with the recreational runners, who run 2 to 5 miles, Tam said.
Take it outside
For those who get bored with running in circles at Gregory Gym or resorting to the treadmill, running outdoors can keep things fresh. People who suffer from weak ankles should avoid running on uneven terrain, however, Ybarra advised.
Lady Bird Lake is possibly the most popular site to run in Austin, with its bridges and trail that stretches more than 10 miles around alongside the water. The lake trail is a great place to run with a dog or with other runners and also offers a great view of the city.
For someone interested in a more woodsy, rough terrain that can be used for other outdoor activities, the nearly 8-mile long Barton Creek Greenbelt offers cliffs for climbing and the creek for swimming.
The Capitol also provides a historical and scenic place to run with its Trail of Trees, home to 25 different species of trees. It’s also a safe place to run at night, with bright lights and a state trooper or two hanging around nearby.
These are only a few of several trails in Austin. A list of all the trails can be found at www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/traildirectory.htm.