Running is an excellent form of aerobic exercise. It's relatively inexpensive and convenient to do in most places throughout the year. Moreover, it's one of the most effective calorie-burning exercises, it helps prevent osteoporosis, it strengthens muscles throughout the body, and it improves heart and lung efficiency.
Running doesn't require much in the way of equipment, but good shoes are very important. Everyone has different feet, and the construction of a shoe can compensate for some "abnormalities" in foot structure or gait pattern. If you're buying your first pair of shoes, it's a good idea to go to a sports store where the staff knows how to assess biomechanics (how your foot functions) and can recommend shoes that match your foot and gait type.
Pronation vs. supination. There are two main types of "abnormal" foot/gait types: pronation and supination. Pronation is the flattening of the long arch of the foot, characterized by the ankle turning in. If you pronate, you will see wear on the inner portion of the soles of your shoes. Supination is the tipping out of the lower leg and ankle; the sole of the foot tends to turn in and up. This usually causes wear on the outer portion of a shoe.
During the normal gait cycle, your foot will normally pronate and supinate at different points in order to absorb the forces acting on the body. Sometimes excessive pronation and supination occur because of structural abnormalities or a learned gait pattern. Although these abnormalities in and of themselves might not cause injury, appropriate shoes can help compensate and make your run more comfortable.
- Wear reflective clothing.
- Run against the traffic (when it is safe to do so).
- Don't wear headphones outside.
- Try out different combinations in your running routine (vary the speed and distance of your runs, include both hills and flat terrain); the hard/easy model, which alternates a hard (intensity or duration) run with a more moderate run, can help prevent injuries.
- Try to run on softer surfaces when possible; grass and dirt are your best bets.
- Make rest and recovery part of your scheduled workouts.
- Stretch before and after running.
- Most streets have a peak or crown in the center to facilitate water drainage. Alternating which leg is toward the crown of the road when you run can help prevent injury.
- Be aware of your surroundings (people, animals, automobiles, etc.).
- Replace your shoes regularly.
A large portion of injuries associated with running can be attributed to poorly designed training programs. Many beginning runners run too many miles too quickly, whereas veteran runners often run too many miles without enough rest and recovery.
A beginning runner should begin with easy jogging and may combine jogging and walking. No beginner should increase running time or distance by more than 10% from week to week. Patience is key.