Before diving into what are "Running Shoes" we need to cover what you might use them for and why they are so important. Recreational running is an everyday activity to stay fit and mobile regardless of age. Running should be something that is an enjoyable way to experience the environment around you, taking in the sights we are often too busy to experience otherwise.
With a recreational running, the goal is to enjoy the run, and you do so by running at a more relaxed pace, so that you get all the health benefits and exercise of running, without all of the stress that might come with training for a specific race or goal. The goal is what separates competitive running from recreational running.
Recreational running is easy to start, fun, and mostly free. A significant component to getting started into recreational running is motivation; this can come from within or with the help of a training partner. A training partner can be a great place to start. The right training partner will be someone around the same level, maybe just starting like yourself. It is essential to have a training partner in general but especially when you are just getting started; that way, you can work together and support each other on the journey that is recreational running.
While running is relatively free, there is one essential piece of gear that can either make or break running for you. Running shoes! Running shoes are shoes specifically made for running. Having the right running shoes for your running style is vital in preventing common running injuries.
Some of the common running injuries include:
- Stress fractures. These are overuse injuries that often occur in the weight-bearing bones of the lower body.
- Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome, or MTSS). This running injury is caused by overtraining. Shin splints is a term used to describe throbbing pain in the anterior (front) of the lower legs.
- Achilles tendonitis. Athletes, particularly runners and jumpers, often strain or even tear or rupture an Achilles tendon when making pushing-off movements.
- Plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury affecting the arch of the foot. Repeated, tiny tears in the fascia that runs alongside the bottom of the foot can lead to inflammation and pain.
- Runner's knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome, or PFPS). This overuse injury involves friction that wears down the cartilage in the knee, ultimately leading to osteoarthritis.
- Muscle, ligament, and tendon strains (calf, hamstring, quadriceps, gluteus). A strain or pulled muscle is a soft tissue overstretching or tear in muscles or tendons. Overstretching, pivoting, jumping, shifting your weight from side to side, speeding up, and slowing down can all lead to strains.
You can read more about common running injuries in our article HERE.
While some of these injuries could seem potentially scary, they are far less common in recreational running as you are not trying to push past pain that you otherwise wouldn't to achieve a goal or be ready for a particular race. However, this does not mean that recreational runners are immune to running injuries. One of the most common reasons recreational runners get injured or stop running is because of pain. Most of the time, pain when running is a sign of the wrong running shoes. There are Several aspects make running shoes special.
What makes a good running shoe?
Midsole Foot Cushioning
Midsole foot cushioning is recognized to be one of the most critical assets of a running shoe bu the American Council of Exercise. Midsole cushioning is important in preventing common knee injuries, hip and back pain associated with running. Midsole foot cushioning can make running not only more comfortable but safer too.
Arch support is especially important for those with flat feet, while it may be uncomfortable at first, it can add more support and prevent issues such as a fallen arch; while arch support benefits those with flat feet the most its also crucial for those with high arches.
Heel to toe ratio
The heel to toe ratio also called "heel drop" is the angle from the heel to the toe. This ratio can change the feel of the shoe dramatically; more aggressive shoes typically have a 4-6% heel to toe ratio while natural running shoes will be around 0-4%. Some runners may feel discomfort with a particular heel to toe ratio if they are not used to it, so be sure to go to a running store to try on the shoes and take them for a test run. While this one may not directly be related to preventing injuries, finding the heel to toe ratio that fits you the best will make running a lot more enjoyable.
Overall a lot of these features come to gather to prevent certain types of running injuries. The American College of Sports Medicine states that midsole cushioning, heel drop ratio, and arch sport can all be important in preventing overuse injuries such as tendonitis, stress fractures, shin splints, runners knee, joint pain, Planter fasciitis.
Improved fit and comfort
While injury prevention is essential and will see you running peacefully, proper fit and comfort is also necessary and can make or break the feel of running. Running shoes come in all kinds of flavors, some are designed like socks for breathability and road running, others are thicker designed for trails or hybrid created for trails and roads. All of these offer different level or protection from stuff on the road and breathability. Proper fit is also crucial in preventing minor injuries such as blisters, ingrown nails, bloody nails, and forth.
Improved Athletic Performance
Athletic performance might be the least important for recreational running, but finding the right pair of shoes can make a world's difference in the performance and how it works with you running stride. Some shoes may feel right at slower paces while others may keep you on your toes running quicker. Regardless of what style you go for the feel and performance will make a massive difference to the enjoyment of your run.
Wherever running takes you its essential to have fun, be sure to go to your local running store as they are the experts on finding the right shoe for you and go out and enjoy the fun that is recreational running.
If you ever have any concerns regarding a running injury, be sure to come to see your local orthopedic specialist. Here at Coastal Orthopedics, we pride ourselves on supporting the communities athletes from recreational, high school, club, to even pro league.