How to Run, Part 2

This post is the second on the basics of running for fun and fitness. Keep in mind these are not the thoughts of an expert runner or even a very fast runner—these posts are running tips from a peer. I’m sharing lessons learned by your average runner and hopefully you’ll find them useful.

If you haven’t read the first post you should take a second to catch up. Last time I talked about the importance of having a goal and the value of a running buddy. In this post I originally intended to write about shoes, gear and monitoring your progress but as I got started on shoes it became clear that this subject merited a post all by itself.

The Importance of Good Shoes

When you begin running consistently your feet begin logging a lot of miles. If your stride is about three feet long your feet will hit the ground over 1700 times per mile! That’s a lot of foot strikes. As your feet hit the ground they can bear up to three times your body weight. Wow. You can quickly see the need for good shoes dedicated to running.

But let me stop you before you head off to your local shoe discounter. You’re not shopping for the shoes that look the coolest or for the shoes that happen to be the cheapest. When you’re buying running shoes you are looking for a very specific shoe: the shoe that is best for your feet. In order to find the shoe that is right for you a little homework is needed.

The Wet Test

Runner’s World has a short little test you can do to learn about your feet. Essentially you want to get one of your feet wet and step onto a surface that will show your footprint. This will allow you to see how much (or how little) arch you have in your foot. I highly recommend reading the article and taking the wet test to see what kind of feet you have.

Foot arch

When I checked my footprint I found that I have a neutral to low arch. Not much of a surprise there as it matches what I already knew about how I pronante. Let me explain.


Pronation is a part of the way your body naturally absorbs the impact of walking and running. It has to do with the motion of your foot from the time your heel strikes the ground until toe-off. Let me quote from another Runner’s World article:

“When you run or walk, you land on the outside edge of your foot and roll inward. This entirely normal inward rolling is called pronation. For most runners, the pronation stops at a healthy point. However, some runners roll inward too much. This excessive inward rolling is called overpronation.”

An easy way to see how much or how little you pronate is to look at the wear pattern on the soles of an old pair of shoes. Grab an old pair and take a good look at the soles. If you see wear on the outside of the heel and the inside of the forefoot you pronante. If the wear pattern is even with no excessive wear in any one spot your stride is neutral. Finally, if there is wear only on the outside edge of the sole you supinate.

Shoe wear patterns

The amount of wear in these areas will give you an idea of how severely you supinate or pronate and help you decide what kind of shoe you should buy. As a point of reference I am a mild overpronator. My shoes show the most wear on the outside of the heel and the inside of the forefoot.

For more information check out any one of the really good articles about buying shoes at Runner’s World.

Shoe Types

For the recreational runner there are really three kinds of shoes to consider: cushioned, stability and motion control. (We’re leaving out trail shoes and lightweight racing shoes.)

Cushioned shoes are built for neutral runners who don’t need any correction in their stride. The next step are stability shoes which offer a bit of motion control but not too much. Finally, for moderate to severe overpronators there are motion-control shoes. (That Runner’s World article I quoted earlier adds a bit more detail about these different shoe types if you’re interested.)

I don’t overpronate to the point that I need motion control shoes but I do buy from the stability shoe category.

Buying Your Shoes

Once you’ve done your homework to figure out your foot type and wear pattern you’re finally ready to buy. Unless you find a good sale expect to spend anywhere from $80 to $135 on your shoes. They’re not cheap but neither are your knees, hips and back. Spend the money on good shoes and consider it an investment in your health.

You can read a number of reviews on the internet but for your first pair you might benefit from visiting a running store. A good running store will let you try on a pair of shoes and even go outside and run a bit. This way you can compare the feel of a few different shoes and go home with the best one. Usually these stores charge a bit more than the big box stores but the service and experience of the staff is worth it.

Once you find a pair of shoes that works for you look online for the best deals. You’ve already done your homework and you already know what you need; now you’re just shopping for price. Sometimes the best deal can be found on last year’s model. Stores are trying to get rid of all their older stock and you can pick up a great pair of shoes on the cheap. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m currently running in last year’s model.

One final thought on buying shoes, and this is a biggy: buy about a half size bigger than what you normally wear. When you run your feet expand and they need the extra room. If your shoes fit just right before you run they will probably be too tight by the time you’re out and about. So, make sure there is plenty of room to keep your feet happy. Along those lines, don’t over tighten you laces when you tie your shoes. Give those feet some room to breathe.

Replacing Your Shoes

There will come a time when you need to replace your running shoes. As much as you might hate saying goodbye to your trusty companions their effectiveness diminishes over time. Personal example: in 2003 Kellie and I ran in the Portland Marathon. I didn’t know it at the time but my shoes were too old and as a result my feet were absolutely killing me when I finally finished.

For the next couple of days I wore my running shoes, thinking that they would help my feet get better. It wasn’t until I put on another pair of shoes that I realized that my running shoes were to blame for my sore feet. Moral of the story: you’ll need replace your shoes.

There is a good article at with some guidelines on when to replace your running shoes. In short, they recommend replacing your shoes when you rack up 350 to 550 miles and I tend to agree.

Wrapping It Up

I don’t mean to belabor the point but shoes are very important if you want to run regularly and enjoy it. Figure out which kind of shoes you need, bite the bullet and spend the cash. If you think about it, even at $135 a pair of good running shoes is a lot cheaper than a membership at your local gym. So, don’t underestimate the value and importance of a good pair of running shoes.

Runner’s World, which I’ve already mentioned a bunch, has a ton of good articles on finding the right shoe for you. They also review a million different shoes and their opinions are pretty spot on. The reviews are done by the editors as well as real world runners so you can trust their advice about a certain shoe.

So, how about you? Have you found the perfect shoes? Do you know of a site with killer deals? Have you been burned by a bad pair of shoes? Let me know in a comment below.