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Running shoes and running surfaces

fitscape fitness expert Jon Orum shares his thoughts.

Running is a healthy activity for most people and many runners describe their sport as bringing a feeling of stress relief, freedom, discipline and afterwards: relaxation. Research shows that running has numerous physiological and psychological health advantages. For many it is the ideal way to increase cardiovascular fitness, lose or control body-weight, and aid bone strength - alongside a raft of other important benefits.

One downside to running as an exercise is that it repetitively impacts your body. Poorly controlled, these impact forces can negatively stress the joints of the ankle, knee and hip. Other wear and tear on bone, muscle and connective tissue can also be substantial and may result in acute or chronic injury.

Two important ways to minimize these risks: choose quality footwear and the type of surface you run on.

Obviously having shoes that fit well and are suited to your individual needs: your gait , weight, mileage and foot-strike is optimal. Shoes should ideally be bought from a specialty running store that observes and analyses your running style and discusses your weekly mileage and your ongoing training goals.  Try, for example, profeet or sweatshop

Most running shoes these days are designed to offer great function for approximately 300-500 miles. Performance degradation seems to be quite rapid and noticeable after this. After this point in their life, running shoes should be retired to gardening leave.

Many running experts recommend that you keep one pair of dedicated run shoes strictly for that purpose. This thinking makes sense and will definitely aid in improving performance and safety. Having another pair of cross training shoes for weight training or the occasional spin class at the gym would also be smart.

Different running surfaces can vary your running experience.

Treadmill running not only lessens impact forces but also works your running muscles in a different way to running naturally outside, irrespective of the surface. Running consistently on concrete is probably a bad idea for most of us. Nothing beats up your legs more than running on concrete. Experts estimate that concrete impact forces are 5-10 times as hard as asphalt (a mix of gravel, crushed rock & tar). Still not a lot of give but with well cushioned shoes is probably what most of us end up running on.

Grass running is easy impact in comparison as it is bouncy and very effective in challenging the legs. It is a recommended surface, both for beginners and old fellas like myself.

Sand / beach running can be seriously tough to run on especially if the sand is loose and deep. It can also be risky for the Achilles tendons, particularly in the older runner, but for great leg strength and endurance it is highly recommended for the fitness runner.

In summary, buy the best shoes you can afford and get specialist advice when purchasing. Use running shoes for running only. Choose your surfaces carefully. And enjoy.


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