Running is one of the most popular exercise activities. There’s the benefits gained from being out in the fresh air, the social benefits of being able to run with a friend or a group and let’s not forget, it burns so much energy that almost everyone who runs loses weight and tones up.
You will burn a lot of calories when you run and therefore people who are looking to control their weight often choose it as their main form of exercise. Running burns more energy than activities such as walking as it is much more vigorous and it requires the use of the biggest muscle groups in the body.Those who are looking to lose a few pounds often find running to be one of the most effective forms of exercise for helping them to achieve their ideal body weight. Obviously, calories burned is dependent upon the person’s weight, how hard they are running and for how long.
Running is very demanding on the heart and lungs, so regular training improves cardiovascular health, making the heart and lungs stronger. Blood pressure is reduced, as the fitter you are, the heart does not have to work as hard to pump the blood around the body. Regular exercise reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes.
Regular exercise can strengthen your bones and maintain muscle mass. This Is especially important as we get older, as we tend to lose muscle mass and our bones weaken as we age. There will be less risk of osteoporosis and fractures as a result.
Many people don’t consider how much exercise can benefit psychological health as well as physical. The body releases ‘happy’ hormones called endorphins when we exercise and this has a beneficial effect on mood and stress reduction. Running offers a good distraction and outlet for stress, and the sense of achievement from completing a run can increase self-esteem.
So running can make us feel pretty good about ourselves, but as it is quite high intensity, to really get the best from our running we should invest in some essential kit.
- 1 Running Essentials
- The right running shoes
A good pair of shoes is essential for a runner. The shoe should be designed especially for running because a gym shoe or one meant for another sport won’t provide you with the cushioning and stability that you need. Make sure you go to a specialist shop, because they will be able to ask you questions about how far you run, how often and they will be able to analyse how you run. This is very important in selecting the right shoe for you to prevent injuries and ensure comfort. Expect to pay up to £90 for a good pair of running shoes.
- A sports watch
If you want to monitor your progress, work on your speed if you’re entering races or you simply want to time your training sessions, invest in a good sports watch. These days there are models available that can connect with your smartphone and iPod to give you detailed data on your training sessions, great if you want to get serious about your running.
- Invest in a good T-Shirt or running vest
Sports attire these days is scientific. Sports clothing is made from fabrics like nylon which lift sweat away from your skin to keep you cool and comfortable. You might have heard of terms such as Dri-FIT or Climalite, look out for these when shopping for your kit. They’re much better than wearing man-made fibres like cotton that get damp and uncomfortable when you sweat.
- A sports bra specific for running
Running is high impact, so you need a good sports bra to stay comfortable when you run, and to avoid the excessive movement of your breasts. If they move too much, the ligaments get overstretched and this is not reversible.Your breast will sag. If you have smaller breasts, look for compression type bras, and if your breasts are larger, go for sports bras which resemble normal bras but with molded cups.
- A cold pack
If you pick up a niggling injury when you are running, it’s always sensible to ice it to minimise swelling and promote healing. You can buy cold packs from any supermarket or pharmacy and they contain a special gel which activates when you put it in a freezer. You simply apply the pack to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time and be sure to elevate the injured limb/part. Repeat this process for the first 72 hours after an injury.
- A heart rate monitor
A heart rate monitor helps you judge how hard you’re working, whether your fitness is improving or if you are starting to come down with an illness. Models range from simple monitors to those that can calculate suggested training zones to improve your fitness, calorie burn and much more.
- A drinks carrier
If you are running for more than an hour you need to hydrate yourself regularly. Find either a bottle that attached to a belt you can carry your water in or a lightweight hand-held bottle.
- A lightweight jacket
A jacket is a must if you are going to be running in cold or wet weather. It should be waterproof but light so it doesn’t trap sweat.
Gender differences in footwear
Running shoes need to account for the differences in male and female bodies and gait patterns. As women have wider pelvises, they run differently from men and so footwear should be made to support and cushion the feet accordingly. Female runners tend to suffer more knee and hip problems because of the way they are built. Women’s running shoes used to be smaller versions of men’s shoes but now the science has caught up with the different needs of each gender.
Women’s feet are shaped differently to men’s; they have a narrow heel in relation to their forefoot. If a woman was to wear a shoe designed for a man, the heel will slip inside the shoe and this will cause chafing. Women weigh generally less than men, if they wore shoes designed for a man, the cushioning would be too thick, as it would be designed for a man’s weight.
Studies have even shown that a woman’s monthly cycle can affect the feet. Oestrogen relaxes the soft tissues of the foot and lowers a woman’s arch. This means that the plantar fascia can tighten, potentially leading to plantar fasciitis with prolonged wearing of the incorrect footwear.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis is a very common and painful condition caused by damage to the plantar fascia, the band of tissue running along the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia connects the heel bone to the toes and helps the foot maintain its arch. If you have the condition, you will most likely experience pain and stiffness in the heel and in the arch of the foot. The pain can be sharp or like a constant dull ache and it is usually worse when taking your first steps in the morning. It is very common in women, people who are overweight or those who have high or low foot arches.
You can get plantar fasciitis if you do too much exercise, suddenly increase your activity levels, if you are overweight or wear poor unsupportive footwear.
Painkillers like ibuprofen will help to manage the pain and reduce inflammation and gentle stretches can relieve tightness in the calf muscles which might be leading to tension in the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. Periodic icing of the heel area helps especially if you have been on your feet for a long time. An important factor in getting rid of plantar fasciitis is changing your footwear. Maybe you need to wear insoles in your shoes to give the arches of your feet more support or wear a night splint to apply a gentle stretch to the plantar fascia overnight to reduce symptoms. If these treatments don’t work, you may be recommended for steroid injections or surgery. These still do not guarantee to end the pain however as a lot of people still get symptoms after surgery.
The importance of footwear
Ill-fitting and unsupportive shoes can cause problems with your feet over time. Fashion dictates what we wear and women love to wear fashionable ballet pumps and high heels, neither of which are good for foot health.
The ‘ideal’ footwear should have a secure fastening, so laces or Velcro, there should be space between the toes and the end of the shoe and you should always buy shoes later in the day when your feet will be slightly larger due to swelling. Try and avoid wearing shoes with heels over 4 cm on a regular basis.
Best footwear for plantar fasciitis
So, considering that you need supportive footwear to prevent injuries and other foot conditions, and the footwear needs to be gender specific, we have looked at some of the best running shoes on Amazon for people who have plantar fasciitis. If you suffer from the condition but you are a keen runner, you won’t enjoy letting an injury stop you being active, so these shoes provide comfort, support and stability to enable you to continue training.
Women’s running shoes
The Saucony Guide 7 shoe gives you comfort, support and stability. It is also a very durable shoe.
The midsole is made with compressed foam for comfort and a denser arch area which is firm but not too hard and helps keep the foot stable. The sole of the shoe contains a lighter Powergrid material to cushion the foot against impact. The toe area is roomy and the shoe has special pads to provide more support for people whose feet roll in too much. This also makes for a smooth heel-toe transition. The shoe has firm rubber on the heel and tip of the toes to make it more durable. This is a great choice for everyday running, it’s lightweight, comfortable, supportive and durable. This is a very high performing shoe, though the price tends to be higher than a lot of comparable models.
The Mizuno Wave Alchemy 12 shoe is good for those who have plantar fasciitis caused by excessive rolling in of the feet. It also doubles as a walking shoe for people with the condition. It has a flat midsole, wide base and high support for the heel.
The Alchemy 12 is a motion control shoe that provides stability and comfort. The motion control corrects overpronation with continued wear. The shoe has a wave plate design which distributes impact evenly. The heel is very cushioned which further enhances the shoe’s shock absorbing ability. There is extra stability given to the inside of the foot due to the heavy-duty rubber which lines the outsole.
This shoe performs brilliantly on different terrain, over long distances and the shoe is light and comfortable to wear. They are affordably priced, though some people might find the design a little bulky for their tastes.
The New Balance 990V3 shoe is top rated for benefitting those with plantar fasciitis. It looks good, it’s lightweight and offers great shock absorption, support and cushioning.
The rubber in the front of the shoe provides cushioning and the mesh inserts give the shoe breathability. The shoe combines dense foam for support and softer foam for cushioning.
The midsole contains patented Abzorb cushioning for extra shock absorption. This shoe is suitable for all types of runners. The downside is that these shoes tend to be pricey and a bit on the bulky side.
Men’s running shoes
The Brooks Beast 12 running shoe controls pronation. It is a heavy, firm shoe but provides a lot of support and cushioning. The shoe is made from high quality materials and is very durable which goes some way to explaining why it is one of the more expensive shoes on the market. The shoe is constructed from foams of different densities for cushioning and support and has cushioning technology which runs along the length of the shoe. This technology is personalised to the runner’s feet and the impact of his foot strike. It is environmentally friendly too, believe it or not, as the midsole is made from a biodegradable material. This shoe is excellent for people with plantar fasciitis, those with low arches and those who overpronate.
The New Balance M940V2 running shoe is very good for people who overpronate. It has advanced stability technology and cushioning and is suitable for long-distance running and gym workouts. The shoe uses N2 technology in the heel which is a material developed for superior cushioning. The shoe’s Stabilicore system, made from molded plastic provides arch support and smooth heel-toe transition.
The Asics GT 2000 2 provides cushioning, support and comfort. The shoe has a mesh upper for breathability and the lining near the neck of the foot ensures a good and comfortable fit. The midfoot area uses synthetic leather, there are gel pads in the heel and dense foam in the midsole. The heel is made from tough rubber and the gel pads provide extra cushioning. Anyone suffering from plantar fasciitis will benefit from the superior cushioning in this shoe. The shoe is lightweight, durable and supportive, though the laces provided are quite short.
Running is an activity that undoubtedly benefits health and a lot of people enjoy participating in it. All you really need is a good pair of running shoes and it’s something you can do anywhere.
The repetitive and high impact nature of running means that it can lead to overuse and repetitive strain injuries however, as the same joints and muscles are subjected to excessive forces over and over again.
When you begin running, it is important to increase your distances and pace incrementally over time so you don’t do too much too soon. If you do too much this can lead to injury to the feet, hips, knees and ankles.
One such injury is plantar fasciitis, which is painful, but curable with painkillers, stretching, icing and the right footwear. The right footwear is crucial for everyday but especially for doing such a high impact activity like running.
The differences in the way men and women run is taken into account by footwear manufacturers nowadays and this is shown in the superior technologies that exist in running shoes to enhance comfort and stability. These technologies and advanced designs make running more comfortable, enable you to continue to be active even if you have a foot condition and prevent further injuries occurring.
You can expect to pay more for a superior shoe, but add up the benefits you will get in terms of injury prevention, healthier feet and healthier joints and you can see it is worth spending the extra money, if you consider all of the physiotherapy sessions you might have to pay for if you end up with constant problems due to unsupportive and inadequate shoes.