It's the time of year when many amateur runners are taking to the streets in training for marathons and half-marathons.
And as well as helping keep you comfortable - and therefore motivated - mile after mile, the right shoes can significantly enhance performance, movement efficiency and safeguard against injury, especially where vulnerable knees and backs are concerned.
Before you do anything else, make sure you have a good pair of lightweight trainers that are well-fitted and provide any stability that may be required.
A bad pair of trainers can lead to blisters, knee pain and conditions like plantar fasciitis,” says Tyrone Kon, a leading physiotherapist at London’s Boost Physio, an official London Marathon Injury Clinic.
Matthew Pierson, gait analysis expert at SportsShoes.com and seasoned runner, suggests breaking shoes in by wearing around the house initially, followed by a few 20-30 minute runs to test them - “Then, if all is OK, you’re good to go and can continue training as normal.”
FIND YOUR FIT
And the ‘right’ shoe is a very individual thing. “Due to each individual’s biomechanics, everyone lands their stride differently,” says Pierson. “Manufacturers have understood this and provide shoes for all running gaits.”
Some people are more prone to blisters than others, and sometimes it’s impossible to avoid them entirely when tackling a very long run.
But Pierson notes, you can “aim to avoid blisters with the correct footwear and running socks constructed from moisture-wicking, technical fabric with an ergonomic fit, as this will reduce chafing and irritation inside the shoe - plus a more comfortable shoe will of course reduce the pain!”
ALL TRAIN NO SPRAIN
Injuries can be a great bane for runners; listening to the experts - and what your body’s telling you - is paramount. Research shows between 30-50% of runners will suffer an injury in a training year, very often affecting knees.
“The important thing to do is listen to your knees. ‘No pain, no gain’ may be right for cardio or strength training, but when it comes to joints, pain is normally a sign of a problem,” says Ian McDermott, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon specialising in knees and sports injuries.
When symptoms persist and are severe, steroid injections, and even surgery, may be advised - and joints that keep swelling after exercise should always be checked sharpish.
How to avoid such problems? It’s all about building up gradually, so you’re not overloading this hard-working joint.
“Take plenty of time to gradually build up your training and avoid ramping things up too fast, in order to allow your body time to adapt appropriately to the increased stresses that you’re putting it through,” says McDermott.
Kon agrees it’s vital to “progress your mileage sensibly”. If you’re on a roll, it can be tempting to tag on some extra miles ahead of schedule, but you might be risking injury.
“Stick to the plan and don’t push onto the next goal before you need to. Stretching appropriately, plenty of sleep, hydration and fuelling well are all also important for reducing injury risk and aiding in post-run recovery."