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Introduction

Kit Advice

Running Kit

Running puts the body under a massive amount of strain - particularly if you are not a regular runner. Buying the correct running shoes will reduce the likelihood of you picking up injuries during your training - and buying the wrong running shoes will almost guarantee that you will injure yourself over time.

This section of doitforcharity.com gives you some insight into what types of running shoe you should buy and also highlights other running kit that you might find helpful during your training:

Running Shoes

What running shoe you should buy is heavily dictated by what type of feet you have - which leads us into a bit of simple biomechanics...

Medical matters

When your foot hits the ground it is designed to roll inwards slightly to help absorb the shock of striking the ground. This inward-rolling movement is called pronation and is totally normal. However, problems can arise when your foot either rolls too much or too little. Rolling inwards too much is called over-pronation and rolling too little or not rolling at all is called supination. If you over-pronate or supinate your feet are not absorbing the shock of hitting the ground as much as they could be and over time this will most likely lead to injuries. However, as long as you correctly identify what type of feet you have you can buy shoes which will help to compensate for any lack of natural shock absorbancy.

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Wet feet

So how do you find out whether your feet roll inwards perfectly, too much or too little? One simple test is the 'wet foot test' which simply involves standing on the ground with wet feet and seeing what 'imprint' your foot leaves.

If you leave a footprint which is virtually identical to the sole of your shoe then you have 'flat feet' meaning your foot rolls inwards too much - that's over-pronation.

If you leave a footprint which looks very thin in the middle of the foot then you have high arched feet meaning that your foot does not roll inwards enough - that's supination.

If you leave a footprint which narrows in the middle but still leaves a substantial even band then you've probably got a normal foot which rolls inwards just enough but not too much - ie you pronate normally.

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Three feet - Three Shoes

Since there are broadly three types of feet there are three types of shoe to match them - and the purpose of the three types of shoe is to make all types of feet act as 'normally' as possible.

For flat feet there are motion control shoes. Remember flat feet roll inwards too much so motion control shoes are built to prevent excessive inward-rolling. This helps the foot to strike the ground 'normally' absorbing the shock of hitting the ground and thus preventing injury.

For high arched feet there are cushioned shoes. Remember high arched feet roll insufficiently or not at all. Highly cushioned shoes have very little lateral stability and they therefore promote sideways movement and help high-arched feet to roll inwards and absorb shock naturally.

If you have normal feet you would most likely want a stability shoe with no special motion control features. Your are biomechanically efficient and therefore absorb shock well and do not need any extra help from your running shoes.

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Summary

  • Flat Feet - Over Pronation - Buy Motion Control shoes
  • High-arched feet - Supination - Buy Cushioned shoes
  • Normal feet - Pronate normally - Buy Stability shoes

Please note the above summary is purposefully oversimplistic to help you understand one of the main criteria in a shoe purchase. You are strongly advised to go to a specialist running shoe store where they will not only help you to identify what type of feet you have but also recommend the correct shoes for your foot type. As well as taking into account your foot type they will also consider your weight, weekly running mileage and what type of terrain you run on which all have a bearing on what type of running shoe you should buy.

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Vests and Shorts

Apart from making sure that they fit properly there are two main considerations when buying running shorts and vests

  1. Airflow. You want to make sure that your kit is reasonably loose fitting so that air can flow through the material and cool you down. Some manufacturers achieve this with the way they cut their styles and others achieve it by using mesh fabrics. Shop around to find out what you prefer
  2. Wicking properties. 'Wicking' is the name given to drawing moisture away from your body and out to the other side of the material where it can evaporate. If you are going to spend 4-5 hours running a marathon the last thing you need is a running top that is clinging to you. Once again different manufacturers use different materials to achieve the wicking affect but kit that is made of this special material is well worth the extra expense

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Sports Bras

Unfortunately for us ladies breasts do not contain muscles (only ligaments) so any damage the breasts sustain is irreversible without surgery. It is therefore essential that women of all sizes protect their assets with a good sports bra - and the following advice should give you a quick primer in what to look for.

Sports bras work on the principle of flattening the breasts so they are kept close to the rib-cage - and thus reduce the range of motion when running. Different manufacturers use different styles but whoever you buy from you should make sure the material is smooth to reduce chaffing and that the straps are wide enough to provide decent support without digging in.

We strongly recommend that you go to a specialist online or offline store to get good advice - and that you experiment with different styles until you find one that works for you.

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Stopwatches

From a watch that simply records the total time for one race to one that stores every piece of detail of your entire 16-week training campaign the choices in modern stopwatch technology can be bewildering. There are far too many makes and models to list here but the main checklist of features you might want to consider are:

  • Split/lap times: How many of these do you need to record. If you want to know your 1/2 mile splits over 20 miles then you will need to record 40 splits. If you are running a 5k and only want to record the half way point then you will obviously only need 1 split - thats quite a difference and many watches to
  • Memory: how many splits and finish times do you want to store in memory? Perhaps you always record your times manually and therefore you don't need any watch memory at all. Alternatively you might want to record everything digitally and will therefore require your watch to have a capacious memory or the facility download times to your pc or PDA.
  • Heart Rate monitor: Many stopwatches double up as heart rate monitors by requiring the user to wear a plastic band around the upper torso area. Some people find these invaluable for tracking work-rate - others just find them a nuisance. A stopwatch with HR ability will be a lot more expensive than one without so it's an important decision to make.

As always a specialist online or offline store will be best placed to help you decide which option to go for - properly looked after it's a piece of kit that will last for years so you want to get it right!

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Miscellaneous

Here's a few extra pieces of kit that you might find useful during your training and/or events

  • Reflective material. If you are training for the London Marathon you will be doing most of your running in winter - which for most of us means after work at night. Reflective material is essential in these conditions and can be anything from velcro bands around your ankles to high visibility running vests
  • Lace Locks: These inexpensive pieces of plastic help keep your laces tied thus reducing accidents and lost time whilst stopping to do up your laces
  • Personal Alarm: Hand-held, wrist or waist mounted these high-pitched sonic devices will stop any attacker in their tracks giving you time to run to safety
  • Ice pack: These can be kept in the fridge and offer the first line of defence in the event of a mild injury following a run. Apply them to the affected area and you will reduce the chance of inflammation and therefore quicken the recovery time.

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