Essential Running Gear
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Essential Running Gear

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Running for Fitness

Essential Running Gear


Running should be a fundamental part of any physical training program and provides an excellent aerobic workout. Moreover, it is not expensive; most of the cost of running involves buying a pair of “good” running shoes.

If you train intelligently and have the right gear, you can continue to enjoy the fitness and general sense of well-being that accompanies running while avoiding running injuries.

In this module, basic information is provided that will help you use running as a tool to develop your fitness while avoiding injury.

Running Gear - Running Shoes

A good pair of running shoes will provide shock absorption, cushioning, motion control and durability, and ultimately help prevent injuries.

Under no circumstance should you buy shoes if they do not fit correctly.

Running magazines usually have a yearly review of various running shoes, newest models of shoes and the type of runner the shoes are most suited to. You can also obtain current information from “Running Sites/Pages” on the worldwide web.

It is wise to try on several different shoes at a sporting goods store to determine which one might be best for you.

This is also important if you are planning to buy shoes from a catalog.


While running, the outside of the heel strikes the ground first. Next, the foot rotates inward and downwards: this process is called pronation.

It is important to understand this term because the type of running shoe you buy depends on whether you are a normal, over-, or under-pronator.

Everyone pronates to some degree and pronation helps the foot absorb the shock of impact. However, some runners over-pronate: their feet roll too far inward.

Put your running shoes together and look at their heels/backs; if they lean inward, you are probably over-pronating. Another way to check pronation is to have a friend run behind you and have them watch the back of your heel as it makes contact with the ground: the greater the inward roll of your heel, the more you pronate.

Excessive pronation can lead to injuries of the lower leg and knee.

Shoe Terminology

When buying running shoes, it is helpful to be familiar with some of the common features of running shoes. Some of the more common features are outlined below:

Lateral is the outer-edge of the shoe.

Medial is the inner or arch side of the shoe.

Achilles notch is the U or V-shaped cut at the top of the heel collar which prevents irritation of the achilles tendon.

External heel counter is a rigid plastic collar that wraps around the heel of the shoe to provide support and control excess pronation.

Motion control designs or devices control the inward rolling or pronation of the foot. Some amount of pronation is normal: corrective measures are necessary only if there is excessive rolling or under-pronation.

Shoe Terminology - Additional Features

Heel tab

Heel counter

Heel counter support

Heel wedge




Heel counter support

Heel wedge



Ankle collar


Heel counter is a firm cup that surrounds the heel to control excessive rear foot motion.

Outsole is the material on the bottom of the shoe that comes in contact with the running surface.

Midsole is the layer of cushioning that is placed between the upper and outsoles.

Important Terms Related to Cushioning

Cushioning is provided by midsoles and is needed for shock absorption.

Cantilever is a concave outsole design in which the outer edges flare out during foot strike to provide better shock absorption.

EVA is a foam-like material which is used in midsoles to provide cushioning.

Polyurethane is a synthetic rubber that is used with EVA in midsoles. It is more durable than EVA but provides less cushioning. It is used in the rear foot for firmness and EVA in the forefoot for flexibility and lightness in many shoe models.

Metatarsal pad is a soft wedge of EVA that is placed under the ball of the foot to increase cushioning and shock absorption for runners who are fore- foot strikers.

Terms Related to Shape

Last is a foot shaped piece of wood, plastic or metal which is used as a frame for building a shoe. Lasts can be straight or curved as shown in Figure 1.2.

Straight-lasted shoes are relatively straight shaped on the inner or medial side and provide support and stability and are recommended for runners who over-pronate.

Curve-lasted shoes are shaped to curve inwards (see figure). This shape allows greater foot motion and such shoes can be worn by runners with normal pronation and arches.

Figure 1.2. Types of Lasts Used for Running Shoes

Terms Related to Shoe Construction

Board lasting increases stability and is good for orthotics. A board-lasted shoe is made by gluing the upper to fiber board before it is attached to the midsole.

Slip lasting is the most flexible shoe construction wherein the shoe upper is stitched together like a moccasin before it is glued to the midsole.

Combination lasting as the term suggests is partly board and partly slip last- ing. Such shoes are board lasted in the rear foot for stability and slip lasted in the fore-foot for greater flexibility. If you removed the sockliner you would see stitching in front and a fiber-board in the rear foot.

Shoe Construction: Lasting

Pointers for Buying Running Shoes

When buying shoes, ensure that you make your purchase based off the following principles. This will help you avoid many common running related injuries:

Place maximum emphasis on shock-absorbing characteristics of the shoe.

Know your foot type and ask for assistance before buying the shoe.

Look for shoes that come in widths to suit your feet.

Do you have normal arches, high arches or are you flat footed? You can assess your foot type by what is known as the “wet test”: simply wet your feet and briefly stand on a piece of paper or on a dark, bare floor; look at the imprint left by your feet.

Compare them to the impressions shown in Figure 1.4 to determine your foot type.




Figure 1.4 Types of Arches

Pointers for Buying Running Shoes (Continued)

The additional principles outlined below used along with the tips that were covered previously in this unit will help you buy shoes that allow you to avoid injury:

Know your type of arches

If you have high arches you will need a shoe with more cushioning for shock absorption whereas if you are flat footed you will need a shoe with more support and heel control.

Know whether you over- or under-pronate.

If you over-pronate you need shoes that provide stability, whereas, if you under- pronate you need shoes that provide shock absorption.

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Know if you are prone to running injuries.

See a sports medicine doctor if you are predisposed to training/overuse injuries to determine if your injuries are related to biomechanics. Biomechanical conditions, such as being an over- or under-pronator, or having one leg shorter than the other, often result in running injuries. In some cases, you may benefit from using orthotics (see section on orthotics) in your running shoes. Also, take your running shoes with you when you go to see your doctor.

Try on shoes towards the end of the day.

Feet are smallest first thing in the morning and swell slightly as the day progresses. Also, wear running or sports socks while trying on shoes since they are generally thicker than regular socks. Walk around the store in the shoes to check the fit, cushioning and stability of the shoe. If you use orthotics, lifts or other inserts, bring them with you when you try on shoes.

Do not buy shoes based on their brand name.

Buy shoes that suit your biomechanical needs and work for your foot type, not shoes that a friend highly recommended or shoes you have seen a “good” runner wear. Consider going to a specialty shoe store where a knowledgeable salesperson can evaluate your running style and biomechanical needs, and recommend a shoe.

Replace worn out shoes in a timely manner.

Wearing worn out shoes can eventually lead to injuries and cause knee or hip pain. It is a good idea to replace running shoes every 400 to 500 miles, or sooner if your shoes wear down quickly. One way to keep track of your running mileage is to establish a running log. A running log will not only help in keeping track of your running distance, but it will also help in tracking factors such as sudden increases in mileage or the onset of injury.


Orthotics are shoe inserts that are customized to an individual’s biomechanics and foot type to provide good foot support and motion control.

Individuals with biomechanical conditions that result in pain and injury may benefit from using orthotics in their running shoes. First, a plaster mold of the foot is made and then inserts are developed to correct the biomechanical problem(s). These inserts are usually made of cork soles covered by flexible leather or hard plastic.

Orthotics should be gradually broken in; first wear them while walking and then progress to running. If not properly fitted, orthotics may worsen the problem. A podiatrist or sports medicine specialist is required to have them custom-made.
Sometimes low cost, over-the-counter, commercial orthotic inserts can work as well as customized inserts.


Unlike many sports, running is not seasonal and with the right clothes, it is possible to continue to train outdoors on very hot or very cold days. When weather conditions are extreme, as in ice storms, blizzards or a major heat wave, outdoor training can be substituted with running on a treadmill in the gym.

Thus, running clothes can range from a simple pair of running shorts and a singlet to running tights and gortex jackets, depending on environmental temperatures. Cold weather running requires dressing in layers. Always keep your head and extremities warm in cold weather.

Experience will teach you what to wear when running in the cold. If you wear too much, you may get hot after warming up, i.e., within the first mile or so.

Heart Rate Monitors

You may have seen these advertised in running and fitness magazines. Some athletes use these for monitoring their training intensities. Such monitors consist of a wrist watch and a chest strap: the chest strap has an electrode which picks up your heart beat and transmits it to the watch which in turn displays your heart rate in beats per minute. If you know your target training zone you can check and maintain your heart rate within that zone.


Putting reflectors on your shoes and running clothes is a great idea if you routinely run late in the evening, at night, or very early in the morning when visibility is particularly poor. This is especially important in urban areas where motorists may not be paying particular attention to runners. Note that you should also run against the traffic.


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