Running Gear Essentials for the Beginner Runner

If you're new to running, you may be a bit overwhelmed by all the gear and lingo that gets thrown around by the more experienced runners. You may wonder if you really need everything that they talk about, or if it's OK to start out with a few basics. If so…here are some key items you should have in your training bag:

Essential Clothing Items
First, let's talk about the necessary items. You need a pair of good running shoes; something comfortable to wear while you run and, for women, a good sports bra. These two items are by far the most important pieces of gear you will need for every single run.

The main concern to be aware of when shopping for running clothes is that you should stay away from cotton. Cotton sticks to you once you start sweating, unlike synthetic fabrics which draw the sweat away from your body and keep you more comfortable. Wicking apparel is key—it pulls moisture away from your skin, which helps prevent chafing and blisters. Tighter tops and bottoms are less likely to chafe. Now, dressing for the rain can be tricky, so try and develop a flexible running wardrobe that will cover you during various conditions.

Here are some suggestions on what to wear on those rainy Vancouver nights:
Hat or Visor: Wearing a hat or visor with a brim will keep the rain out of your eyes. For cold, rainy runs, consider adding a light beanie or headband for warmth. A waterproof cap will help keep your head warm and dry(er).

Jacket or Vest: A jacket or vest, usually a polyester blend, serves to keep you warm, keep off wind, rain, and snow, and manage your perspiration. It's an essential piece of equipment on cold, windy and/or rainy days. Use the zipper as a "thermostat" – zip up or down on the run, as needed, to stay comfortable.  

Long-Sleeve Shirt: A long-sleeve shirt made of high-tech polyester will pull moisture away from your skin, keeping you from getting clammy and cold on a cooler day.

Tights: The first level of insulation for your legs. "Classic" tights, are usually a polyester and spandex blend. Looser running pants (also stretchy, but not as form-fitting as tights) are another option here. In extreme cold, tights under pants is a good layering strategy. Underwear under the tights is a good idea; just try to avoid cotton.

So, shoes, a bra, a hat, a jacket, a shirt and some tights. Simple!

Essential Hydration Gear

When training for a race and are building mileage, hydration becomes extremely important (even in the winter). When your runs are on the shorter side, a runner's belt can be helpful to carry keys, ID or some cash in case of emergencies. As you increase your distance, you may need a belt that carries fuel as well as water. Some belts carry water bottles, some energy gels, and almost all have a pocket for small personal items. You can also opt for hand held water bottles or hydration backpacks.

For short distances, plain water is usually adequate, but other fueling options will offer a couple of advantages. Specifically, electrolyte gels and powders help replace some of the sodium and other minerals that your body loses in sweat along with water. In addition, sports drinks provide an extra energy source for your working muscles in the form of carbohydrates. Ultimately though, you want something you feel comfortable carrying and use on a regular basis.

Essential Safety Items

If you’re runnig outdoors when it’s dark you’ve got to wear some type of reflective clothing or reflective accessory item. Wear high-visibility, brightly colored clothing. A lot of running shoes and running clothes are made with reflective stripes, but for added protection you should buy a reflective belt, vest, flashing light, reflective tape or any other accessory item that will make you visible. You can even use a headlamp or hand held light so you can see where you're going, and drivers can see you too! The light should have a bright LED. Just make sure you can be seen on dark, rainy nights!

Not much is needed to keep warm, hydrated and safe on a run!  Take some time, work with a knowledgeable sales associate and try a bunch of stuff on!!

Are my shoes dead!?

One of the most frequently asked questions from fitness instructors and participants is…how long should my shoes last?  Obviously this will vary from one person to the next, but there are some general rules of thumb that do apply.

The midsole or material between the upper and the outersole is generally composed of pre-compressed foam called Compression Molded E.V.A.  It is a very lightweight material that has excellent resilience (or the ability to absorb shock and return it to its original shape before the impact).  Constant pounding compromises the resilience of the foam and its ability to attenuate shock.

The midsole also acts as a housing for such high tech materials as AIR, GEL, etc.  Yet, often with so little of these celebrated impact absorbers in the shoe, they have a negligible effect on the life of the midsole.

Therefore, the long term cushioning responsibility falls on the foam. This compression set E.V.A. has a well documented lifeline of about 500 running/walking miles.  After this amount of pounding, the foam “tires” and the resilience is significantly compromised to the point where the shoes feel like it “blew a tire”.  Often, this “flat” is not obvious until you try on a new pair of shoes and realize immediately why your knees or arches have been acting up.

But “running miles” are a poor measuring cup for aerobic activity.  So to try and create a gauge that was meaningful to fitness enthusiasts, I tracked a group of instructors who did a consistent number of high impact classes per week and who also felt their shoes were “finished” when various body parts began to cry out for help .

With this group of thirty or so instructors, we observed a consistent pattern of wear.  Here are a few examples:
a)      A person doing 8 classes per week felt their shoes were “dead” in 3 months.
b)      A person doing 4 classes per week felt their shoes were “dead” within 6 months.
c)      A person doing 2 classes per week felt their shoes were “dead” in 12 months.

So based on 500 miles worth of running wear, the reverse math meant that each class is equivalent to about 5 running miles worth of wear and tear.

Runners / Walkers can simply add up their mileage…ex.  I run for 40 min. 3 times / week... That means 3 to 4 miles / 3 times a week x 4 weeks is approximately 45 miles / month…which allows you about 12 months to do 500 miles…give or take a few steps!!!!!



When comparing aerobic wear and tear with running miles, we need to keep in mind two important points:
1.      With fitness and aerobic exercise, there is a great deal of lateral movement, which stretches the upper more than the linear activity of running.  The upper therefore may get sloppy and lose support, further limiting the life of the shoe.
2.      The impact in aerobics is concentrated on the forefoot area of the shoe.  Running, on the other hand tends to spread the impact more evenly across the midsole.

Do not change your shoes based totally on this chart!  Use the chart as a gauge, listen to your body and compare it with a new pair of the same shoes before you decide.

Hoka: A Modern Rocker for both Performance and Orthopaedics

One of the most intriguing shoes on the market comes by way of designers and adventure sports enthusiasts Jean -Luc Diard and Nicholas Mermoud.
Influenced by the popularity of wide tires and wide skis they created a line of trail runners with thick protective cushioning and a rockered profile. For a prototype they de-laminated a runner, separating the midsole/outsole from the upper. They then cut a piece of foam 2 1/2 times as thick as the foam of a regular running shoe, rockered the sole, patterned some tread and glued it back together.  The result is a somewhat bulky looking, yet surprisingly lightweight, line of shoes that delivers world class results in both athletics and orthopaedics.  Hoka One Ones are popular with the Ultra-Marathoners. They seem to deliver on the designer's goal of reducing fatigue, impact, and muscle strain over the long run. 
 At the same time rheumatoid arthritis sufferers can ambulate on a Hoka where they often experience significant forefoot pain in conventional flexible footwear. As you know, the Forefoot rocker is not a new invention.  It is used extensively in managing a variety of orthopaedic foot issues from post-surgery, to neuromas, to various forms of metatarsalgia. The problem is that a stiff rocker is usually only available in an uninspiring, unathletic, orthopaedic shoe. The Hoka provides a lightweight, well cushioned mainstream option.  I know... It sounds like another infomercial, but some firsthand experiences have proved compelling. Case in point:  Recently a 27-year-old female living in northern BC was brought into the store for some stiff rocker shoes. She entered alongside her occupational therapist from the GF Strong Rehab Centre. The patient had not walked comfortably for two years due to severe rheumatoid arthritis.  Her gait was painful, robotic, and thereby limiting.  After unsuccessfully trying on a few orthopaedic shoes, we tried the Hokas. A few careful steps later she began showing confidence in the rocker and fell into a more natural heel-toe gait pattern.  Knee and hip recruitment was a welcomed site to the therapist. The wide full ground contact base and stable rearfoot provided the patient with confidence and support while the forefoot
rocker allowed her to pass quickly through the painful metatarsals with limited flexion.  Unlike the Sketchers and MBT, the Hoka provides stable footing while the slight rearfoot rocker and 4 mm heel/ toe offset seems to promote a smooth heel- toe transition (be aware that the midsole foot frame sidewalls are firm and unusually high often restricting some wider based orthotics).  There is a second application for this shoe that may prove useful for runners and walkers. Case in point:  Forced to run with an acute calf strain I put on my Hokas (quite by accident really).  To my surprise, after 5 km, the calf was not aggravated at all which made me wonder:  Could it be, that with the rocker helping to get through toe off more quickly, meant less calf stress?  With less lower leg involvement, was there increased hip flexor, hamstring, and quad recruitment?  Does the increased use of the larger muscle groups during ambulation help explain why ultra-marathoners can go further in this type of shoe than any other?  
 Send us your thoughts... We’d love to hear them!  In the meantime, think of Hoka when looking for a lightweight rocker shoe for athletes and non-athletes alike.