New runners: Are you wearing the right shoe?

runner in forest

With running season in full stride — and the High Street Hustle on Aug. 13 — don’t blow it by getting injured. Protect your joints!

Whether you’re running, walking or just trying to stay healthy — here’s some advice from the Salem Health Rehabilitation Center. Susan Gallagher of Gallagher Fitness Resources (organizer of the Hustle) also has advice about shoes from her years of training and outfitting hundreds of runners to keep healthy legs and feet on the ground.

If you’re in a hurry to get out for a run, check the tip sheets recommended by Salem Health: Foot Health and the Running eBook. Also these tips from the American Physical Therapy Association:

Weight control

According to research, with every pound gained, a person puts four times more stress on their knees. Your back, hips and knees support your body weight, which explains why over-weight people have more joint problems.

Build and keep muscle

Weight-bearing exercise helps build muscle and keeps ligaments strong. Personal trainers and physical therapists can show you the best exercises for your body type; also check out the tipsheets suggested by the Salem Health Rehabilitation Center. If you feel pain, don’t “work through it” – see a doctor or specialist.

Cardio workouts

Research suggests that aerobic exercise to get your heart rate up helps reduce joint swelling. Try low-impact exercise like swimming or biking if your joints hurt.

Keep moving

If you have a sedentary job, you face greater risk of joint pain. Moving less means more stiffness. Stand up, change positions — and if you can’t leave your desk, talk on the phone while standing.   

Strengthen core

Focus some of your workouts on your back, abdomen and chest. A strong core helps maintain good posture, improves balance, and distributes the stresses of weight-bearing.

Start slow

If you haven’t exercised in a while, get a doctor’s advice before starting. You’ll be “stiff and sore” at first; a little of that is expected, but you can reduce it significantly (and keep your motivation) if you start slowly and build.

How’s your posture?

Stand and sit straight to protect your joints – from neck to knees. Good posture protects your hip and back, too. Don’t bend at the back! Remember the old saying, “lift with your knees, not your back.”

Gallagher: Tips from a pro

Local runners rely on the advice of Susan and John Gallagher, runners who’ve been “running” Gallagher Fitness Resources in Salem since 1997. They’re the major sponsor and organizer for the Aug. 13 High Street Hustle, so we wanted to pick their brains about shoes.

Shoes need good shock absorption and typically last from 6 to 12 months, depending on your weight and exercise habits. The “ah-ha” moment Susan notices is when customers come in with shoes they think are still good … but when they try on a new pair, the light bulb switches on.

“They can really feel the difference,” she says. “Shoes may look fine from the outside … but our body adjusts to the declining cushion, and compensates … then you start to ache. Don’t wait until that happens.”

Susan recommends bringing your old shoes in when trying on new ones. An athletic shoe expert can analyze cushion and foot strike to recommend the right new shoe, in case you pronate, or tend to be a “heel striker.” They — and their numerous clinics — can also help you run better and avoid injury with proper form, stretching and balance.

Experienced runners often have at least two pair, which help both last longer. Switch them every day, which helps the shock absorption recover, she says.

If you’re just starting a running or walking program, start with your doctor. A common malady the Gallaghers notice: too much enthusiasm! Don’t over-do it. Consider folding in low-impact exercise like swimming or biking.

Gallagher Fitness Resources has clinics and fun family activities for every level of runner or walker. Check their website!