The Barefoot Caveman aka Glen Raines
finishes the Boston Marathon.
I always figured that running was an inexpensive way to get in shape. It seemed a reasonable assumption to me: no equipment, no membership fees. Now that I have been training for my first 5K, and reading up on running, I now see that "inexpensive" is a relative term. You can drop a lot of money on a lot of running gear. If you are a beginner and are looking around at some running sites, it may be intimidating. What do you need?
Well, you don't "need" anything to run. It is something that we were designed to do. Adam and Eve ran without any clothes at all. (Can anyone imagine two young, perfectly fit, literally made for each lovers other NOT chasing each other around paradise?) Later, I'm sure our ancestors ran bare foot, wearing bear skins, while being chased by vengeful bears. I'm also sure that they had shorter life expectancies and no podiatrists.
Not long after that time, major improvements were made in running apparel. Man invented shoes, and also moved to a lighter weight material for clothing: tanned dear skin. Native Americans ran around in homemade shoes, or no shoes, for centuries. Many still do today.
Then mankind had another technological breakthrough: pavement. This is really where the problem comes in. Barefoot running is great for natural surfaces, like grassy well watered earth, the beach, etc. Sidewalks and roads? Eh, not so much, unless you are Glen Raines. For this reason, the only thing you really need to worry about as a beginning runner is shoes. This is especially true if you are overweight. When you run, the amount of impact to your feet is 1.5 - 4 times that of your weight, depending on your stride length and speed. So, if you weight 250 pounds, you will be landing with a force between 375 and 1000 pounds.
If you are just starting the 5K challenge workout, you may be able to just use what you have for shoes. I had a pair of Ozark Trail hiking shoes that I used for my casual shoes. They worked just fine for the first two weeks. You're only running for 60 second reps the first day, after all. However, if your have any pain with the shoes you already own, stop. Just because mine were fine doesn't mean yours will be. But don't put off starting to train because everything isn't perfect.
Running shoes are the most intimidating thing to purchase, though. Most advice I've found on the subject suggests that you shop at a "running specialty store". (I once watched a Martha Stewart program where she made fried plantains. She had this special tool she used to flatten the slices of plantain. "You can purchase this at any Jamaican specialty store," she said. Great! Very helpful.) What on earth is a "running specialty store"? I have no idea. I heard that there was one about a half hour from where I live, if they hadn't gone out of business. I grew up in rural Ohio, and I am sure that for most of Middle America, finding a running specialty store would involve packing a suitcase and making a hotel reservation, possibly even airfare. But then you would need running shoes to make your connecting flight at Atlanta, creating a space time paradox that would threaten our very existence.
As luck would have it, mankind invented another technological advancement: the internet. This was mostly due to the fact they were wearing out their shoes looking for running specialty stores and bear skin suppliers. Now, at least you don't have to leave your house, but it doesn't make it less intimidating, or guarantee that your bear skins won't have anthrax. There are still a LOT of shoe choices and questions about your feet and running style that you just wouldn't know how to answer if you aren't already a runner.
The absolute best statement I found on running shoes was "Buying running shoes is more of an art than a science". A lot of the choices boil down to personal preference. If you are an absolute beginner, you don't have any personal preferences yet, do you? You don't know if you supinate or underpronate, or what that even means. You don't know your foot strike, stride length, or gait. You don't have an old pair of running shoes for the running specialty store employee to investigate.
Your first shoes may be a bit of a gamble, but they will probably be better than anything you already have in your closet. Here is what I did to purchase mine. There are quite a few websites that sell running shoes, but I went to Holabird Sports, because it was a suggestion on another website discussion about where to find cheaper shoes. Most of these sites will have a category for running shoes, so pick that. Next, narrow it down by size. If a shoe doesn't come in your size, then it doesn't really matter how good it is, does it? If you are overweight, I bet you have a wide foot, which really narrows it down. At Holabird, there were 338 mens running shoes, 249 in a size 10.5, and only 45 in a EE width. (They carry 4E width as well, which limited it to just 23.) I then sorted it by "price low to high", and started reading the reviews. Do the reviewers actually run in the shoes? Are any of them overweight themselves? Weed out bad reviews that were due to customer service and not the shoe itself. You want a great shoe more than a great purchase experience.
My final choice? Brooks Addiction 9. Regularly $100, on clearance for $56. I like them. I don't notice them when I run. I like all the lace holes threaded on my shoes, as it keeps my heel from slipping. These shipped with laces that are just a bit too short for that. My feet and knees don't hurt, but then I haven't even run my first 5K yet. My next pair of running shoes may be something totally different, I don't know. I bet these aren't great for marathons, but if I ever run a marathon, these shoes will be long dead.
Here is some other advice that I've picked up that sounds reasonable. Replace your shoes after a set number of miles, not when your feet start to hurt. You could injure yourself. 300 miles was one suggestion. As a beginner, I don't know if you would even think to track that. Also, only wear your running shoes for running. They'll last longer that way. You don't really need them for bumming around or casual Fridays anyway.
Good luck! Feel free to comment or tweet me about your experience and what you purchased. I'd be interested in what you experience.