Q: I heard that you have to get expensive shoes fitted by a running professional or else you’ll end up with an injury.
A: This is only true if you are a fancy-schmancy, very high-mileage runner (in which case you don’t need this whole Q&A section, so why are you even here?). Most of you beginning to intermediate runners without significant orthopedic problems just need to make sure that your shoes:
1. fit you well (usually you’ll require a half-size larger than you wear in regular shoes)It’s best to go to a real running store if you can, but you don’t need to break the bank. (Unless you’re the type of person who is more likely to actually do something if you’ve dropped a big chunk of change into it, in which case, go ahead, knock yourself out.)
2. are cushy
3. are intended for running
4. feel good when you run rather than when you walk (yes, you must run around when trying them on, preferably not on carpet. Yes, this feels idiotic)
Q: Do I really have to wear a sports bra?
A: Yes, unless you’re a man (and don’t have man-boobs). Yes yes yes. Please get those things under control. Even the Itty-Bitty Titty Committee members will bounce when running. As for the well-endowed, the bounteous thumbscre.ws provides this product plug: “Big-boobed runners: I got one word for y’all: Enell.”
Q: My knee/hip/foot hurts. Can I still run?
A: My rule of thumb is, if the running is either too painful to do OR seems to be making something WORSE, then no, and you might want to see an orthopedist. Otherwise, yes.
Q: My underwear scrunches up into my ass when I'm trying to run.
A: Gotta go commando. No panties for running. They either scrunch, wad, or give you VPL in your running tights.
Q: Why do my shins hurt?
A: Probably from shin splints, a poorly understood but usually temporary and nondangerous condition often seen when increasing mileage. If it’s not too bad, just stop increasing mileage for awhile, make sure your shoes are supportive, and ice your shins after running.
Q: Will running (especially on pavement) give me arthritis or otherwise damage my knees or hips in the long run?
A: No. This is a perennial favorite warning from smug couch potatoes – “you’re just going to ruin your knees!” There has been a lot of research in this area, and even among elite high-mileage runners, the opposite appears to be true. (The biggest risk factor for developing arthritis? Obesity.) It’s hard to link to studies since they’re mostly not open source, but here are a few choice quotes:
... [I]t appears that long-distance running does not increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knees and hips for healthy people who have no other counterindications for this kind of physical activity. Long-distance running might even have a protective effect against joint degeneration.Q: Isn’t it bad to exercise where there are a lot of cars and air pollution?
The presence of radiographic hip [arthritis] and the progression of radiographic knee [arthritis] was similar for older runners and nonrunners. Lumbar spine bone mineral density remained higher in runners.
Older persons who engage in vigorous running and other aerobic activities have lower mortality and slower development of disability than do members of the general population.
… [O]ur observations suggest that a lifetime of long distance running at mileage levels comparable to those of recreational runners today is not associated with premature osteoarthrosis in the joints of the lower extremities.
498 long-distance runners aged 50 to 72 years were compared with 365 community control subjects to examine associations of repetitive, long-term physical impact (running) with musculoskeletal disability ... Runners had less physical disability than age-matched control subjects and maintained more functional capacity … Runners sought medical services less often, but one third of the visits that they did make were for running-related injuries. … Runners demonstrated better cardiovascular fitness and weighed less. … Musculoskeletal disability appeared to develop with age at a lower rate in runners … than in community control subjects ... These data suggest positive effects of systematic aerobic running activity upon functional aspects of musculoskeletal aging.
A: If you have a choice, it’s best to run where you’re not taking bong hits from the tailpipe of a diesel bus. And if you have asthma, you may have more trouble on days when the ozone level is high. But overall, it’s still a lot healthier to run in a city than not to run at all. There’s not a lot of research in this area, however.
Q: When can I start running faster/farther than an arthritic sloth?
A: Patience, grasshopper. I mean, maggot. Running slowly is fantastic for your health; running faster adds very little to this. Almost everyone errs on the side of increasing too quickly, and then you're in trouble. If you must have numbers: once you're spending your whole 30 minutes running, wait a couple of weeks, and then you can start going EITHER 10% farther per week (not per run) or 3% faster per run (I can't do that math without hurting my brain, but if you're a numbers junkie, I suppose you won't mind).