Running footwear is really the only equipment a runner needs. Sure, shorts are useful and choosing a well fitted generally nylon pair of shorts goes a long way. As for shirts, you can just look above at me running to see what I think of all that (although obviously a good sports bra for women goes a long way, but I won't pretend to be qualified on that topic).
When coming into a shoe store, there are 8 major considerations a runner should keep in mind. My thanks goes to The Runner's Repair Manual by Dr. Murray F. Weisenfeld with Barbara Burr for this fabulous checklist. The book goes more in depth of course, but these are the highlights.
- Cushioning. Good cushioning is very important: check for 3/4" of cushioning under the heel and good cushioning under the ball of the foot as well. You also want to watch out for the visible layers of cushioning along the bottom of the shoe wearing off as you use it. If you wear off the very bottom layer, it means your feet are depending on a layer of cushioning that is not designed to impact the ground directly. Extra cushioning is recommended for overweight runners and those with arthritis and knee damage.
- Length: Toes need room! Make sure they are not touching the front of the shoe. Too little and you could get "hammer toes"- corns on the top of the toes. Too much space could lead to shin splints, however.
- Width. You want snug shoes, but if your feet are bulging out the sides at all, watch out. The right width is the easiest way to avoid getting bunions on your feet as well.
- Arch. Running shoes have more arch support than street shoes. For new runners, it may be odd at first, but don't worry: you'll get used to it. For those with arch problems, you may still need additional arch support.
- Counter. The counter is the back part of the shoe that wraps around the heel. Make sure it feels firm and is set square and straight onto the heel.
- Heel. You're looking for a flared heel in your shoes: one that is wider at the base than at the top. Watch out for the heel wearing unevenly once you buy it, this will likely lead to injury. Extra heel lift is good for dealing with Achilles tendonitis and shin splints in some cases, including a heel lift.
- Flexibility. Make sure the shoes bend easily at the ball of the foot. Don't worry too much about this though- they become more flexible as they get used. This is another reason to wear your shoes around the house for a day or three before going running in them. Flexibility goes a long way in preventing or helping with shin splints.
- Comfort. Make sure the shoe is comfortable! Hopefully this one is obvious, but keep in mind the thousands of times your feet are impacting the ground with every run. Unhappy feet is a direct line to an unhappy runner.
So there you have it! Your basic checklist when deciding on new running shoes. Of course, there is a whole other topic around pronation, but running stores are fabulous in helping you determine that.