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Fit to be tried: Fitted running shoes

IF you've decided to take up running for the new year, or to step up from an occasional jog to a regular daily rock-along, you're onto a good thing.

Running is free, it's good for your heart, improves your health, increases muscle mass and helps you pound out troubles or stress.

So where to start? Getting the right footwear is important, and it's worth visiting a specialised shop where they have a range of running shoes and can find you a pair to suit your physique and ability -- from local walker to competitive athlete.

One such place is Runways in Dublin's Parnell Street, where the staff know their stuff, are helpful rather than pushy, and you get a free assessment that will point you towards the right shoe.

As part of the service, you jog on a treadmill to check out your style, and it's worth doing. How else would I know I have what's called "bog toes" -- splayed feet with a rising toe? That's all right -- I'm a peasant girl and proud of it.

Runways staffer Rory Flynn takes me in hand to advise on the best choice. "A common problem is people buy the wrong shoes," he says. "It can be an expensive mistake, and can even cause running injuries."

What does a good running shoe do for you? I see one that promises "inherited stability, DNA cushioning, improved support and non-Newtonian technology to help momentum" -- and I haven't even started jogging yet.

Rory tries me first with a pair of Brooks, a shoe I love because they're wide, like my broad feet (peasant stock again). Then he offers another option: a Mizuno wave shoe (below).

This brand from Japan offers the benefit of "non-Newtonian" motion, meaning the middle of the shoe is made with a fluid that is soft and bouncy when you start, but hardens as speed increases.

This gives you momentum, so you roll forward rather than starting up again with each new step. That's the claim, and I decide to give it a try.

Buying shoes tailored to your feet, body and running style is important, whether you're a recreational jogger or an advanced athlete.

Many national stars are regulars at the shop, including Sonia O'Sullivan, Gavin Noble, Joe Sweeney and Raheny woman Barbara Sanchez, who will be heading to the Olympics.

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But enough about them, what about me? "We look at your foot type and running style and match it to the right shoe," says Rory.

Depending on the shape of your foot, good shoes are designed with stability, motion control and impact absorption in mind.

A trendy choice is the 'barefoot' running shoe, a glove-like model with separate casings for each toe that feels hardly there, so it's like running in bare feet. There's a new version out that is thicker-soled and better suited to the harsher Irish terrain and environment.

At Runways less is more, so you're not overwhelmed with too many options of shoe type or running wear. It only sells eight brands, with Brooks and Mizuno being top choices.

The shop knows its niche market, and plenty of return customers pop in and out as Rory puts me through a typical routine for finding the right shoe.

First you jog and then run quite fast on the treadmill set up on the shop floor, with a smiling picture of Sonia to egg you on -- she was one of their first customers.

Rory gives me two options: a comfy and wide pair of Brooks, and the sleeker Mizunos.

These are the business, and more specialised than regular running shoes I've worn for everything from walking round Howth Hill to finishing a marathon in three hours 40 minutes (once, but it was a proud moment).

Having such a flash pair of runners means I've no excuse but to test them out on a run/walk session. And my Mizuno Wave feels like running on malleable cushioning, now I just have to get fit enough to merit the honour.

So it's out with my old cheapo sneakers and on with my Mizunos, and off I go ready to make waves this new year. See you on Howth Hill.

The Verdict

Did it work? Sure did - makes a big difference. No excuses now

Pluses: Advice from people who know their stuff

Minuses: Publicly jogging along in a busy shop to establish your running patterns, such as pronation and 'bog toes'

Cost: Assessment free. Top running shoes about €150

Contact: Runways 187 Parnell Street, Dublin 1. Tel: 01-8146614. Online orders and advice available: info@runways.ie


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