Running: like walking, only faster

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Quite frankly, I don't know what all the fuss is about with running and jogging. All it requires is an open road, running track or treadmill, and the ability to put one foot in front of the other.

In the last 18 years, I've trekked more than 17,000 miles on three continents and have four marathons under my belt. I guess you could say I like to run just a tad; however, this hasn't always been the case.

There's been many a blue moon that I would have rather been doing everything else but running, such as: getting a tan at the beach, dancing the soles off my shoes at the local club, or playing cards and dominoes with my friends while watching a professional sporting event on television.

Surely, these things are much more important and enjoyable than lacing up my sneakers and running the same boring old loop around the base perimeter or neighborhood. Shoot, I practically invented the Top 10 list of reasons why I can't or shouldn't go running.

So what's your reason? Why don't you like to run or jog? Do you get blisters on your feet? Do the arches on your feet ache after you run? Do you get shin splints? If so, you're not alone. Millions of runners each year experience these same pains and more, and for a variety of reasons.

The human foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 tendons, muscles and ligaments. With such a complex structure, a lot can go wrong. While some foot problems are inherited, many occur because of years of wear and tear. Or quite simply, because you're running in a shoe that's not designed for your body frame, foot strike and training program.

If someone told you there was a running shoe designed for you and your training program, and it could help reduce or minimize most running ailments, how much do you think you'd have to pay? Ninety dollars, $100, or how about $120 or more?

While some top-of-the-line shoes seem to cost a small fortune, you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for this kind of foot protection. In fact, you can get a good quality pair of running shoes for less than $80 right off the shelf at your local base exchange, courtesy of the Fit to Foot Program. Military Clothing Sales offers this program as well.

Although there is much to learn about a proper fitting shoe, you don't have to be a scientist or running shoe expert to lace yourself up with the "right" shoe for you. The Fit the Foot Program has simplified years of scientific studies into laymen's terms to help novice, intermediate and advanced runners in finding the right shoe for themselves. All someone has to do is go by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service shoe department and ask a sales associate for the program pamphlet.

Whatever you do, don't stop there! Knowledge is power!

More information about running shoes can be found by going online to various Web sites. You can also go online to your favorite name brand athletic shoe company and click on the running shoe icon. Most companies offer a wealth of information to assist you in selecting the right shoe for you.

For the love of feet! Get educated and get yourself into the right shoe for you. If nothing else, it'll make the miles you trek around Osan, or wherever the running trails lead you, go by with greater comfort.

More tips:

- Try one or more brands on, do not limit yourself to one brand of shoe, 'fit and feel' are just as important as the shoe type.

- Buy shoes in the evening, when feet tend to be a bit larger, since the long bones in your feet spread slightly when you run this will help ensure the shoe is not too constrictive.

- Allow about 1/2" (roughly one thumbs width) from the end of your longest toe to the end of the shoe

- Ensure the widest part of your feet are the same size as the widest part of the shoe.

- Place shoes flat on the counter to check for balance, they should rest flat not tilt!

- The best shoe is not necessarily the most stylish, most popular or the most expensive.

- Running shoes should be used for running only!