Our "Amputee Running Series" aims to provide you with a practical guide to help you begin running with your prosthesis. This seventh installment will help you prepare for your first run—tips on how to choose the best running shoes and clothes and a word on expectations. For the previous articles on amputee running, head to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4—AK and BK, Part 5, and Part 6.
Keep expectations realistic
As you get ready to start running, veteran amputee runners advise keeping expectations and goals realistic. First-time runners are usually highly motivated, so it's common to set an unachievable duration goal and intensity. Unrealistic expectations can easily trip up beginners, and it's one of the most common downfalls of those who are beginning a new sport or exercise regimen. When in doubt, start slow, then move up your pace or increase your duration.
For the first run, the ideal duration is around 30 minutes, including warm-up. And when you run, listen to your body so you can determine the appropriate running speed.
You can also do interval training for your first run. Alternating between walking and running periods has also proven successful among first-time amputee runners because you get to control the overall stress on your body.
For example, you can alternate 5 minutes running and 3 minutes walking or 10 minutes running and 5 minutes walking for 30 minutes. You can play around with the number of minutes, but make sure that you spend a little more time running than walking.
Choosing running shoes
After you've chosen the right prosthetic running foot, if you're a single-leg amputee, the next thing on your list is a running shoe for your sound side leg. Selecting a running shoe is important because the shoe will support your sound side leg, which is expected to bear most of the load.
First, choose a shoe that's a half a size bigger than your true size. This will prevent your big toe from pressing against the front seam of the shoe and avoid blue toenails.
Second, determine your pronation control. Running shoes are often classified as "neutral," which makes up about 80% of running shoes, or "stability," which is designed to correct overpronation and underpronation.
Overpronation is when the ankle rolls excessively inward with each step, increasing your chances of injury. Meanwhile, underpronation or supination is common among those who have high arches; they run on the outer edges of their feet.
Not sure whether you have overpronation? Take a look at the shoe you use exclusively for running. If there is excessive wear from the ball of the foot toward the big toe, this is a good indication of overpronation.
In contrast, if the sole of your shoe wears down from the outer edge of the heel toward the center, this is a good indication that you have underpronation.
Third, get a shoe that has a thick sole if you want to lose a few extra pounds. This will offer you additional support.
Lastly, if your foot is stable and your weight is in the normal range, look for a shoe that's light, neutral, and on the narrow side.
Choosing running clothes
While it's easy to spring for cheap workout clothes, think twice before you buy them. Watch out for workout clothes that can't wick sweat and moisture away from the body.
Avoid fabrics that don't breathe, such as materials that are rubber- or plastic-based. These materials will trap your body heat, as well as bacteria from your sweat. Also, avoid cotton. While cotton absorbs sweat, it doesn't pull sweat away from the skin, making it feel heavy, wet, and generally uncomfortable. Instead, go for moisture-wicking fabrics like SUPPLEX® and COOLMAX® or fabrics that contain polypropylene.
The goal for your first run is simple: to keep realistic expectations and to be as comfortable as possible. The former can be achieved with a little mindset reset, especially if you've been entertaining unrealistic expectations for your first run, while the latter can be done with a bit of research and planning. Once these are set, you can focus on improving your running performance.Have you been running for a while? Are there any other tips you would like to share to first-time amputee runners? Leave them in the comments section below.