The Shoe Search
As a preliminary step to really starting to train, I started with some shoe research.
I found websites that said that all fat people have flat feet that pronate (roll inward) as part of their gate. Personally, I have really high arches and tend more towards supination (roll outwards). So much for generalizations. I found websites that said I should go for a lot of cushioning. My feet say I should be barefoot and the cushioning felt like I was trying to run on balloons. Plus, my weight would break down the cushioning more quickly than usual, resulting in either wearing out the shoes or throwing off my stride with an uneven base.
The stupidest thing I saw was at Payless, who were selling shoes advertised to help lose weight by "creating pockets of instability" that made it harder to walk and supposedly burned more calories. Seriously? Pockets of instability are the LAST thing you want under your feet when exercising. That's how injuries HAPPEN. I'm still raging over that one. It's tough to exercise in a leg cast, so how do they expect to sell more shoes? Idiots. Oh, and that "weight loss shoe" with the toe higher than the heel!? Can anyone say Plantar Fasciitis and strained muscles? But I digress...
Your first step is to go to a store specifically catering to runners, and try on shoes. Don't order them on the web even if every running site on the web say they're the bee's pajamas and the cat's knees. There is no such thing as a shoe that fits every foot and gait.
This is a scary prospect because I'm sure super-elitest stores exist out there that will treat a fat person coming through their doors like crap. Even if they don't, I always feel "exposed" in an athletic shop. I am a fat nerd in the jock's natural habitat. Every instinct instilled during junior high and high school screams that at any moment they'll notice me and the mocking will commence. All I can say is, if someone treats you rudely or condescendingly because of your weight, walk out and notify the manager that his employee lost a customer. On the other hand, if you're too keyed up expecting bad treatment, it will make you defensive and your non-verbal communication will come across as hostile. Your hostility will make the other person defensive, creating a self-fulfilling expectation. Not getting treated like a human being ready to secure them a sales commission should definitely be the exception to the rule, so at least give them a chance to help you.
I went to a place downtown with a fair amount of success. The clerk was very nice, had me try on about 10 different shoes and watched me walk in them to check my gait. You're looking for shoes that hug your feet without squeezing them. If they're a little too tight at first they'll stretch with use, but they shouldn't cause discomfort. Most people have one foot larger than the other, so it's tricky to find the right pair. It should feel supportive and slightly springy underneath, and should not interfere with your natural gait. It should, in no case, feel unstable or wobbly.
Once you've tried on a bunch, you will hopefully discover a pair you really like. At this point you have a choice. There really isn't any reason for a beginner to pay more than $125 for running shoes. If you pay more, you may be buying too much shoe (where the advantage to a marathon runner would be lost on a beginner) or you may be paying for branding (i.e. slap on $60+ just for the little Nike logo on the side). One solution to sticker shock is to ask about last year's shoes. Like cars, shoes come out with new models every year and the previous year's may be on clearance. Another solution is to find a shoe you like, then go to a big box store and try to find shoes that feel the same way. If you're just starting out there's really not a lot of advantage to buying sleek, professional gear. If it fits well (snug but not squeezing) and has good support, a pair of off-brand sneakers at Wal-mart can do just fine for the first six months. If you're still running after that, then upgrade. I know someone who's been running for twenty years in the Dr. Scholl's brand sneakers from Meijer's, for $30 to $50 depending on sales. He only bought fancy running shoes when he needed better arch support.
Just starting out, I went for traditional, neutral balanced low-cushioned runners with a slightly flexible sole. I have a pair of Adidas for home. For my work runners (I wanted a second pair so I didn't have to lug them back and forth) I got a cast-off but almost new pair of Nike's that JD bought and discovered too late they were the wrong size.
I really, really want a pair of barefoot shoes. Even when I was a kid it was hard to keep shoes on me, and I still go barefoot unless required otherwise. Barefoot runners require special training to condition the body to that style. As appealing as the idea is, I want to save that until I can run any reasonable distance. It would be trying to fly when I'm at the crawling stage.