Olympic Minister Tessa Jowell officially opened a new athletics facility for the country’s Olympic medallists this month. The Lee Valley Athletics Centre in North London will improve training opportunities in the run-up to the 2012 Games and provide a new home for Enfield and Haringey Athletics Club.
The centre is believed to be the largest indoor and outdoor athletics facility serving London and the southeast. It houses the only indoor 200m six lane track in the South of England and comprises permanent seating for 500 spectators, in addition to cutting edge sports science and physiotherapy suites.“The Lee Valley athletics Centre is a fantastic new facility. This will be a hub of training and support for those talented athletes aspiring for the podiums of 2008 and 2012.And it will also inspire people of all ages, recreational and community users too, to get out and take part in sport,” said Jowell.

Not only is running a great way to get fit; its cheap and can be done anywhere at any time. It forms an integral part of a number of sports, and is arguably one of the easiest ways to embark upon improving fitness. From fun runs to cross country, fell running to road races and marathons – most runners do so to stay fit and because they enjoy it.

Vital to any running wardrobe and any good sports shop, are comfortable running shoes and seamless sports socks. Runners should be advised to wear comfortable, nonrestrictive clothing. In summer, shorts and a T-shirt, in winter, a tracksuit or pair of thermal tights under a lightweight waterproof/windproof suit, a long-sleeved thermal top and windproof jacket might also be suggested, along with a hood or bobble-hat and a pair of gloves.And for women, a good sports bra is a must.

Here, however,we focus on comfortable footwear.

Getting the right balance

New Balance manufactured its first performance running shoe in multiple widths – the Trackster – in 1960. By 1976 New Balance 320 and 305 were named the world’s best running shoes by Runner’s World, catapulting the brand to the forefront of modern athletic shoe design.

In the 1990’s, the company developed the New Balance Suspension System and continues to use multiple technologies to meet the needs of performance athletes today. Jim Davis, who bought the company in 1972 said:“Performance and fit remain the brand’s primary product drivers as New Balance moves into and beyond its centennial year.”

New Balance continues to expand into new markets and grow in existing markets by focusing on its strong foundation in technical running and walking,whilst building a balanced and sustainable lifestyle range for the discerning fashion consumer. In 2007 it revealed its most advanced performance shoes for road and off road running to reinforce and grow its position in the marketplace as an authentic running brand.

The next phase of the 1060 range comes in the form of the 1061, a performance cushion shoe made for runners with neutral gaits who seek maximum flexibility and protection.With a full length Abzorb Midsole, this high mileage shoe provides impact protection through exceptional cushioning combined with superb heel to toe transition says the company.

New for Spring/Summer 2007 is the lightweight performance 902, designed for fast and efficient runners who need light support and prefer a responsive ride with a fast pace. Launched as part of the Autumn Winter Collection 2006, the 921 Winter Running Shoe was created from scratch to offer maximum performance in cold weather conditions. Features include an anti-freeze sole to enable flexibility; removable spikes to reduce slipping; sticky rubber to assist in grip; and bioshield weatherproof protection material to improve waterproofing, and toe protection.

The 110 Ultra Marathon is light, durable, flexible but supportive, and has the ability to protect and stabilise in the most demanding of circumstances.

Feel the adrenaline

Another good running shoe to hit the market is the Brooks Adrenaline GTS7, which features a smooth, fast-feeling ride, bags of stability and a plush cushioned feel. Now featuring a new full length Brooks MoGo midsole technology, this lighter midsole compound boasts 38% more cushioning than its predecessor; a prolonged first feel; 33% more durability and 22% more energy return, all with no loss of stability. The Mogo midsole is also more environmentally friendly as it reduces production waste by 50% over previous midsole production – in fact,Runner’s World recently awarded Brooks “Best Innovation” for the midsole and its environmental work in manufacture.

Name the pace

In the Asics Autumn/Winter 07 collection, the Kayano has undergone a colour update. In addition,Nimbus 9 has been introduced, featuring a new rear foot and a gel cushioning system,with two separate units of gel, which work independently of each other. The inside edge of the shoe has a different colour, and the area triple layer foam (memory foam, standard foam, memory foam) has been designed to provide better customisation for an improved fit.

Both the GT-2120 and 1120 have also undergone a colour update – check them out!

Though the Cumulus has increased in price, it now uses a larger volume of gel for an enhanced pillowy ride.

The Stratus, meanwhile, is aimed at faster runners so if you have speed on your side, give this one a try.