The Chicago winter snuck up on us this year sending a full blast of cold weather and tons of snow our way this February!  The weather interfered with our outdoor running and walking programs, and since many of us have limited access to gyms because of Covid, our exercise routines were disrupted. 

But thankfully the sun has started to shine and the thaw has begun, so we will review some general recommendations for you to get back to running or walking outside safely.

Consider Your Shoe – Comfortable is Best

There are a variety of running shoes out there marketed to all different types of people, runners, and feet. It can be very overwhelming to pick which shoe is best for you.  Most runners have their preference for minimalistic versus cushioned shoes, or somewhere in between, based on their experiences and running styles. 

However, the research is extremely inconclusive over which type of running shoe is best or which helps prevent injury. In fact, emerging evidence suggests that the shoe a runner feels most comfortable in is the safest option for them, regardless of the shoe type[1]

Another important consideration is when to replace your shoe.  As a general rule of thumb, most companies would advise replacing your running or walking shoes between every 300-500 miles of use.  If you are not sure now how many miles you have on your shoes you can also examine them for excessive wear in the treads of the soles or for areas of wrinkling or material breakdown on the top of the shoe.   But the most simple way to decide if you need new shoes is whether or not they are still comfortable.  If your feet do not feel supported and comfortable, or if you are beginning to have discomfort in your knees or hips it is probably time to change your shoes.

Consider Your Running Surface

The surface you’re moving on can really change how your body feels while walking and running. In Chicago, one of the most comfortable surfaces to run on outdoors is asphalt streets or paved tracks in parks and schools. The softer composition of these surfaces helps with shock absorption and landing mechanics. 

Concrete is readily available throughout the city, but is a much harder surface and the additional impact can affect some runners, causing discomfort as they land repeatedly on the ground. If you’re having difficulty getting comfortable in your run or struggling to find your rhythm, try varying the surface you are running on and see if there is a change.

As always around the city, watch for curbs, cracks, and traffic as you navigate your run or walk. Improved awareness of your surroundings and mindful stepping is one of the best ways to prevent accidents and injury. 

Consider Your Mileage

Some of us may have only been off the tracks for a few weeks, and for some of us it has been a few months. Wherever you are, it’s important to recognize the time off you’ve had and not expect to jump right back in where you left off. 

Many factors will impact how quickly you are able to progress your walking or running program. Your current cardiovascular health, body weight, whether you are doing any other exercise, and even psychosocial factors can influence your progression. It is important to start slow and listen to your body to have productive, safe and fun workouts. 

Here are a few other ideas for you to take into account as you get back into your running or walking program.   Do whatever you need to keep yourself motivated and on your individual fitness path.  You may want to run with a friend or make sure you always have your favorite music with you.   Set realistic goals for yourself based on how you do in your first few outings.  Goals are a great way to help guide your progression back to activity and serve as an awesome motivator, reminding you of how far you’ve come. Remember though – these goals do not have to be daunting! 

If you have pain with running or walking which is not improved by getting new shoes or If you have any questions about the content here or feel you need more assistance from a physical therapist to get back to your preferred exercise, reach out to us ASAP! 
Call us at (773) 907-3599 or send us a note to call you to set up an appointment.  
We look forward to helping you stay active and healthy!


  1. Nigg B, Baltich J, Hoerzer S, et al. Running shoes and running injuries: mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms: ‘preferred movement path’ and ‘comfort filter’British Journal of Sports Medicine 2015;49:1290-1294.