What equipment do you need to get in shape for your first 5K? Nothing beyond a pair or two of running shoes, according to physical therapist Brittany Olson, who was our guest on the For Health’s Sake podcast.

But the choice of shoes matters. Even if the shoe fits, it might not be good enough.

“If you’ve never ran, or been fitted for a running shoe, I recommend going to a running-specific store where they can assess your foot and your run or gait,” Olson says.

Or, if you already have a pair of shoes that you think will work, she suggests you make an appointment with a physical therapist for a movement assessment. This can help make sure that they’re good for your feet.

Of course, having the right shoes is only the first step in a successful 5K training plan. During the podcast, Olson provides other helpful information to make sure you’re race-ready. Topics include:

  • How many weeks you need to prepare for your first 5K – and how to know you’re ready
  • 5K training programs like Couch to 5K that guide you through every stage of training
  • Core exercises all runners should do regularly for added strength and stability
  • Ways to strengthen your hips to decrease stress on your knees when running
  • The role of warm-up, cool-down and walking in your 5K training plan

Forget the “no pain, no gain” motto

You should not experience joint pain when running. So, if your feet, knees, back or hips start to hurt, don’t ignore what you’re feeling. Start by making an appointment with a physical therapist.

A physical therapist can help identify underlying conditions that may be causing your pain, and recommend specific strengthening exercises to reduce pain and improve your performance.

“If you have an abnormality in your gait that’s causing pain, we do need to fix it,” Olson said. “Otherwise, it’s going to get worse or lead to other problems.”