7 Remarkably Helpful Tips on How to Start Running

Woman starting her run, headed out in pink socks as she passes under a bridge

So, you want to learn how to run. Drawn to the glitz and glamor of the lifestyle? Craving the respect and awe of your peers? Inspired by the adventure of hitting the trails or city streets, armed only with a pair of shoes, your trusty Darn Tough socks, and your sense of dead reckoning? Or did your crush sign you up for a 5k, and you want to reach the finish line alongside them looking just *slightly* sweaty, with a grin instead of a grimace?

Whether you’re motivated to take care of your body (check), give your mind some stress relief (happy sigh), or challenge the local wildlife to foot races (an admirable if questionable goal), running can help you get there.

How to Start Running – And Keep Going

Whatever your reasons to get started running, the most important thing is that you enjoy the journey. And we mean that literally — if you’re going to keep running, you should like the actual experience between points A and B as much as you like getting to the finish line.

Person seated on steps in blue socks with running shoes next to her, getting ready to start running

With that said, we’ve put together some running tips for beginners, to help you start off on the right foot (ha, sorry). Maybe you’ve already gotten as far as choosing a training plan or downloading a running app. Maybe you’re here by accident, and you just wanted to learn about socks — but now you’re feeling running-curious, and you’ve already read this far; might as well see how it ends.

In no particular order, we present Seven Remarkably Helpful Tips on How to Start Running.

Tip #1: Track Time Instead of Distance

There’s something satisfying about clicking off kilometers (that’s .62 miles for the mathletes reading this), but try going for time instead of distance — i.e., 20 minutes instead of two miles.

Focusing on your effort throughout a run will help you practice tuning into internal factors (like your breath and energy levels) instead of external ones (like comparing yourself to other runners). And knowing how your body feels at any given moment will help you learn how to run stronger, faster, and happier.

Tip #2: Don't Run Every Day

Seriously, we mean it. Committing to a daily routine might be tempting, but especially in the beginning, your muscles, ligaments, and even bones need time to recover as they grow stronger.

Start with a short run every other day or three days a week, and slowly increase the length / duration of your runs during the weeks that follow.

Woman seated on yoga mat in a grassy field

If you want to stay active during your “off” days, incorporate cross-training like cycling, strength training, or yoga to switch up your muscular engagement with less stress on the bones. 

Tip #3: Walking Should Be Part of Your Runs

Walking is running, too. (Embrace the paradox.)

We know it’s satisfying to go all-out, but the key to increasing your stamina is building an aerobic base. That means running slow and, yes, even walking.

A couple running through town on a snowy day

Pay attention to your breath — if you’re breathing hard through your mouth, you’re going too fast. Try alternating 2 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking at first, and add more running over time. And if you’re going up any kind of hill or incline, walking is your friend, especially as you build up your legs and lungs.

There’s no such thing as “too slow” — going slower now, with a run-walk combo, will help you add endurance while limiting your risk of injury. (Plus, running’s more fun when you don’t feel like you’re fighting for your life the whole time. Sllooooowww doooowwwwn.)

Tip #4: Take Care of Yourself

Running is a high-impact sport that can be hard on the body at first. Pay attention to your next-day (and next-next-day) soreness. Your muscles will probably be achy, but sharp pain — especially in joints — is a sign of overdoing it.

If discomfort or soreness doesn’t diminish 48 hours after a run, take some more time to recover, and don’t hesitate to consult a professional like a coach or physical therapist as you figure out what “normal” feels like.

Runner doing a stretch against a wall to care of himself

Also, remember that a day or two of strength training each week can do wonders for your running. Adding stretching and mobility work to your weekly schedule will help your joints move well — but we’re not talking about those straight-limbed stretches we used to do back in gym class.

Studies show static stretching (ie, sitting down and holding a stretch) does nothing to reduce injuries, but a short mobility routine with dynamic, movement-based stretches goes a long way toward keeping you healthy.

Tip #5: Get the Gear

“All you need is a pair of shoes and a love of life.”

Gold-medal-winning Paralympian Noel Thatcher’s rosy-eyed view of running is close, but we’d add “a good pair of Merino socks.”

It’s easy to get swept up in the sea of spandex, split shorts, uber-tactical hydration vests, million-lumen headlamps, and GPS watches with a battery life longer than the average human. But before you feel pressured to fill your gear closet, start simple. Good shoes and socks will carry you through your first few miles, weeks, and maybe even months — and eventually, you’ll start to have a better idea of what additional gear you actually need.

Feet up on log wearing Darn Tough running socks

The ideal pair of running shoes for one person may not be the right pair for another — and remember, more expensive doesn’t always mean better. The most important thing is how they fit.

Different brands and models will fit everyone’s feet differently, so try them on and jog around a bit or do a little dance to see if they’re comfortable. If they have ample toe room (no pinched pinkies) and don’t rub in the heel when you bust out those TikTok dance moves, you should be good to go.

And now for our favorite piece of gear — socks! Merino Wool socks are soft and moisture-wicking, which can help your feet stay dry, comfortable, and blister-free. Merino’s natural anti-odor properties mean your feet will be smelling fresh for miles, no matter the season or weather.

Person tying on running shoes over black running socks

At Darn Tough, we make all our socks with an unconditional lifetime guarantee. And our running socks have undeniable style, with colors and patterns for all tastes, from no-show to over-the-calf. The only danger is you’ll be so distracted by your own steezy socks that you might trip. (Look up!)

Tip #6 Run with Purpose — Your Own

There are endless ways to enjoy running.

  • Into the social aspect and seeking community? Join a local running club.
  • Are you a hiker wanting to go further in the mountains? Trail running can get you there.
  • Looking to push yourself? Search online for a beginner running program and train for a 5k race — or maybe even a 10k.
  • Just need to get Fido out for some exercise? Our four-legged furbabies are excellent running partners.

Ultra runner Mirna Valerio seated on summit after trail running

However you prefer to run, and whatever your goals may be, remember that running is, most of all, a relationship with yourself — body and mind. Treat your runs as an opportunity to celebrate your body and what it can do for you. Embrace the chance to let your mind wander, work through stress, or self-reflect. Enjoy the unique places running will take you, and the diversity of like-hearted people you’ll meet.  

Just don’t take it too seriously — running should be fun.

Tip #7: How to Start Running? One Step at a Time

Just go for it. Don’t overthink things. Put your shoes (and socks) on and start running — we’ll see you out there.

Person running down trail as sun sets

Recap

  1. Track time instead of distance.
  2. Don't run every day. 
  3. Walking should be part of your runs.
  4. Take care of yourself.
  5. Get the gear.
  6. Run with purpose — your own.
  7. How to start running? One step at a time.