For starters, Id recommend not one shoe but twotwo pairs at the same time, that is. The reason is simple: If you are serious about running, sometimes going out on back-to-back days, then it pays to let one shoe dry out thoroughly and wear the other. Both shoes will therefore last a little longer than if youd purchased only one pair.
Also, theres one important factor I cant deal with here: Your stride and your foot motion. Only time will tell whether youre a neutral runner (foot stays level during stride), an over-pronator (foot rolls to inside), or an over-supinator (foot rolls to outside). This matters because many shoes are designed to help correct one issue or another.
Still, for the sake of discussion, Ill assume youre a happily neutral runner and that your target= is to work up to a weekly distance of, say, 20 miles. Weekly! Not all at once!
Ive always been partial to Asics shoes due to their good construction, excellent motion control, and good cushioning. In a womens shoe, its GT-2110 ($90; www.asics.com) is an excellent choice that wont completely break the bank, yet is designed to take you as far as you want to run. Its designed for an average-sized woman of medium build who wants stability and cushioning and doesnt have any severe pronation or supination issues. And, as a womens shoe, is has a narrower heel and slightly different arch configuration than a mens shoe.
New Balance shoes also are first-rate, in part because of their excellent design and construction, and also because they come in widths. The New Balance 767 ($85; www.newbalance.com) is an excellent all-purpose runner, with good cushioning and lots of support to keep you stable when you run.
Finally, Nikes shoes remain a good bet because that companys now-somewhat-venerable air-cushion system works, and because Nike dumps a lot of money into research and development. The Nike Air Zoom Percept ($110; www.nike.com) puts both features to work with a state-of-the-art shoe that incorporates stretch panels for an almost-custom fit on nearly any foot.
If you havent done a lot of running before, ease into it. Over-use injuries are very common among new runners who do too much too soon. You might start feeling pains in your shins (shinsplints), or soreness in the Achilles tendon (Achilles tendonitis), or soreness in the knee or behind the kneecap (various causes). If this happens to you, back off your routineeven taking a week or two off. Then resume running slowly and for short distances, gradually working your way up.
Check out this years more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive section of womens gear, in the 2006 Buyers Guide.