Tuesday 15 March 2011

kick off your sunday shoes....

At the end of September last year, I was busy trumpeting the arrival of a new pair of running shoes. You don't need to be a runner to appreciate that this is probably the single most important piece of kit you will buy: running is a high impact activity, and the right trainers can make all the difference to avoiding injury and making the whole running experience as painless as possible. Well, it will probably always hurt - that's sort of the point - but the right shoes will help minimise the shock of running on your body....

They say that you should replace your running shoes every 500 miles or so, but about ten days ago, I was forced to replace mine after a mere 177.42 miles. The reason? they were hurting my feet...and that can't be right.  Right?

I've worn shoes from the Asics 2100 range for much of the last ten years, initially buying a pair after having my footstrike analysed on a pressure pad to see what kind of support I really needed. My last shoes were 2150s, the latest update (at the time), and as I'd had no problems before, I assumed that these would be fine too. It usually takes a while for a shoe to mould to your foot and to adjust to the way that you run, but after more than 150 miles in these ones, I was finding that there was often blood on my running socks, and I was starting to curl my toes as I ran to prevent chafing on the top of my feet (even when wearing properly cushioned socks). Not good. I'd read some reports saying that the 2150s had not been a successful update and lots of runners were reporting foot pain, but here was proof positive. I don't run an enormous amount of miles each week, but if I do the half marathon this year, I'll be ramping up my training soon, and it would be madness to do this in uncomfortable shoes.

New shoes, then.  Not the hardest decision.

Because I've worn Asics for so long, but would now be changing brand, I thought it was probably time to have my running style analysed again to make sure I bought shoes with the right level of support (apparently Asics have already released a 2160 to replace the 2150, but for me the damage has been done and I wasn't going to risk £80 on another pair of shoes that might not last the distance).

At Sweatshop, I was put into a pair of trainers with "neutral" support and put on a treadmill. As I ran, I was filmed from behind and was then able to look in slow motion at how my feet hit the ground as I run. It's quite an eye-opener. As an over-pronator, I knew in theory that I bring my foot down on the outside of my heel and then roll my ankle across, but watching it happening is something else... every time my foot strikes and rolls, it looks as though I'm going to break something (especially with my left foot, which seems to roll harder than my right). It's a very common running style, apparently, and easily fixed by a pair of shoes with the right level of support - but it looks weird and painful when viewed in slow-motion.

The sales assistant pulled out some suitable shoes, and I selected the pair that felt the most comfortable (Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11s - top tip: always pick a running shoe with a big number after it, as it often indicates a brand with a long history). I then hopped back on the treadmill to be filmed, and watched how these new trainers almost entirely eliminated the roll in my footstrike. How clever is that? Plus I now have a pair of trainers with a non-Newtonian fluid in the sole that will start out soft and pliable but will get harder as impact increases, so it provides support according to how hard I hit my foot into the ground. Sort of like custard.

Actually, what do I know?  Maybe it *is* custard? Feels good, so I'm going with that.  Might as well be.  Whatever works, right?

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