I’ve been mulling over that old adage; if it ain’t broke, why fix it? It holds some relevance, sure, but imagine our lack of progress if we’d never tried new ways. Often true in our approach to running gear. Generally, runners favour a brand, or a type of kit over another. We get stuck on the fuel that took us to a marathon PB or become reluctant to try a new brand of shoe because a mistake in this arena could prove costly in every possible way. Advice is pretty overwhelming, debate is rife, and runners become quite blind in defending the gear, training techniques, fuel or ultimate blister fixes that work for them. Truth is, this stuff is evolving all the time. Science is never “proven” it is only ever “supported” and, thankfully, there are research facilities and very smart people continually disproving, reinventing and improving our options.
As the child of a running father, I should probably have paid a little more attention to his chosen sport. I have a pretty clear memory of a pile of old running shoes in the washing room, and we made plenty of good luck cards. I really wasn’t interested or informed, and only put on my first pair of running shoes in my 30’s. My dad ran in Asics, so when I started running, I went there. They make some of the best running shoes in the world. They have pioneered some of the current shoe trends and technology, and they cater for a variety of running requirements from racing flats to pretty good trail shoes. So I was never unhappy with the Asics shoes that I bought, and I ran many happy races in the Nimbus and Cumulus that were recommended to me when I was a newbie.
I, like many runners, had some deeply rooted running prejudices. I thought of New Balance as inferior shoes (their historical price tag reaffirmed this) and I mocked the Salomon junkies. Eek, Big Steve might be reading this and wondering why I am being so rude! When I ventured in to the world of trail running, about 5 years ago, I saw the sponsored Salomon athletes, and the wannbes that seemed desperate to look like the Salomon pros; like they had stuck a pic of Ryan Sandes up next to their mirrors and were doing their best to pull of his look, white tights* and all.
So I stayed with Asics, all smug in the knowledge that I was in quality running shoes, and didn’t look like a wannabe. Also, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
The thing is, we evolve as runners, and shoes change, too. Quite often we lose a lot of weight along the way, resulting in a change in shoe requirement. Our foot strike can change as we get faster or slower. Trail races differ in their terrain, which results in a change of shoe requirement, too.
I met Grant and the guys at RUN Store on Bree Street soon after they opened, and got chatting to them about changing my shoes. If I was going to write more about running and running gear, then I needed to know more about what was out there. But I still wasn’t going to go with New Balance or Salomon; no ways.
I’ve consequently tried a few shoes in the past while. I enjoyed a pair of Brooks Cascadias for trail, ran my Comrades PB in 2016 in Saucony Rides, and was really impressed with the adidas Raven Boost. The grip on that shoe is pretty mind-blowing. I felt like a gecko on some of the climbs. Grant and his team helped me to enjoy a variety of shoes without risking too sudden a change which can result in injury. With the Asics I was in, I got at least a 10mm heel to toe drop, and moving in to a lower drop should happen progressively.
Then things got real. I went back to RUN in my post-Saucony phase, and asked Grant if we could go a little lower, and lighter. I wanted to wear the new pair for the Cape Town Marathon. Grant brought out a few options, and let me run on the treadmill whilst advising me on the benefits of each shoe. The guy has patience. The very last box he opened was a New Balance one. Shock, horror, I loved the shoes. He’d been trying to tell me to shift my thinking for a while, of course.
That was before, and this is after. We’ve done more than 800km together, and I’m heading to RUN tomorrow for a new pair of road shoes, but I’m pretty sure I’m done with changing shoes for a while. I’ll stick with these. I’ve done some of my best running in this pair , and they work well for track, too. My calves were pretty tight after the first few runs, because of the drop. Since then, good times.
Then I threw Grant a real challenge; I needed wedding shoes for my December wedding. He chuckled, even more so when I indicated that there would be a colour scheme. A trail running wedding, you see. Ever patient, Grant brought out a few options, each with a touch of green. I saw that Salomon box in the pile and rolled my eyes. White dress, not white tights, Grant! Jeez. But it was too late. I had the Salomon Sense Pro 2 on my feet, in mint green mind you, and I was in love.
I wore them in at Ultra-Trail Cape Town (ha) and then…
The running shoe journey is a complex dance and we’re all likely to defend our choices with great passion. My advice to all is find the balance between tried and tested, and being curious. I’m sure I’ll run in Asics again. I’m also certain that there are different shoes for each phase, current race goals and your shifting foot strike as well as other physical attributes. I’m turning in to a running shoe junkie, and I’m not sorry about that!
Need running shoe advice? Chat to Grant and team at RUN on Bree Street, Cape Town.