Sub zero temperatures, snow, rain and wind, ice and mud… ‘must be time for another Run the World Run? Not quite! Germany to Czech Republic starts on 17th March and I can’t wait! I’m starting to plan the logistics and kit, it can get quite complicated but I have to remind myself why I love running, you need very little, just walk out the door and go. The one thing we do need though is our Perfect Running Shoe, and this is my experience of finding it!
I love change, always have, but when it comes to running shoes I’m the opposite. I get stressed out, probably because I’ve learnt the hard way. 10 years ago, when I started running again, overweight and unfit, I had a lot of recurring ankle injuries and shin splints. Initially I blamed my shoes, Brookes, but then I realized it was the way I was running that was causing the injury. I read a lot, learnt to Chi Run and then trained as a Chi Running instructor. I couldn’t believe the difference it made and my injuries stopped almost immediately. To give yourself the best chance of being injury free, before you even put your shoes on – learn to run correctly. Watch Chi Running videos on YouTube or ChiRunning.com.
After the Inca Trail Marathon I switched from Brookes to Inov8 for a neutral low profile running shoe, removing the cushioning and support. I knew my running form was good and they allowed my foot to do its job. My Perfect Running Shoes were the Inov8 Talon and F-Lite. The F-Lite felt like slippers and the Talons were so ‘sticky’ running over rocks and muddy hills, I adored them. BUT, however perfect they were, I learnt a painful lesson, pulling a muscle in my calf badly. I switched too quickly from ‘high heeled’ Brookes to zero drop F-Lite, over stretching the muscles. Always take time to transition to a new running shoe, especially if there is a difference in the heel drop.
I stuck with Inov8 for 8 years during which time I didn’t have any injuries. I ran intermittently but completed a number of marathons, but my miles were not consistent and I’d has almost a 3 year gap when in January 2016 as I stepped up my running and started training for the Great Wall Marathon and the Marathon des Sables. I was fell running, up and down rocky hills and stone steps, increasing my mileage too quickly from around 20 miles a week to 50 or 60. Yes I had a good running technique and yes I had my tried and tested Perfect Running Shoes – BUT I didn’t give my bones and muscles time to catch up with my minds ambitions. I also didn’t consider whether my old faithful shoes were still right for me. Again I learnt the hard way, too much too soon, with insufficient protection for the distances I was covering. I needed foot surgery for a serious stress fracture, nearly stopped myself from every running again – I couldn’t run for 20 weeks. Always take time to build, our minds can push us to do things, but let our bodies prepare physically too and don’t assume your old faithful shoes are always going to be the Perfect Running Shoe.
After surgery I struggled to find comfortable running shoes and I knew I needed more cushioning. As most of my training miles for MDS were on the road, I started wearing Brookes GTS18. Compared to Inov8 they felt clunky but my feet did feel protected and they served me well for MDS. As soon as I got back I wanted to find a trail shoe, GTS were like wearing skates ! The day before the Punk Panther Ultra Marathon last August, I went into my local running shop in Otley, Yorkshire Runner. I knew there was no way I could complete a muddy trail ultra marathon in GTS. Tim recommended I try Altra and I was very dubious, thinking they were a fad. I knew nothing about them but walked out with a pair of Altra Lonepeak 3.0 Neoshell. I loved them from the first run, I’d found my new Perfect Running Shoe: The Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell. They are truly amazing with a fabulous sticky sole and a waterproof Neoshell upper. In -15C deep snow or -5C muddy streams I’ve only needed one pair of socks and my feet have not been wet or cold. I’ve run in snow, mud and ice and not slipped once. The really wide FootShape toe box is great, but I did have to experiment as the ladies were not as comfortable and I needed a size 8.0. I prefer the men’s 7.5 which are a perfect fit. There is a mesh upper version which are the exact same fit and just as comfy but not as good in cold and wet, as I learnt this morning.
So my Perfect Running Shoe, is the Altra Lone Peak 3.0 – with the Neoshell version perfect for winter running. There is a new version 3.5 which I haven’t tried yet, I love these too much. I’m very lucky that Altra have sponsored me for Run the World, along with Ron Hill and Yorkshire Runner. I value my feet and my ability to run too much, having foot surgery means you don’t take one step for granted, so I wouldn’t either run or recommend a shoe I didn’t truly believe in. There is no other shoe I would take to run 10 marathons in 10 days in March., I know they will work whatever the conditions.