A few Christmases ago my better half bought me New Balance trainers. I fancied running to get me out of the house on nice days when the surf is flat / I don’t fancy swimming. A paranoia haunts me: working in IT and sitting behind a desk for long periods means that’s all I’ll be good for. Having tried a large number of trainers on, and with zero research, I ended up with New Balances because they fitted well and off I went.
First run out I arrived home near death. Too fast too soon and after 2 miles, tail firmly between legs, I took a shortcut home and died on my throne (every house has at least one throne, I’ll say no more but it wasn’t pretty). After this failed attempted I started off slower, running 3-6 miles around the Beacon and Swansea sea front in a bid to do a half marathon. Things were going a lot better (no more running prompted throne sitting) but I kept getting knee pains. Sometimes this pain lingered and I’d spend 3-4 days after runs hobbling. Several friends suggested the trainers weren’t right for me, and one suggested Barefoot running. Said friend lent me a copy of Born to Run and Google lead me to some options to try for my knees. ITD bands, heel striking and the advantages of barefoot running all became things to focus on. The answer seemed to be run without shoes! Thankfully a little more digging turned up inov-8 and saved me a lot of pain.
It was love at first sight / run. For me Barefoot / Natural running is about the amount of heel lift/drop relative to the ball of the foot and not heel striking as a result. Inov-8’s guide to barefoot running suggested starting with a larger drop and working down. I pushed this advice slightly and went for a more intermediate road trainer with 6mm drop Red Road-X 233 Inov-8s.
After completing my first half, and all the training that went with it, I was still knee pain free! This brought on a new temptation, to progress to 3mm drop Yellow Road-XLite 155 Inov-8s.
These arrived last month and our first three runs have put a lot more strain on my calves. Invo-8 recommend mixing running with them in your normal routine and not going too far to start with. To date I’ve run a hassle free 5 miler in them but still felt it two days later. Not convinced I’ll run the Marathon in these purely because I’m worried about swapping from 6mm to 3mm this close to the event. However, I’ll continue to use them as part of my training routine for recovery runs and speed work (short stuff). The Marathon will be my Red inov-8’s swan song and from then on I’ll stick to running in the Yellows and consider the grail of zero drop.
While the Red and Yellow inov-8s are great road shoes they don’t work on loose or muddy ground. The clue is in their name. Sunday long runs are spent on trails and for this the old New Balances were being used. Off road / not on tarmac I didn’t seem to get any knee issues. In a bid to not spend even more on trainers I foolishly hoped they’d be fine. After last weekend’s 14 miler all was sadly not right. My right knee hurt like times of old and the left felt weakened, ready to complain. After a crazy notion to buy something capable of running on rocks and ice, stopped by a friend/advisor, I settled into the idea of getting trail shoes…. Seems so obvious with hind sight!
Today I’ve just run my furthest distance yet, 14.5 miles, and can happily report pain / niggle free knees. After a trial run on Friday I aimed for 10 miles today and ended up running over and enjoying every minute of it despite the rain. I can also report that SIS energy gels thankfully don’t have the same consequences as Spatone on my stomach :D.
I guess the old adage ‘Shoes maketh the man’ (or breaketh in this case) carries some weight.