Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Shoes

Okay. you may have realized by now that I am buying rather a lot of new stuff this year. This isn't necessarily out of need, but rather choosing to get a tool for changing some of my techniques. I have been running pretty well for a number of years with some great Asics running shoes but this year my focus is on racing. I have always raced in running shoes before now so I thought it was time to try some racing shoes. We are not talking about track shoes with spikes, but rather lighter weight shoes that are designed to not allow you to get away with a poor running style. I really wanted this to help me avoid my usual breaking action that I am certain I do when plodding along at the end of a triathlon. I know I can run faster than I do but I can't seem to get that efficient technique going in a race.

I checked out the shoes at my local Triathlon store and found that that the main choice was between Zoots and Newtons. I have heard good things about Zoots but in this case, the recommendations seemed to point towards the Newton Racers for me. Both pairs are much lighter than the shoes that I currently run in. The Newtons however had the added bonus of forcing my running style to change in a way that would stop my breaking action from taking place.

There was a big catch however. I only had 4 weeks left before the Malibu triathlon and I needed to get used to the shoes and more importantly the running style they promote. With most new shoes, you essentially need time and distance to run them in. Newton however describe the need for the owner to be run in themselves. The difference is that you need time to mold into the style of running that the shoe requires rather than the shoe molding into the shape of your foot.

This is a process that shouldn't be rushed. 4 weeks was probably just enough time for this process. You need to get about 20 miles in, but you also need to start gently, a mile at a time. I found out pretty quickly why. My calf muscles hadn't really factored into my foot strike before now. After switching to forefoot striking, the calf muscles came into play as a shock absorber which forces your foot to work more like a load and release spring action. This puts a lot of stress on your calf muscles and the result after the first couple of attempts was very sore muscles.

Compression socks, ice and a lot of kick drills in the pool seemed to help with this, but it was still a painful process. At the same time as getting the new shoes, however, I was shown a piece of equipment that would really aid in this process. It was called an Alter-G Anti Gravity Trainer. This was essentially a treadmill with an enclosed bubble that helped to lift you up a little while running. You are able to dial in a percentage of your weight to run at. This allowed me to train with my new shoes while reducing the stress on my muscles. It also allowed me to jump straight in with speed work, so that I could feel the difference right away.

Another important factor was that I was intending to race without socks. These shoes instantly felt better than my asics when not wearing socks but I was able to improve the feeling further by using a product called blister shield. This is a powder that acts like micro ball bearings. With careful placement of this powder in the areas where the foot rubs against the shoe, the requirement for socks is removed. I plan to use this on both my running shoes and my cycling shoes so that socks are not needed on race day. In practice this is working well so I am pretty confident that I will not have issues in the race.

I now had a setup that would really allow me to race. I haven't concentrated on my T1 and T2's before but this time I am going to really cut down the time needed to transition by not having to put socks on over wet skin.

Lets see how this works out in the race.

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