If the Shoe Fits

 

Picking a shoe used to be simple — if you pronate you needed a supportive shoe, if you were neutral you needed a neutral shoe, and if you didn’t pronate you needed a cushioned pair. Unfortunately, in practise things aren’t that simple, and studies have shown that picking a shoe based on foot type doesn’t have any effect on injuries compared with choosing a shoe at random. So, how do we go about picking the right shoe?

AsianTrail-illo-Shoes-Proof

Type of Terrain

The first consideration is the type of terrain you are going to be spending most of your time on: Are you going to be running on very slippery rocks, or loose sandy trails? Are you planning on running through mud or trails strewn with rocks? Are you running in very hot conditions, or very cold temperatures? Each of these different types of terrains will favour a different shoe: Within rocky conditions you may want a rock plate; on wet and slippery trails a rubber base will grip better; in hot conditions you want something that breathes; in cold conditions you may want something with a Gore-Tex covering; if you’re tackling lose, sandy trails, you’ll do better with enough lugs and depth to allow you to get some grip; and, trekking through muddy conditions, you want to make sure mud will clear from the base of the shoe so you don’t end up carrying the extra weight of a lump of mud with you. Unsurprisingly, many trail runners will have a number of shoes that they can pick from, depending on the conditions.

So, think about what surface and conditions you will spend the majority of your time on and choose accordingly.

Sizing

Next priority is a shoe that fits. Both in length and width. Length-wise, you want space at the end of the toes to allow for the foot to swell and still have sufficient room — at least a finger’s width, and if doing ultras more like a thumb’s width.

Drop

The drop is the difference between the height under the heel and height under the forefoot. Barefoot is at zero drop, traditional running shoes have 10-13mm of drop, and there is a large range in between. Trail shoes tend to have lower numbers, as the lower the drop, the more stable you are. But if you are used to running with a 12mm drop, then choosing a shoe with a 4mm drop is asking for an injury. Work your way down gradually. For most people, the sweet spot is between 4-8mm.

Weight and Cushioning

The shorter the races and runs you do, the lighter the shoe can be. The longer the race, the more you will appreciate some extra cushioning later in the race, which of course comes at a cost of carrying extra weight.

Support

This is where things get somewhat complicated. Does someone with a flatfoot condition need more support? And conversely, does a high arch need more cushioning? The foot is far too complicated to be simply classified as a pronator, supinator, or neutral. Some high-arched feet pronate late in the stance phase, some don’t pronate at all, and, furthermore, some pronated feet can still pronate and supinate effectively and as such don’t need any support. For many people what happens at the foot level is controlled by what happens at the hip level, not the shoe. Even using slow-motion video from behind to assess your gait isn’t a reliable method for deciding what kind of shoes you should be wearing.

The #1 criteria is comfort. What feels good on your foot will serve you better than what a salesperson tells you is best for you.

How to Pick a Shoe

Ask the shoe salesperson to pick out three different brands based on the types of trails and distances you actually run. If you are happy with your current shoe, then that’s a good starting point, but companies change models all the time so chances are that next season’s model may be slightly different. Try all three on and go for a short run in them. If none of them feel great, ask to try more on until you find something you are happy with.

If one shoe looks better on a treadmill but another feels more comfortable — always go with the one that feels more comfortable.

Don’t be swayed by marketing or well-meaning friends — just because Kílian Jornet runs in Salomons doesn’t mean Salomon shoes will suit you. Just because your friend loves Hokas doesn’t mean you will.

Each of us has different feet, and every one has different running styles, so one’s shoe choice is a very individual thing. Do your research, try lots of different pairs fit for your specific purposes, and choose what’s most comfortable.

Author: Andy DuBois

Andy is an award-winning personal trainer and elite endurance athlete specializing in ultra running. You can find more useful info on his ultra running coach website: mile27.com.au.

Article originally publised in Asia Trail magazine in November 2015

 

What Type of Pole are You Looking For?

By William Nee
This article originally appeared in our Jan/Feb 2014 issue.

Hiking_pole photo_doublepage

Photo: Claus Rolff

By William Nee
This article originally appeared in our Jan/Feb 2014 issue.

Which pole system you’ll want to get largely depends on your needs and the types of runs you tend to do. Are you a large or small athlete? Will you be doing a multi-day stage race, in which you want to strategically minimise the weight of your pack by as much as possible, and thus need lightweight poles? Will you be using your poles for shorter mountain races or VK’s (Vertical kilometre races) in which you’ll want to maximise power on ascents? Will you need to take them out and put them back in your pack many times during a run? Or will you be using them in long ultras, in which a pole’s ability to serve as a crutch while going downhill may come in handy?

 

ALUMINIUM POLES

Mountain King Trail Blaze [THE LIGHTEST]
mountainking.co.uk HKD 1,010
5 sizes: 115-135 cm | 125 g (120 cm)
 Of all the poles tested, these poles were the lightest and most compact when folded up. With a grip system that is perhaps the most sweat-proof, these poles would be a good choice for summer runs and short excursions. However, some testers found that with a relatively narrow pole diameter, these poles exhibited excessive vibration upon pole planting. Thus, they may be more suitable to lightweight athletes, or runners looking for the lightest poles.

Sinano Trail Running
sinano.co.jp HKD 1,188
3 sizes: 110-120 cm | 173 g (120 cm)
These light-weight aluminum alloy poles with comfortable foam grips are some of the most popular in Japan, and they are starting to make waves in other Asian markets as well. As the poles can fold into four sections, along with the Mountain King Trail Blaze, they are the most compact of the poles reviewed. These poles provide high quality for the value, but pulling the string out to straighten the poles may take a certain degree of effort.

Exped Lite 135 SA
exped.com HKD 1,590
1 size: 105-135 cm | 230 g
With a relatively wide diameter, a shock absorbing system, and comfortable straps, these poles were one of the most firm and sturdy in the review. With an ability to extend all the way to 135 cm, they would also be good for tall runners.

 

CARBON POLES

Raidlight Trail Carbon
raidlight.com HKD 1,476
2 sizes: 110, 123 cm | 165 g (123 cm)
These sturdy poles fold out quickly with an easy-to-use string system. The handle is comfortable, with smartly-designed pole straps that fit like gloves, which give you the ability to make more efficient use of the arms, lats and pecs on steep ascents.

Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-Pole [THE BEST UNFOLDING SYSTEM]
blackdiamondequipment.com HKD 1,399
4 sizes: 100-130 cm | 145 g (120 cm)
With a unique, quick unfolding system, these poles literally take only a second to get from folded-in-pieces to straightened out and ready to use. Given the poles’ sturdiness and relative light weight, they were one of the most versatile pole systems tested in this review. The only downsides were that the release button (that you need to press to de-straighten the poles) does need repair after long-term use, due to accumulated sweat.

Komperdell C3 Carbon Powerlock
komperdell.com HKD 1,040
2 sizes: 105-140 cm | 210 g (120 cm)
With comfortable, shock-absorbing foam grips and padded straps, these durable carbon poles are lightweight and adjustable. And since they are adjustable, they could be good for people who want different pole lengths when ascending versus descending, or they could be good for people who share their poles with their partner of a different height.

Komperdell Carbon Ultralite Vario 4
komperdell.com HKD 1,980
2 sizes: 105-145 cm | 169 g
These poles, which are folded into three pieces, and then be further extended and adjusted. With their light-weight and compactibility, they would make for an excellent choice for trekking and multi-day use.

SUGGESTIONS: 

  • To Pole or Not to Pole (Printed/Digital Edition: May/Jun 2015 )