Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Noo Shoes

This post is all about my new running shoes and is for anyone who, like me, needs a shoe with the maximum amount of cushioning available. I have a touch of arthritis in my feet so need a shoe that helps absorb the stress of pounding out the miles, especially on longer runs (by which I mean anything over 15 miles).

I've been wearing ASICS Gel Nimbus ever since I started running marathons and, apart from a couple of years ago when the latest design was too narrow in the toe-box, I have found they offered just the right amount of cushioning. Of course the efficacy of the cushioning diminishes over time and I change my shoes after about 500 miles to avoid risking injury.

As I run between 1500 - 2000 miles a year this means I get through a fair few pairs each year. Whoever said that running is a cheap sport obviously wasn't a marathon runner!

So why am I writing this?

Because after pounding out 2 of Traviss's marathons on concrete (in Deal and Dymchurch) within a few days of each other my feet were not at all happy! More specifically it was my left foot that was very sore after the first marathon so I gave it a bit of a rest and crossed my fingers it would be OK at Dymchurch.

Well I survived it but my poor left foot was quite tender afterwards and it looked as if there was some internal bruising. Poor sore foot. I felt rather guilty about it so I allowed it just a few gentle plods to recover. But it was still sore after a few days and so common sense prevailed and I gave it a complete rest for a few days - no running, just brisk walking.

During that time I started to look for a solution and I remembered reading about a brand named HOKA One One which is favoured by the ultra-running community. I'd dashed past their stand at the London marathon Expo but didn't have time to stop and look at them properly. All I remembered was that they looked big and chunky!

I read everything I could find about them and then asked an expert, namely Traviss, who has run a ridiculous number of 100 mile ultra-marathons this year alone so I reckoned that he would offer good advice. He told me that he's been wearing them for over 4 years and wouldn't wear anything else now for really long distance running. Also, he assured me that most ultra-marathon runners wear them because of their superb cushioning and longevity.

That was a good enough recommendation in my book and he told me to speak to Keith at www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com and so I did. I explained that I required a neutral shoe (as I neither over-pronate nor under-pronate) with the maximum cushioning, I'm a mid-foot striker (i.e. in my running stride I land right in the middle of my foot rather than on the heel or toe), my feet are average width, I need shoes suitable for running on tarmac rather than off-road and I love purple and green - not that the colour is a deal-breaker of course but a girl can dream!

Keith came back to me really quickly and suggested that I try this model, the Hoka 'Conquest'. So I ordered a pair and they came with free postage the very next day which was fantastic service thanks Keith.

The first thing I noticed was that they didn't seem as big as I thought they would be so I put them next to a pair of my existing shoes for comparison:

They didn't feel heavier either and so I weighed them. My ASICs Gel Nimbus, above left, weighed 305g and the Hokas weighed 292g so are actually lighter.

I tried one on and struggled to adjust the laces which have what's known as a Race-Lace system which I wasn't familiar with. I have a high instep and found it a bit awkward to get my foot in initially. I mentioned the tightness to Keith and he suggested that I could take out the insole to give myself more room if need be. The laces are much thinner than conventional laces too. I'm still not sure if I like this so-called speed-lacing system but it isn't a problem because they were supplied with standard laces as well so if I can always change them at a later date.

There's plenty of room in the toe box, and after a walk around inside I headed off to the treadmill to give them a trial before deciding if I should keep them.

At this time my left foot was still slightly sore but I couldn't feel it at all in the Hokas as the cushioning was so good. I'd tried running the same day using my other shoes and it still felt a bit sore so the extra cushioning certainly made a difference. After a couple of miles I decided that I liked them and so I headed out along the lanes to give them a proper test.

I'd heard people say that they make you change your gait because of their rocking motion but I didn't notice any difference at all. I deliberately chose a hilly route to see if my foot hurt on either the uphills or the downhills and it didn't hurt at all. Amazing!

I've done about 60 miles in them so far and my longest run has only been 10 miles so they still need to be tested over longer distances but my initial reaction is very positive. They'll get a proper test in early January when I do my next marathon.

For anyone who like me suffers from arthritis and needs extra cushioning then they are definitely worth a try.

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