Week 8 & 9, and the Joy of Shoes

One of the great things about running as a pastime is that you don’t really need a lot of specialist or expensive equipment.

Note I said “need”: there is no end to the “want” of all sorts of delights from GPS gadgets to waterproof socks, to lightweight breathable jackets and any number of variations on lycra and things that reflect in the dark. But in truth you can manage quite well without them, certainly as a beginner.


The exception is the shoes, and it really is worth splashing out if you can afford to. When I first started running in my university days, I had a pair of Adidas “Samba” trainers (and it seems I have now reached an age they are making a big comeback as a retro style icon; which may be the one and only time you will find me in the same sentence as those terms). This was in the days before the explosion of technical specialist running shoes, and they had a simple, thin barely-cushioned, one-layer rubber sole… I shudder now to think of the hours I spent pounding the pavements in those, given how in the intervening years “cushioning” and “support” have become so critical to me.

Everybody will have their favourites, whether for technical and performance reasons, or for “brand” or fashion reasons, or a combination.



My first “proper” running shoes were Nike Air Pegasus, and while I have used many others I can’t think of a time I’ve not had a pair of Nikes on the go. My prize possession are the only time I could afford my own customised Nike-ids. Completely buggered now, but I still keep them, not for running but… just because.

Experiment, try variations, you will discover things

Take advice, and ask what other people have tried. Definitely talk to your local running specialist shop, support them and spend your money there: because they may not be there in future if you don’t. But also, when you know what you want and get on with, use the discount websites, because it really doesn’t matter if they are last year’s colours.

I’ve used Reebok (great fit and value) and Adidas (perfect till the high collar bothered me after a bad ankle injury) and will go back to both of those. New Balance, I have had a couple of pairs, really well-built and nicely felt-lined… but that became a disadvantage when I started to run off-road and the wet and mud made them feel like diving boots. I had a pair of Brooks Etonics but never got on with those, they seemed too flat and hard… but were great when I had a spell working near a stadium and being able to heart-rate-train on the track (yes, it’s true: me, on spongy red tarmac and white lanes and chariots-of-fire and nearly puking on the line and everything!).

 Be promiscuous

I always keep multiple pairs in use and rotate them, and recommend that if you haven’t tried it.

  • the different pairs have different levels of wear, so you don’t have that spell of zero-cushioning followed by mattress-sprung carpet-slippers when  you replace them
  • each pair fits slightly differently, so those spots which may rub & wear are less likely to cause a problem when you get into higher mileage, and you are less susceptible to that build up of hard parmesan on your heels, toes and the balls of your feet
  • each has a slightly different support, and delivers a different action to your foot and ankle, so by switching between them is less repetitive, less wear-and-tear on your feet and joints
  • you can still have a pair to use when one is wet one wet/drying, the other available for use
  • you can mix on- and off-road
  • when you are building for a marathon you can even have two pairs of your chosen race-day-shoes, one wearing down, the others almost-new but broken-in and just-right for the big day
  • there’s probably an argument that it is cheaper to have multiple pairs on the go, because you can then buy when you see a bargain (even keep them unused till you need them), rather than being forced to buy at full-price because you need a replacement
  • oh ok – I admit it – it means you can have a lovely collection of lots of different styles and colours and brands… but that doesn’t make the points above any less valid, does it?

On the trail this month…

Nike Structure: support, cushioning, lightweight, my go-to favourites for longer runs; and the sole pattern is deep enough to be ok off road and in light mud. (This particular pair I bought in a sale last summer and first wore them to go with my daughter to see the London 2012 Womens Marathon, special memories.)

Spot the "Frees"

Spot the “Frees”

Asics 1170: light, airy, comfy – Asics I have found are especially good at moulding to your feet after

Nike Alvord: proper trail-shoes, budget version, and again in a sale. Heavier but waterproof and breathable, with a strong toebox, higher fit around the ankle; deep cleats for the mud, and a harder sole for when the footprints, bike and horse-tracks are frozen into a rigid mini-mountain-range.

Strangely at the moment, no Saucony, but that’s only a fluke of timing and budget. Always really well built, cushioned and sharply-lugged soles, a great all rounder for mixed routes.

And finally, over Christmas my daughter went to Florida and brought me back a pair of Nike Free (the age-inappropriate fluorescent green was her choice not mine, but I love it precisely because I wouldn’t have dared!). I am still getting used to these but am amazed at the way the ultra light weight and articulated soles are having a positive impact on my stride and times… without the feared impact on my bones from the lack of cushioning and support which have been my start-point for decades. Definitely not for Yorkshire trails, but on the road they are fine and would definitely go 10k (not sure yet about a half-marathon, my jury is still out).

 Hold on, deconstructed shoes…? Ive come back full-circle to those old Sambas…!?

And finally… 

While I’m on the topic of shoes, does anyone else do this… or is it just me?

  • As soon as I get a new pair- embarrassingly gleamingly clean – I go off in search of mud, to give them some “cred” and so show they are for actually running in, and not just loitering around the off-licence.
  • When I put the new ones up on the rack, I imagine the old ones telling them what to expect, where they have been, maybe even comparing PBs.

Week 8 Index

Runs 3; Long 6; Speed 1; Other: 2

Week 9 Index

Runs 4; Long 5.5; Other: 2

Body: Ok so far.  Mysterious L knee (back) problem has finally cleared up. Runs and mileage are down this spell because of work and travel, but that’s ok: I will switch to training soon for Leeds Half; on the other hand I have let rip a couple of times and found some speed.

Spirits: Good, positive and building; realistic. Still 50/50, with care.

I have to keep a check on myself and remember, patience and “pace, not race”: if I am going to get to the start-line it is only TARS which will do it.

And I have to get my finger out and do something for my charities. Please read Fundraising


About johntleeds

In amongst the perpetual juggling of work, family and things on my mind, this is MY time, MY escape. Any this is what my mind comes up with when it has time to wonder, as I wander on the trails... twitter @johntleeds
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