I Love My Trainers

I really love my trainers. Here they are taking a wee break from looking after my feet and having a welcome frolic in our garden…

bob wood trainers

I got them from a bloke whilst we were waiting in a check-in queue at Valencia airport. He had blagged them from an Asics rep but they were too small for him and gave him blisters whilst caddying. So I convinced him they would go better on my feet and he fished them out his bag. They are “not for resale” pre-prods (which is one of their allures). I love the colour, they were free, and they fit. I occasionally take them for a run, and we both get on well together. They are also great for table tennis…. and caddying.

Now trainers are a massive industry. I am talking absolutely enormous. You may need to sit down for this (rest your trainers), but the 2014 official US revenue statistics for Nikes footwear segment for just that year was 16.21 BILLION dollars. Adidas came in at 8.1 bill, and Puma limped over the line with 1.56 bill. How much have you contributed with your spend on trainers in the last 3 years?

Trainers come with an emotive history for all of us. My generation will remember their Green Flashes, their first gen Sambas, and of course the legend that is the Silver Shadow…. still available today.

silver shadow

You do stuff in trainers…. they can deliver you safely to your regular destinations, they can take you to exotic places you may not go again, they can propel you down the road to personal bests, and they can make you more attractive to the opposite sex. A good pair can become faithful companions, a not so wise choice may become trapped behind the hoover under the stairs for several years.

And here lies the problem…. choice. Loads of it. A never ending treadmill of marketing, trends, R+D, pseudo-science, real science, habit and hearsay, backed up by an industry that knows how to sell you stuff… the big players will get you with their magazine spreads with beautiful imagery and strap lines that have been “word stormed” by 50 marketing execs in a meeting room. And if they don’t, then the running shop will have you on their treadmill and use some big words ending in “tion” or “ility”, and you will be done for.

So its time to use a massively overused blogging phrase… “how do you negotiate the minefield” that is trainer selection. To be honest I would suggest that a pair of relatively robust, grippy, and confidently nimble fell runners would be a good choice when it comes to minefields… but even wiser would be to stay out of the minefield altogether. In fact steering clear of the worries of trainer gumph and bumph is probably going to be my conclusion on this blog anyway.

If it helps, here are some helpful hints;

1) Don’t feel guilty about your trainer buying habit as it is part of the hobby. It’s like me buying a new saddle for my bike, or my mate buying a new mast for his windsurfer. I don’t need a new saddle…. I just fancy one. That’s hobbies.

2) Buy a pair of trainers that you like the look of. That attract you. That float your boat. Colour, design, name, whatever. This may sound like counter-intuitive frivolity from a man of medicine like myself. But it isn’t. Social and Sports psychologists tell us that if you like something you have a high chance of doing something good with that something, and the something that you do you are more likely to do again (I am paraphrasing the research somewhat here). So if you get a touch of “sneaker tingle” next time you are in Sports Direct and the seductive duo are not too far away from what you are use to using…. have a dabble. Which leads on to…

3) Brand loyalty…. actually I am lying. What I meant to say was “type loyalty”. The choice minefield is full of minimalist, race, cross, support, control, rebound, maximalist variety. Through a process of persuasion, elimination, preference and hopefully far and away above those three… EXPERIENCE, you will probably have found a type of shoe that suits you. That you go well in. And stay going well with the minimum of aches and strains. Stick with it, the grass isn’t always greener. By all means flirt with a few other options now and then, but let your “experience” based shoe choice always be your benchmark. Which leads on to…

4) Flirting… it cant do any harm. Just a bit of an away day. If you want to try a lighter build shoe, or a rebound sole, or something in pink then why not. It could work for you. Tread carefully though… and by that I mean introduce distance and frequency in moderation. You could initially rotate the new choice in during recovery runs, or low intensity sessions. The thirds rule can work… 2/3 old shoes 1/3 new shoes in terms of running load over a few weeks.

5) Experimentation. Try and do it with your friends. What I mean is with their trainers. Putting them on, nothing else. Then go for a trot. Obviously they should roughly fit. Do not worry about the old “moulded to the owners foot type” issues… your own feet are smart and adaptable and will cope with that for a trot… and you will get a flavour of how they go (although it makes sense to try and grab them while they are pretty new). You are under more threat from fungus, bacteria, viral intrusion and odour leak than anything else so choose your friend wisely. Better still would be to go to a fancy running shop and take advantage of what is a sales facility anyway. Get on the treadmill and try them out. It will be best to politely decline the video analysis and assistants running commentary, and avoid the mirrors. Run, run for a few mins, and “feel”. Then try some more. Your feet and your body are much brighter, and can give more accurate feedback, than many sales assistants.

6) It isn’t about the trainers. What you do above the trainers will almost certainly be more important than the trainers. I mean in terms of physical preparation and training for your running. Your mobility, stability and particularly your strength. Also your technique, your chosen running loads and intensities, and intuition as regards over load and recovery. These are much much bigger guns than the trainers. These are the things that make a big difference. Unfortunately you can’t just pull them on though…. it takes more effort than that.

For a brilliant and enlightening look at the world of trainer prescriptive science please take 8 mins of your time to look at the video from Dr Kevin Maggs at Running Reform that accompanies this blog. In fact do a few squats while your watching.