Monday, 26 July 2010

Shoe Review: Saucony Kinvara

The minimalist footwear revolution has been in full swing for several years now ever since the Nike Free appeared and made minimal mainstream. While some manufactures like Vibram have taken things to the extreme conclusion i.e. almost non-existent the first Saucony offering in this space is somewhere in between traditional and minimal.

The thinking here makes lots of sense. While its without doubt that our feet evolved to cover long distances unshod the reality is that most of us in the western world have been wearing footwear for most of our lives. The muscles in our feet and legs have become accustomed to this and simply throwing off our footwear and going minimal tends to result in many compensatory injuries.

The smart strategy is to move from full blown trainers to barefoot in a number of steps - if you pardon the pun. So some barefoot walking and exercises can be combined with a more minimal running shoe design. And this is where the Kinvara comes into its own.

The heel is lower than a conventional trainer without been super close to the ground, the forefoot too. The weight is reduced to a mere 218g, a number that many racers would be pleased to hit. And the shoe is softer and more flexible than a conventional trainer.

My first run was a bit strange, especially getting used to the softer ride but I quickly adapted and it started to feel more natural. I really noticed what was going on with my feet when I run, in a similar way that I do when wearing spikes for a grass session. I've now used them regularly for runs up to about an hour in length to give myself time to adjust to them. I reckon that to get the most out these type of shoes you should also do some specific foot and leg strengthening exercises to accelerate the rate at which your stability develops.

Time will tell how well these shoes wear so I will report back when they have several hundred miles on them.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

British Athletics League debut

17 years ago I was on standby as cover for Simon Rayner over 5000m in the Hercules Wimbledon AC team and today I finally got to run a BAL race in anger (guesting in a premiership race a few back doesn't really count) for my home town team, Yeovil Olympiads AC.

We won promotion to the BAL in 2008 and won another promotion last year from National 4 to 3. There are some parallels here with the football team which won promotion from the conference after years as a non-league side before quickly getting a promotion into League 1. While the footie team enjoyed a day out at Wembley for the 2007 playoff final the most glamorous day we can look forward to is a windy day at Swansea. So while my BAL ambitions with HW went down with their 1993 relegation its been up and up with Yeovil.

Today was a bit of a leap into the dark. I haven't raced on the track since 2008, the last 18 months have been woeful with a succession of setbacks and this year I have only really raced a couple of times in long races. My rustiness really showed and the few couple of laps I was off the pace before working my way to the front of the bunch but by then Bournemouth's Steve Way had got away from us. Until 3k things felt good and I was getting into a good rythmn but then I made the mistake of inviting one of the pursuers to take the pace and we slowed dramatically.

Going back to the front of the group I found it impossible to pick up the pace and my legs started to feel heavy. The last 3 laps was a survival job, it was how I felt when I started running 5000m races years ago. There is definitely a knack to be able to hammer that last mile with your body screaming and at the moment I've forgotten what it is ! And then horror of horrors the group of guys who sat off the pace and took it easy capitalise on me doing all the work and came flying past in the last 2oom. Not much fun for sure. With 4 weeks until the next race i've got some time to put in some lactic work and get myself better prepared. I'm actually looking forward to it !