Saturday, 7 March 2015

New Asics from Sweatshop, Milton Keynes

I was hardly dressed for running or having my gait analysis carried out!
"It's time to check out some new running shoes" I said to myself on my last long run over the weekend.  I reckon I have now acquired an injury in one of my calf muscles as it's affecting my running and I can also feel it complaining when I walk downstairs.  While this is annoying, it has to be said I've been pretty fortunate as in the eight years of running, I have only had the occasional niggle and this is the first real injury.

You might be wondering, as I have, what could have caused this injury.  While I know I am no sports physiotherapist, I put it down to two factors:

  • My increased mileage over Christmas and continued into the new year (including 84 miles over the two week Christmas break) and continued at about 20 miles a week since.  All of this has exasperated the next point....
  • My running form, i.e. my gait, has changed over the years.  So while the shoes I originally had and continued to replace like-for-like were correct at the time, my gait has changed over the years. 

I haven't bought shoes from the Sweatshop for myself although one of my daughters has.  A couple of colleagues who run have also used the Sweatshop and speak positively about the experience.  So after work one day I had the opportunity to call into the Milton Keynes branch on my way home.

It is probably worth pointing out that the Sweatshop is in one of those places where, if you're not careful, you could spend a fortune!  That's because it's in the Xscape Building in Central MK and there's also a branch of Evans (for bikes) and a whole range of other outdoorsy shops.  Plenty of places to eat too but there's not much chance you ever see me scoffing that junk food there.

First impressions is that it's a well stocked and well used shop - in all the times I have walked passed the front I have never seen it empty!  This time I waited my turn and Julie came to help me.  I explained my thinking that I was after some new shoes and showed her my existing shoes.

"Ah, these look about 400 miles old" and she was spot on.  Suddenly I felt embarrassed at all the mud dropping off as she examined the wear on the tread pattern, quickly comparing the left and right shoe.

Julie also commented that, chances are, a runner's gait will change over the years and as I've been running for almost eight years this will probably apply to me.  I said that I was there to buy some new shoes, with no gaffing around, as I too had suspected my running gait had changed.  Besides, it makes sense to have a couple of pairs of running shoes on the go at any one time (this is cost effective and not extravagant for a committed runner).

Process kicks in
I knew fairly soon that Julie was following a step-by-step process to make sure I got the shoes I needed.  Ordinarily I would sabotage a salesperson's script and process but this time I was happy to go along with it, this was a pragmatic decision as I simply wanted a good pair of new shoes and I was happy to trust Julie to help me make the right decision.

If you are looking to buy your first pair of running shoes, you need to allow plenty of time and not to rush the process.  First stage was to take a look at my feet i.e. whether I have a high or low arch.  This is done by standing on a glass platform with spooky green lights underneath, along with mirrors and some kind of camera.  The image of my feet in contact with the glass plate were shown on a computer screen.  I was fairly medium and it was funny to see this.

Next was trying a pair of shoes.  I had already said I quite liked Saucony and have always got on well with these.  So I ran for a minute or so in some neutral Sauconys on the treadmill for my gait analysis - this is arguably the most important part of the process.

Typical gait analysis taking place
Julie played back some of the film in slow motion and then went back and forth, frame by frame, watching the way my feet landed and then took off again.  Using an on-screen vertical line, it was clear these neutral shoes were causing my legs to be at a slightly awkward angle.  I suspect if I was filmed wearing my old shoes, my legs would be leaning the other way as they were over correcting my imbalance.  The following stage was to find shoes that would be the right level of correction.

So. Three pairs appeared.  First I tried looked fancy and unusually attractive though I can't remember the brand.  They weren't bad.

"The price?"

"£5 above average"


Next were some Sauconys (my favourite brand).  These were pretty good but the fit wasn't right, even though they were the correct size.  Next some Asics.  These were the best of the three and Julie almost anticipated I would be asking the price, so instead I simply said "don't tell me the price; I have to get the best shoes and not bother about the price".  Although I like Sauconys best of all, these Asics were the best of the choice and, as I've had Asics before I was happy to do this again.

Perhaps I ought to have mentioned these earlier as they're part of the process of buying new shoes.  While I was having my feet checked and just after the treadmill run, some custom insoles were moulded to my feet - this was quite a pleasant warming kind of sensation.  The rationale was that everything possible is thrown at me to make sure I get the best kit for running.

I could feel the insoles when they were there and knew when they weren't as I tried jogging around the shop in the various shoes.  They brought a new kind of connection with the shoes which was new to me and Julie suggested it might lengthen the lifespan of my new shoes.  Perhaps I ought to have bought them; perhaps I'll never know.  On this occasion I declined the kind offer was that I've not needed these before and I don't really want to start experimenting right now.  Having said that, I can see the logic and argument in favour of these and it certainly makes sense to get these at the same time of new running shoes. 

Going home
Driving home I reflected on my new running shoes.  I was pleased I'd gone ahead and got some new shoes that promise to be better for me.  In fact I'm pretty confident these are right.  The process had confirmed my suspicion that my running gait had changed and these new shoes are less severe in their "correction" and therefore should be okay.

I remembered Julie saying I could change them within 30 days if they're not right (could be a useful reassurance).  Furthermore Sweatshop do organise some runs, a kind of 'community run' and as an incentive to join in there's a free technical tee shirt up for grabs after a few runs.

Perhaps the only possible regret with my new shoes?  They won't stay that white for long!

Review - Asics Gel 1150 (September 2011)
Running socks are important
Two pairs of running shoes?
Are my running shoes worn out?

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