Thursday, March 7, 2013

Running Shoes

During the last two years I have been using two different running shoes and both of them were from Adidas.  I have run over 1300 kms using them and just about 10 days back I had purchased a pair of Nike Free 3.0.  I also had my share of great and not so good experiences with the Adidas shoes. 

The WWW has over million opinions written about shoes by sports experts and experienced runners (this one for sure the millionth and one :)).  Even today, I'm clueless about the amount of fuss made on a pair of simple running shoes.  After couple of years into serious running, I'm convinced that its no longer simple and the confusion is good for the sports industry.  It is thriving super hot simply because there are many runners like me who really do not understand the 'fuss' part.

I usually consider the following factors before buying a new pair of running shoes,

The need.  I postpone my decisions to buy unless I'm thoroughly convinced that I have the strongest need for a new pair of shoes.  I really don't want to run with a torn or a worn out shoes.  My primary goals is to have a life long injury-free running experience.

Sale / Discount. Running is again not a cheap hobby.  The modern day shoes come with the latest inventions using cutting edge technologies packaged in them.  They are designed by experts using best modeling software, analyzed and simulated before even the first prototype is stitched.  They do a lot of real time experiments before they qualify a shoes to be fit enough for a market launch.  There is also a lot of technological advancements seen in the cushion, the kind of material used for the cover, the form the fit etc.,  All of these do not come at a cheap price.  The cost of a good running shoes can put a serious dent on your wallet.  They are expensive.  So its wise to buy them when there is a sale, usually around the festival and Christmas times in India.  The discounts could be 30-40%... and sometimes even 50%.  In principle, the original Nike or Adidas stores don't sell damaged products.  They offer a discount during end of a season, or stock clearance or even on the old stocks whenever new series are launched.  If you understand this, you can really plan your buying.  Also, There is nothing like an emergency in buying running shoes...unless someone has stolen your shoes on a gun point while running in the Doddabellapur road in Yelahanka :).  If you are a serious runner go for a very good shoes and you don't have to worry about buying another one for about 500-600 kms of running.

Touch, feel, wear, try and buy the shoes myself.  Its very easy to ask someone travelling back from US or Singapore to buy a pair of running shoes for you or even from China where you get the same stuff for a throw away price.  Even though the shoe sizes match, the fit and the comfort varies within the same brand and their series.    One of my running friends has recently purchased an Asics from the US (again someone bought them for him...and after 2 months he is complaining about its size....its too late to think about an exchange this expensive pair).  I always like to pick them, touch them, feel them and try on walking and jogging into the store.  I never buy them from the online stores.  I usually do not buy Reebok because they scare me with a lot of crazy discounts that they offer.  I really can't comment about its quality since I personally don't have any experience.  

I bet you will really feel the runner's high just after buying a shoes :)....even before putting them on and completing your first run. 

I had purchased my first running shoes just before my first 10K race in Pune.  For some reasons I used to believe that ONLY expensive shoes provide better performance.  I walked into the Adidas showroom in Baner Road, Pune which had a 50% discount sale, of course with a fine print 'upto' written.  I had tried almost all the running shoes which were in display for about 30 mins (see, even Men can spend a lot of time shopping...especially the passionate runners buying a pair of running shoes…).  First time I saw my wife getting restless to get out of the store after my 4th shoes trial.  Whenever I had worn a pair, I would imagine myself as one of the finest runners and did small jogs and sprints within the shop to feel them.  But for some reasons I did not like any of the pairs tried by me.  The shopkeeper was very kind enough and without getting irritated he had showed me a nice looking Adidas Adistar Control series shoes.  I had an instant love for that pair since they were really light and found them to be coming with an exceptionally good fit.  The only disappointment was it was not marked a 50% price...but a 30% tag.  But with a lot of courage I had decided to buy that shoes for about Rs. 5500/-  It was a lot of money at that time and I had in my mind that I would be a sincere and disciplined student who would run every day :).  This is certainly another nice way to stay as a motivated runner....INVEST ON AN EXPENSIVE shoes :)

I had run more than 700 kms with that shoes and its still one of my favorite ones.  The sole has already displaced from his location and you can still find taking casual strolls with that.  But, I had stopped running with it.  I'm planning find a skillful cobbler, fix it and give it away to someone who could use it.

My running performance with this shoe,

My first Half Marathon (Bangalore Midnight Marathon) in Dec 2011: 2 hrs 4 mins.
Best 5 kms: 25 mins.
Best 10 kms: 58 mins

Sometimes during last year, I had ended up short listing the Adidas Adiprene series.  It was newly launched at that time and was considered to be packaged with one of the best technologies by Adidas to absorb shock, provide a great support, balance and comfort for the feet.  But they forgot that the buyer's shock of looking the price tags.  There was no discount and the price tag was ~Rs. 7000.  I ended up postponing my decision.  I bought the same model from the Adidas showroom in Mantri mall a month later for around Rs. 5000/- a month later.  A good Rs. 2000 discount for a 30 days wait.  It was worth the wait.   In the beginning I used to like the additional cushion, additional support to my Achilles but I had realized that the extra support had an adverse effect on my Achilles causing a tendinitis.  After 2-3 months of running regularly, I have found that my tendinitis worsened.   I had also realized that it was due to the combination of playing badminton and running regularly.  I had finally given a long break to my badminton and the tendinitis is not hurting me anymore.  I've run over 550 kms till date with this pair and I'm happy for this shoe.  But I consider my first one, Adistar Control was a better one.  I always felt that the shoes were heavy and my running performance was affected by it.  But I was never driven to buy another one as I believed that this shoes had another 100 kms of mileage left.

My running performance with this shoe,

Wipro Chennai Half Marathon in Nov 2012: 1 hrs 57 mins.

Best 5 kms: 25 mins.

Best 10 kms: 51.56 mins (I had sever pain on my feet, ankles..)

Review: Nike Free 3.0

After my first Full Marathon I have been very serious about improving my performance.  I really don't want to experiment barefoot running because its an invitation for injury especially in India.  The roads have nails, glasses and other sharp objects.  I will certainly try Vibram Five Fingers one day but before that I wanted to go one step closer to the barefoot running.  

I have been desperate to break my PR's in running half / full marathons and was ready to do anything.  I had read a lots of reviews about Nike Free shoes which is expected to provide a near bare feet running experience.  I had walked into the Nike showroom in Orion Mall and had found that the Free 3.0 series had a price tag of ~Rs. 6000/-.  I had only tried that pair and had decided to buy it whenever I find a discount elsewhere.

I was in Pune and happened to cross a Nike showroom located in Aundh.  I was lucky to find a Nike Free with a 30% discount on it.  I picked the last pair that the store had and decided to buy but was was little disappointed that the shoes were little dirty (since it was in the display for many days).  I didn't have a choice but decided to buy (also I was confident that Nike wouldn't sell damaged products).  I was sweetly delighted when the cashier offered me a full 50% discount for this pair picked from the store computer.  I had ended up spending only Rs. 2997/- for this pair.

My experiment with this shoes has been very rewarding.  I have run 3 times with this shoes during the last few days and my performance has been excellent.

1st day: Easy 5 Kms, average speed 9.68 km/hr.  I held back and didn't push since I was worried about injuries.
2nd day: 7.08 kms, average speed 11.18 km/hr
3rd day: 11.10 kms, average speed 11.21 km/hr.  WOOOOOW....

I also wore this shoes with a pair of dri-fit Adidas socks which was absolutely comfortable.

Nike Free 3.0 verdict: SIMPLY AWESOME.  This is certainly the best discovery made by me so far.  Go for it.... if you love and enjoy the freedom of free running.

Pros: very light, flexible, thin and I feel my feet every time I hit the road.  Even though it has a thin sole I feel adequate cushion support while running down slopes.  I'm able to accelerate with a lot of control on my posture and motion.

Cons: They are really not many cons at this time but one thing I have realized that I need to extremely careful while taking turns and running on uneven surfaces.

I'm yet to run a Marathon with it.  My goal is to run a full marathon sub 4:30.  I'll be training in this shoes for Airtel Hyderabad Marathon in August.  I'll certainly share my review after the race.  

For now, I'll be one of the strongest ambassadors for Nike Free 3.0

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