As a runner I have learned the importance of good gear–especially for my feet and legs. When I was training for my first marathon over seven years ago I was very much a newbie to long distance running and thought I’d be just fine in a $50-60 pair of running shoes. As my training runs got longer and longer I began noticing my knees getting more and more sore. I spent many a Saturday icing them. With that said, I learned the hard way about the benefits of investing in a good pair of running shoes. The following year I took the time to educate myself about my running form and got fitted for the right type of shoe at A local store, Pacer’s Running. Brooks Pure Cadence (which I hear they may no longer be making) won that debate with its minimalist but still sturdy feel and nice toe drop to help mitigate all the pounding I have a natural tendency to do on my heels. I’ve been in Brooks ever since and what a difference my subsequent races have been in both the running times and pain departments–take that pavement!
Last month I completed my first ultra marathon–a 45.5 mile jaunt through the woods! Now that I’ve ventured to the trails it’s a whole different ballgame. I invested some serious dollars (~$150) into a pair of On trail running shoes and thankfully I was not let down. The manager at Potomac River Running Store where I bought them steered me well. They were a great fit for my feet and the toe drop, like with my Brooks shoes, ensured I wasn’t pounding the heck out of my heels. Moreover, the shoes “cloud technology” on the soles really did support a better running experience. The best way I can describe them is like cleats but they serve a purpose not as much for digging in as you need on the soccer field but rather in helping to dissipate the pounding and minimize shooting pains that can easily navigate up through the legs after much repetition and movement. Navigating the trails dotted with rocks on race day was much easier because of this shoe, in my opinion.
Then we move into the world of SOCKS! I used to laugh at the thought of spending more than $10 on a 6-pack of socks. Now lo and behold I’m willing to spend that much or MORE on just one pair. Socks are a tricky thing to perfect, especially on race day. Much like skiers, runners too have to think about thickness and tightness of the sock. Then you have the weather conditions of race day itself–is it going to be a cold or hot weather run? There is nothing worse than cold feet or even worse a blister spurred on by a pesky sock! For everyday workouts I love Target’s C9 Champion brand with a cushioned heel (think inexpensive but decent sock for an hour workout). But for races, my new favorite sock is Feetures. These socks not only come in bright, vivid colors, but they are also designed specifically for your right and left feet. I love that they come in different cushioning support levels too. I bought a bunch of them at Potomac River Running Store in DC (buy 3 get one free was a decent deal, especially when they run around $15 a pop). They worked great on race day (I made about three sock changes in total). And when I felt a blister coming on (it’s somewhat inevitable I feel after a certain amount of distance) I rolled some Body Glide over my feet (worked like a dream).
The last piece of gear I will review–compression calf sleeves from CEP! They come in three different sizes so make sure you get your calf measured at the widest part to determine the best fit. Again I have to thank Potomac River Running staff for recommending these. Thank goodness I had a $25 gift card because these run about $40 each. (I will have to start investigating where to buy my gear for less, but I do like supporting the local stores.) I was unsure about trying something new on race day, but the store manager really encouraged me to try them and told me that my legs would be thanking me. So I put them on race morning and figured if they were annoying I could take them off. But he was right! I loved them as they made for a nice layer of comfort and protection on my bare legs. Now maybe it was all in my head, but I can attest that my calves did not hurt AT ALL during the race and very little post race. The makers of compression socks in general tout performance benefits that can be derived from special compression technology and maybe I’ll go into that more on a future blog post. If nothing else, I stayed a little cleaner while out running the trails and they looked kind of cool too!
With that said, I am loving my new gear and look forward to investigating what I should get into for winter runs. I’d love your suggestions and feedback!