running shoe review

I’ve been through a number of different brands of running shoe over the years, so I thought I’d share my experience and assess their worth.

Guy Leech Running Shoes: ★☆☆☆☆
I ran in these shoes for a couple of years. They’re cheap (around $30.00 at the time I got them). They did cause me some problems and eventually I decided to spend a little more money on shoes and have never looked back. They get one star for value.
Brooks Glycerin 8: ★★★★☆
Coming from the previous shoes, these were absolutely fantastic. No more sore legs, my average speed increased by around 1km/h, I felt as though I was running on springs! Two pairs of these probably covered about 2,000km (which, I admit, was probably a little too long to keep them going). The main problems were (1) the local Australian price was about twice the price when purchased from overseas even after including shipping, and (2) they became increasingly difficult to obtain from overseas retailers who would no longer ship Brooks shoes to Aus, thus forcing me to move on to other shoes.
Saucony Triumph 9: ★★☆☆☆
From Brooks I moved to Saucony. Initially they were great—bouncy, light, comfortable. However, it didn’t take too long to uncover the shoe’s fatal flaw: they had insufficient padding around the top-rear end meaning they scraped the skin off the back side of my ankles above the heel. For a while I worked around this by putting pieces of sponge inside my socks to protect me, but this problem really made the shoes quite useless to me.
Adidas Adistar Boost: ★★★☆☆
These looked promising and were certainly more comfortable than the Saucony. They were, however, insufficiently cushioned for me and left me with sore leg muscles after every run, and rather more tired than I ought to have been. They’ve now entered retirement as a nice pair of walking shoes. One thing to note, Adidas seem to use a different sizing scale to everyone else, so if you’re ordering without trying them on, choose a slightly larger size than you normally would.
Mizuno Wave Rider 15: ★★★★☆
After the disappointing Saucony and Adidas shoes, I was relieved to find the Mizunos to be well cushioned, comfortable, and easy to run in at a very reasonable price. If you run on gravel, be aware that there’s a hollow in the sole under the heel which has, for me, occasionally trapped a stone which consequently interrupts my run!
Adidas Energy Boost: ★★★★★
There’s been lots of hype about these shoes and, so far (I’ve run just over 100km in them thus far), I think it’s largely borne out by my experience with them. They’re light, very bouncy, and fit well (subject to the following observation). As with the Adistar above, they’re sizes seem slightly off compared to other brands, so I’d advise going for a slightly larger size in Adidas than I would in another brand. The other thing to watch is that these look quite similar to the Adistar Boost shoes, but they run very differently, so make sure you get the right one. The Adistar has solid rubber from the inside of the heel down to the ground which accounts (in part) for the comparatively low level of cushioning. The sole is flat so there’s no space for stones or other items to get jammed while you’re running.
Hoka One One Clifton 2: ★★★★★
Yes, a strange name and a bit of a mouthful. These are pretty new to the market and their distinctive feature seems to be that they have exceptionally high levels of cushioning. They’re also considerably lighter than the Adidas Energy Boost. I’ve found them to be very comfortable. You ride high in these due to the comparatively thick sole, but they are quite stable. I’ve been alternating between these and the Adidas Energy Boost. I prefer the Cliftons on short runs or long walks because of the comfort, but I think they dissipate more energy than the Adidas Energy Boost, so I prefer the Adidas for longer distance runs.

sutherland to surf 2010

Another Sutherland to Surf fun run took place on the 25th July. The weather was more pleasant than last year, but my preparation was not as good. Nonetheless I cut about half a minute off my overall time, so in the circumstances I was quite pleased.

The results this year were not separated into runners and walkers, so the analysis is not quite as meaningful. You can, however, see the two groups appearing in the finishing time graph below — the first peak represents the influx of runners finishing and the second, later peak the walkers.

Sutherland 2 Surf 2010 results

sutherland to surf 2009 results

Last weekend I ran in the 2009 Sutherland to Surf, an 11km “fun run” (or walk) from Sutherland to Wanda beach. I’ve not run in a fun run before, so I learnt a thing or two this time around. This included:

  • An overcast morning in late July in Sydney can be quite cool. The apparent temp was about 6° C. I noticed lots of chattering teeth as we waited to start.
  • The start is not really the start. Well, unless you manage to snag a position way up the front of the pack at the start of the run. When the starter’s gun fired (barely audible over the loud music playing), as far as I could tell, nothing actually happened. I stood towards the back of the pack and it took almost 3 minutes before I reached the starting line!
  • When almost 4,000 people start a run, it begins slowly. Yep, I was way back in the pack and had to dodge lots of people at the beginning (dodging continued throughout the run, but there was a lot more of it at the beginning).

Now I had planned not to start at the front. The run was timed using RFID tags attached to our shoes, so it would be possible to accurately record the time taken to traverse the 11km course regardless of the time it took to get to the starting line. Furthermore, I figured that if I began towards the back I’d pass more people than would pass me. That’d be my preferred arrangement! Of course I’d not really appreciated the downside: that’s a lot of people to pack into a small space and so my first kilometre or so was somewhat slower than I had expected! Perhaps, if I run it again, I might try to get a starting position closer to the front. As it happened, I worked out that I passed about 2,800 runners as I ran the course.

Anyway, having something of a mathematics background, the other interesting aspect is the statistics involved. Consequently, I include here some graphs I’ve assembled from the results posted on the website linked above. In this case the median values are far more meaningful than averages, which can be significantly skewed by a few stragglers. So here’s the median data for the various groups in the race:
The values on the bars are seconds. If you ran and your time is less than the median value for your group, you were in the top half of runners in your group.

Also of interest is the rate at which runners cross the finishing line. Here’s a graph of my group (40–49 year old males, if you must know) showing the time in minutes along the bottom and the number of runners from the group finishing in the specified time. The times are net times (i.e. the time taken from starting line to finishing line) not gun times (i.e. the time between the starter’s pistol firing and crossing the finishing line). The blue line is the actual data, the green is an approximate gamma distribution curve.
All the different groups should produce a similar distribution, although the peak will shift and the spread would change.

I’ve taken one lesson from the run (at least): 4,000 people is a lot of people to get running together. I can’t imagine how getting the 60,000 or so expected in the City to Surf can work, so I won’t be running in that!

Oh, and as for the merchandising, I may have been tempted by the shirts if it wasn’t for the fact that the apostrophe on the 09 is BACKWARDS!

guy leech tripped me

On an unrelated note, a recent report on the benefits (or lack thereof) of running shoes from the Daily Mail is interesting because I have been, for the last year or so, been wearing relatively inexpensive running shoes emblazoned with the signature of the “iron man” Guy Leech. These are, perhaps, the exceptions which may prove the rule.

So what is the problem? These shoes came with extremely long shoelaces. I mean very, very long. Untied, the lace that hangs from the shoes exceeds 50cm.

This presents a real and present danger, because once tied it can leave an excessively large “loop” in the tied showlace. I discovered the hard way that this is not good. While out for a run, my left foot got caught in the loop of the lace on the right shoe. As you may be able to imagine, this does not have a pretty ending. No, particularly not when you’re running across a road (fortunately not a busy road) when it happens.