Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Just another update… and a pair of new shoes

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So it’s been a little while since my last update, and as I’m sat here on a Sunday evening (the training plan says an hour’s easy run, the body says that after twenty hours this week, don’t be so bloody stupid!) I thought I might as well write a little update on the last couple of weeks.

If you’ve been reading previous blog posts, you’ll know all-too-much already about my knee issues. While I can’t unfortunately report any miraculous recovery, I can at least say that things might at least be getting no worse. In addition to my nightly appointments with the foam roller and tennis ball, I think there are two main factors playing a role in this.

The first is a pair of new shoes…

Having been initially sceptical about changing away from my ‘preferred’ Adidas trainers, I was convinced by my sponsors, The Big Adventure Store, to try a pair of Brooks ST5 – essentially a lightweight racing/training shoe but with a little more support than the T7s preferred by the likes of Chrissie Wellington.

My initial impressions were positive – the ST5 is only just a touch heavier than my Adidas Bostons but surprisingly more ‘plush’.  I know that’s a crap description, but I honestly can’t think of one better – there seems to be more cushioning and more ‘give’ in the trainer – but without any significant weight penalty.  Annoyingly, however, the shoes seem to come with self-untying laces!  After three runs where they came loose, I gave up and swapped to elastic laces (I’d already decided by then the ST5 would likely be my shoe-of-choice for the upcoming Swashbuckler triathlon).

I can now run at a steady-to-fast pace with less pain than before.  I still get calf tightness, but no pain is a good thing.  In fact, I seem to get more pain when I back right off on the pace, which I guess suggests my form might actually be part of the issue. 

The second factor is the decision to try orthotics…

I had been battling with this decision for some time, as I know people who are both for and against the use of orthotics.  But with the knee still not improving at the rate I wanted, I decided that before investing £150+ in a set of custom orthotics, I’d see whether a £25 off-the-shelf pair made any difference.  I simply went to my local Boots and picked up a pair of Scholl Orthoheel Sports inserts.

Slipping them into the ST5s they initially felt pretty awkward, but after a few hours I had almost forgotten they were there on the right foot (the trouble leg) while the left still felt awkward.  I took this to be a positive sign.  Running for the first time in them was not exactly a revelation, but there was a noticeable difference. Two weeks down the line, slipping on the ST5s with the Orthotics in them now feels completely normal.

I can now run at a steady-to-fast pace with less pain than before.  I still get calf tightness, but no pain is a good thing.  In fact, I seem to get more pain when I back right off on the pace, which I guess suggests my form might actually be part of the issue. 

On Thursday I tried going for a steady run, but wearing my Adidas Tempo trainers (similar in concept to the ST5 – reasonably light but with mild support).  I put in the orthotics to be on the safe side.  I got 350 metres down the road before discomfort in my right leg forced me to turn back for the house.  I switched back to the ST5s and then ran a 12km steady route with no more discomfort than normal.

It seems pretty clear the ST5s are going to feature in the future of my running; in the short term at least!  And the same goes for orthotics, although having proved the theory that they do indeed help, I am now more inclined to fork out the extra dosh for a pair that have been specifically moulded for my feet (not to mention hopefully significantly lighter!).   I did try to contact the e-Soles people (I have a pair of their inserts in my Lake TX312 tri bike shoes), but unfortunately they didn’t see fit to get back to me.  

In other news, bike training continues to go well.  It will soon be time to start trying my hand at a few local 10 and 25-mile TTs.  Then I’ll know just how much improvement has – or has not! – been made over winter.  I’m expecting it to take a few attempts to re-learn how to get into the ‘pain cave’ but hopefully there are new PBs to be had in the next few months.

I also did my first open water swim of 2012 this morning, at a very chilly (but clear) Cromhall Quarry near Bristol.  Apart from freezing my forehead (like an ice cream brain freeze – only worse!) it was nice to escape the confines of the pool.  Getting back in a wetsuit felt pretty strange though, so it was a timely reminder that I mustn't neglect wetsuit swimming ahead of the early races.   I think my plan for the next couple of months will be to continue working on my speed and strength in the pool (I’ve recently hooked up with some good local swimmers, providing some healthy competition) while using the quarry for endurance (which, if I’m truly honest, I haven’t worked on enough over winter).

So there you go, another self-indulgent, overly-long update I’m afraid.  Well done for making it to the end!

Oh, and if anyone has had any good experiences with custom (or semi-custom) orthotics, I’d love to hear where you got them from; I’m definitely going to be in the market soon (tweet me at @m_j_fisher).

Until next time!



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Matt Fisher runs - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs