Friday, March 23, 2012

Too Much Work, Too Little Running ...

Sometimes I wished I worked in a less demanding industry, something not so hectic that would see me head home at 5.00pm with loads of time for me to indulge in my passion for running.

I should have listened to my mom when I was young and gone and work in some government agency or something instead of insisting in wanting to join the 'awesome, glamourous and wonderful' advertising and print industry. Imagine the amount of time I would have in my hands to run if I was working with the government!

The past week or two has seen me running very inconsistently, which is a little worrying seeing as how I have my maiden marathon to run in 3 months time. Work wise, I've been under a lot of stress running around and organizing countless event set ups, vehicle wraps (which surprisingly has suddenly come by the dozens) and signage installations that I've been working from morning to the wee hours of the next morning.

The current F1 race this weekend has been one of the culprits in keeping me up till the wee hours of the morning the past week doing event backdrop set ups in town and at the Sepang International Circuit for one of our clients who don't really know what they want which has us doing everything at least twice ... siggghhh ...

It wouldn't be so bad if I was working for someone cos then my bosses would have all this organizing and logistical headaches but running your own company tends to make the headache and responsibility all mine (and my partner's as well). We can't afford to screw up cos for me, losing a good client, in fact any client, is NOT an option.

But I suppose work is what pays the bills (and also for my cravings for running shoes ... LOL!) and I'll just have to find some way to squeeze in some running around all the work that I have. I'm just glad it's the weekend cos at least I can work on my long runs. I'm planning to make the weekend runs count to make up for my screwed up weekday run schedule.

The past 4 or 5 runs in the GOrun's has seen me running effortlessly albeit shorter distances so I'm eager to see if that'll carry on with my longer runs. It's been a long while since I've been running absolutely pain free and effortless that I'm hoping it's a sign of good things to come. Maybe having on my feet a shoe that Meb endorses has something to do with it ... hahaha!

Anyways, happy weekend and run happy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Skechers GOrun : Sockless Running

I've never run sockless before. In all those years I've been running, I've always had to to wear socks. There wasn't any particular reason to it, it was just that I had to wear socks.

I wasn't too keen on the idea of running sockless but I did mention to the people at Skechers Malaysia that I'd try out their shoe with a sockless run. I wanted to try it out during the Brooks half but chickened out for fear of blistering.

So, I took the shoe out for two runs without wearing socks and my reaction went from awesome to ouch! The first run was a short 8K. It felt a little awkward at first since I've never run sockless before (really, I've NEVER run sockless before) but by the time I ended the run I was convinced that I've been missing out in life, sockless running wise that is.

 

The shoe ran sockless pretty well. My feet hardly had any hotspots and it made the shoe feel even lighter than running with my socks on where I've always had that restrictive feeling from the socks enveloping my feet as I ran.

I tend to sweat a lot and I mean a lot and all my running attire are so darned efficient at wicking away sweat from my body and letting it trickle all the way down to my feet that my socks always end up getting so wet and heavy during long runs that it can sometimes be very distracting.

I thought my days of having to buy socks was over, at least until I ran the Standard Chartered KL Marathon Clinic this morning. It was a slightly longer run, around 14K and I came away from that run with blisters on my second last left toe and the sides of my arch! This is basically the first time I've had a blister develop in my feet in god knows how many years.

Started off the run pretty well, the shoe held out fine, no signs of hotspot and the feet were kept pretty cool due to the airy upper mesh. Then on the 9K, the first signs of blistering materialized and I knew I was in trouble. Kept on running and true enough, the feet was rubbing aggressively against the inside left arch area and the blister got from bad to worse.

I persisted until the end of the designated run distance which was close to 14K and was limping back to the car after the clinic session. The moment I took off the shoe, I saw the raw, painful red mark of a huge blister (see red circled area in picture below. Don't mind my dog, she's a cam whore ... LOL!). It hurt like a bitch to walk since it was 'strategically' located right at the lower bottom of my arch.

It looks and feels so much more painful in real life than it does in the picture ...
I'm not sure why the blister developed only on the left foot, maybe the shoe was not laced tightly enough or the feet were just too sweaty and was slipping quite a bit but I think I'm going to be running with socks from now on. I really dislike blisters (who does) and don't want to risk getting more though I did enjoy my brief flirtation with sockless running.

I'm not saying the shoe can't be run sockless, everyone's feet is different and maybe mine just isn't cut out for sockless running. I just might give the sockless running thing another go though, this time I'll slather on loads of body glide all over my feet and tighten the laces and see if that'll help. I liked the feel of sockless running so I suppose giving it one last try wouldn't hurt, or would it?

I guess the shoe would be okay to run sockless for shorter distances of 8K and below but I'd advise great caution if you're planning a long one!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Skechers GOrun : The Review

The rain this evening put paid to my plans of raking in a little more mileage on the GOruns before posting my performance review on the shoe. I was all laced up and just about to step out the door when the skies opened up. I would have ran in the rain but it was just a little too heavy for my liking and I get sick easily if I get too much rain. The wife says I'm a soft little city boy ... LOL!

Anyways, I decided I might as well post my take on the shoe since I've already covered some mileage with it and also put it through a half marathon race distance last week for the Brooks Half Marathon. I've had the shoe for about 10 days now and have so far covered a total of 50KM in it. The wife has also put in more or less the same amount of mileage and she also has more or less the same opinion of the shoe as I do.

First of, I must say after my initial skepticism about the shoe, I'm a total convert. The GORuns just grow on you. The first time I put on the shoe was for an easy run covering a total of 17KM. The shoe felt a little weird initially as it takes some getting used to when you put on a Skechers GOrun for the first time.

As mentioned in my previous post, one of the first things you notice, besides the light weight is that bump under your arches. It makes it a little weird to walk in and I was pretty worried that it would affect my run. It felt funny having your arches 'probed' but the distraction went off after a few kilometers and I could hardly feel it anymore.

Fit wise, the shoe fit like a glove around my feet. I'm a US9 for all my other shoes but had to size down to a US8 for the GOruns. The wife strangely had to size up for her pair. I like the snugness of the shoe and how light it felt. In fact, it felt so light that I felt like I was running with just my socks on. I was worried that it would be a little difficult to slide the foot in with the stitched on tongue but surprisingly, the stretchy upper fabric made that task easy.

The almost weightless synthetic upper mesh made the shoe pretty breathable and it did help considerably with keeping my feet cool. My feet tends to heat up fast but with the GOruns I didn't feel that 'hot' sensation I get when I run with some of my other shoes. The toe box was a lot more roomier than most of my other shoes which allowed the toes to spread nicely and push off much easier without that feeling of your toes being pressed tightly together.

Since it was the first time I was running in the shoe, I took a more cautious approach. At an easy pace the shoe seemed able to withstand the impact of the newly tarred road, somewhat along the lines of the Green Silence and Pure Connects. The cushioning was adequate and held up admirably.

Upon stepping up the speed to a slightly faster pace was when I wished the outsoles were a little more rigid as I could feel the road pounding under my feet. The Resalyte outsole, though adequately cushioned, still wasn't able to completely absorb the faster landing feet motion thus the slight pounding. Not a big issue if you're light on your feet but for a heavier runner, it might pose some problems.

With the outsoles being a little on the soft side, you tend to 'feel' the road considerably especially at higher speeds, though the sensation doesn't go any further than the bottom of your feet with no impact whatsoever on the ankles and knees, which in my opinion is pretty awesome. I suppose the 'GOimpulse sensors' that are positioned at all the impact points of the soles tend to absorb and dissipate the impact along the soles of the feet rather than towards the top of the legs.

A little note here on the outsoles. I noticed that no matter how hard I trashed them during my runs, there was hardly any scuffing on it unlike my Pure Connects which was scuffed quite bad after my first run in it. The outsoles of the GOrun, while soft and springy is actually very durable. 

The flexibility of the shoe was also a joy to run in with the foot adapting well to the contours of the uneven road, mimicking an 'as close as I can possibly get to running barefoot without actually running barefoot' experience.

Day two saw me doing a short 5K speed run session with a 5 minute pace that was easily attainable seeing as how light the shoe was. The speed just came naturally which I have to watch out for when I'm doing longer distanced runs, don't want to tire out too soon! It just makes you want to run fast! LOL!
 
One thing the shoe cannot do, well almost cannot do, is heel strike. The way the mechanics of this shoe is built, you're always mid-footing and while it might be a good thing if you're a natural midfoot runner, it's an otherwise quite painful thing if you're a heel striker. The calves are worked up quite a bit from constantly being 'forced' to midfoot strike. You really got to get used to the shoes if you're a natural heel striker.

I tend to heel strike when I'm really tired but with this shoe, I found that I couldn't really heel strike at all. It's not impossible but you'd have to put in a lot of effort if your were going to heel strike in these shoes. Notice the still clean heel sections of the outsoles (they're still as clean as that even after the Brooks Half). Even the wife who is a heel striker simply couldn't heel strike with these shoes.

The unblemished sections at the very back of the heel
The furthest I've run with the shoe under race conditions was the recently concluded Brooks Half Marathon. While I personally didn't do well at the event because of a nagging thigh injury recurrence, the shoe performed admirably. Since I'm more familiar with the shoe by now, it got up to speed pretty fast.

I mentioned earlier that the outsoles were a little soft and you could feel the roads at higher speeds but surprisingly, at longer distances and slightly slower speeds the mid-section of the outsoles firms up nicely with ample cushioning making midfoot running a breeze.

One thing I noticed is that after all my runs, my legs tended to recover so much faster. The usual aches and soreness almost immediately vanished and I was left with the feeling of wanting to go out and run some more! I've only clocked 50K on it so far but the pains in my ankles and knees are also a thing of the past. I don't know if it has anything to do with the shoe though I suspect it does. It could also be psychological but I'm not complaining. It's nice to have pain free legs after a run.

Normally after a run, I tend to feel the aches and soreness almost all day and have to walk down the staircase sideways like a crab ... LOL! But after the Brooks Half, I was immediately feeling ready to run again in the evening and if it wasn't for the thigh injury, I would have. And I'm not alone in this assessment, the wife feels the same way too and she's been running with a Skechers (albeit a different model) a lot longer than I have.

The wife was plagued by knee problems but after using Skechers Shape-Ups for quite a while now and then moving on to the GOruns, she swears that all her knee issues are gone and she's running pain free as well. She also hardly has much aches or soreness after her runs and recovers pretty fast.

To be honest, there was nothing I didn't like about the shoe. It does take some getting used but it tends to grow on you the more you use it. I'm not sure how well it would perform for a full marathon but I do intend to find out in June for the Standard Chartered KL Marathon where I'm signed up to run the 42K and will probably use this or hopefully a newer updated model of the shoe to see how it performs in a full marathon.

One issue that I can foresee cropping up is how some might find it a little unnatural in the sense that it 'forces' one to midfoot strike. It's not a shoe that you can put on and immediately feel the the benefits. A little break in period is need for your feet to familiarize itself with the shoe.

A little caution is advised, this shoe is not immediately for everyone. Like I said it takes some getting used to. Do some research, know your feet and running style before making a decision to buy the GORuns. But overall I'd say it's one hell of a shoe and is putting Skechers on the right path in breaking into the running shoe market. I'm already looking forward to future iterations of the shoe.

I'll post another follow up review once I've done a lot more miles in the shoe to see how it holds up in the longer run (pun intended).

Once again, thank you Skechers Malaysia for the review shoe you gave the wife and me. The writeup you read here are based on my own honest and personal opinions and is in no way influenced by Skechers Malaysia.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Skechers GOrun

When the wife first told me she wants to get a pair of Skechers Shape-Ups for her runs, I went like what? Skechers? Really? They sound like a drawing pad company to me, let alone a running shoe brand. But she was persistent and went out and bought one. I was still skeptical. I mean, let's be real here. Skechers are not really known for their running shoes.

But she found the shoes to her liking. Her knee issues went away after using the shoes for a few weeks and she enjoyed the bounce and push off the Skechers Shape-Ups offered. Each to her own I suppose. As long as she was happy and the shoes actually helped her run better, that was all that mattered. But heck, I wasn't going to go out and get one for myself.

That was until they released the Skechers GOruns, the very same shoe that Meb Keflezighi used for his Men’s Olympic Marathon trials in Houston clocking a personal best. Granted, the version Meb used was customized for him (which is the same with all shoe companies and their sponsored athletes) and not exactly the very same shelf models being sold worldwide but it has the same technology inside.

I was still on the skeptical side but the fact that Meb was endorsing it for Skechers piqued my curiosity a little. The shoe wasn't launched here yet. The wife was patiently or rather impatiently waiting for it to arrive.

Last week, I was passing by the Skechers KLCC outlet on one of my working rounds and it just so happened that the shoe was launched only the day before. I called the wife to tell her. She was excited to hear the news. She's done a heck of a lot of research on this shoe and she's been waiting for the launch for quite a while now.

To be honest, it looked pretty good. Now here was a Skechers shoe that actually looked like a real running shoe. Once I picked it up though, I knew that I just had to buy this shoe to try it out. It was amazingly light at 6.9oz based on the men's size 9 and though my current favourite, the Green Silence was the same weight, this shoe somehow had an even lighter feel to it. I'm a sucker for light weight shoes these days.

I'm envious of the wife's color theme, unfortunately the men's don't come in lime green
With the wife's enthusiasm and excitement being somewhat contagious, I picked her up the moment I got home and we went out and got ourselves a pair each. The wife was giving me this, 'you're actually buying a Skechers after all that mocking of my previous Skechers shoe' look the whole time I was trying it out in the store ... hahaha! Ok, ok, I admit, I had to eat humble pie. The Saucony's are just going to have to wait a little while longer before I buy them.

The GOrun is Skechers foray into the minimalist trend that also doubles as a 'racing flat'. The first thing you'll notice about the shoe when you put it on is that it has this protrusion inside that pushes against your arches. It feels a little weird to walk in but once you start running in them, you'll hardly notice them. The shoe fit nicely around my feet and has a breathable, nearly weightless synthetic upper mesh. Though the tongue was stitched on to eliminate slipping, sliding your foot in was not an issue with the stretchy uppers and the soft non-conventional heel counter at the back didn't induce any slipping either. It was a nice snug fit.

The heel counter that I thought was pretty cool. Notice the mesh that helped with cooling
The soft smooth and seamless integrated OrthoLite anti-microbial sockliner helps inhibit odor and prevent slippage and is perfect for those who prefer sockless running. The shoe has a roomier toe box which I found to noticeably reduce friction and allowed the toes to spread, grip and push off a little easier unlike my Brooks Launch which has a much tighter toe box. The shoe has a rocker look as you can see in the picture below unlike the more conventional minimalist shoes that I've seen.

The 'rocking horse' look. Notice the distance the heel and toe is from the ground
The shoe is made in such a way with the heel section at an upward curve to help cancel out the need to heel strike. Even though the shoe has a 4mm heel drop, that upward slant makes it feel much higher. Now, the shoe is designed that way cos it 'forces' you to run with a mid-foot strike making heel striking 'virtually' impossible. Even though there is a 4mm heel to toe drop, your heel actually sits lower in the rear of the shoe with the midsoles rising a few millimeters higher to form a kind of arch near the front of the heel and dropping towards the forefoot.

The Resalyte outsole is really flexible, extremely lightweight and soft with significant cushioning in the midfoot section. I would have preferred a slightly more rigid outsole though, especially for speedier runs. A host of round pods or 'GOimpulse sensors' as Skechers refers to, are found on the bottom of the outsole acting as surface anchors. The sensors, which you can see from the picture below are made from high abrasion rubber for added traction and extended durability.

The somewhat similar pods not unlike the Pure Connects
Overall, the shoe shows a lot of promise but bear in mind, this shoe takes some getting used to. If you're a midfoot runner, then the transition is so much easier but someone who heel strikes a lot need to take things easy and slowly transit into the shoe. Do a couple of slow easy miles, get a feel of the shoe before even attempting to take it out for a much longer run. But bear in mind, this shoe is not for everyone.

Anyway, the true test of any running shoe is how well it actually performs when you take it out for a run which I will be doing in the coming days. Do come back and take a peek of how the shoe performs.
 
Last but not least, I would like to thank Skechers Malaysia for kindly giving both the wife and me each a pair of GOruns and the opportunity to review it for them.

Note: 
The shoe in the pictures above were purchased by us but Skechers Malaysia so kindly gave us each another pair to review and test. The writeup you read here and future performance reviews of the shoe are based on my own personal opinion and is in no way influenced by Skechers Malaysia.