It was a scorching Saturday morning when I met John Lee, our Distance Running Team’s Captain, at the Shatin Sportsground to enjoy the experience of some new running shoes from different brands. I had the chance to try Mizuno Wave Rider 19 and ASICS GT-1000 5. It was quite a regret that the other two brands that John was lucky enough to try too could not offer samples that fit my size. I had to find a spot in the shade shortly after I slipped on ASICS shoes to ensure I could fully focus on feeling its difference with the Mizuno shoes. Both styles offered a completely different feel than what I get from my running shoes.
My first impression was that the two styles were too bulky. When I ran in them, each immediately gave me a bouncing sensation. They offered a lot of protection against the constant pounding my feet are subjected to when I run. It felt as if my feet were heavily wrapped. There was also a bouncing sensation as my feet struck the ground. The experience of trying shoes like this reminded me of the feeling I had when I first started running.
When I first became serious about running, I remember being completely overwhelmed by the variety of choices of running shoes on the market. At the same time, it seemed to be widely accepted that we should always get running shoes that could offer maximum protection and cushioning impact, otherwise we could easily injure ourselves. People kept telling me that I should just get those heavy models with thick and bouncing soles in order not to hurt my feet, given the tremendous stress and strain they undergo with repeated strides.
I had tried various brands and models at that time. However, what is true and all that matters for yourself is how you feel when you are wearing your shoes; not what people say. I hardly got any models that I liked at that time except my brother’s shoes – they were Mizuno’s. They were so light and really gave me the sensation that I was running faster without being restrained at all. I had tried them a few times – running and really running – and could not help falling for them. They offered exceptional lightness, as if you were not wearing any shoes. However, the shoes did not come in my size.
As I began to take my training more seriously, seeking out professional coaching, I was introduced to ASICS tarther and skysensor series that fit me especially well. ASICS has been my go-to shoe since November 2012, without exception. Those series are so light and, most importantly, they let my feet breathe and flutter. They really make me feel as if I am striding out in little more than my bare feet. For me, an ideal pair of running shoes is not designed for the sole task of protecting your feet; they should also allow you to train to your full potential. Meaning, they should allow you to concentrate on your running and not your shoes. This brings us to our coach’s resonant running tips: you need to lift your legs, use your hip muscles, hold your core muscles and upper body, stride your arms, relax your shoulders, pace yourself and stride as swiftly and lightly as possible. As a result, your overall running performance and efficiency will be boosted.
I truly believe that over reliance on the bouncing effect, protective features or other “gimmicky” features of running shoes does not help you reach your full potential. Conversely, my preference for light and breathable shoes allows me to focus more on improving my running skills and general fitness in order to be able to feel the beautiful strides that I can make.
Of course, endurance and durability of shoes is something to note. No matter how much you love training with a particular pair of shoes, you should not wear them all the time. Firstly, we should own at least three pairs of “active” running shoes at the same time: one for interval training or training on the track; one for steady to tempo runs; and one for races. Secondly, once you have been running in a particular pair for more than a certain mileage, you should no longer wear them for races even though they might be your favourite racing shoes. For myself, I retire my racing shoes after using them for a maximum of two marathons.
When it comes to choosing the right running shoes for yourself, this can be purely personal but professional at the same time. Beyond the minimum basic features, it can become quite a subtle art itself. And as we keep running, we should just listen to our body and believe in the beautiful strides that we can make.