My Nike trainers – white Converse – from New Balance get weighed down by a pair of dirty trainers
“The ideal shoes for a run are your bare feet, in the water and preferably wet or dripping,” says Steve Mace.
Like a semi-pro football player who’s found a rawness that makes him happy, Mace is a biomechanist – a smart person who looks at the foot and instructs people – primarily triathletes – on the simple science of performance.
Mace is the co-founder of Body.Fit – a London-based business that makes a pair of running trainers (the Extreme Running Power trainer) for half the price of a big brand. They’re also a bit naff-looking, with metallic hems and matching shins.
“You’ve got to find your heel, and that’s the hardest thing,” says Mace. “A lot of people get it wrong. With the power trainers, the whole structure of the ankles is really important, as is something called the system of compressive forces and a property called external intensities. How hard are the forces in your foot when you’re walking?
“For modern running shoes, there’s all these complex orthotics, stretch things, accelerometers that measure so many things, and you keep worrying you are constantly overcompensating for someone who’s running a smarter or more technical shoe.
“This is when the power trainers are so good. They’re really reducing the foot muscle load. If you wear your shoes, the biomechanics tell you that’s what’s happening. You’re in shallow water, which keeps you low to the ground, and you’re spending more time in your feet. That’s when your ratio of stimulus to kinetic energy increases.”
Mace believes these findings have been overlooked by manufacturers, both big and small. “Running trainers have gotten bigger, bigger, bigger, and it’s hard to find the roots of the problem.”
But the power trainers are doing something that’s handy: they’re encouraging more people to do half marathons. According to Mace, some runs are less than five miles and last less than 15 minutes – three running tips every week.
If you’re active and engaging in that kind of low-energy activity, his theory goes, you’ll be less likely to start suffering foot problems.
Mace advises runners to take a look at the things that irritate them, and stop them. “It’s looking out for things you would rarely notice as an athlete.
“When you start off running, you’re capable of doing a lot. But you can’t always just roll out and pretend it doesn’t exist.
“I’ve found that the smaller the increases you experience, the better. Your foot muscle burns at a lower rate. You don’t have to build more muscles, in terms of endurance or power, when you start out.
“It’s always worth having a simple conversation with your shoes. If you have to change your running style, ask for a do-over or a more comfortable shoe.”