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The Shoe Debate - Is this a good thing?

Posted by jcreane@btinternet.com on April 13, 2021 at 12:55 AM

I don't think we can question that developments in shoes in  recent times, have not affected performance. They have.

In my opinion, the change they have made is far and beyond anything I have seen in my time. That time is of course relatively short in athletics!

On a world stage we have seen big improvements particularly on the road, but my own personal experience is that they have also affected the sub elite runners to a great degree too. So suddenly 32 min 10k runners are running close to 30 mins or a HM has improved from 68.30 to 65.30 as an example. My inbox messages over the last two years in particular have highlighted similar trends to greater or lesser degrees.

Obviously Covid 19 has greatly affected many aspects of life, but it has also focused our attention on the details of life too. My inbox would be flooded with screenshots of shoes on start lines, finish areas in races. So, there is no doubt the athletes are on to something here. These things don't just happen. Athletes know! They also know that opportunities to make gains are important, if others are doing so. After all it's not illegal. It has been allowed. Innovation has been encouraged and welcomed, hasn't it? Is this a good thing?

The 'swoosh' started the trend. It has been highlighted by Kipchoge et al in many of the races we have witnessed in recent times. So, like what has happened since the beginning of time, ideas catch on. The shoes are here. They are running rampant and I don't think this is a curve that will flatten in a short time.

My own thinking, (that can work too much sometimes), is where do we go from here? Is this the beginning of a shoe arms war? Or, are we going to see things plateau and stabilise for a while? Answers on a postcard please!!!

I think athletes do have a moral code (nearly all) but there comes a point where everyone has to join in and I think this is beginning to happen. The attitudes of 'cheat shoes'...'you won't catch me wearing them!' These feelings are dampening down. The acceptance is beginning to infect all. Again, I go back to my own feelings and question...Is this a good thing? They are almost unanswerable questions.

Like many of us I've listened and observed the goings on in relation to this debate. Another aspect is 'the responder'. Do people react differently to the shoes. This argument I am actually less interested in, because I think all athletes respond differently to different shoes. We know what works for us and we know what doesn't. Athletes are very conscious of how a shoe feels, so again if some athletes are gaining an advantage from the carbon shoes and some are not, then I think this debate will subside. Everyone is pushing to offer a 'super' shoe and it's only a matter of time before all do so. Is this a good thing?

Recently the shoe debate has exploded again because of Beth Potter's extraordinary run at the Podium 5k in Barrowford. A world record. Was it Beth? Was it the shoe? Is she taking something? How did that even happen? Is the course short? Have they got drug testing? Did they have timers with watches?

Yes, we were all blown out of the water by this. But, the fact of the matter is....it happened. Potter the athlete with a terrific pedigree ran a sensational time in a high quality race. Mick Hill the Master 45 also ran a best time for this age category. So what happened? Perfect course, perfect conditions, perfect quality of field. These things do happen. Don't they? I think many athletes can recall times in their running careers, where they questionned their own performance. "Where did that bloody come from?...." It's happened to me certainly and many of us.

So, yes it was a WR run, but it could also have just been that everything aligned perfectly. Potter has been fairly quiet in running terms for a few years. Her power of 10 is fairly sparce 2018 onwards. Yes, she's popped up with a few runs, but nothing like the frequency of her earlier athletic career.

I've heard people talk about the influence of triathlon training on Potter. I really haven't delved into this too much, but can only imagine that she would be doing plenty of time on the bike. I also know she has a very strong swimming background. From my own experience of triathletes, not many of the ones I know say their swimming is a strong one. No doubt, all this extra training would compliment Potter. But the fact of the matter is, she is someone who has just run the fastest time we've seen here ever! So, her running game has to be very strong indeed. Personally I don't believe cycling and swimming is the defining element of push that has made her running better. But that is up for debate. My own belief is that running makes a runner better ultimately. But, that's the Lydiard in me!

The shoes are having impact. You don't get the black hammerite paint out of the shed to do a DIY job on your next % if they don't work. Is this a good thing?

TBC..................I'm sure!

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