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Believe in the beautiful strides that you can make

Catherine Lau, Boase Cohen & Collins solicitor and Convenor of the Law Society of Hong Kong’s Distance Running Team, tests some new running shoes in an article for HK Lawyer magazine.

It was a scorching Saturday morning when I met John Lee, our Distance Running Team’s Captain, at Shatin Sports Ground to enjoy the experience of testing some new running shoes from different brands. I had the chance to try Mizuno Wave Rider 19 and ASICS GT-1000 5 but, regretfully, could not give my opinion on two other brands that John was lucky enough to test, too, since they did not fit my size.

I had to find a spot in the shade shortly after I slipped on the ASICS to ensure I could fully focus on feeling its difference compared to Mizuno. Both styles offered a completely different feel than what I normally get from my running shoes. My first impression was that they 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.

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The experience of trying shoes like this reminded me of the feeling I had when I first started running and was completely overwhelmed by the variety of choice 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 buy 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. So I experimented with 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 found hardly any models that I liked at that time except my brother’s Mizuno shoes. 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. Unfortunately, they did not come in my exact size.

As I began to take my training more seriously, seeking out professional coaching, I was introduced to ASICS tarther and skysensor series that fitted me especially well. ASICS has been my go to shoe since November 2012, without exception. The shoes in these two series are so light and, most importantly, they let my feet breathe and flutter. They really make me feel as if I’m striding out in little more than my bare feet. For me, the ideal running shoes are 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” attractions 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 in itself. And as we keep running, we should just listen to our body and believe in the beautiful strides that we can make.

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Catherine Lau and John Lee test some new running shoes. Photograph courtesy of HK Lawyer