Blog: Sports editor ditches the old trainers for some ‘balanced’ insoles and a recommended running shoe

Worksop Guardian sports editor Graham Smyth in the run section of the Ripon Olympic Distance Triathlon
Worksop Guardian sports editor Graham Smyth in the run section of the Ripon Olympic Distance Triathlon

George Best could have played in slippers, and still been the best in the world.

Every summer this was the response I got from my dad, when I tentatively suggested a pair of Adidas Predators or Puma Kings during our hunt for my new football boots.

Worksop Guardian sports editor Graham Smyth in the run section of the Ripon Olympic Distance Triathlon

Worksop Guardian sports editor Graham Smyth in the run section of the Ripon Olympic Distance Triathlon

His view was that the feet make the magic happen, or the miss-placed pass happen in my case, not the pricey newest-on-the-shelf boots.

But I’m 32 now dad and I can wear what I like.

As a novice triathlete, I’ve been running races for the past three years in an old pair of Reebok trainers I had in the wardrobe.

I’ve given little thought to how the piece of material covering my size eight and a halfs might help or hinder my performance.

Starting out, performance enhancement hasn’t been a huge priority, I’ve concentrated mostly on getting fit enough to actually finish the races.

But with four sprint triathlons and an Olympic distance event under my belt, it’s time to start getting quicker – or at least try.

This year I decided to take on three triathlons, all the while raising money and awareness for Sheffield-based anti trafficking charity City Hearts.

The final race in my personal series is the Last Minute Tri at Southwell this Sunday.

And when I rack my bike and throw on the running shoes for the last time in a 2015 race, it won’t be the old Reeboks chafing my feet around the 5k run course.

I’ve a sparkling new pair of Nike Air Zoom Odysseys, and I’m not afraid to use them.

That’s because they come recommended.

A trip to Sweatshop gave me an insight into what my gait, and the kind of shoe that can help support a stride as imbalanced as mine.

Given that my wife gleefully tells anyone who will listen that I have the ‘weirdest gait,’ the Meadowhall shop had their work cut out.

Store manager Gaz put me on a machine that enabled him to take pictures of my bare feet – it’s not as creepy as it sounds - to see how they react to strain when in a half squat position.

And in a result that he says isn’t exactly the norm, my right ‘pronates’ so that weight is taken on the inside of the sole, and my left ‘supinates’ so the weight is taken on the outside of the sole.

In effect, everything shifts to the left a little, it’s not balanced.

Add to that the fact that I come down quite heavily through the heel when I run, and the chances are that eventually, without the right support, I’m going to do myself an injury because my weight isn’t being distributed evenly and the shock isn’t being adaquately absored.

My gait could be caused by my lack of flexibility, and running could only make things worse, or put too much strain on a particular muscle, or lengthen and weaken a muscle.

So the task for Sweatshop’s bearded Gaz wasn’t so much to help me run faster, but find me a shoe that supports my feet, takes into account my gait and will help me avoid injury.

First he found a FootBalance insole that was the right size for my foot.

Then I had to stand on a soft, heated surface with the insoles under my feet, until they were softened and moulded to fit.

He then popped them inside a Nike running shoe and got me on the treadmill to ensure they were doing the job.

The imagery captured showed that my feet were striking the treadmill in a much more neutral position.

Essentially, the running shoe, or any decent running shoe, should provide the foot with support, and help take the sting out of the impact when you pound the pavement.

Gaz reeled off a list of benefits to the Nike Air Zoom Odyssey, particularly the ‘heel cup’ that grips the back of your foot and aids those like me who are heavy through the heel.

Add the insole, moulded to the exact shape of my sole, and what I should have is a pair of trainers that will promote balanced running.

Will I run faster? That much is probably entirely down to me and my desire to train harder.

Am I less likely to get injured? That’s the suggestion. Time will tell. And if the insoles last 1,000 miles like Gaz reckons they can, my feet will spend a long time in them.

This kind of thing is what Sweatshop are said to specialise in, and with their own dedicated running club and staff who themselves do a fair bit of the old jogging, their knowledge trumps mine.

I’ve been out a few times to break the trainers in before heading to Southwell on Sunday, and I have to say they feel pretty good, it feels like my feet are more encased than they were previously, and I haven’t had that dull ache in my hips or glutes that sometimes accompanies my run.

I’m no fool, however, I know that my running technique is still abysmal and only expert coaching and hard work will be able to remedy that.

They’re not a brand new pair of Puma Kings, but they do look great and that, dad, is the main thing.