Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Running Tip #31 - Modified Nike Free

Note - This article is now hosted at fellrnr.com

As you may know from my previous post on primal running shoes, I modify my Nike Free shoes. The Nike Free is an ideal starting point for modification. Instead of a separate cushioning midsole and a hard rubber outsole, the Free combines the two into a single layer. This cushioning is much tougher than a conventional shoe, so it withstands the abrasion without an outer sole. Modifying a conventional shoe requires removing the outsole, cutting away at the midsole, then reattaching the outsole. With the Free, you just remove what you don’t want. (Note that I use the Nike Free 3.0.2 as the starting point.)

Stage One - The Sole

Here is an image of the underside of the unmodified shoe, which is my starting point. Notice the deep groves in the shoe and the lack of outsole (other than the small patches that are black).

As you can see here,the unmodified shoe has a much higher heel than forefoot.

The first stage is to mark where the sole needs cutting. Do this approximately and conservatively first. It is best to remove slightly less than you need to, then try them out and remove some more if required. I find you need to remove material from not just the heel, but the arch support and right up to just behind the all of the foot.

I've tried quite an array of tools for modifying these shoes, and my preferred tool tool is a cheap sheath knife. The knife is a Clipper and is a remarkable knife for the price - I've abused mine horribly and it's still in great condition.

Cutting away at the sole is harder than you might expect. The way the sole is in sections makes it a little easier, but only a little.

Here you can see how much of the sole was removed.

From the side, you get an idea of how far it has been cut down. Note how rough the cutting is - this seems to work fine.

Stage Two - the toe box

See how the toes overlap the sides of the shoe and the shoe is a different shape? I've never understood why shoes are not the shape of your feet. I did not have a problem with the toe box of the Free until I started wearing Vibram FiveFingers. Once my toes had become used to freedom, they were very unhappy with a toe box.

Putting the shoe on, I can feel where the toes touch the side of the shoe. I mark the contact points on the shoe. Notice that there is a reasonable area where the shoe is away from the toes. I'll leave that intact and it will keep the shoe together.

Once the toe box has been cut away, my toes are free. When I first did this as an experiment, I thought my toes would push out too far and cause a problem, but in practice this is fine. I've run up to 30 miles in this type of modified shoe without any problems.

Stage Three - Traction?

The next stage may well be to add some extra traction for running trails or on ice. http://www.skyrunner.com/screwshoe.htm

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tangent - 2008 Grand Canyon Double Crossing

I was recently asked about the double crossing of the Grand Canyon I did in 2008 and I promised to post a link to the report on my blog. Instead of the typical 'race report', I did a pictorial report of 17 annotated images. You can find this on Smugmug.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Running Tip #30 - Running in the rain

Running in the rain can be great fun, with a wonderful sense of freedom. However, it does offer some interesting challenges.

The rain can cool you off. In the summer this could be pleasant, but in cooler conditions, it can be a serious problem. Even a light rain can soak you through and cool you off dramatically. A heavy rain in cool conditions can rapidly cause Hypothermia. If you stop running, you can become chilled very quickly. Shivering is a key indicator of your core temperature - see the notes on Hypothermia on the previous blog entry on running in the cold.

  • A thin rain jacket can provide important protection and comfort. It is unlikely to keep you dry - you will probably sweat under the jacket, but it will prevent a lot of the evaporative cooling as well as the cooling effect of heavy rain.
  • Rain is a real pain if you wear glasses. Wearing a baseball cap can help protect glasses from the rain and keep the rain out of your eyes and face. A wide brimmed hat can make running in the rain much easier, especially if you are running for a protracted time. I have used the Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero and found it worked well, though it looks rather strange.
  • If you are running in the rain for a protracted period, it will cause problems with your skin. The skin will absorb the water and become softer (maceration). This can cause blisters and chafing. The use of compression clothing can minimize chafing and should be the first line of defense.
  • There are various creams that can help protect your skin in the rain. I have used Hyrdropel and found it very effective, especially on my feet.
  • It is also important to protect any electronics you carry when you run. Most sports watches, heart rate monitors and GPS devices are water resistant. Cell phones and MP3 players are generally not. For good protection, a dedicated case, like Otter Box works very well, but I have found a simple Ziploc bag, sealed and folded over works remarkably well.
  • In heavy rain or fog at night, having your light source on your head can just blind you. Using a light that attaches to your belt, such as http://www.rei.com/product/737855 works better.
  • Wear clothes that do not absorb much water. Cotton should be avoided in any weather, but some synthetic materials absorb more water than others.
  • Use common sense and caution for thunder storms. A lightning strike can kill, so it is best to avoid running in thunder storms.
  • I have tried various waterproof styles of running shoes, and would not recommend them. For running through puddles they may help, but in any serious rain it is hard to stop the water from running down your legs and into the shoes, or going over the top of the shoe. Once a waterproof shoe is soaked, it stays wet. I find it much better to wear a shoe that drains well than one that is waterproof.

Running Tip #28 - Learn the lessons

There are many lessons that we learn in running. Races are particularly intense learning experiences; I have had very few races where I have not learned at least one important lesson. It is important that we actually learn from these lessons; if we don’t the lessons will be repeated, and they are often unpleasant.

I have a checklist I use for each race. After each race, I go back over the checklist and update it with the lessons I learned. This checklist has become my treasure trove of knowledge and tips.

On my last race, pacing a marathon, the weather at the start was mid 60s and drizzle. The weather forecast was for 50% chance of light rain and a slight drop in temperature. I chose not to carry a waterproof, believing the forecast. This proved to be a mistake when the temperatures dropped to the mid 50s with heavy rain. As a pacer, I could not pick up the pace, so I became quite chilled. I was not hypothermic, but I could have been. So my race checklist now has the line ‘if there is a possibility of cool rain, carry a waterproof’.

Lesson learned.