Thursday, 29 November 2012

Running shoes for a desert marathon

The terrain of the Sahara marathon is going to be a mix of loose sand, packed dirt and rock, and I had it under good authority (a previous Sahara marathon finisher) that normal running trainers aren't going to cut it in this trail environment.

Fortunately, Vivobarefoot are sponsoring me in the footwear department so, after discussing the options with their team, we decided that the Breatho Trail were the pair to use as they'll be light and airy and have serious tread that should deal with the varied terrain without any problems.

First Impressions

Today, my training pair arrived through the post and, as this is the first time I've been sponsored in such a way, it was with a mix of excitement and the weight of responsibility that I opened the package and took in the sight and smell of my new pair of trail running shoes :-)

The Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail shoes in the box

I don't know what it is about equipment and sport but there is, for me at least, a strong link between motivation and new gadgets/equipment. Be it a new pair of shoes, a GPS watch or something as simple as an LED light, my desire to go for a super long and awesome run is never greater than when I've just got some new stuff to go running with.

Anyway, I was surprised at the size of the shoes when I opened the box and I was a little worried we'd ordered too big. The advice from the Vivo team (and also printed on their website) is to go a size up because the shoes come in a little small.

Much to my relief, they actually fit perfectly and I now understand why they say go up a size. I don't think it's because the shoes come in small, but rather they're designed to give your feet room and, rather than hold them in and "support" (aka weaken) your feet like other modern shoes, these allow your feet and toes to spread. It also gives them room to grow as your feet get bigger by becoming stronger (or swell... as in from the heat of the Sahara desert).

Wearing the Breatho Trails is extremely comfortable.

I know all about the foot-expansion side effects of transitioning to barefoot running; having had to chuck out all my existing trainers and shoes earlier in the year after I discovered that my feet no longer fitted into them at all.

I swear barefooting should come with a wallet warning - it might be cheaper to wear no shoes, but be warned that you'll have to buy a whole new shoe wardrobe for those events when bare feet are not appropriate.

The Breatho Trails felt very smooth and comfortable to wear, not to mention light so I'm really looking forward to getting out for a run in them (but not before I've given my foot a couple more days rest)!

Taking them off to take a photo or two, I noticed that they're actually a single piece of material on the inside which will make keeping the sand out a little easier, though I think I'll still have to find or sew on some gaiters to keep as much out as possible. Advice from people doing the Marathon Des Sables was to avoid getting sand into shoes at all costs because it'll basically be like having sand paper for socks for 26 miles...


Yet another reason to donate a little something on my JustGiving page eh? ;-)

The grips on the bottom look awesome and the trademark hexagonal lugs look as though they were made especially to be little sand scoops to give me loads of grip in the loose sand and dirt of the desert.

Serious off-road lugs on the Breatho Trail from Vivobarefoot
Yes that is my cat trying to get into the box in the background.
She goes potty for cardboard boxes. Weirdo.

They'll also be fantastic on the mud and gravel on the Saxon Shore - an awesome trail run along the banks of the Thames estuary and down to Rochester.

Can't wait to go running!

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