Tips for the Trail – Shoe Fit and Tread Matters – Xterra – 3-9-2012

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published in Xterra 3/9/2012

One of the vast differences in trail running and road running is shoe choices.  On the road, most people can get away with a pair of training shoes and a pair of race day flats.  This works, as the biggest barrier might be other runners or a pothole.  Trail running shoe choice can be a very different story.

XTERRA Footwear in ActionUnless you are running on local trails only where the terrain is similar all of the time, I suggest owning at least two different types of shoes.  While fit is important, tread and lateral support differences can make or break your event.  We are fortunate to have a huge variety of brands and shoes to choose from.  It can be overwhelming, but easily narrowed first by determining if your running style is on the forefoot or the heel.  Other factors can be if you run light and fluid like a gazelle, in which the lighter more flexible shoes are good choices. If you strike with a heavy hard plod, a more supportive shoe is a better choice.

Once you’ve narrowed it down, start trying shoes on. You will find that certain shoes just feel right. Fabulous! Make certain that there are zero hot spots, you try them on with the sock that is right for you and you at least give them a trial run to make sure there is no slippage and they allow for your natural gait.

But wait! I have to bring up something often so overlooked.  The treads and lateral stability on a trail shoe truly matter!  I have paid dearly for this one in the past. As I traveled literally across the nation for running events, I discovered that while my favorite shoes fit great, the tread and support were sometimes not right for the conditions. You can compare it to the thought of a mountain bike tire.  You wouldn’t want to ride a semi slick in heavy slippery clay or on a trail full of rock gardens.  But, that would be a great choice for fire roads or less technical single track.

If you always want to have your best race ever, buy two to three styles of trail running shoes.  At the very least own a less tread selection for “road race” type races and a pair with more lateral support and heavier lugs for more difficult terrain.  It is early season. Get used to them now.  This way, when it comes to race day, you are prepared!  Here are some examples of what I am talking about:

The XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in Hawaii has a bit of everything.  No single shoe is going to be the best one for the vast variety of terrain offered. What I do know is it has slippery wet sections in the forest, and rock gardens in critical places.  But then there are also open fire roads, which pose no problem. For this race I would suggest a shoe with medium lugs for traction and good lateral support in case of a mis-step in technical areas. This can still be a light shoe, but definitely not a flimsy road flat!

With the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run coming up on April 15, I will talk about that.  First, please come and run in this race! It is one of my favorite races ever. I’ve said before that if you can get to the big races put on by Team Unlimited, you will truly know why I am so in love with XTERRA. They create magic. Great company, a feeling of community “family,” and challenges that will leave your heart shining and dreaming of your next big one. They are so worth it!

Back to shoe choice and how it relates to the Lake Las Vegas race. The course is my favorite. It is unique in that you literally feel as though you are running on Mars. Red sandy soil, crazy hills, and wild desert skies will inspire you to run fast and strong.  Shoe choice for this one is easy. There will be one of two best choices.  It is not incredibly technical.  If there has been an unlikely rainstorm, the sandy soil will drain quickly.  This means hard packed soil and a super fast race!  Light trail shoes with just a bit of tread will do the job.  If it hasn’t rained for a while, soil will be looser.  At this point a bit more tread to navigate loose pebbles and powdery dirt will be perfect, especially for the hilly sections.  I would also suggest light gaiters to keep the insides of your feet rock free!  I can’t wait to see you there!

Now, a quick update of how my 21day challenges are going!  My to bed by 9 p.m. was awesome. While I didn’t make it every night, I will say that the following day each time I did, it left me feeling fantastic!  It was easy to wake up, I had more energy for quality workouts, made better food choices and dropped 3 pounds of fat! It was so very worth it!

My current challenge is to get more plant nutrients into my body. I drink a “green drink” each day to achieve this goal.  It is simple. I have a high powered blender where I place a couple leaves of torn organic kale, 1-2 tablespoons of chopped fresh ginger, ½ of a medium sized lemon, fresh mint leaves, and about ½ cup fresh, pineapple, pear, or berries.  I blend with a few ice cubes and 1-2 cups water. This way I can drink some now and later. I feel great doing this. Clarity of mind is amazing, I have less inflammation in my body post workout, and it is leading me to craving more healthy vegetables. I love these challenges! I hope yours are going well and leading you to your best races ever for 2012!

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She won the women’s division of the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas and Santa Cruz half-marathons in 2011, and placed fifth at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor and is a certified running form coach. She can be reached atrcanyon1@gmail.com  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her onwww.twitter.com/newageathlete.