The Sweatshop Experience: Gait Analysis

Following my departure as Yeovil Montacute parkrun Event Director, the team surprised me by awarding me the “parkrunner of the month” for my services to the event, which I was chuffed as nuts about! The prize was a free pair of professionally fitted trainers.

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This past weekend I finally got a chance to redeem the prize and visited my “local” (45 miles away) Sweatshop in Bristol, where I fully intended to make the most of the gait analysis and fitting experience.

My first “Gait Analysis” took place some time after my first half marathon. I visited Go Outdoors in Basingstoke, and it wasn’t the most thorough experience. Quite literally the bloke just looked at the sole of my shoes and decided that I should wear Salamon GTXs. Hardly scientific, no treadmill running at all to look at my gait cycle, and it felt a bit like I was being rushed or not treated seriously. Either way, the shoes themselves didn’t do my any damage, and I continued in them until I ran the Paris Marathon.

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Paris turned out to be their last outing (I went through 2 pairs), as they’d all but fallen apart by the time I got back to the hotel, and I left them in the room on departure. I would have liked to have kept them but they really smelled and needed the room in my case… so much for sentiment!

After Paris and after a week off running I thought it was time to get re-analysed. I’d progressed a lot as a runner, and thought I’d best get checked out at my most local store, Tri UK. This experience was much better than it was at Go Outdoors. I actually ran on the treadmill, they showed me the video and we tried out various shoes to correct my overpronation. The downside here was they were exclusively Asics. Not a problem really, they are a great running brand, but due to the limited options there was no real way to check the ones I tried on really were the best across the market.

Either way, I’ve been wearing Asics Gel Kayanos for the last 18 months, and I love them. But I wanted to make sure the shoes I was wearing were the right ones and weren’t causing my underlying injuries, so the visit to Sweatshop would have been well worth the visit, rather than just buying the same old pair online.

It was a bit odd walking into a David Lloyd Leisure Centre in order to find the shop, but once inside it was just like any other Sweatshop. In fact it actually seemed a bit better stocked than Reading, and has a wide range of brands, unlike the Nike exclusive shop in Exeter. Finding it wasn’t easy, as there was no signage for the shop itself at all. If I hadn’t checked on the website, I would never have known it was actually inside the leisure center.

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The chap that served me was extremely knowledgable. He asked me all about my running background, if I’d had any injuries etc before getting my on a foot analysis machine. The purpose, it seemed, was to sell me custom insoles – obviously a value add/upsell service that they are trying to punt to customers in order to help prevent foot related injury.

What he was saying made sense. As a species we evolved as front foot walkers, which meant the foot arch and plantar fascia were stretched and exercised while walking and running. Nowadays, we are heel walkers and (generally speaking) runners, so the foot arch doesn’t get stretched in the same way which leads to your foot rolling inwards – overpronating. This can lead additionally lead to tension in the Plantar Fascia which can also lead to other problems in the achilles and calf, and of course then you overcompensate in the other leg. It was a pretty compelling argument. The long term cure was to run with your toes in an elevated position. This should, over time, stretch the muscles in the foot to counter the tightness and correct your pronation and be the cure to all of your running ailments!

The sale itself was for custom insoles moulded to your foot with the toes elevated that you slip into your trainers. But at £45 quid it seemed a bit steep and I figured I’d go and research them a bit (which I’m sure I’ll get around to at some stage… maybe). He did mould the soles anyway (Apparently they can get remoulded) so I could see what it was like running in them during my analysis.

The lad in the shop when to get me a pair of neutral shoes to run in and came out with some adidas Ultra Boosts. WOW. They were so lightweight and so comfortable running in them felt effortless (Well, as effortless as can be given my awkward running on a hangover on a dreadmill).

He then showed me the footage, as well as explained each stage as we cycled through my stride and showed me where my foot was rolling in. It was clear as day that I am definitely still an overpronator!

We then looked at the stability shoes on the market which are typically recommended for overpronators and we looked at the Nike Zoom Structure (I think), adidas Sequence Boost, and the newest model of my old favourite, the Gel Kayano 22. These were largely my own selections, purely because I a) liked the Nike brand and wear Nike clothing all the time, b) I’d heard great things about the Boost technology. I’m sure I would have been able to try Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance if I liked but I wanted to try these three.

The Nike’s were so comfortable and looked fantastic. I loved them, however I made the decision going into this process that I’d go with the shoes that made the best correction to my overpronation. They did a very good job but there was still a small roll to my foot. The guy said that they looked pretty good, but said we are best to try all three, which I agreed with.

We then went to the adidas. Even lighter than the Nike’s and even more comfortable, but noticeably less support than the Nike’s.

Finally, we went to the Gel Kayano 22s. After going through the 20s and the 21s with barely a change between them, the 22s are a big departure from the norm. A completely remodelled upper, different material and different build to the structure of the upper too have made them hug the foot much better and also seem to be a lot lighter (10 grams according to the literature). They look much more modern and seem to have learned from their competitors who have similar technologies in place. But the most important thing was the treadmill test. Bang. it was immediately obvious that this totally corrected my pronation.

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So I ended up with the same shoes as I always get. But I wear them now with a renewed confidence that I am in the right shoes for the job, and confidence as a runner can do wonders from a psychological point of view.

I have to applaud the chap who served me who was patient, knowledgeable and experienced and know exactly what he was doing. It was an incredibly pleasurable shopping experience, made even better by the fact that I wasn’t paying!

If you need a gait analysis, I recommend Sweatshop. Great range, great service, great knowledge. Thank you for a fantastic experience.

 

 

 

 

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