An Interview with Dr Grip
We sat down with inov-8 footwear manager, Dr Bodil Oudshoorn, to get some advice about choosing and looking after a new a pair of inov-8s. Bo, who is known as ‘Dr Grip’ to her colleagues, is not only a footwear genius but an accomplished ultrarunner herself so she knows her stuff!
What is drop and why is it important in your shoe choice?
Your shoe drop is the difference in the amount of cushioning under your heel versus under the ball of your foot. Usually, road running shoes have a 10mm drop, meaning there is 10mm more foam under your heel than under the forefoot. Trail running shoes normally have a bit less, and it is important to keep drop in mind especially when buying your first trail shoes. If you are used to road running shoes, I would recommend not going too low immediately. A shoe with 6mm or 8mm drop should feel similar enough to your body. If you go to a ‘low drop’ shoe straight away (I would say 4mm drop or less), your calf muscles and/or Achilles tendons can get sore!
Which drop a trail runner prefers is very personal. Some people like lower drop shoes because it makes them feel more ‘on their toes’ and they allow the heel of your foot to be closer to the ground. Other people simply don’t get on with low (or even zero) drop shoes. The best thing to remember, is to transition slowly if you change the drop in your shoes.
Can you talk us through the different types of grip on shoes and explain what sort of grip you would choose for different ground?
When picking a trail running shoe I always consider the grip first. Where am I likely to be running? Will it be wet or dry, rocky or muddy, or do you expect all of those? The reason is that the best grip on your shoes is dependent on the terrain. Soft terrain such as grass and mud are best tackled in shoes with longer studs. Our X-TALON and MUDCLAW shoes have long, pointy rubber studs (8mm) that sink deep and claw through soft ground to give really good grip. So for Lakeland Trails courses like Cartmel when there is usually lots of mud and soft ground, you may want this kind of aggressive grip to ensure you stay upright on the otherwise slippery downhills!
If the terrain is hard and rocky, you don’t need long studs and instead get better grip from shoes with shorter 4mm studs (such as the TRAILROC). Because the studs are shorter we can fit more of them on the outsole, which in turn means more rubber is gripping to the hard trail and rocks when you land on them. This gives you confidence when running over hard and rocky terrain. The TRAILROC would be ideally suited to Lakeland Trails events in Staveley, Ambleside, Coniston and Helvellyn.
If you’re going to be running over a course that is a mix of soft/muddy ground and hard/rocky terrain then you want to go for an all-rounder in grip. Our ROCLITE shoes have intermediate stud length (6mm), and the studs are slightly wider. This means you can have both great grip on soft & hard surfaces! If you’re looking for an all-round shoe for the Lakeland Trails events, then it would be the ROCLITE!
Beside the shape of the studs, the rubber material they’re made from is also really important to give you the best grip. Any shoes with graphene-enhanced rubber give you a super sticky grip on slippery surfaces, and the graphene makes the outsole last longer too! Top tip: if you want a graphene shoe, look for the “G” in the shoe name – which comes before the number. For example – ROCLITE G 275 is a graphene-enhanced shoe that weighs 275g.
How important is cushioning and why?
Your ideal cushioning is again related to the ground conditions; soft mud naturally gives you cushioning, while on a hard path you probably want to get this comfort and protection from your shoe. Next to that, it also depends on your distance. If you are going a long way, like the Marathon at Coniston or one of the Ultra 100K or 55K Challenges you are likely to want a more cushioned shoe, plus a wider fit for added comfort in the toe box as your feet will most probably swell. I’d recommend looking at our new, improved TERRAULTRA G 270, TRAILTALON 290 or X-TALON ULTRA 260 shoes.
If you want to run fast over shorter distances, I would go for a lightweight shoe with less cushioning – shoes like the X-TALON G 210 or TRAILTALON 235. Again, the ROCLITE shoes are the best all-rounders, where you get a balance of cushioning and lightweight feel.
How often should you change your shoes and what are the signs to look out for when you need a new pair? If you’ve bought graphene shoes will they last longer?
The standard recommendation from shoe manufacturers across the world is to replace your shoes every 300-500 miles (500-800km). It does depend on how heavy your shoes have been used; at inov-8, we always assume our shoes are going to be put through the toughest test possible! With Graphene we have made it possible for our outsoles to provide the best possible grip with enhanced durability. Our wear testers have even worn our Graphene shoes for more than 1,000 miles! But the amount of wear does depend on the terrain and the user, so I can’t say every shoe will last that long.
Can you give us your top tips for shoe care, to make them last as long as possible?
There are a couple of things you can do to help improve the durability of your shoes, especially the upper materials.
1 Rinse your shoes after a muddy run - I normally just stand in a river at the end. The boggy terrain we often run through is actually quite acidic, and this acidity can cause the materials to degrade quicker. Rinse your shoes out, don’t let the mud ‘cake’ on them and you’ll help your shoes last longer.
2 Don’t expose them to high heat – I would not put my shoes in the washing machine, in the dryer or on top of the radiator. The glues used in the shoes don’t like the heat. Instead, wash them in a bucket with cold or lukewarm water and dry them by stuffing newspaper in.
3 Take the insoles out after arun – I find this helps the shoes to dry properly when they are wet. It makes them a lot less smelly, actually!
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