Saturday, January 18, 2014

Waterproof Running Shoes

I live directly across from the Croton Aqueduct, that was purchased in 1968 by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; 26.2 miles of which was turned into the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, a fairly flat dirt trail running from Van Cortlandt Park to the Croton Dam.  When it rains, the well-travelled trail often gets very muddy, due to poor drainage surrounding the trail.  I often run in the area of trail from the Lyndhurst Estate North to the end of Yonkers South.  The trail changes throughout the seasons…when it gets wet, it carries the footprints of many runners, walkers, bikers, dogs and deer.  When the temperature goes below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, these footprints turn into an interesting series of frozen nooks and crannies.  When it snows, the previous set of footprints appear, along with ski and sled tracks…which alternately freeze and melt, sometimes creating a slick layer of ice beneath freshly fallen snow.  I have found that running in waterproof shoes provides me with the most comfortable and safe running experience year round.
The shoes I am currently wearing, are The North Face, Hedgehog, GTX, XCR shoes from 2006.  I bought them brand new in the summer of 2013 on ebay.  The GTX stands for GoreTex, which is the waterproof material, and XCR stands for Extended Comfort Range, which I am not certain what it means, other than I have never gotten wet feet while wearing these shoes.  These are the first pair of Hedgehogs I owned that also didn't have the BOA lacing system, which is basically a wire that threads through the lace holes, and connects to a gear in the back of the shoe, getting rid of the need to tie laces while running.  I first read about them in an article about Dean Karnazes, the ultra distance runner, who recommended them highly for their comfort and ease of tightening.
I have found the Hedgehogs, both with the BOA lacing and without, to be both comfortable and supportive.  They do tend to feel a bit heavy, and when I first start wearing them, they take awhile to break in, as the mid-foot seems to be stiffer than usual, but once they are broken in, I usually have no problem with them at all.  I weighed each of the 2006 Hedgehog shoes, and they came in a 1 lb., 2 oz.  each. I know these are a bit heavy, but for me, the fact that they are waterproof is the thing that makes them so appealing to me.  The North Face makes the Hedgehogs with a gusseted tongue, which is basically means the tongue of the shoe is one piece with the rest of the shoe, without eyelets for the laces (The North Face no longer uses the BOA lacing system).  There is a Gore Tex Membrane covering the inside of the shoe, that keeps the water out.  I haven't noticed any moisture buildup in the shoes, but I do wear padded dry-fit socks.

These shoes seem to also have the added plus of being steady on ice, with a varied tread.  The only time I have slid was when snow had melted off the sidewalk onto the street and curb, then froze overnight, then was snowed on.  The best way to navigate running in snow and ice is to take very short steps and to not rush.  Running to the side of the main travelled trail is like running in sand, depending on how deep the snow.  If the snow is too deep, it will be harder to run, but a much more thorough workout, as you will have to pull your feet out of the snow as well as propelling them forward.  For deep snow running, I would suggest the addition of gaiters to keep the snow out of the sides of your shoes and from getting your pants wet (unless they are also made of Gore Tex).

I found a replacement for the BOA lacing system that has so far worked flawlessly:  LockLaces.  The elastic laces thread through the existing eyelets, and then connect at the top with a moveable lock, and then get clipped together at the end, where you can slip the end clip under the front of the laces.

That's it for now.  If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, either add a comment, or e-mail me.  Coming up next, I will look at some other brands of waterproof running shoes, as well as reviewing some new gaiters I have been trying (I need to wait for some significant snow to try them out).

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cold Weather Running Gear

Snow Running
I spent the last week of 2013 running trails in the snow (and following deer tracks off-trail) in Upstate, New York. It is much easier running at home on the Old Croton Aqueduct than it is Upstate, since the aqueduct is almost completely flat. You can get a couple of types of running: on 3 inches of snow or less, you get an effect much like running on sand, where your shoes press down the snow; running in deeper snow (like today), running off to the side of the well travelled snow on the trail, is like running in mud, where your quads get the added resistance pulling your feet out of the snow; and running on the already worn trail, with terrain variations from various types of boots, shoes, and skis that have passed on the trail. The last one is okay when the snow is softer, great for strengthening the feet and ankles through variable proprioception; but after a night of freezing, the trodden snow will be icier, and less forgiving. Some gear recommendations for snow running:

Waterproof Trail Running Shoes:
A couple of things you need is a good pair of trail running shoes, preferably waterproof, since your feet would get very cold if the snow entered your shoes and wet your socks. I plan on making a few recommendations for shoes in upcoming posts.

Also, with bitter winds, a balaclava over your head is a good idea, one that can cover your nose and mouth, but where you can push it down if you get too hot.

Front Zip Running Pullover:
I have been using the front zip pullovers made of Merino Wool blends. They come in Lightweight to Thermal thicknesses. It is good to layer, with a dry-fit t-shirt underneath.

Down Vest, Windproof Thermal Jacket, or Light WInd Proof Jacket:
Depending on the windchill and amount of sun, you may be able to get away with more or less. If you wear something that allows the wind through, you can definitely feel it, and probably won't last on longer runs. Also, depending on how much you want to spend, you can invest in Gore-Tex outers that would be waterproof.

If you plan on running in cold and wet weather, you might look into some waterproof gloves. I tend to like the thinner stretchy running gloves, but with chill winds, thicker gloves are always nicer.

Athletic/Sweat Pants, and/or Running Tights:
I find that no matter what type of sweat pants I wear, if it is really cold, there is nothing better than a good pair of running tights as a bottom layer under sweat pants. Gore-Tex is nice if you want waterproof.

Shoe gaiters:
I am trying a couple of different types, and will post reviews of them once I test them out. There are quite a lot, and the online reviews seem to be completely variable, enough that it is hard to tell what will work best for running. Gaiters usually fit over the top of your shoe, with a connecting strap to go under the shoe, and elastic at the top to go over your pants. Some go further up your calf, and it is important not to get ones that are stiff and don't bend (made more for skiing). Some are waterproof and some are water resistant. With waterproof shoes, the only thing that has ever bothered me is if I am running in snow and the snow gets between the shoe and the socks, so the gaiters seem like a good idea...especially for longer runs.

I plan on posting pictures of various types and brands of gear in the next few weeks, so feel free to refer back in time.