Running Technology

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We all know that its good not to run too many miles in single pair of running shoes, most having a life-expectancy of between 300 and 500 miles, with many factors affecting the actual longevity of the running shoes, such as the running gait, your weight, terrain and so on. Running in shoes that have done way too many miles can be detrimental to you as the foam and rubber break down, their elasticity disappears, and even though the shoe may appear to the eye to be in good condition, it could be potentially completely finished from a running perspective. Running in shoes like that, forces you to adopt a less perfect running style, which for a few miles may be ok, but over time, can be a problem and lead to injury and who wants that?

I was reminded about a pair of running shoes reaching a certain mileage this week by a piece of technology. On the face of it this may not seem so exciting at all, I mean, you hit 400+ miles in a pair of running shoes and its not exactly a reason to party but all the same it makes you think…this is exactly how technology should be helping us. Often we hear about science and technology and the next ‘big breakthrough’ and two things always sprint to mind. (1) wow that’s cool and (2) How the hell is that supposed to be useful to someone…

Often it’s the case that we are fed a diet of technology for the sake of technology, where the usefulness is completely moot, but in this case, for once, technology actually provided tangible benefit. When you stop to think about it though, as runners we are surrounded by technology, from the watches on our wrists to our specialist wicking gear and from the specialist head-torches to the myriad of sports related social media sites we use, but how much if it is truly useful?

Taking a deeper look at just how much tech we are surrounded by and you could even be forgiven for saying that as runners, we’ve never had it so good. The gear is lighter than ever, its more waterproof, the batteries last longer, the beam of light is brighter, its more supportive or even the case of the Apple iPod Nano it allows us to carry entire catalogs of music around with us in a package that weighs a couple of grams, whereas at one point not that long ago it would have been a bulky device that permitted 10 tracks or so.

But what technology is useful and what is superfluous? Its often said that running is a cheap sport, all you need is a pair of trainers and you can go! Well this is true to some degree, in the same way that to practice swimming all you need is to jump in the river….at some point you may want goals, and gear that enable you to become better at the sport, or you may not. This is the beauty of it. However, technology that enables you to enjoy a sport more comfortably, or helps keep it injury free, this is technology worth having, such as quality waterproof jackets and decent running shoes. Do we really need compression gear? 100,000-track music catalog? What about expensive mineral and vitamin-enriched drinks? Expensive gels?

The answer is that some tech is genuinely very useful for all runners and some tech is momentarily cool, with the benefits being somewhat debatable. The feature I was taking about that tells you when your running shoes ‘might’ need changing is on Strava. www.strava.com and I consider it very useful for two reasons. Firstly, as humans, we forget things and secondly we are lazy. Take any pair of running shoes you’ve owned….how many miles have you done in them? Yeah exactly…you’ll never know. So to have a piece of tech seamlessly take the data from your watch, count your miles, then remind you when its time to change….this is worth having! So, if you’re not already on Strava, yet another reason to get yourself on, and join the club there.

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