10 running gear questions answered by experts

1/ Do I need to break in new shoes before a race?

If you’ve been wearing the same shoe brand and model for years, you probably won’t have any problem running a race in a pair that’s fresh out of the box. You know what works for you. On race day, you want a shoe 
that won’t offer any surprises, meaning no blisters, no rubbing and no pain. However, it’s always wise to run a few miles in a new pair. For longer races, such as a half or full marathon, always do a few long runs in them, just to make sure you won’t encounter any problems on the course.

Nikki Reiter, biomechanist and coach with the Run SMART Project


2/ I’m addicted to my running watch, could it be hurting my performance?

Using your watch to analyse data can be really useful, but consider leaving it at home for races. GPS watches are pretty accurate, but they won’t match up with the mile markers, and the disparity can mess with your head. More importantly, runners often focus on the pace their watch is projecting instead of tuning in to their bodies and running at a speed where their body feels comfortable, and this error can mean a poor finish if you push yourself too hard, too fast.

Jason Fitzgerald, coach and founder of Strength Running


3/ What shoes are good to wear after a long run or race?

Birkenstock Arizona Soft Footbed: This classic is enhanced with foam between your foot and the cork footbed. You’ll get the same foot-contouring benefits and less of a painful break-in. 

Superfeet Addy (women): The microfibre upper is soft against bare feet, like suede but without the heat. And tired feet can snuggle into the contoured cork insole that cups the heel and hugs the arch. 

Teva Terra-Float: A foam sole and leather backing on the straps give an irritation-free fit on the Terra-Float Slide for men. The women’s Terra-Float Livia has polyester straps that wrap around the heel.

Kerry McCarthy, RW gear editor


4/ How do I clean a hydration-pack reservoir?

Mould grows in hot, humid climates – like a sealed reservoir with water residue. Combat this by emptying the reservoir and drying it before storing – wipe it with a towel or hang it to air-dry. If you use it frequently, throw the empty reservoir in the freezer, where the cold will prevent mould growth.

Jon Austen, director of product management at CamelBak


5/ How tight should compression gear be?

Most quality manufacturers provide detailed sizing charts (based on your height, weight, limb-segment lengths etc). Use those to find the perfect fit. In general, it should feel noticeably tight but not painful or pinching.

Dr Abigail Stickford, assistant professor of Health and Exercise Science at Appalachian State University, US


6/ How do I carry my phone on a run?

Nathan Sports SonicStorm: The soft neoprene on this armband phone carrier won’t chafe your arm on long runs, and it fends off sweat and rain. The zip is also weather-resistant.

Ultimate Direction Groove Receiver Belt: This light, durable and comfortable belt has a wide band and a pouch that’s big enough for large phones such as the iPhone 7 Plus.

Kerry McCarthy, RW gear editor


7/ What’s the best way to dry shoes after a rainy run?

Wet runs can leave your shoes filling your house with the aroma of ‘eau de drowned animal’, but don’t ever throw them in the tumble dryer, as the heat can damage the midsole material. Instead, remove the sock liner as soon as possible and stuff each shoe with rolled-up newspaper. For particularly sodden shoes, change the newspaper after about an hour. If the shoes remain damp, allow them to air-dry, with the sock liners still out, overnight.

Kerry McCarthy, RW gear editor


8/ Can the right shoes help me recover from plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is caused by tiny tears in the connective tissue that runs from the heel to the base of the toes. Sufferers feel a sharp pain in the middle of the heel or along the arch of the foot. Make sure your shoe flexes at the ball of the foot, where your toes bend, to take strain off the plantar fascia. If it bends in the centre of the arch or behind the ball of your foot, it will stress the fascia. Another option is to increase the heel drop of your shoes by a few millimetres to reduce tension on the Achilles, which pulls on the injured fascia.

Stephen Pribut, sports podiatrist


9/ How come my GPS watch says I ran more than the race distance?

A GPS watch repeatedly estimates your position and an algorithm calculates the distance between each point. But the system isn’t perfect. The differences between the actual distance you ran and the measured distance will fluctuate – sometimes short, but more often long.

Peter Ranacher, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Zurich


10/ How much will racing in my normal training shoes slow me down compared with racing flats?

The foot is the worst place for a runner to carry extra weight – about six times worse than the same weight around your waist. Studies show that every 100g added to each foot increases your energy needs by one per cent. That translates to 15 secs off a 25-min 5K,
 or nearly two and a half minutes off a four-hour marathon. That’s the theory. In practice, the extra cushioning in heavier shoes can save energy and protect your leg muscles from damage. Don’t switch to ultra-light flats unless you’ve logged enough training miles in them to be sure that won’t cause you problems late in a race.

Alex Hutchinson, sports scientist and former elite runner