Author: Stephan Hugenschmidt
What to look out for when you tie your shoes
Different route profiles place different demands on your shoes, especially in multi-day stage races. So you should take with you at least two pairs of broken-in shoes that have served you well. You need to have used them several times during your practice sessions and know exactly what they are like. I know exactly how my shoes feel on rocky, muddy or loose terrain, for example.
The route profile
On unstable ground and especially in muddy conditions, rough tread is especially important. Get some advice from your local store and try out your shoes during practice. That way, you can be sure that you are prepared for a whole range of different race requirements. On race day, choose your shoes on the basis of the weather and route of the stage you are about to run. Going to the pre-run briefing is essential because that’s where you find out exactly the information you need in order to make the right decision.
If your gait changes, your shoes should change too
Another thing you should bear in mind is that after several stages of a race, your increasing tiredness will affect your gait, of course. Exhaustion makes it more and more difficult to run on you front or mid-foot. The more shattered you are, the more likely you are to heel-strike. If this is what happens to you, it is better to use shoes with more damping and bounce. Personally, I run the first few stages in something like the S-LAB SENSE. They’re light and you can still feel the ground extremely well through them because they don’t have too much bounce. But this type of shoe requires an active running style, and as soon as I find that difficult to sustain (i.e. I start striking the ground with my heels), I tend to change into shoes with more damping and bounce. If you keep an eye on your gait, you will notice quickly when it’s time to change.
The right shoe laces
All the shoes I use have speed lace systems, which work perfectly, in my view. You shouldn’t tie your shoes too loose, of course, otherwise they will be flopping about on you. But nor should you tie them too tight, as your feet can develop pressure points and grow numb. In some cases, you should loosen or tighten your laces during the race as your feet can swell up with time or in the rain. If your arches start sinking, tie your shoes tighter. Quick laces are perfect for this because they are quick to adjust. There’s one thing I see time and again: unsecured shoelace ends. These can be dangerous, as they can easily catch on a root or similar, and you will almost inevitably fall.
Special care at the end of a stage
I generally don’t do very much to my shoes at the end of a race stage – unless of course they’re covered in mud. Then I wash off the dirt in a river somewhere. To make sure they are (fairly) dry ready for the next day, I stuff them with newspaper, which also helps them to keep their shape. When they are dry, they can seem a little tough, but this normally subsides when you start running again. However, if you prefer, special sprays are available to make your shoes soft and supple again.
Born in southern Germany, trail runner Stephan Hugenschmidt first explored the mountains on skis. As he gradually turned his attention to running, he began to miss the mountains and nature. At some point he discovered the joys of trail running, which combines running with enjoying the great outdoors. In 2011 he clocked up the first of many first major successes: besides taking victory in the Ultratrail Lago di Orta, the Goretex Transalpine Run, the Zugspitz Ultratrail and the Scienictrail, he has been among the top finishers countless times in more than 34 international races – and even delivered record-breaking performances.
(c) Philipp Reiter/Salomon Running