The Good Squeeze

Athletes who recover better are more likely to train harder and improve performance, and thus in recent years, various forms of compression treatments to aid in recovery have gained popularity, the most commonly used being compression garments. – BY ERNEST HOBBS

Breaking it down to essential basics, training results in damage to and inflammation of muscles, temporarily reducing their ability to generate force and increasing risk of injury. Compression garments contain a firm elastic component, which compresses body tissues through pressure applied to the skin and muscles. This compression is designed to reduce the space available for swelling to occur, or an oedema to form, as a result of the exercise-induced muscle damage. By limiting the fluid within the area, compression garments limit the cells from experiencing further damage. Additionally, improved lymphatic drainage allows metabolites and damage proteins to be removed at a faster rate, and enhanced blood circulation may allow faster cell regeneration and protein synthesis.

Research has shown that compression garments do assist with recovery after intense exercise, though they do not reduce the exercise-induced muscle damage incurred during exercise. Furthermore, short-term use (up to 2 hours) is unlikely to yield any benefit, whereas medium use (8-24 hours) and long-term use (more than 24 hours) has been found to reduce feelings of fatigue and the time taken to for muscles to generate maximum force. These beneficial effects have been noted to last beyond 72 hours of use, though generally the best results were achieved in the first 24-36 hours.

It should be noted that the potential benefits are proportional to the amount of damage suffered, and while running does cause some muscular damage, resistance and plyometric training is associated with far greater damage, and thus benefit more from the use of compression garments. Additionally, even though compression garments do assist with the recovery process, it may not be the most worthwhile use of time as studies have found that other forms of recovery (massage, cold water immersion, active rest, etc.) may provide superior results. Furthermore, Inconsistencies in the measurement of the pressure applied and the variability of human anatomy makes it difficult to identify and standardise an ideal pressure for recovery.

5 take home points

  • Recovery needed after training is highly specific to the intensity, duration and mode of exercise.
  • Compression garments seem to benefit both well-trained and novice athletes similarly.
  • The temporary decrease in ability following exercise is complex, and as such it is unlikely that one recovery mechanism will address all degenerative processes.
  • Compression garments might not be the ultimate ‘one-stop’ solution for recovery from exercise, but can be an effective and convenient addition to any recovery plan.
  • As with exercise, it is always wise to consult your physician before using compression garments, as there are certain contraindications which may put some athletes at risk.

About the Author
Ernest is a biomechanical, video, and running gait analyst at the High Performance Centre (HPC) of the University of Pretoria.

IMAGE: Getty Images

Real Runners

During the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon Expo, I did a quick filmed interview for a social media platform and was asked where I would be supporting the runners during the ultra, as a vibe point commentator. As I was answering, a colleague piped up in the background, “Ask him when he’s finally going to join us in running an ultra.” That got me thinking about a debate that I have listened to – or participated in – many times over the years, and it usually starts with somebody referring to ‘real runners.’ – BY SEAN FALCONER

There are some runners in South Africa that believe you’re not a real runner until you join a club and begin racing regularly, while others say you graduate to ‘real runnerdom’ once you’ve done a marathon. Others take it a step further and say you need to run an ultra-marathon, and of course, there are many who believe that real runners must do the Comrades. In fact, you have to do an Up Run and a Down Run to really be called a real runner!

This mindset was driven home when I listened to that same interviewer chatting to multiple SA Champ in road, track and cross country, Nolene Conrad, a few minutes later. She had just returned from the World Half Marathon Champs in Spain, where she had blitzed a 71-minute time to take more than a minute off her PB, but more importantly, had run an IAAF Gold Label qualifier. This means she will now be in line for elite, paid invites to the top standard distance races around the world. That is a huge achievement!

In other words, the last thing she is likely thinking about right now is running a 90km ultra… but here she was being asked when she plans to run the Comrades. Not if, but when, as if it is a given. Now I know that particular interviewer is a very keen Comrades runner himself, and he has an infectious enthusiasm for all-things Comrades, but I couldn’t help shaking my head.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the ultras, even though I have chosen not to run them as yet, but I understand that runners like Nolene are focused on shorter distances, because that is where their strengths lie, or where they are enjoying success in their careers. They may step up to the ultra in the future; then again, they might not… and that decision should not decree whether their running is real or not. The same goes for every Average Joe runner out there.

What it boils down to is that I believe there is no such thing as a ‘real runner.’ Because that would imply that there are false, unreal or half runners, wouldn’t it? No, I say that if you put one foot in front of the other, be it fast or slow, going long or short, racing or jogging, you are a runner. And that’s a badge of honour that we are all entitled to wear, no matter how far or how fast we run. So just lace up your shoes and go run. That’s keeping it real.

IMAGE: Jetline Action Photo

Family Ties

Running and all the running related sports have a wonderful way of bringing people together. Friendships are made, or rekindled, romance comes out of chance meetings, and sometimes you even have family reunions in unusual places. – BY SEAN FALCONER

Thanks to my part-time hobby of doing commentary at events, I enjoyed one of those family reunions at the recent Fedhealth XTERRA Lite Triathlon in Grabouw. As the athletes arrived to rack their bikes in the transition zone on that Sunday morning, I was on the mic doing pre-race announcements when I spotted my cousins Wesley and Dale. I took the opportunity to give them a special welcome over the mic and wished them well for the race. (I may have also cracked a joke about the famous Falconer receding hairline… glad to report that our clan has no problems laughing at ourselves!)

The commentary team rotated during the day, so we took turns working in various transition areas, or at the finish line, and I just happened to be at the swim-to-bike transition as the boys came running up from the water, so I gave them another shout-out. A while later, I just happened to have moved to the bike-to-run transition when they arrived back, so I got to chat to ask them how the race was going thus far, then send them on their way for the run leg.

As luck would have it, I rotated back to the finish line a while later and was on hand to bring them up the home straight, with the words, “The Falconer Boys are here!” Johanna Ginsberg of Jetline Action Photo was on hand to snap a quick pic of the three cousins, along with their friend and fellow racer Ralph Shminke, and that’s definitely one for the family album.

Meanwhile, fellow commentator Paul Valstar quickly pointed out, over the mic, that my branch of the Falconer clan apparently missed out on the tall genes… No argument there! (See what I mean about us being able to laugh at ourselves?)

These are the experiences and memories that make me so glad to be a runner, as well as being a journo and commentator in the running domain. I never, ever lose sight of the fact that I am damned lucky to have such a dream job, and to be surrounded by so many wonderful people.

Cut the Cramping

Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramping (EAMC) has a habit of sneaking up on even the best prepared runners. Here’s what you need to know. – BY ERNEST HOBBS

Although cramping can be experienced in most sports, it is particularly common in repetitive endurance sports such as running, especially in hot environmental conditions. Historically, cramps have been attributed to dehydration and a loss of electrolytes as a result of sweating, but the circumstances around EAMC are more complicated than that. Currently, two prominent theories are supported by research.

Electrolyte imbalance and dehydration theory: More recently, this theory has focused on dehydration, proposing that a significant loss of salt can only occur with a large loss of body fluid. As the body begins to dehydrate, there is a reduction in blood plasma levels. To compensate for this, water is taken from the intercellular spaces near blood vessels in order to maintain central blood volume. This results in the muscle becoming firmer and deforms the motor neuron axon terminals, causing the muscle to become hyper-excitable, a state in which a muscle is more likely to involuntarily contract, the end result being a sustained contraction, i.e. a cramp.

Altered neuromuscular control theory: Within the muscle there are two sensory organs. The muscle spindle reacts to stimulation by contracting, while the Golgi tendon organ reacts to stimulation by relaxing. As a muscle begins to fatigue during prolonged exercise at high intensities, the muscle spindle becomes more active, and the Golgi tendon organ becomes less active, resulting in the muscle becoming more and more likely to involuntarily contract.

1 Cramp often sets in when exercise (race) intensity is higher than an athlete is accustomed to relative to training. Therefore, occasionally train at or near race pace.
2 High temperature environments increase the risk of dehydration. Prepare accordingly regarding hydration and electrolyte replenishing.
3 High sweat rates further increase the risk of cramps. If an athlete is known to have a substantial sweat rate, it may be necessary to ensure sufficient dietary salt.
4 Strengthening synergistic muscles spreads the work. A case report found that strengthening the gluteus maximus prevented cramping of the hamstrings, as the strain of exercise was shared more evenly.
5 Athletes returning from injury or prolonged rest are at higher risk of experiencing muscle cramps, and should systematically increase exercise intensity and exposure to heat.
6 Correcting technique and muscular imbalances and/or posture may reduce the risk of muscles fatiguing quickly.
7 Since shortened muscles in a contracting state have an increased risk of cramping, regular stretching may help muscles maintain a longer state.
8 Consume electrolytes and water when the early signs of cramp and fatigue present themselves. Once cramping occurs, it may take some time before this is able to help.

The most effective treatment of cramp remains stretching the muscle in a slow and controlled manner, as the Golgi tendon organ is stimulated to relax. It should also be noted that a history of cramps increases an athlete’s risk of experiencing cramping. This means that effectively treating a cramp in a race does not mean the cramp will not return later during the same race.

About the Author: Ernest is a biomechanical, video, and running gait analyst at the High Performance Centre (HPC) of the University of Pretoria.

The Warm-up Routine

The simple science of warming up and cooling down properly is essential info for all runners. – BY ERNEST HOBBS

As discussed in the January edition, there is a popular perception that stretching before running improves performance and reduces the risk of injury. However, research has shown no conclusive link to these claims, some even pointing to detrimental consequences as a result of stretching. However, while traditional stretching may not be the best idea before a physical activity, a thorough warm-up may be essential.

The principle of a warm-up is exactly that: A slow but progressive increase in exercise intensity to prepare the body for exercise. Ideally, this should consist of three small phases, namely Stretch, Activate and Mobilise, easily remembered as SAM.

1. Stretching should be done in a slow, dynamic (moving) manner rather than a static (stationary) manner. Slow is the key, as ballistic (explosive) movements could increase risk of injury and lead to soreness. Structures inside the muscle are responsible for a stretch-reflex, contracting the muscle when it stretches too far. Slowly swinging the limbs to the comfortable limit of range will trigger the inner structures of the muscle to relax, as there is no risk of the muscles tearing.

Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) is another beneficial stretching technique, using the contraction of one muscle or muscle group, for example the hamstrings, to stretch the opposite muscle or group – in this case, the quads. Again, this method is dynamic, holding a stretch for only a second, and in so doing the inner structures again relax and safely allow the muscle to stretch to its comfortable limit.

2. Activating involves contraction of the muscles, thus allowing them to lengthen during the stretch and shorten during contraction. This mimics the action of the muscle during exercise, raises the local temperature, and increases blood flow, effectively supplying the muscles with nutrients. A warm muscle is more pliable and becomes more effective in its function, which may improve performance and reduce risk of injury.

3. Mobilising is to joints what stretching is to muscles. By taking the joints through increasing ranges of motion at increasing intensities, the tendons and ligaments around the joint are lightly stressed. Although the tendons and ligaments have poor blood supply, the movement alerts them to activity and warms them in a manner similar to repeatedly bending plastic.

Engaging Reverse Gear
Just as a warm-up is essential to prepare for exercise, so too a cool-down is essential to prepare for rest, by reducing the intensity of activity gradually and leading the body to a state of rest. It maintains an increased level of blood flow to remove waste by-products from the muscles, while reducing the production of waste by-products.

Simply put, the cool-down is performed in the reverse order of the warm-up, but here static (stationary) stretching may be of benefit during the cool-down. While the muscles are warm, they stretch more easily, lengthening the muscles to improve flexibility. In addition, static stretching while warm relaxes the muscle, reducing the risk of cramp following exercise.

Not Bad for an Old Codger

Some elite athletes enjoy a relatively short career at the top level, but others seem to go on forever, even seeming to getting better with age, like multisport legend Donovan van Gelder, who can still give the youngsters a run for their money after 30-plus years of top level competition. – BY SEAN FALCONER

If Donovan van Gelder ever finds out what keeps him training and competing at the highest level in multisport well into his 40s, he should bottle it and sell it. He’d make a fortune! Inevitably, he gets asked all the time what his secret is. “It’s no secret, really, just hard work. I love the training, and I am generally quite a solitary individual, which lends itself to training for the sports that I take part in. I think another big factor is that all these years of training build up in the body, and I am stronger as a result of the miles I have covered, so as long as the motivation is there, I’ll keep going as fast as I can. Mainly because I have OCD – obsessive competitive disorder!”

Ironically, given that his main line of business these days is coaching other athletes through his CyberCoach website (as well as being National Brand Manager for Innovate running shoes), he says he thinks he underperformed as a youngster, because he was ‘uncoachable’ back then. “In the 80’s, nobody really knew how to mix the three disciplines for triathlon, so we were just winging it, but I’m opinionated and stubborn, so I didn’t train as well as I do now. Luckily, I’ve done many coaching courses and learnt from experience, and training knowledge has improved, but that said, while I definitely think I could have performed better in my 20s, I did put less wear and tear on my body, hence I am still performing now at 46.

Donovan has spent most of his life in the Durban area, and today actually lives with his wife Estelle and six-year-old daughter Audrey just one kilometre away from where he grew up in Waterfall, near Hillcrest. While attending Hillcrest High School, he earned provincial colours in club soccer, ran cross country, and also played a bit of rugby and cricket, but says he enjoyed swimming the most. Then in 1986 he did his first triathlon, and the proverbial bug bit…

“I was told by the PE teacher about a tri event at Kloof High School, so I entered, along with a really good mate, Wayne. He was better than me at swimming and athletics, so no surprise that he beat me in the swim, but after I caught him on the bike, I thought he would beat me again in the run, but I ran away from him instead. That’s when I realised I can run well off the bike, and over the years I have often run closer to my PBs in tri events than in straight road runs. I think something in my physiology is suited to multi-discipline events.”

After school, Donovan was called up for military service and posted to the Army’s Infantry School in Phalaborwa, but just before he was due to leave, he happened to speak to Dave Sinclair of the Natal Triathlon Association, who used his connections to arrange for Donovan to go to Voortrekkerhoogte in Pretoria instead, where all the top sportsmen in the army went. “Who knows where I would be today if not for Dave, because I would not have been able to train for triathlon in Phalaborwa! I did my six months of Basics in Pretoria, plus training as a medic, and then I was posted back to Durban and stationed in the sick bay in the naval base. For the rest of my national service I was basically a professional athlete, with a flexible schedule that allowed me time for training and racing. The Army was therefore not a hardship for me.”

Back in civilian life, Donovan studied through UNISA to become a journalist, and still harbours dreams of writing novels some day, but it was in multisport that he made a name for himself. He won various national titles in triathlon and duathlon, and was in the first SA duathlon team to compete in the World Championships in the USA in 1991, but says he doesn’t remember his racing history accurately because he never really kept track. “I’m actually annoyed with myself for not keeping notes, as I’ve done a lot of racing after 31 years.” That included a few years as a pro triathlete in Holland and Belgium, and he also won silver and bronze medals at the SA Cycling Champs. “It still burns me a bit that I never got a stripey jersey for winning an SA title in cycling,” he admits.

Looking back on his long, illustrious career, Donovan says it is hard to single out highlights. “Every big race I’ve won was a big deal, but I think the half iron wins were my favourites, especially one of my first ones, where I ran the leaders down and only knew I was going to win with about a kay to go! Another event on Durban Beach stands out. As usual I was behind in the swim, but then I caught a monster wave that brought me in. I didn’t know I was in the lead, and in transition I still asked my dad how far I was behind the leaders! I can’t remember if I won that race, but remember having to think what to do, as normally I had to chase.”

In August last year, Donovan decided at last to pack in his competitive tri career, after simply not enjoying the bike leg of the 5150 Bela Bela event. “I decided to just run and see what I can do, but I needed a goal, so I decided what about Comrades? The problem was that coming from triathlon, I wasn’t spending nearly as much time training, so I easily got up to 120 to 130km a week, and because I am a bit addicted to training, I overdid it. I sprained my ankle running in Kloof Gorge in January, which is the critical time for Comrades build-up, then favoured the other leg while trying to come back too quickly, and ended up tearing my calf.”

“So I did nothing for a while, and put on weight, because I’m Dutch and I like beer and cheese, and by April I weighed 77kg, the heaviest I’d ever been in my life. That got me back on my bike, doing hilly fat-burning workouts, and I found I was enjoying it again. Then I saw that the SA Duathlon Champs were just 10 weeks away and decided to give it a go if I can get in shape. I finished second in my age category, thanks to 30 years of training in my body that allowed me to bounce back so quickly. Not bad for an old codger! However, my days of racing as a pro are done, and I’m just going to race as an age-grouper, but I will still be racing to win, and I’m not going to make it easy for the lighties, because I consider it my responsibility to make them achieve what they can!”

Back to the drawing board!

After being out of running for almost a year, my coach, Lindsey Parry and I decided that it was time to get back to the drawing board and do some proper base training, but we could not afford to take any short-cuts in my getting back to shape. – BY RENÉ KALMER

Building a base is the first phase of a training cycle, where you prepare your body for the more challenging workouts to come closer to your goal race. The main goal of base training is to increase one’s endurance (aerobic capacity), and it must include the following three components: Increased mileage, long runs and faster workouts. But first things first, I had to report for duty at the High Performance Centre (HPC), because it was time to face the facts (and the fats) with the dreaded body composition and VO2Max test.

The VO2Max test is a scientific way to measure your fitness at the present moment. You start off very slowly on a treadmill, with your mouth covered with a mask to measure your oxygen consumption. This is to determine how well the heart and lungs work to deliver oxygen to your working muscles, and blood is drawn from your ear every time before the speed for your next level increases, which is used to determine your lactate threshold. I nearly caught a speed wobble when the speed reached sub 4min/km in my first test and I had to call the test quits, but I am happy to report that I was able to get closer to 3min/km on my next test six weeks later.

It was awesome to see the improvement over the weeks, and a great motivator for the long road back to full fitness as I built up the three components of my training.

1 Increased Mileage: With the help of the data from the tests, my coach could personalize my training program to make sure I do all my morning runs at the correct heart rate in order to optimise my training. At this stage pace was irrelevant, but it was good to see how my pace increased week after week at the same heart rate. In the build-up phase, it is important not to increase both pace and distance at the same time, as you might risk injury in the process.

2 Long Runs: They say “A long run puts the tiger in the cat.” A long run is synonymous to endurance events and is a critical component to successful training. Not only is a long run the best way to increase stamina, but it also helps to improve mental toughness and muscular strength. So happiness was… when I started to hit double-digit kilometres and was able to join my sister on Sunday and midweek long runs again. For now, in most of these runs I’m more than happy to watch Christine’s back, but I’m looking forward to run side by side to her soon, instead of chasing her.

3 Faster Workouts: Going faster is not the main focus during base training, but is a great way to maintain leg speed, and faster workouts can be anything from progression runs to interval training or fartlek sessions – or a set track workout. Still, I was a bit concerned when Lindsey suggested I add a “Math Test” to my weekly programme. Luckily, it turned out that the MAF test is an 8km on the track run at a specific heart rate – 180 minus your age – and clocking each kay. It might sound boring, but I enjoyed the weekly outings to the track, and I loved seeing how I literally shed minutes off my 8km time week after week. (This is also a good reason to keep a logbook to track your progress.)

Seeing is Believing
Over the past few months I have become a huge advocate for slow running after witnessing the benefits first-hand, having logged endless LSD (Long Slow Distance) kilometres day after day. In the past I thought slow running and recovery days were just showing your weakness, but in my current journey back to fitness after pregnancy, I have improved my 10km time month on month without doing any quality workouts on the track or road.

That’s why I was thrilled when I ran 48 minutes for my first 10km in more than a year, at the Spar Women’s 10km in Durban in June. Then at the Spar Women’s 10km in Pretoria, I definitely had the biggest smile when I crossed the line in just over 41 minutes. Then I added some faster interval and fartlek workouts to my training programme, in order to dip under 40 minutes again! #40mustfall

Hand in Hand

Ironman couple Rodney and Melanie Nel finished the Ironman hand in hand on the red carpet in 2017, having only done their first triathlon a few months earlier, once again showing that the Modern Athlete DARE TO TRI Programme will get you to the finish line. – BY DTT COACH DERICK MARCISZ

The Nel couple joined DTT in July 2016 and did their first triathlon at the 5150 Bela Bela, then went on to do 70.3 East London earlier this year. “We consistently followed the DTT programme and participated in several triathlon events throughout the season. Although we always stuck together during training, we competed separately in races – each to our own abilities,” says Melanie.

After 70.3, Rodney decided he wanted to do the full Ironman, and Melanie decided she might as well enter as well, as she would be doing most of the training with him anyway… but what she didn’t know was that Rodney had decided to do the race at his wife’s pace. “During the months leading up to Ironman, Rodney decided that he wanted to stick with me on race day, as a symbol of starting and finishing this journey together, but he only mentioned this to me two weeks prior to the event. I never expected him to commit to something like this, since he is stronger in all three disciplines, and I knew he would have to adopt a slower pace,” she says.

Of course, due to the fact that it is just about impossible to keep track of anybody in the swim, the couple devised a strategy to be able to race together. “I started the swim a couple of minutes ahead of him in order to arrive in the first transition roughly the same time,” explains Melanie. “Beforehand, we agreed where to meet just outside the transition area on the bike course – whoever was there first would wait for the other – and from there on we stayed together for the entire race. I was especially thankful to have Rodney by my side during the run – it was tough mentally and physically.”

The Nels finished hand-in-hand in 15:34:23, and Rodney says “I knew what Melanie was capable of on race day, and allowed her to set our pace. I was merely the extra mental support she needed. Every Ironman finisher says the red carpet moment makes it all worth it, and as we held hands, we heard the announcer welcoming the “Nel Family” on to the red carpet. That was a moment to treasure for the rest of our lives! Now we are planning to be back in 2018, to do the race each to our own.”

Roll If You Want To

Over the past decade various novel training and therapeutic practices have made an appearance, and while some had a limited lifespan, self-myo(muscle)fascial(connective tissue) release has shown some longevity. The most common form of this is foam rolling, but what does it do, does it work, and are there any safety considerations you should be aware of? – BY ERNEST HOBBES, BIOMECHANIST

The most important thing to understand is that foam rolling aims to improve flexibility, performance and relaxation, and reduce Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS) experienced in the days following hard training. It intends to achieve this by compression and shearing of body tissues. Apart from the physical manipulation of the muscle, this may lead to an increase in local blood flow and local temperature, and thus an increase in local metabolism, much like any warm-up would do.

There is evidence to suggest that this may cause relaxation of the muscle and neural pathways, which could actually lower performance and increase risk of injury. However, the same could be said about slow, static stretches (held for 30 seconds). Before exercise/competition, the last thing you want is slow communication between the brain and muscles, so this could be avoided by including additional elements to your warm-up, such as dynamic stretches, and Active Isolated Stretches (AIS), which would stimulate neuromuscular communication.

The Research Shows…
According to research, foam rolling has shown minimal benefit to athletes. There is no evidence to suggest that it improves athletic performance in endurance, speed or power events. Although foam rolling has been found to improve flexibility, this is temporary, often only lasting a few minutes. This may be due to a temporary reduction in the sense of pain/stretch, or a reduction in the bonds between connective tissue and muscles, but there is still no consensus in the scientific community on this. It is also difficult to determine the psychological effect foam rolling may have before competition, as it allows an athlete time to relax and focus on the task ahead.

Foam rolling is often seen as a “self-massage”, but there is far less control over the pressure applied to the tissues. In fact, the pressures often reach 10 times the highest medical compression category, and are not only applied to the muscle and connective tissue, but also to the bones, nerves, chemical- and mechanical receptors, and blood vessels. In extreme cases, studies have shown temporary interruption of blood flow and complete compression of blood vessels. Therefore, while minimal serious health risks have been reported, it is advised that athletes suffering from diabetes and osteoporosis, or at risk of venous thrombosis, etc. first consult a physician before trying foam rolling.

There is currently no conclusive evidence regarding the benefits of foam rolling, but there is also no reason to exclude it, particularly if an athlete enjoys it. Foam rolling is unlikely to be of any help if used in isolation, but may enhance your warm-up and cool-down, and foam rollers are currently available in various shapes, sizes and profiles, which may affect the experience and results.

About the Author
Ernest is a biomechanical, video, and running gait analyst at the High Performance Centre (HPC) of the University of Pretoria.

Making Sense of the New Ride

Salomon have built up an enviable reputation in the trail running world for their robust and reliable off-road shoes, which provide great cushioning and even better support and grip out on the trails. One of their latest models is the Salomon Sense Ride, which has been referred to in some circles as a “quiver killer,” and I can see why – BY SEAN FALCONER

In archery terms, the quiver holds an archer’s supply of arrows, his ammunition, and ideally he will have different arrows for different shots. Similarly, a runner has various shoes in his or her arsenal, for different running surfaces (rocky, sandy, compact, loose), conditions (weather, heat, wetness), or racing plans (long and slower versus racing flat out). A ‘quiver killer’ is designed to cover all these needs in a one-shoe-fits-all way, but no surprise that it is rare for a single shoe to be able to meet all runners’ needs. There are just too many variables in trail running… but the Sense Ride still comes damned close to covering all the bases.

Soon as I took my new pair of Sense Rides out of the box, I was in love with the bright red and orange colours – personal preference, I know – and couldn’t wait to put them through their paces. And my feet started happy, because the Sense Ride provides what feels to me a slightly roomier forefoot and toe box than other Salomon models I have tested. I have the good old one slightly wider foot issue, hence I usually wear an 8.5 UK sizing for that wee bit extra width, but I still find some shoes too tight on the left foot. Not here, because these felt great from the outset.

I also really like the stretchy Endofit bands running from the tongue to the footbed. The tight ‘neck fit’ does force you to ‘work’ your feet into the shoes, but along with the Sensifit bands in the upper design (those prominent orange triangles you see on the outer sides), these ensure a snug fit once your feet are in, which in turn is enhanced by the iconic Salomon Quicklace system – just pull it, tuck it in and go, no need for tying bows.

On the run, I found the shoe to be cushy, comfortable and smooth-riding, as the Vibe Technology combination of EnergyCell+ (high rebounding midsole compound) and Opal (cushioning, vibration-absorbing midsole compound) did its job, especially when I came pounding down a steep mountain side near my home in Stellenbosch. On that run I also appreciated having a Profeel Film rock plate in the forefoot for added protection, because I was landing on some uncomfortable stones and rock heads with impact. That said, I still found the forefoot gave me the flex that I enjoy, since I am a midfoot striker and thus like a flexible forefoot.

I did find the shoes a little on the stiff side for my taste at first, notably in the heel, given that I normally run in lightweight, low profile shoes – again, personal preference – but the more I ran in them, the more comfortable they became. Oh, and for those that focus on heel drop and stack height, the heel and forefoot measurements are 24mm and 16mm respectively, for an 8mm drop, which is pretty conventional these days.

Meanwhile, the bi-directional Contagrip outsole provided solid traction on the various surfaces I took the shoes on, soft or hard, sandy or rocky, wet or dry – and they were even comfy on the short tar section to get to my favourite trail head. This outsole is not quite as aggressively lugged as Salomon’s popular Speedcross model, but is still right up there with most top-end trail shoes. As for the upper, I found the breathable mesh did its job to keep my feet cool, and I didn’t mind the close fit of those Endofit bands around the middle of my feet on warmer days. Even if I had, I would still have said that I prefer a snug, secure ride to a wee bit more ventilation.

The bottom line is that this is a shoe that most trail runners will find suitable for most of their runs. Yes, there are more technical shoes that some will prefer for the most technical trails, while others may look for a more minimalist design to get ‘closer’ to the trails, but the Sense Ride offers a great one-shoe-fits-all option, which is especially welcome in the current financial climate where buying more than one pair of shoes is tough. I thoroughly enjoyed running in them, and look forward to many more happy kays on the trails in them. Plus, I may have mentioned this already, but I really like the red and orange design!

Get them here: The Sense Ride is available in men’s and women’s versions at Cape Union Mart and other Salomon stockists at a recommended price point of R2499. (Prices may vary from stockist to stockist.)