I have been caught out – I hesitate to say conned. But by the time I found out it was too late. There was nothing I could do except reflect on how I had allowed myself to be taken in by a fast talking man. I feel so stupid!
OK this maybe a slightly hysterical reaction to a pair of running shoes that I simply can’t get along with. But I do feel duped. As the man rang the sale through the till all I heard was words like “faster” and “smoother transition”. I certainly didn’t pay attention to the detail of how the shoe was going to achieve these miracles. Alright, deep breath, calm down and start at the beginning.
For the best part of 1,000 miles and 18 injury-free months, I have been running on Saucony Pro Grid Guide 4s. They and I were made for each other. A light shoe, offering mild support for over pronation, made for the road and suitable for a variety of running types. So when it came time to buy new shoes in September, who can blame me for wanting the same thing again. Small problem. The “same thing again” didn’t exist. Saucony in their wisdom thought they could improve the shoe. Excuse me? Did you say: “…improve the shoe”. Exactly how do you improve the perfect shoe? Has the term; “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ever been more apt?
Introducing the Saucony Pro Grid Guide 5. They are a “runner’s shoe” I was told. That’s fine I thought, I am a runner. They have been slightly remodelled to
aid faster running. No problem I thought, I am all for faster running. At that point I glazed over as the enthusiastic sales assistant at “Runner’s Need” launched into the technicalities of the new shoes. Something about heel to toe offset being reduced. Just a detail – how different can a Guide 5 be from a Guide 4? Besides the new Guide 5s are orange – how cool is that? Pay up and let’s go running.
Fast forward three months as I cut short yet another run with a very painful calf – probably the fifth or sixth occurrence. I don’t think it is an injury because once I stop running any stiffness and pain is gone within 24 hours.
Now the next bit you will find hard to believe. At no point in the three months of lower back pain and calf trouble – neither of which I had experienced before the new shoes – did I make the connection. Then one day last week as I sat on a train bored and close to despair after the latest aborted run ,the penny sort of dropped. Hmmmm I thought and I reached for my phone and Googled: “Saucony Pro Grid Guide 5 calf pain”. I was almost knocked down by the tsunami of comments on Internet forums that Google threw back at me. 22,800 results (in 0.39 seconds) to be exact. Seems I am not alone.
Three months after it should have happened and three months too late, I finally tuned in to the technical aspects of what had changed with the Guide 5. They have reduced the height of the heel so that the drop between the heel and the toe is reduced from 12mm to 8mm. A tiny amount but what a significant difference it makes. It has the effect of making your foot flatter on landing which is supposed to encourage you to land on your mid-foot rather than your heel. Apparently mid-foot strike equals faster running (unless it makes running so painful that you stop!). But it also puts more strain on the calfs, especially at faster speeds where more load is going through the leg on each stride. The difference between the two shoes is so significant that it is very misleading to present them as being variants of the same model. They are nothing of the sort.
Part of me is relieved that I think I have got to the bottom of my calf pain, although I would like to have 3 or 4 good pain-free runs on my old style shoes before I confirm that. As for my Guide 5s, they are being consigned to “Leisurewear” or on second thoughts I may give them to my 80-year-old Mother who has taken to wearing bright colours. My next run will be a very gently run on my dependable old blue Guide 4s.