THE OLD WAY You pulled on a shapeless cotton T-shirt, shorts that showed more thigh than seemed decent, and socks of some kind. If you were planning to go hard, you snapped a sweatband onto your head. You may have topped off the serious-runner look with a state-of-theart watch (meaning it told the time and had a stopwatch function!)
THE NEW WAY You’re compressed in head-to-toe tech fabric and your smartphone knows how fast and far you run, your heart rate, your GPS coordinates and your favourite songs, which it blasts through your earbuds.
THE BEST WAY While moisture-wicking fabrics and Gps-equipped devices appeal to many, cotton apparel and basic digital watches still exist, so invest in whatever gear and tech you find comfortable, useful and affordable.
Still, if that means running with your smartphone and/or a GPS watch, bear in mind that occasionally going old school by ditching them can be refreshing and may even help you become a better runner. Devices can be crutches; without them guiding your run you can better tune in to your body and develop an innate sense of pacing. Also, being too reliant on music or your GPS while training can backfire if your device malfunctions on race day.
Using GPS certainly has its place on important runs, when you want to closely measure results, says running coach Duncan Larkin, author of Run Simple: a Minamilist Approach to Fitness and Well-being (Westholme). But being bombarded by data before, during and after every run can lead to ‘analysis paralysis’, he says, ‘with data overload generating more confusion than clarity’. Leaving devices behind at least once a week lets you relax and decompress. You just go out and run, and when you don’t want to run any more, you stop.
In July 1971, Runner’s world released a 46-page booklet called All About Distance Running Shoes, which gathered opinions from 800 readers. The average respondent was a 29-year-old, 5΄9" 10st 5lb man who had been running 50 miles per week for six years.
Readers named a whopping 66 models from 32 brands, but the vast majority wore Tiger, Adidas or New Balance. In fact, more than 60 per cent ran in Tigers and their models topped the popularity lists in both training and racing.
Tiger’s Marathon won praise for its glove-like fit and flexible, ‘barefoot’ feel. But their top training model, the Cortez, offered something groundbreaking: cushioning. The first shoes designed for American runners by Bowerman, the Cortez had a sponge-rubber midsole, with a wedge-shaped second layer of cushioning under the heel to absorb impact and reduce stress on the Achilles tendon. In 1972, the Cortez became the flagship shoe of a new company founded by Bowerman and Knight – Nike.
The Cortez’s immense popularity established that runners wanted cushioning. And it wasn’t long before shoe designers found a superior material to provide it. ‘I received a phone call from a guy named Marty Liquori, who was a world-class runner at the time,’ says Jerry Turner, who was then president of Brooks. ‘Marty had seen our attempts at jogging shoes and wanted to discuss them. He gave me an education.’
Turner took Liquori’s suggestions to a representative from the Monarch Rubber Company in Baltimore, Maryland, US. ‘I wanted more rebound, better shock absorption, lighter weight,’ says Turner. ‘The guy said, “I think
I’ve got just the thing for you. I’ll be back tomorrow.” And the next day he comes back and shows me EVA.’
EVA, or ethylene vinyl acetate, an air-infused foam, is still the primary ingredient in most running-shoe midsoles. Brooks put EVA in their 1975 Villanova, and other companies quickly followed suit. Then, in 1981, Nike released the first shoe with a moulded midsole made out of Phylon, a compressed form of EVA developed by toy company Mattel for use in bath toys.
In this era of innovation and flair, companies also started tinkering with other parts of the running shoe. In Oregon, Bill Bowerman melted some rubber in his kitchen and the ‘waffle’ sole was born. ‘The waffle sole defined not only grip but also flex characteristics and, to a large scale, the cushioning, which it was quite effective in providing,’ says podiatrist and shoe-design consultant Simon Bartold. Other brands followed with similar designs and the influence can still be seen in outsole design.
Nylon uppers largely replaced leather by the mid-1970s, with mesh options also starting to appear. And women’s shoes were no longer just ‘shrink-and-pink’. ‘By the early 1980s, most larger brands were using women-specific lasts,’ says Dr Martyn Shorten, biomechanics researcher and director of the Runner’sworld Shoe Lab.
THE RW GUIDES As options continued to grow, Runner’s World consulted podiatrists, runners and shoe manufacturers to create a list of criteria for what makes a good running shoe. The rankings favoured shoes that had thick, durable soles and a high heel lift, while still being lightweight, and with a flexible forefoot. It also gave points for a strong heel counter, arch support and pliable uppers.
In 1975 Runner’s World released the first of its annual Shoe Guides, with the Adidas SL-72 taking top honours thanks to its rigid heel counter, soft nylon upper and flexibility.
Then, to increase the reliability of the rankings, RW hired Peter Cavanaugh, director of the biomechanics laboratory at Penn State University, to conduct the very first objective measurements of cushioning, flexibility and durability. Cavanaugh’s invaluable data first appeared in 1977. A panel of 10 experts also ranked the shoes subjectively and these marks were combined with the lab data. The Brooks Vantage topped the 1977 list, standing out as the first shoe to try to control the inward rotation – or pronation – of the foot. Taking the advice of podiatrist Steven Subotnick, Brooks had inserted a wedge so that the runner’s whole foot slanted slightly outward.
In 1978, with more and more quality models becoming available, the magazine abandoned rankings and initiated a one-to-five star system. Some companies objected to the scoring, and Nike actually pulled its advertising for several years, feeling the company and its products were being treated unfairly, but the magazine stood up to the pressure and held firm. ‘I think it was a very important part of the magazine, and very important to the whole running scene,’ says RW founder Bob Anderson. ‘It helped companies understand what runners needed. We set the stage.’
1975 Brooks introduces the first EVA midsole in the Villanova.