Finding Your Footwear: Nike Running Shoes 101

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When it comes to material possessions, these three S’s are my kryptonite: sunglasses, stationery, and sneakers. Even before I became a runner, I had too many kicks to count; running just gave me an excuse to go full throttle on the athleisure trend, to the point where friends flat out tell me not to wear Nikes on dates or upscale outings.

But what I never understood pre-NRC was that, when you were looking for more than a pearly pair of white AF1s, you had to look beyond the exterior of a shoe. When it came to running or training, you needed to ignore aesthetics and get to know the shoe: it’s all about inner beauty. After blisters, black toenails, and swaths of BodyGlide, you learn that picking the right shoe for your body and activity is essential to your performance and continued dedication to a sport. It’s kinda like love: you can try to force it but, if you’re not the right fit for each other, it’s just torture that will end with you on the couch avec a tub of Chunky Monkey.

As I learned last year, finding your one shoe love can be a tough and expensive lesson if you don’t do an online background check. I’m going to give you a cheat sheet here to save you the trouble. Don’t sweat over getting the shoes, sweat when using them.

BUT FIRST, most models have an upper mesh for breathability while the heels have responsive cushioning but Nike has patented technologies when it comes to the engineering of their footwear. Before we get to the goods, here’s a quick vocab lesson:

Free: allowing your bare foot to do what it does naturally but with protection
Lunarlon: 30 percent lighter than traditional Phylon and allows the force of impact to be evenly distributed
Flywire: strategically placed filaments that function like cables on a suspension bridge to offer support precisely where it’s needed
Zoom Air: durable airpockets that reduce the force of impact and return to original shape to brace for the next round
Dynamic Support: more soft foam on the lateral side for cushioning and more firm foam on the medial side for support

Now, there are three main categories of running shoes: run stronger/faster/longer. Anyone who does 5Ks or more regularly should go to the “faster” category. Let’s associate each with one word to break it down.

Run Stronger: flexible
(Nike Free RN/Motion/Distance/or FlyKnit)
Free RN: Free outsole and soft foam cushioning
Motion: Free midsole & outsole plus dual-density cushioning
Distance:
Lunarlon midsole with upper mesh of Flywire cables
FlyKnit:
Fits like a sock with Free outsole and soft foam cushioning



Run Faster: lightweight
(Nike Air Zoom Elite/Pegasus/Structure/FlyKnit/Streak/Wildhorse)
Elite: forefoot Zoom Air unit and Flywire mesh
Pegasus: two Zoom Air units (1 forefoot & 1 heel) with lighter
Structure: Dynamic Support in the midsole and more overall stability
FlyKnit: Fits like a sock but is mid-cut so your foot is locked in and ready for speed
Streak: a FlyKnit model with Flywire cables, Zoom Air unit in heel, and anatomical toe shape and midfoot shank for power and propulsion
Wildhorse:
Dynamic Fit with rock plate in forefoot to protect from rough terrain, rubber forefoot for wet tracks, abrasion resistant mesh, ideal for trail runners

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Fun fact: Allyson Felix’s kryptonite is Hot Cheetos and Ben & Jerry’s Oatmeal Cookie Chunk. Essentially, it’s like we’re the same person.

Run Longer: cushioned 
(Nike LunarTempo/LunarGlide/Air Zoom Vomero/Air Zoom Odyssey/LunarEpic FlyKnit/Airmax/Zoom All Out)
LunarTempo: Lunarlon cushioning, midfoot Flywire cables
LunarGlide: Lunarlon laser cuts on the sole, Dynamic Support cushioning
Vomero: double Zoom Air units in front & back, Flywire cables, and ankle support
Zoom Odyssey: triple-density Dynamic Support on the midsole, heel & forefoot Zoom Air units, Flywire upper mesh
LunarEpic FlyKnit: Lunarlon laser cuts on the sole, pressure mapped outsole for targeted cushioning
Airmax: full-length max air unit, polyester yarn body, waffle pattern outsole for even weight distribution, Flywire cables for dynamic fit
Zoom All Out: Asymmetrical Flywire cables for midfoot support, fits like a sock, waffle rubber outsole, segmented rubber crash rail

Nike models come out every year and runners await to see the colors, adjustments, and slight upgrades. Much like the iOs updates, auto body kits, or Pantone color of the year, based on research & design, Nike comes out with enhanced versions of running shoes every March and September. Pegasus is already on its 33rd iteration. Once a year is around the average time you should go for a new pair but trading in your sneaks is based on how much mileage they get. At around 400K, they’ll be worn down enough that your soles are going to need fresh cushion and you can track that by tagging your shoes on the Nike+ Running app in case you’re too much of a wa7esh to notice the pain.

Although heavier than other models, I’m a Vomero gal. I’m waiting for the 12s softer Lunar midsole and firmer cushioning so I can retire my half marathon 11s.  Remember, you can keep your older kicks for hikes and outdoor activities, strength training sessions at the gym, or donate them to the Beirut Marathon Association.

5 Essentials for Marathoners

With just a few days left until the big day, here’s a list of some products all marathoners may need, available at Wesley’s, my literal home away from home. I wrote a list of suggested products for new runners but this post is for longer distances like the marathon.

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NEW: BodyGlide Anti-Chafing Balm
The biggest when it comes to anti-chafing balms, BodyGlide has entered Beirut! We’ve got the original BG, For Her, Foot, Skin, and Cycle in two sizes (standard and travel). Apply this on all sensitive areas to avoid rashes and irritation caused by chafing (friction from skin-on-skin or clothing-on-skin). This product isn’t exclusively for athletes; it’s also for those who suffer from various forms of chub rub during their daily life. #thickthighssavelives

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Yogi Muscle Recovery Green Tea with Turmeric
This is a double win when it comes to healthy points. Green tea is recommended to runners because it’s loaded with stress-reducing amino acids that elevate your metabolic rate and up muscle mass. This Yogi variant has turmeric, an extract from curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and antioxidant properties. It also has anti-inflammatory yucca root and blackberry leaf. Every box, priced at 8500LL, has 16 tea bags with little messages on the tags for that fortune cookie effect.

Another good option is Runa tea which contains Guayusa, a leaf with twice the antioxidants of bagged green tea and ~30 fewer mg of caffeine per cup than coffee.
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ProBar Energy Chews
On long distance runs, you need to refuel every hour or so. Each runner has their own preferred mid-run snack based on trial runs (edible gels, chews, or good old-fashioned nuts & dates). Wesley’s carries the 4 flavors of ProBar energy chews (2 with caffeine, 2 without). Each pack costs 4500LL and has 2 servings of 4-5 chews.

Do not take gels or chews with electrolytes (Gatorade). Your body will overload and you’ll need a potty faster than you can find one.

Coconut Water/Oil

Coconut water for hydration after the miles are done and coconut oil all over errythannnnng to soothe the skin. As I’ve said multiple times, coconut oil is a natural anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and moisturizer. Coconut water is 3250-3500LL each and an 84oz jug of coconut oil is 48,000LL.

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Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt or a Cryopak Ice Pack
After putting that much stress on your muscles, you need to help your body recover. Epsom salts in a warm bath will do wonders for aches & pains. Stock of this therapeutic soak flies off the shelves so grab it while you can. A 6lb bag is for 24,000 LL.

Icing your knees and joints for 15min intervals is helpful as well. The Cryopak is usually for coolers but at 3500LL, this reusable plastic pack can be better than the lumpy bag of peas in your freezer.

Make sure to test the chafing balm and chews on a practice run before the 13th so you know it’s a good choice for future runs. Marathon Day is not the day to test the new, only tried and true.

Good luck fellow runners!

BambiRunsBey42K: Two Weeks to 21

This is the 8th installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Two weeks away from the big day and I feel like such a fraud. Even though I’ve gone down to the half and my training intensity has gone down due to a mix of tapering and late nights at the office, it’s been a long road to November 13th and, at 13 days away, I’m feeling spent.

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PC: Marc Tanas

When with the group, we feed off of each other’s energy. But once you go home and you’re solo again, it wanes. Because of this, I began my Google expedition to find fuel. Fuel to keep my head in the game, fuel to save on my mental hard drive for those negative thoughts post 16K, and fuel to make my legs endure another 2 weeks of training.

On the Mental Hard Drive
It began with Ed Whitlock, an 85-year old who ran his latest marathon in under 4 hours. Runner’s World says, “he just runs slowly, for three to four hours a day, around a cemetery a little more than 100 meters from his front door.” That could not be more fitting. He’s giving death a giant middle finger. I’m 28. No excuses.

Another file saved: Grete Waitz, nine-time winner of the NYC Marathon I’ve mentioned before, once said, “Hurry slowly. Move ahead, but be patient.” It will take time to get better and the endurance you build is not only the physical kind. You need to endure the process.

And then there’s this:


I’ve begun to fall off the wagon when we’re so close. Like the tortoise though, you can’t lose focus. Look for motivation elsewhere, find a boomtastic powersong, plan your post-finish line celebratory meal. Mine is fatteh from Le Professeur in Mar Elias.

Sundays Have Changed
Sundays in Lebanon are commonly associated with grandparents, meat on grills, and/or arak in the mountains. I can’t remember the last Sunday I’ve had that equaled that. Sundays during training seasons mean waking up before 4am, having your eyes water excessively while running at 7am (because they’re like why the f*ck are we doing this now?), being worn out before 11am, and staying hungry until 10pm when you pass out.

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PC: Marc Tanas

I missed yesterday’s morning run simply because I fell back asleep on the couch at 6am. This is just another lesson that training teaches you: set multiple alarms, drink the coffee earlier, and do not sit down on anything squishy for longer than 15 minutes. That last one may be misinterpreted. I meant the sofa, freaks.

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Sunday Mood.

Just for Kicks

A doctor told one of my teammates that the body isn’t built for the marathon, effectively saying, “you’re not supposed to be doing this.” And yet, here we are. I confess that I do not like running. It may seem blasphemous to say that as a NRC runner but, as a sport, it is grueling. It beats you up and knocks you down. However, every time you fight back, you’re taking control and proving that you call the shots. You’re telling your brain that you’re not going to fail, that you know your pain, that you do belong here even when your joints are shrieking. 

Accepting Your Strength
The 21 is still a formidable distance but, considering where I am physically, it is a enough. As a friend of mine said, “mish hayen bas mish mot” (it’s not easy but it’s not death). I don’t mean to make my future-marathoners feel discouraged but I’m recognizing my body’s capability right now. But that’s me. If you’ve seen my fellow beasts train, you’d know that they’ll be eating the 42 for breakfast in two Sundays. And I’ll be having fatteh.

BambiRunsBey42K: One Month Down

This is the 2nd installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Unlimited Future
Like those Olympians competing in Rio, the team and I are discovering our unlimited potential after 4 weeks – that potential that will take us to November but continue on into 2017. This program has become about more than the marathon, it’s rewiring my mindset. It won’t stop in November because there is no end when there are no limits. 

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The Warm-Up Threshold
The more I tried to stick to nonstop kilometers of running, the more I realized that it got easier to keep going after the first 3-4K. When you first kick off, your body is still warming up and it isn’t used to extended bouts of exercise. However, if you keep pushing through those horrible 20ish minutes, it regulates itself and suddenly you don’t have that urge to stop anymore because your body’s gone into RUN mode. Mohamad Marhamo, NRC Pacer extraodinaire, says that he feels it around 2K and that this steady feeling will come sooner the more you train. Inshallah.

“Who decided a marathon is 42.2K anyway?”
That was a question a fellow NRCer asked while we were dripping our way through Mar Mikhael. I realized I didn’t know why. OBVIOUSLY, unable to leave a question unanswered, I did some googling. The story is that a Greek messenger named Philippides had to trek 40K to Athens to report the victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. Legend has it, he busted into the assembly, made the announcement (“Nike!”), and dropped dead. How inspiring. Can’t wait to finish & die.

The long distance race was incorporated into the first modern day Olympics in 1896 in Athens. The extra 2K was sprinkled on top in 1908 to accommodate the British royals because Queen Alexandra had the race start at the Windsor Castle lawn and end in front of King Edward VII’s royal box at the Olympic stadium. According to Wiki, “the modern 42.195 km standard distance for the marathon was set by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) in May 1921 directly from the length used at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London.” So there you have it, blame the Brits.

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Fun Facts: The world’s oldest annual marathon is the Boston Marathon which started in 1897, one year after the first Olympics. Women didn’t get to participate until 1972 and they didn’t have their own Olympics marathon until 1984 in Los Angeles.

Long Distance Sundays…and Listening to Your Body
Like any physical activity, an important part of training is knowing when your body in trying to tell you something versus your mind. There are days when you need to be okay with not making the mark. I missed a run (because of blisters) and couldn’t finish the long distance because of running shoes that were too small (long distances combined with higher temperatures cause your feet to swell so your shoes need to be 1-1.5 size larger than your usual size) plus cramps in my left shin.

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After getting the right sized shoes and letting my blisters heal, I went back out there and finished week 4, including yesterday’s 17K. The runs are important but your body is more so. Now, “3am Vaslin” has become my verb of the year since I slather Vaseline pretty much everywhere pre-run. At this rate, I’m going through one little tub/week.

A Missed Session Doesn’t Equal a Day Off
This program takes up a lot of your evenings but there will be nights when you’re going to have to miss a session for a wedding, a trip to the north, or a Mashrou Leila concert.

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That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for the night. We’ve reached a point where you can’t afford to skip a run so you get homework: doing the run solo when you do have the time.

My last solo run was in Rome but doing 11K under Beirut’s sweltering August sunshine isn’t the same as centro histórico at dawn. We’ve gotten into the habit of sending screenshots of our solo runs to our marathon Whatsapp group so we all know we’re getting it done. Not only does it help to see each one of us is sticking to the program, it also motivates you to drown out the excuses. Your team is running, why aren’t you?

An e-friend of mine shared this short about runners, take a look:


Bambi Stats & Mini Victories
I would have to say that running a 11K tempo run solo and then a 17K two days later would have to qualify as a mini victory for me. With every run, we’ve been learning things about our bodies and how we can improve the marathon experience; not just in terms of distance or pace but also what to eat the morning of, what time to eat it, what sunscreen to use, which socks work best, and so on. Knowing this key info will get us closer to doing it right.

 

Just for Kicks
Water dictates everything. When figuring out the route you’re going to do, make sure to note where you can buy a bottle of water…and where you can empty your bladder. In long distances especially, nature will call wondering why you don’t talk anymore. Another thing that shouldn’t be underestimated: stretching. Before and after runs. Take care of those muscles.

Becoming Obsessed or Committed?
And no, not committed-to-the-insane-asylum committed. I mean committed to this transformation. Subscribing to the Runner’s World newsletter, having a sports bra tan, and ordering only Perrier on nights out because I have a training session the next day. I’ve been reading about all things running, right down to a blessed experience known as runner’s trots. It’s the shit. This is my life now. I’m all in and I don’t recognize this person who’s suddenly…an athlete? I train? Yes. Yes, I am and I do.