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Do your shoes matter at the Comrades Marathon?

Athletics
JOHANNESBURG - Do the shoes you wear matter at the Comrades Marathon? It depends on what your goal is.

A club mate was showing off her new shoes at the weekend as anticipation for the Comrades Marathon approaches fever pitch.

They were a stunning pair of white Adidas Ultraboosts.

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Runners compete in the Comrades Marathon. Photo: Rogan Ward/ReutersDavid Gatebe winner of the 2016 Comrades Marathon Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

And I’ll be wearing the brand with the three stripes, too, for my maiden run - as will a further 2073 other runners who will line up at the Durban City Hall for the start of the Ultimate Human Race in the early hours of Sunday, June 4.

The belief, among most runners, is that the more "proper" the shoe, the better the run. And, boy, do we spend a lot of effort and money ensuring we get the "right" shoe.

And "right" , in the minds of many runners - especially us social ones - is a top brand, aka Adidas.

Asics, though, is the most popular brand. At the Comrades, in a fortnight’s time, there will be 7679 runners in those.

Nike are a distant second, with 3478 placing their hope in the "swoosh," while the 'official' Comrades shoe New Balance will be worn by 2476 runners.

A lot of us get our feet checked and our running styles tested on the treadmill by the experts at specialist sports stores to see whether we pronate or not.

Hardly ever will you see an aspiring runner go to Mr Price to get a pair.

Incredibly, though, Comrades-winning shoes come from there. Both last year's winner, David Gatebe, and current up-run champion Gift Kelehe wore Mr Price-branded Maxed shoes in their glorious runs.

These are pretty simple shoes and cost nowhere near a pair of Adidas that the likes of me will be pounding the 87km route in.

Sure, Mr Price is their sponsor, but as pro athletes they can easily get any brand they want, can't they? Why these "simple" shoes then, I asked?

“I like these shoes,” Gatebe says. “They are very light. I don't feel them when I run.”

And therein lies the difference.

Whereas for us social runners comfort is key, the top athletes want to feel as though they are wearing nothing. They do not want shoes that are going to add further weight that will impede them in their efforts.

Another club mate nailed it when he said: "These top runners are not too long on the road, so why would they need to be comfortable? But for us, who will take nearly half a day to get to Maritzburg, it's important that we are comfortable.”

Incredibly, the Mr Price shoes worn by the likes of Gatebe and Kelehe as well as no less than seven of their teammates (who are all capable of making the top 10), are not mentioned by name in the Comrades list that breaks down types of shoes worn. They are probably among the 906 categorised under “other”.

The battle for brand supremacy in the shoe industry is pretty intense, with Nike recently making a vain - and gimmicky - attempt at a sub-two-hour marathon with their Zoom Vapourfly Elite. In response, Adidas has the very light Adizero Sub 2.

It will be interesting to see which of these shoes - as well as the likes of Saucony, Mizuno, Puma, Hi-Tec et al - will be first to step on to the grass of the Scottsville Race Course.

For me, and many other social runners, comfort is key. After all, it is going to take us nearly half a day to get there.

The Star

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