Best Recovery Methods For Runners

 

bestrecoveryforrunners
Sage Burner 13k, Gunnison, CO!

Best Recovery Methods For Runners

 

Recovery is the key to success. Many athletes can master training as such, especially over years and years, however, beneficial adaptions will not occur to their most optimal standard unless recovery is also understood and ‘mastered’ in a sense (to use that term loosely). It’s pretty simple when we get down to the nuts and bolts of it – sleep and nutrition are king, and outweigh things like foam rolling and active recovery in the long term.

Also, I don’t think I’ve said this before, but when I write these articles I am attempting to do so in a way that makes these topics comprehensible to anyone who decides to give them a read (thank you for being here!). I don’t intend on getting too deep into scientific concepts and the applicable research because I think it would miss the point for my audience reading this and the simplicities of practical application. 

It is hard to say what will work best for each individual – to understand this takes testing the practical application of recovery methodologies on yourself. However, there are a few well-known ‘best’ recovery methods for runners derived from both research and, as I mentioned, practical application and positive response. 

I wrote a post in mid-2021 on ‘how to have more energy for running’ (click here to read). I bring this up because this article has a lot of cross-over with this current one. Why?

The key is – you get stronger when you recover, not whilst you’re ‘doing’ the said activity. That’s when we apply stress and strain to the body. When we recover well, we adapt well. I really wish someone had explained this to me as a very young athlete with this type of simple wording. The typical athlete is very driven, and quite often it is not a matter of telling them to do more, but more so to train smarter not harder, and recover even better.

Another important thing to note, is “stress is stress”. An athlete will hinder their recovery in an environment inducing stress overload. For example, if work is stressful, and the university is stressful, then there isn’t much room for training to be a large stressor too. This is where the balancing act begins.

 

How Can I Recover Faster From Running?

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Sage Burner 13k, Gunnison, CO!

 

This is the golden question, and funnily enough the top ‘googled’ question around this topic. Everyone wants to recover faster so they can get back to it faster, right?

The goal is to recover well enough to stress the body again (consistency), with the occurrence of adaptions targeted to optimal performance in the activity, and likely, an event/s. If we don’t recover we risk overtraining, which can lead to unfavorable adaptations, or a limit on adaption, illness, injury, etc. You want just enough stress to elicit a favorable response, consistently.

The good news is that there are a few tools that can optimize recovery and therefore elicit optimal performance benefits. However sometimes there’s no ‘magic’, it’s simply a matter of time to allow the body to adapt. This reigns true particularly if training has multiple stressors such as environmental stressors on top of load (heat, altitude, humidity – to name a few). I’ll explore that a bit more below.

Recovery Nutrition For Runners

We need to think of food as energy availability. The food you eat fuels the activity you do and the life you want to live. I like to remember that energy intake has to equal (and better for athletes) energy output. This will ensure not only optimal performance but adequate general health. 

We don’t need to track food unless we have specific goals or are guided by a medical professional as that can pose its own issues. However, we need to always eat enough. Food is fuel and the building blocks of repair from our training load. It’s likely you’ve heard of RED-S by now – Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport, which will eventuate in adverse health and performance in athletes. RED-S occurs when energy expenditure is not being met adequately with energy intake over a sustained period of time. The adverse effects of underfuelling can impact both male and female athletes, however data trends highlight that, ‘1 in 3 female athletes has 2 or more symptoms of underfuelling’. From a data collection standpoint, it seems that women are more ‘prone’ to this issue, however, it can be easier to tell if a female is under-fuelling. 

Well-timed and adequate food intake is a crucial component of recovery. Ideally, endurance athletes will intake a 3:1 ratio of CHO (carbohydrates) to protein within 30 minutes of exercise particularly over an hour in length. If your exercise duration is > 60 minutes, bring fuel with you. This could be gels, liquid nutrition, waffles, or a combo of a few. I personally like Tailwind, Spring Energy and Maurten. I avoid preservatives (sorbates, benzoates, MSG, nitrates, flavour enhancers) at all costs, and these nutrition brands are perfect in that sense. Look out for 200 and 600 numbers on ingredient labels (not including food acids etc.) if you’re trying to be wary of these artificial additives.

Long story short – find food that you enjoy eating, always eat enough, and find what works to fuel your training + life! Nutrition should be a fun part of recovery.

 

Sleep Recovery For Runners

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Red Lady/Mt. Emmons, Crested Butte, CO

Sleep is the only time the body fully recovers, so for the runner, (and anyone) sleep is going to be a key component of recovery. I could write a whole piece on this, and I will at some point, but here are the nuts and bolts of it…

If you can’t get enough sleep in a night, try for a 20-minute power nap around lunchtime or mid-afternoon. This can elicit beneficial responses. Steve Magness, author and performance coach, recently posted about a NASA study.  NASA found that just one, “twenty-five-minute nap improved judgment by 35 percent and vigilance by 16 percent.”

The data is clear, short naps do work. Longer naps, not so much as that’s when our nighttime sleep can be negatively impacted.

My personal favorite which I was introduced to by my good friend Bastein is to drink a coffee right before the 20-minute nap, and by the time you wake, the coffee will work. It’s a double whammy in that sense!

 

A properly planned training program

A well-structured training program is a plan, and a plan needs to be flexible. This allows for realistic changes due to life, needing extra recovery time, events, etc. Athletes should have a range of interests that aren’t just work and training, to maintain a healthy mental and physical state. Flexibility allows for this. It’s important to remember that mental fatigue can be a source of physical fatigue (stress is stress), so we must account for this. 

Further, the training load needs to be balanced appropriately with recovery time, to ensure favorable training adaptions are made. This means the next time we do ‘said workout’ or activity, we are able to handle it better, push ourselves a little further, and likely elicit another positive training response.

 


Environmental Stressors Impacting Recovery for the Distance Runner

 

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Red Lady/Mt. Emmons Summit, Crested Butte, CO

I decided to include a section on environmental stressors as external to the training load itself, environmental factors can impact our recovery and therefore need to be considered. 

If an athlete lives in an environment of high altitude or intense heat, per se, this needs to be considered in the training program and predicting ‘total-training stress’ (TTS). Training Peaks track this (sans environmental stress) which can be useful to gain a rough understanding when tracked over a few training cycles of general fatigue. I won’t go into this too much, but you can check it out here.

I live at a moderate altitude, around 2350m – so it’s fitting for me to discuss altitude as environmental stress on physiological systems. You’ll hear of athletes adopting varied training protocols such as live-high train-low (LHTL) or live-high-train-high (LHTH) in an attempt to gain favorable adaptions for their specific events. ( Generally agreed as, High (8,000 – 12,000 feet [2,438 – 3,658 meters]), Very High (12,000 – 18,000 feet [3,658 – 5,487 meters]).

However, adaptions will vary depending on the type of exposure the athlete has. For example, are they chronically adapted (they have lived for an extended period of time at said altitude)? Do they expose themselves to altitude in acute episodes? A series of encounters consistently over time?

Even then, the athlete’s response will likely be highly varied from individual to individual. There’s decreased oxygen availability and therefore higher cardiac output. Adaptions to better oxygenate tissue in the body include a higher hemoglobin (Hb) count. Increased Hb levels allow the body to better oxygenate working muscles. To explore this a little further, EPO (a hormone) production from the kidney in response to hypoxia will spike (peak) within 48hrs of exposure to elicit bone marrow-produced red blood cells (red bone marrow), to increase oxygen carrying capacity of blood in the body to the tissue. Red blood cells use Hb to transport oxygen around the body. Having a higher red blood cell count will boost Hb count. You’ll perform at a higher level the more efficiently your body can oxygenate tissue in response to the increased demands. Think of it like a repeating cycle in the body’s fight for better blood oxygen levels at altitude.

Why am I discussing this in an article about recovery? Because this environmental factor, and the type of exposure, need to be considered when planning training load and recovery time. Stress is stress. Severe Hypoxia is a large stress on the system. Account for it with extra CHO (carbohydrate intake) and food intake in general, watch your fluid and electrolyte levels, and ensure you are putting up your feet enough! 

Next, just make sure you’re fit. You can buy all the gadgets in the world, but fitness and overall health will win out in the end. If you will be racing at altitude and you don’t have the chance to train at a similar height often, follow an acclimation protocol. I won’t go into detail here as that is very individual and race-based.

 

What Drinks Help Sore Muscles?

I personally wouldn’t resort to ‘drinks’ as a sole aid in muscle recovery, however, there are a few which can assist in the recovery process. Before I briefly write about this, can we give a big shout-out to water first and foremost? Water is your friend! Extra bold this if you have heightened environmental stressors too.

Tart Cherry juice, such as my favourite, Cheribundi, aids in sleep and therefore can assist in recovery. This is due to the higher melatonin content in tart cherries.

Magnesium powder such as this one by Natural Vitality has helped my sleep and inflammation, although I’m not a regular user. I prefer to get most of my nutrients from food (macro and micro!)

 

Best Running Sports Bra: A Review of Lume Six Sports Bras

best running sports bra

I wish that more sportswear manufacturers considered sports bras a piece of performance equipment. Sports bras for running need to be designed to prevent chafing, provide adequate support for a higher-impact sport, and have great breathability.

Since I started running longer distances, mitigating issues like chafing has become increasingly important. I often found chafing was a problem and general irritation from the seams. I blamed this on cheaper-made sports bras, to which more often than not comfort and performance are sacrificed for quick sales and aesthetics.

 

A True Performance Sports Bra

 

sports bra for running

Enter Lume Six, a sports bra company that has performance, fit, and the environment in mind. Lume Six sports bras are unlike any other on the market – I can say that because I’ve tried and tested them myself. To begin with, you can adjust the sizes in the band and the chest, to customize the fit to your body shape. Margaux, owner, and founder of Lume Six explains that one of the biggest issues when choosing a sports bra for running is finding the right fit. For example, a sports bra can fit well on the chest but not on the shoulders. This then increases the chances of chafing and drastically reduces the support the bra can provide.

I chose the Alta Medium Impact Sports Bra. This bra was created for flexible support (a step down from maximum) and the highest breathability possible. As a smaller-chested woman, I don’t need a high level of support, however, fitting a bra can be tricky as often the chest will fit but I won’t fit the cups. Being able to customize the fit of the straps allows my Alta bra to fit snug, and feel weightless on my body. Weightlessness is a particularly favorite feature of mine, as I like that light feeling when I run.

 

The Best Sports Bra For Running

best sports bra for running

I wore my Lume Six bra in The Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k, my first shorter ultra-distance race. It performed impeccably, being supportive, breathable, and lightweight. I don’t like the extra removable padding on many sports bras for running because I can notice them. Lume Six bras don’t have them, and they don’t need them – even if you have a larger chest size.

It is worth pointing out that Lume Six is a female-owned and created company. Margaux has our needs and bodies in mind when creating these high-performance sports bras. As an awesome athlete herself (you should see her rip on the mountain bike!), she knows what it takes to create a bra that meets the demands of any sport.


Medium and High Impact Sports Bras

She didn’t stop there – Lume Six sports bras are made from recycled content. She has partnered up with a sustainable fabric production company in Italy, to ensure both quality and environmental sustainability. Also, 1% of sales will go to 1% for the planet.

I recommend the Alta Medium Impact Sports Bra for hiking, mountain biking, pilates, or if you have a smaller chest size, it works well for running. The next step up is the Cirra High Impact Sports Bra, which has higher support and is also great for running. The straps won’t bunch up and twist easily, the sports bra will dry quickly, and the seamless construction will prevent chafing. This is the ultimate performance-minded sports bra, with the environment in mind.

Check out the Alta Medium Impact Sports Bra by clicking here.

Heat Training For Runners

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Valkyrie Trail Marathon, CO Springs, Mad Moose Events

Heat Training For Running Performance

 

You’ve probably heard heat, in the training context, referred to as ‘the poor man’s altitude’. The context behind this is, altitude camps and taking the time off (generally from work, family duties, etc) is costly. There’s truth to the poor man’s altitude. You can use heat to train for altitude (cross-adaptation), and clearly, use heat to train for heat. To prepare properly for an environmental extreme such as heat, a protocol period of acclimation or acclimatization can be undertaken to elicit favorable adaptations. This is particularly important if you are going to:

  • Race in hot environments
  • Need to maintain heat adaptations over the winter for hotter races in warmer climates
  • Are racing at altitude but don’t have access to altitude training (cross-adaptation for runners)

The goal should be to expose yourself to the minimal dose of heat possible to elicit the most significant adaptation. This is because too much extra environmental stress can impact the most important thing of all – RECOVERY! 

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

 

– Albert Einstein

If you need to introduce heat training, it’s important to identify which heat protocol will work best for you given your goals, finances, and lifestyle. Working with a professional and understanding this for yourself would be advised here. The most effective protocol for an individual with a high training load, as research indicates thus far, is a passive dry sauna after an exercise session.

 

Is heat training good for running? And does heat make running harder?

 

heat adaptation for runners
Moab Trail Half-Marathon, Utah 2022

 

Yes, heat training is good for running, but only when done sensibly in a planned manner, with a goal in mind. Heat Training is especially important for athletes who will race in hot and/or humid conditions. When you exercise in a hot environment, the body will undergo a series of processes to thermoregulate, in order to maintain homeostasis. If our physiological systems fail to maintain homeostasis in a really hot environment, it can result in hyperthermia. The body has failed to compensate for the environment. This is the same with hypothermia in the cold.

You’ll notice on the first hot run of a season that you’ll probably sweat more, and your perceived exertion will be higher (elevated HR). The good news is, even without a specific heat training protocol, after roughly 10 days you’d likely notice that your resting and active HR have returned to normal. A few other adaptations you’ll notice if you pay attention are an earlier onset of sweating, how much you sweat (volume), and a lower core body temperature.

 

What about heat training strategies for both shorter and longer trail running events?

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Just finished Broken Arrow Sky Race 52km, Palisades, Tahoe, CA. 2022

 

The goal of heat adaptation will differ from trail runners to track runners, given that trail running events are often longer. This makes pre-race cooling strategies, such as ice packs on the places where you lose the most heat (head, neck, wrists, underarms, groin, etc.) effective for shorter track events. For trail running, it is best to mitigate heat as much as possible, supporting the event with an appropriate prior heat training protocol. A few good examples of trail running events you’d want to heat train for would be the Western States Endurance Run (100 miles), and Bandera 100.

 

How do you learn to run in the heat?

heat acclimation strategy running
Sunset on Signal Peak Trails, Gunnison, Colorado

 

You have to get out there and run in the heat if you are in an environment that enables you to do so. Otherwise, a professionally guided heat protocol will be your next best bet. Take it easy for the first few days. Maintain hydration by drinking regularly. It’s important to remember to hydrate (electrolytes specifically) in hotter environments. Interestingly in a virtual symposium for The European College of Sports Science, Lewis James explained that “dehydration of >2% body mass degrades endurance and cognitive performance, and the effect increases with increasing ambient temperature.” What does this mean? Practice drinking during exercise, and if you’re inevitably going to face dehydration, practice for it. It also means that it doesn’t take much to impair performance. For perspective, for a 70kg/154lb male equates to 1400mls. 

You can monitor urine concentration – this might be TMI, but it’s very useful. You want to be peeing pale urine rather than concentrated bright yellow. It may be helpful to monitor weight, as weight loss will indicate dehydration as well. 

In around 7-10 days of running in a hot climate, you’ll likely notice a better tolerance to the heat. For trained individuals, adaptations will occur quicker, compared to the untrained individual which, after continual exposure will usually see benefits after 2 weeks. As discussed below in more detail, some helpful signs that indicate heat adaptation include an earlier onset of sweating, more sweat, and less time to fatigue conducive to a lowered HR (by this, I meant it is closer to your usual HR for the specific activity, compared to an initial spiked HR upon introduction to the heat).

 

How do you adapt to running in the heat?

heat adaptations trail running
Running Highland Mary Trail, San Juan Mountains, Colorado this Summer 2022

 

It takes at least 10 days for adaptations to occur, but as with anything, it can differ from individual to individual, and for male and female. It’s important to make sure you prepare enough time ahead of the event. 

Various adaptations occur, including a higher volume of sweat and an earlier onset of sweating. The sweat itself is more dilute than at more temperate climates. The athlete’s Heart Rate (HR)  increases, and stroke volume (SV) increases (HR x SV = CO) CO, being cardiac output. Peripheral vessels will vasodilate – all changes which result in heat loss.

Heat loss is vital as the body is only as efficient as a light bulb. About 75% of the energy made during exercise is used by the muscles – the rest is lost in heat.  If the body can lose heat quickly and efficiently, it can continue to exercise at its best capabilities.  – hence the adaptations it makes to lose the increased heat made in hotter climates.

However, if the body cannot lose heat to the environment either due to high ambient temperature, or high humidity, or the person is not adapted to the heat, then the body will store heat, with the core temperature increasing – and this will initially impair performance but can eventually kill from severe heat stroke. (temp >41 degrees).

Long story short, it’s important to prepare for your race properly. 

Some other benefits of heat training include an improved VO2 Max, Lactate Threshold (LT), lower HR under higher stress and workloads, increased fat oxidation, and therefore increased chances to lose weight (if that’s a goal). Since endurance performance is largely determined by running economy, VO2 Max and LT, heat training can help!

 

What are some passive methods of heat training for endurance athletes?

heat training for trail running
This awesome photo was taken by ProImage-Photo, located in Boise, Idaho

 

Sitting in a dry heat sauna is likely the best option for a heat training protocol where you don’t have access to a naturally hot environment. This is done (passively, so sitting, not exercising) straight after concluding your exercise and doesn’t have to exceed 20-30 mins in time.

 

  • The Hot Tub method requires you to be fully emerged (past shoulders) for a very similar length of time. 
  • You’ll elicit beneficial adaptations without having to exercise in strenuous conditions or run around in a sauna suit, or more clothes.

 

It’s important to note that you should always undertake protocols under the guidance of a professional – this is of crucial importance if you are doing ‘active’ heat training such as running in a sauna suit or spin biking heated chamber or room. Since the benefits of a post-run dry sauna session (sitting,  passive) for 20 odd minutes elicit very similar adaptations, this is the path I’d choose. You’d want to hop in very soon after exercise. A hot tub immersion for heat training could work, however, to elicit the best response you’d want to be immersed right up to your neck, and for a similar amount of time to the sauna. The sauna simply seems more comfortable and practical to me. Besides, utilizing a sauna frequently is great for reducing the risk of all-cause cardiometabolic fatalities.

Some important timing things to note:

  • You will begin to lose adaptations after more than 2-3 days away from heat, so it’s best to follow a protocol with a minimum of 1 dose every 2nd-3rd day
  • Periodize your training load around the heat protocol and/or training load, to ensure you don’t have a high training load week paired with a high heat training week.
  • Work with what you have available to you!

How do you recover from heat training?

heat training hypoxia
Fire Trails in Bouddi National Park, NSW, Australia

It’s really important to remember that we could do all these things to try to maximize performance, but the reality is, sometimes in trying to do too much or be a perfectionist about it, we end up shooting ourselves in the foot. It is meant to be fun after all, and it isn’t meant to take over your whole life. In saying this, the goal should be to find the minimum dosage to elicit the most beneficial adaptations for the event/races you’re training for.

In applying this principle, you’ll set yourself up for more optimized recovery, and in turn, a (hopefully) better performance come race day.

Sleep is really important, as it is the only time we fully recover – optimize this. Chronic stress such as an environmental one is just that, a ‘chronic stress’. We need to account for this. The stress could be long periods at a high altitude, or training in intensive heat. If you don’t sleep enough to account for this, it could result in maladaptations, the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.

Staying hydrated when running, particularly exercise >1 is also important. Whilst some studies have shown that dehydration does not impact short-term acclimation to heat, performance is the goal, as long-term benefits, so don’t skimp on this. Dehydration is a stressor, and too much stress from any source can result in unwanted maladaptations.

More often than not, you can elicit beneficial physiological and cellular adaptations with shorter, smaller bouts of heat in the lead-up to an event, and this can be the most convenient thing for your training, time and total stress. Be smart!

Part 2 

Heat Training For Altitude: Cross-Adaptation For The Runner Racing At Altitude.

Does heat training help with altitude?

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Running Handies Peak, a 14er in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado – 2022

 

Heat training can help endurance athletes perform at altitude, particularly if the athlete does not have access to altitude or other mechanisms to mimic this environment (such as a chamber, an altitude tent, and actual higher-altitude environments, to name a few).

Hot environments, let’s take, a dry-heat sauna, elicit stress on the system whilst it’s in a resting state, particularly if the individual spends a decent amount of time in the dry-heat sauna. Note, to elicit favorable adaptations, as mentioned earlier, 20-30 mins in the sauna post run or ride can have a multitude of positive benefits. The reason being is your core temperature is already elevated, corresponding with an elevated HR.

At altitude, the physiological systems of individuals not acclimatized to the environment will experience elevated levels of stress at rest and exercise. Heat acclimation protocols can assist with attenuating this strain altitude. As discussed above in the beneficial adaptations of heat training and/or heat protocol, there will be an increase in plasma volume, and a lower core body temperature to elicit better oxygen delivery to working muscles. Better oxygen delivery to working muscles is a very favorable adaptation for an endurance athlete looking to perform at altitude. 

However, as discussed in the intro of this post, stress is stress, and if an individual is living and/or training at a high altitude, and does not need to prepare for a race in the heat, heat training and protocols may not be necessary. The key pillar to successful training is even better recovery. These tools should be used under the supervision of a specialist, and the minimum dosage to elicit positive adaptations should be given. Further, the added stress of heat training and/or heat protocols should be in harmony with the training load of the athlete. For example, don’t schedule the highest volume week with the largest doses of heat training. That’s a sure way to burn out and impact recovery.

For those out there that are interested in a cellular level, below I will briefly discuss heat shock protein (HSP) responses when exposed to altitude. 

 

Heat Shock Proteins (HSP), altitude, and heat acclimation for endurance athletes.

Exercise induces stress on the cellular homeostatic mechanisms of the body. This exercise-induced challenge on these mechanisms will result in adaptations. Adaptations, both short and longer-term, are our physiological systems that maintain homeostasis in extreme environments. When cells are exposed to heat there’ll be an increase in heat shock proteins (HSP), particularly if it is in the early phases of heat introduction. 

Importantly, HSP40 is activated in cells in response to physiological stress (not unlike other factors that induce HSP expression such as glucose deprivation). These HSP proteins respond to protect cell integrity and maintain homeostasis – for example, a response to hyperthermia (body temperature is well above normal, not to be mistaken for hypothermia, which is the opposite). Interestingly, for those athletes at altitude, HSP40 specifically, assists in the preservation of HIF-1 alpha which has an increased cellular response at altitude. HIF-1 plays a crucial role in the body’s response to hypoxia. This is important to note as HIF-1 acts as a dominant, “regulator of numerous hypoxia-inducible genes under hypoxic conditions.” (1)  The HSP40 induced in cells as a response to heat stress is likely beneficial to performance in hypoxic environments. To put it simply, an individual who has heat trained or followed a heat training protocol prior to training or competing at altitude (such as a dry heat sauna protocol) and therefore is heat acclimated, will likely respond well to the increased physiological stress experienced at altitude. This is because, on a cellular level, heat adaptations have reduced HSP response when in a hypoxic environment.

However, there is still a need for further research into the role of HSPs, as this research could serve to benefit the likes of athletes, patients, and the general population. If you’re interested in reading more about HSPs, check this journal article out here.  Further understanding of the role of HSPs in exercise physiology may prove beneficial for therapeutic targeting in diseased patient cohorts, exercise prescriptions for disease prevention, and training strategies for elite athletes. It would be interesting to monitor recovery via heat shock proteins through blood-based testing, however, this at current is not viable on a mass scale due to costs. 

I hope this made you think about how you can better prepare for your next race in a strenuous environment. Whether you use a cross-adaptation technique, an intervention protocol, or outright training in the environment, preparation, timing, and harmony with the training load + other stressors and recovery are key! 

 

Is heat training the same as altitude training?

heat training for altitude
Pro-Image Event Photography. Table Rock Trails, Boise, Idaho.

In a literal sense, of course, heat training is not the same as altitude training. However, heat can be used to enhance performance, including endurance performance in hypoxic environments. Heat acclimation can improve our cellular and physiological functioning when exercising at altitude. Hence why earlier I mentioned the common saying, heat is the  ‘poor man’s altitude.

A study by Fregly, 2011(2) noted that exposure to one environmental stressor can produce the same protective physiological adaptations needed to benefit performance in another environmental stressor. For example, moderate hypoxia and high levels of heat exposure elicit the same heat-shock response (cytoprotective HSP72). If an individual is acclimated to heat or hypoxia (focusing on longer-term exposure here), they’ll have more favorable gene expressions for increased cellular resilience to these environments. (Hutter et al, 1994) (3)

So whilst heat and altitude training are not the same in a literal sense, the cross-adaptations elicited by a sensible exercise protocol in heat are favorable to performance in a hypoxic environment (altitude).

Yes, different stimuli, including heat training, can help with running performance in hypoxic (altitude) environments. Long-term heat training protocols and exposure lead to what is called ‘acclimatory homeostasis’, where the body functions more capably in the environment; i.e. physiological systems and cells are more resilient to the environment.

I discussed some of these adaptions and responses earlier in this article but I’ll touch on it again briefly as it relates to heat and altitude cross-adaptations. Some favorable adaptations include:

  • Reduced exercising HR at altitude (longer-term acclimation protocols)
  • Increased SpO2 (oxygen saturation in the blood, a good thing to have higher levels for general health and altitude performance) (Heled et al., 2012)(4)
  • Greater cardiac output, therefore physiological efficiency (aka. work harder, for longer, more efficiently)
  • Increased HSP72 baseline levels, indicating increased resilience of a cell in stressful environments. A heat-acclimated individual (can be acute dosage/short term) will likely have an attenuated HSP response due to these increased baseline levels of HSP72. Elevated levels of HSP72 indicate that the individual has greater levels of adaptation to handle environmental stress (Lee et al., 2015)(5)

Please note that the optimal dosage of “heat” to improve the HSP72 baseline levels in the sense of long-term adaptation is still under investigation

(1)  Lee, J. W., Bae, S. H., Jeong, J. W., Kim, S. H., & Kim, K. W. (2004). Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF-1)alpha: its protein stability and biological functions. Experimental & molecular medicine, 36(1), 1–12. https://www.nature.com/articles/emm20041

(2)Lee, B. J., Miller, A., James, R. S., & Thake, C. D. (2016). Cross Acclimation between Heat and Hypoxia: Heat Acclimation Improves Cellular Tolerance and Exercise Performance in Acute Normobaric Hypoxia. Frontiers in physiology7, 78. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2016.00078

(3) Hutter, M. M., Sievers, R. E., Barbosa, V., & Wolfe, C. L. (1994). Heat-shock protein induction in rat hearts. A direct correlation between the amount of heat-shock protein induced and the degree of myocardial protection. Circulation89(1), 355–360. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.cir.89.1.355

(4) Heled, Y., Peled, A., Yanovich, R., Shargal, E., Pilz-Burstein, R., Epstein, Y., & Moran, D. S. (2012). Heat acclimation and performance in hypoxic conditions. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine83(7), 649–653. https://doi.org/10.3357/asem.3241.2012

(5) Lee, B. J., Mackenzie, R. W., Cox, V., James, R. S., & Thake, C. D. (2015). Human monocyte heat shock protein 72 responses to acute hypoxic exercise after 3 days of exercise heat acclimation. BioMed research international2015, 849809. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/849809

Salomon Running Academy

salomon running academy team shot

Group Shot! – Photography by Jamil Coury

 

Salomon Running: Adventures in Moab at the Salomon Running Academy

 

My experience at the Salomon Running Academy is hard to capture in words. The people, the running, and the atmosphere were so welcoming and enthusiastic that it was very hard not to smile the entire time. We would be in constant anticipation of the next adventure around the corner. The phrase ‘once in a lifetime experience’ is tossed around a lot in this day and age, but it truly was for me. This experience at Salomon Ultra Running Academy was an extremely happy time in what has been a hard and testing past 8 months. It has taken me a while to write this post, but here it finally is!

salomon running academy

Photography by Jamil Coury

 

Salomon as a brand has always embodied the mentality of having fun in sporting endeavors and treating the outdoors as one big playground (whilst having respect and as much of a symbiotic relationship with the natural world as possible, see Salomon Sustainability Pledge), hence their hashtag and catch-line #timetoplay. I have loved the brand since I started competitively nordic skiing in primary school, and then in my transition to running, and more specifically distance trail running. So, when I received the email that I had been selected as one of 16 very lucky ducks for Salomon Running Academy USA in Moab, Utah, I was over the moon. I was so excited I had a solo personal dance party. My downstairs neighbors obviously heard my celebratory outcry and ruckus I was making upstairs and texted to ask if I was ok out of concern. Important details to include, to explain just how excited I was. As fate had it, I received the email straight after I finished my final graduate university exam. Moab had been on my adventure list for a while. 

The 4 days at Salomon Ultra Running Academy went by extremely quickly – time flies when you’re having fun, as they say. I’m going to do my absolute best to capture the experience. 

 

Day 1

salomon running academy

Photography by Jamil Coury

The Salomon Running Academy team traveled from all around America (Utah, Colorado, Oregon, North Carolina, New Hampshire, California…) to meet at the stunning Red Cliffs Resort in the middle of Moab. The resort was down in the valley, hugged by the Colorado River and tucked in below the red rock cliffs. One thing I’ve always loved about America is the diversity of the geography and climate. I’d traveled from the highland desert of Idaho to the highland desert of Utah, yet both were extremely unique and different.

Once we arrived, we were introduced to our new friends, team, and coaches for the next few days. We were extremely lucky to be coached by Salomon Athletes Max King, Courtney Dauwalter, Jamil Coury, Jeffrey Stern, Olivia Amber, and Preston Johnson. I’ve watched every Salomon TV running and backcountry skiing film ever and gained so much stoke from them –  so it was amazing to meet these amazing athletes in person. The wonderful runners from around America that I met each had their own interesting backstories and trail tales and laughter to share over the miles we ran. We were so lucky to receive Salomon gear for the camp (like one big Salomon Christmas!), including the Salomon S/Lab Sense 8 Soft and Hard Ground shoes. The Soft Ground shoes came in handy would you believe it, because it rained (!) in Moab on Day 3. 

 

salomon shoes

We left the lodge in the afternoon for a much-needed run at Fisher Towers. The trail out and back is around 6.8km (just over 4 miles), 358 (1175ft) of elevation, and breathtaking views. Our colorful Salomon kits added a burst of color to the trademark red of the rocks and towers surrounding us. This run took us a long time because we had so much fun stopping to admire the views, take photos and film content zooming around the trails, and jumping over rocks. I wouldn’t recommend trying to boulder on most of the rocks, I learnt the hard way that the rock is very loose! It is moments like these that you cherish, where you’re completely in the moment and everything feels at peace. I respect these moments because they don’t happen all the time – luckily, this trip was full of them, and LOTS of laughter. 

 

colourful runners

Photography by Jamil Coury

By the time we’d finished our adventure run, the storm which we saw across the valley earlier in the run began to settle in. It was a much-needed relief from the heat and reminded me of the summer evening storms in Australia that I grew up with. 

Of course, being a runner, it’s only natural that I mention how good the dinners (and the dinner time view) were at Red Cliffs! Definitely hit the spot after running in the desert all day throughout the camp.

 

Day 2 

Photography by Jamil Coury

Today’s focus was uphill running, with a focus on running with poles. We drove through the town of Moab to the Hidden Valley Trail. The run begins with a short but steep uphill, perfect for the clinic. Here we refined our mall-walk, used for mildly-steep incline and the trekker technique, for steeper inclines. Often in long distance races it is important to consider where you’ll hike to conserve energy for the more runnable parts of the course. Sometimes it is not feasible to run the entire race. This is part of the fun of long-distance trail running, you have to make strategic decisions to ensure you can cover the ground as fast as you possibly can, without bonking. We were lucky to be greeted with expansive views of the snow-capped mountains in the far distance, despite it being quite hot in the Moab valley.

 

Photography by Jamil Coury

Being a keen Nordic skier, I was very excited to use poles in my running practice. The uphill pole running came quite naturally, but I definitely need to work on using them to assist me on the steep and technical downhills. A pair of foldable poles are a must if your race has steep technical sections over a long distance. We continued climbing until the trail opened up to a higher valley, where we were lucky enough to come across ancient petroglyphs, some sandy downhills we could absolutely ‘send it’ down, and uphills to put our pole technique to practice and also just goof around! 

 


The Salomon Running crew surprised us for an adventure to Mill Canyon Creek and natural pools for a lunch picnic and much-needed cooldown. A few of us were feeling adventurous and decided to climb above the pools to jump down from the top of the waterfall. After I saw a few other people do it, I had to try it for myself. It was one of those days where each moment you entirely present in, and any stress induced by the past or future temporarily disappears. I really savor days and moments like this. There was a lot of laughter, smiles, and curiosity from the whole group, adventuring and enjoying the environment around Moab.

 

Photography by Jamil Coury

The evening got even funnier when Max King stitched me up, ordering ‘Rocky Mountain Oysters’ and tricking me into thinking they were freshwater oysters from right out of the Colorado River. Oh how I was wrong, and I found out the hard way by taking a bite, thinking they were ‘fried’ somehow, American style. Rocky Mountain Oysters are a ‘delicacy of the west’, and in fact, are not at all a type of seafood!! If you’re not sure what I’m harping on about, give it a google. Soon the classic Aussie term, ‘stitch up’, had caught on around the camp- I loved it! 

 

Day 3

Photography by Jamil Coury

Day 3 a few of us got up extra bright and early for a morning run at Porcupine Trail, however I decided to use the time to capture some reel content in a great location, on uncrowded trails, and fit in a bit of rock scrambling too! Digital Marketing and Content Creation in the adventure sports world has always been a bit of a side hobby – if I’m not doing the sport or working in the field, I love to get out there and make content. 

The weather today was a lot cooler, with short bursts of rain which is very unique for Moab. However, this was very much needed for the abnormally dry season many parts of the US are experiencing. The small group returned and sang praises for The Porcupine loop, which I hope to run the entirety of next time I get the chance to visit Moab. 

 

Checking Pole Form Technique –Photography by Jamil Coury

Today’s run was focused on downhill technique and slick rock running. We ran through some lower wetland areas up the trail which climbed slightly higher above the Colorado River. The trail hugged the river for almost its entirety, and we were guided to a fun technical downhill to practice bombing down. We all took a few turns running down the trail section as fast as we could, cheering and egging each other on to push it that little bit faster. The rain and wind made it a little bit more fun, to be honest. We were able to run this trail a little faster today, as the terrain was more forgiving and the slick rock allowed for a more sturdy and reliable foot landing. The S/Slab Sense 8 shoes performed extremely well on this terrain, even on the now muddier downhill sections, which were much sturdier on the way out!

 

Photography by Jamil Coury

A little cold but extremely stoked, we all jumped in the vans and headed back to Red Cliffs to dry off and have some lunch before the afternoon’s activities. We were lucky to meet the selected group of 8 ultra-long distance runners who were attending the camp for the next four days, and spend some time getting to know each other and of course, talking about running and adventures. 

 

Photo by Jeffrey Stern

We paired up and headed out to Arches National Park to create some content. Jamil provided each team with a Gimbal, which has a Gyroscope to stabilize the phone camera whilst you’re on the move. I met the lovely Allison, and we had a blast exploring the rims, cliffs, and rock formations whilst filming the content. That evening we had a movie night and watched everyone’s final product. It was really interesting to see what everyone creates when they are handed a device to aid and express their creativity when given no strict guidelines. We were allowed to let loose in nature and come up with whatever we liked. Definitely a fantastic idea and activity, and a great way to get to know some new faces. 

 

Photography by Jamil Coury

 

The Salomon team let us know that we would have the opportunity to run a time trial the next day, of around 10.5 miles (1 loop) for the shorter-distance crew and 21 ish miles for the long-distance crew (2 loops). In honesty, personally, I was quite nervous at the idea of running this hard as I had been on a running break for a while due to some medical issues, and recently resumed some mileage in time for the camp. However, after some pep talks by the lovely Salomon team (thank you Courtney!) and my camp teammates, I decided to just give it my best shot, and not put pressure on myself to hold a certain pace. To run it, to take it in, to appreciate the opportunity in front of me – that was the plan. 

We all went to bed in high spirits and keen to play and run fast on the trails of Moab in the morning for one last hit-out. 

 

Day 4

Ready to roll, we drove to the start of the course, recce’d and marked out by Courtney and Olivia the day before. The banter and good vibes filled the atmosphere, and I knew it was going to be an excellent morning. Despite a few days of lots of climbing and mileage (for some!), we all still had energy, because energy is contagious – I’m sure of it.

Photography by Jamil Coury

I loved the opportunity to run this loop with Bonnie, we chatted all about life, navigated the single track, the rocky technical sections, the slick rock, and the small amounts of climbing to push each other through the course. There were some amazing runs by the team, especially some of the paces held over technical trails and distances. I felt motivated to improve my own running technique, and aspire to be as humble and approachable as many of these high-level athletes no matter where life takes me. 

 

Photography by Jamil Coury

The post-time trial laughter was high, with a few sneaky beers, gummy bears, random dancing, and jokes, all at 9am in morning. Ah, the life of adventure athletes! 

It was a very high note to end the camp on.

Photography by Jamil Coury

The Salomon Running Academy is an opportunity I will never forget. After a very testing 1.5 years since Covid came into this world, the opportunity to attend made many of the harder memories be replaced by a focus on getting fit, healthy and prepared to attend the camp. Soon the harder memories were replaced by wonderful memories of running through Moab with an amazing and supportive group of people from all walks of life. It is one of those experiences that you wish you could relive again and again. However, the great thing about life is there is always time for another adventure, to which you can feel the same exhilaration and that, ‘this is really living’ feeling. 

Until the next adventure. Thank you everyone for making The Salomon Ultra Running Academy an experience of a lifetime. 

Coffee For Runners

Coffee for runners

Image: Pro Image Photography, Idaho

Coffee For Runners: The Benefits of Caffeine for Athletes

If you participate in sports competitions regularly, it’s likely you would’ve heard athletes discuss the use of caffeine for performance-enhancing benefits. Just walk down a busy street with coffee shops near popular running or biking trails on a weekend morning, and you’ll often find cycling or run groups having a brew. Coming from Australia, coffee is a big deal. In Melbourne and Sydney in particular, Coffee is an art. You could spend a whole day exploring different coffee roasters and the varied eclectic atmosphere they create for you to sit and enjoy your brew. I’ve enjoyed exploring coffee shops in my new city, Boise.

Caffeine For Runners: Is Caffeine good for runners?

Caffeine is often recommended for runners as it can have a slight performance-enhancing effect if the individual times their ingestion correctly to their race/event start time and correctly for the duration or distance of the race. Caffeine can cause an upset stomach, better known as G.I distress for runners if the athlete is not used to coffee when training. However, if the individual is able to take on board coffee, their awareness, alertness, the focus can increase and their perception of effort may be decreased. What’s not to love about that? I’m personally a big fan of coffee before racing.

Here’s an even niftier trick you can consider which I came up with whilst out on a  long run one Sunday morning. I practice this regularly to get the optimum race-day advantage. As a regular coffee drinker, many would agree that we become slightly immune to the effects of coffee over time. Considering this, I only drink decaffeinated coffee and tea, or no coffee at all, up to 5 days before a race. Whether it is a placebo effect or not, I can’t be sure, but I know I definitely feel the effects of the caffeine when I drink coffee on race day after no coffee for a few days (a temporary coffee fast, you could call it). On the day of the race, if it is an early start time, I take on board 2 shots, and if it is in the evening, up to 3. I’m buzzing and ready to go!

The only drawbacks of using caffeine is the risk of GI distress, the need to urinate and potential jitters. Getting the jitters isn’t such a big issue for distance runners, as our sport doesn’t require us to be still to execute a good performance (unlike an archer, or 100m sprinter on the start-blocks, for instance). To avoid GI distress, we train the stomach in practice to be able to handle varying amounts of caffeine, well before race day.

Should I drink Caffeine before a run?

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For many runners in particular, including myself, coffee is a big part of my morning routine before training or races. One study evidently highlighted that more than two-thirds of Olympians use caffeine as a pre-workout supplement.  In the hotter months, particularly when temperatures can hit 45 degrees C or 100+ Fahrenheit here in Boise, I’ll reach for the cold brew pre-run. In winter when it is significantly cooler, it’s a double shot latte or Americano. Investing in a coffee machine is your best bet for convenience and financially, especially if you’re a student or student-athlete.

 

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Image: Pro Image Photography, Idaho

I love how my morning cup of coffee increases my alertness and awareness. Most of the time I find myself running in the mornings within 30-1hr after hopping out of bed (especially in the summer). I’ll pair my coffee with a small snack to help with the digestion of the coffee and satiate my hunger during the training session. A pre-run snack that pairs well with coffee is normally a bowl of cereal with non-dairy milk or toast with jam/honey or nut butter. 

If you’re an individual who believes they can’t eat before or close to a run, I urge you to train yourself to be able to take on board something, including a coffee. Training is time to practice for race day – you can survive a few uncomfortable running sessions in the short term, to invest in optimal long term nutrition.

Does Drinking Coffee make you run faster?

There’s evidence to support the benefits of caffeine in endurance-based sports. Most caffeine supplements are 2-3 shots dense (80-120 milligrams), as this is believed to be the best amount to consume to improve performance. Many online sources discuss using 5mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. With 1 cup of coffee containing around 95-120 mg of caffeine, you may have to have a double shot or two cups to get the full effects. 

Coffee works to improve your performance in a few ways. Most notably, it can reduce your perceived levels of exertion during difficult endurance activities, including running.

When should I drink coffee before a race?

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Image: Pro Image Photography, Idaho

Caffeine has a pretty short-acting effect, so from personal experience, I like to have 1 shot an hour out from the race, and another shot 30 minutes before. I take these in caffeine strips such as Revvies (https://www.revviesenergy.com/) in which each strip is equivalent to one shot of coffee. This reduces any chance of stomach upset which might be experienced if a coffee, particularly one with dairy milk, is ingested too close to the gun time. I’ll have 1 strip 30 minutes before the race, and 1 just before I line up for the race if I’m using Revvies. 

The stomach can also be trained to take caffeine on board close to a race. I can have a black coffee with a dash of milk up to 45 minutes before an event, as long as I ensure I get to the bathroom before the start, this is no issue for me. I’m firing and ready to run fast!

The best way to practice caffeine intake and experiment with supplements is during training phases/periods. You can afford to make mistakes during these times – this is why it is called practice! Mastering your nutrition needs as an athlete doesn’t happen without trial and error. 

Best Caffeine Supplements for Runners

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For a great, convenient pre-race option (especially for Aussie based athletes, as this brand is AUS based), I use Revvies Energy Strips. They are super simple to take, simply place a strip on your tongue and allow it to dissolve. It and can be taken during a run, and right up until the start of a race. Talk about convenience! If you’re sensitive to caffeine, 1 strip is generally enough, however, if you’re a regular drinker, 2 strips are better. Revvies don’t recommend consuming more than 5 strips a day. They have 2 flavors – Arctic Charge and Tropical Hit. I personally like Arctic Charge best as it reminds me of a piece of mint gum. 

Run Gum is a popular worldwide caffeine supplement used by athletes. Unlike Revvies, Run Gum is exactly what it says it is…a gum. You chew it for 5-10 minutes to effectively absorb the caffeine, b-vitamins, and taurine ingredients in the gum. Run Gum states that this immediately boosts alertness and energy, without causing stomach upset. 

In terms of general caffeine supplements, I really like Tailwind. They pride themselves on natural, organic supplements that are anti-doping approved (remember to always check your supplements on GlobalDro – this is the responsibility of the athlete).  For a recovery based option containing caffeine, I have used their ‘Caffeinated Coffee Rebuild’. This is great for post-session when you need a kick-start to your day. It helps to replenish depleted glycogen stores, rebuild muscles, and restore electrolytes to your body. I like to blend my sachets into a smoothie to go on my way to work, class, or morning errands. This sachet is made with organic rice protein, healthy fats from coconut milk, and a few carbohydrates added for recovery purposes (3:1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates within 30minutes of exercise is the optimal timing for recovery according to Accredited Sports Dieticians). Get yours here. 

Caffeine Gels For Running

 

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Image: Pro Image Photography, Idaho

Gels containing caffeine are a great way to consume more caffeine on top of your normal cuppa pre-run or top up your caffeine stores whilst you’re out running, biking, swimming etc. 

From personal experience, I would practice in training and sessions using different brands of caffeinated running gels to ensure you don’t have a stomach upset on race day, and train the body to digest it effectively. This is because the rate of caffeine absorption and the effects vary from person to person. Maurten, a reputable sports nutrition company state that this varies based on weight and how used to caffeine the individual is. 

Maurten is an extremely popular brand, with Eluid Kipchoge to thank for a large amount of promotion when he used the brand to fuel his victory in the 2018 Berlin Marathon. They recently released a gel known as GEL100 CAF, containing 100mg of caffeine per serving, and 25g of carbohydrates for some extra fuel whilst you’re on the run. The great thing about this caffeinated hydrogel is it is preservative, artificial flavor and colorant free. All these nasty additives can cause stomach upsets which are unwelcome come race day.  Get a box of 100 servings here. 

 

Best Ultramarathon Shoes

 best ultramarathon shoes

Best Ultramarathon Shoes

 

When you think ultramarathon, what often comes to mind is crazy long distances, rugged terrain, ascents and descents (elevation gain, maybe?), varied weather, aid stations, camaraderie, and a massive sense of accomplishment. An ultramarathon shoe is a tool and a very important one at that, that must be tried and tested in training so the runner can rely on it on race day. It has to endure the weather, terrain, and distances. Trail-running is a sport is becoming increasingly popular (especially in light of recent world events), so I thought this may be a good post to explore as the running community expands. In no particular order, I’ve looked at a few popular long-distance, ultra-marathon running specific footwear (trail ultras) – the tech, the fit, and the cost-point. 

Consider what terrain you’ll be spending a significant amount of time on, the distance covered, and potential weather conditions. Why? Because you’ll need to consider the sole and materials of the shoe, so they best suit the conditions. Personally, I like a shoe that works well in mud, on rocks and sandstone escarpments (where I run in Australia has a ton of this) and sand. I also like a sole where I don’t feel sharper surfaces or rocks putting pressure on the bottom of my feet and metatarsals. 

 

Shoe 1: Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

bestultramarathonshoes

In the trail and ultra community, this is a well-loved shoe. Having taken a pair for a spin myself, I really enjoyed how it felt like a true ‘race’ trail shoe. Lightweight, well-cushioned, and responsive. The sole isn’t overly aggressive either, so you can run a variety of trail terrain in them. However, the mid-sole of the shoe is particularly thick, so if you like that close to ground contact, and to really feel the heel-to-toe push off, this may not be the shoe for you. After all, Hoka are known for their cushioned shoes, with the rocker feature. If you know your trail shoes, you shouldn’t be surprised about this! The sole is Vibram, with excellent traction/grip- so it does work well on the trails. 

The stability is more on the neutral side, as to be expected from a trail shoe. This allows for better traction and responsiveness on uneven ground and reduces the risk of a dreaded sprained ankle. One thing I did notice about this shoe, is it is better suited for a narrow foot, such as my own. I struggled to find a trail shoe that fits as well as the Speedgoat did. It does fit true to size and width, from the description. 

This shoe has a heel drop of 4mm and weighs around 9.2 ounces for women, 10.8 for men.

 It prices around $145.

Shoe 2: Salomon S Lab Ultra 2

bestultramarathonshoes 1

This is also a highly-discussed and popular shoe in the trail-running world. Salomon promotes this as their ultramarathon specific shoe. Being the 2nd generation model, Salomon has had some time to up the game on the technical features. According to their website, they have improved the weight of the shoe, the durability and kept all the comfort features onboard. The shoe, in essence, retains its speedy trail race purpose. Salomon is known for making shoes that are durable and can deal with almost all terrain. Mud, snow, sand, tree-roots, wood-chips – you name it. The midsole is made of long-lasting polyurethane foam, which Salomon describes as ideal for ultra-running. Their outsole is made of what they term their ‘premium Wet Traction Contragrip’. Since it is a trail-racing designed shoe, I have read from reviews that it generally doesn’t last as long as others, especially if it has been put through the trials of an ultramarathon, or training for one.

This shoe weighs in at 285g (men), and an 8mm heel drop. It prices at $180, however, Salomon is offering it for $135 currently.

 

Shoe 3: Saucony Peregrine 10 

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Saucony promotes this as one of their best trail-running shoes, perfect for uneven and varied terrain, climbing, and descending. It is a neutral shoe, as per most trail running shoes, and is cushioned so they have comfort but still retain that responsive edge. This shoe is great for rocky terrain. Saucony has integrated a rock plate into the sole of the shoe, so you’ll be right on sharper stone surfaces. Further, the outsole has been made to work well in tough conditions that promote wear and tear. Some reviews have said the shoe is quite flexible and therefore is very responsive. Make sure to break this shoe in before you use it for longer runs, including an ultramarathon. 

This shoe weighs 10.7 ounces for men (303g) and 9.3oz for women (264g), and has a 4mm heel-to-toe drop. It currently retails for $120 as per Saucony’s website.

 

Shoe 4: Salomon Sense Ride 2

bestultramarathonshoes 2

Different from the S Lab Ultra discussed above, this shoe is perfect for both training and racing and works well on most terrain. This is the perfect shoe if you’re new to ultramarathon training and don’t want to invest in a specific racing shoe just yet. Salomon discusses their technologies for each part of the shoe. The outsole is what they label, ‘Contagrip MA’, which is a sole that is composed of different compounds of varied densities. In utilizing this material, different parts of the sole of the shoe can be harder or softer, as required for the style of shoe Salomon are designing. This ensures that the shoe will likely last longer on varied surfaces. Where the shoe is more likely to wear down (the edge of the heel, as an example), the compound will be higher density and more rigid as a result. The Midsole of the shoe uses ‘Vibe’ technology (it is written on the side of the shoe) – to which Salomon explains “attenuates vibrations” to optimize shoe responsiveness in contact with the ground. To put it more simply, the shoe is designed to absorb shock and adapt appropriately for the comfort of the wearer. The Chassis (the framework or membrane of the shoe to put it in other words, i.e, the insole board or structure), is designed to prevent feeling rocks or sharp surfaces on foot.

 

I do like how they used a quick-lace system for this shoe. It makes life a little easier. If you’re not a fan of this, you could buy laces to lace the shoe normally. I also like the rigid toe box so if you hit large rocks with the front of your foot, or trip up, you don’t get a nasty bloody toenail as a result. This is a big must for me when buying a durable trail shoe. 

The Sense Ride 2 has an 8mm heel drop, and weighs This shoe won’t break the bank, at $84, down from $120 as per Salomon’s website.

 

Shoe 5: Asics Gel-Fujitrabuco 8

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I have personally used these shoes and really enjoyed them. My feet feel supported for a trail shoe, and I don’t feel the rocks underfoot. For me, this is a big bother if the trail has a lot of stones and I know I’ll be out there for a while. The shoe has a rock protection plate in it, which is great. Asics praise this trail-running shoe for its comfort and durability, alongside excellent traction on the sole. I can confirm that the sole grip on this shoe is great, I’ve tested it out in some pretty muddy conditions, such as Boise’s wet, muddy foothills sand. It makes for a whole lot nicer of a run. 

In terms of shoe tech, Asics claim that their ASICSGRIP outsole has bettered the traction on the shoe for wet and slippery surfaces, and uneven terrain. Stability is also an important factor for those who require or desire a bit more support, especially over the ultra-distance. Asics explains that they have improved this on the latest model of the Fujitrabuco, compared to the 7. The shoes also have reflectors on them, great for racing or running at night (in which most ultra’s you will be!)

One thing I did notice was the shoe isn’t too heavy, even though it looks it from the photos online. I was quite surprised when it arrived and felt how light it was compared to my expectations. It weighs around 12.2oz or 346grams, with an 8mm heel drop. These shoes won’t hurt the wallet too much, coming in at around $130. 

What shoes do ultra-marathon runners wear?

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Ultramarathoners wear shoes that are going to last a few tough training sessions, race day, and perform optimally on trails which vary in terrain, incline and can last in unpredictable weather conditions. There isn’t one specific shoe that is going to work better than another as it isn’t one-size-fits-all. Also, most people are looking to spend within a range to suit their budget. I recommend trying shoes on in-store if this is possible, or ordering a few pairs and returning the ones that aren’t suitable. Most places allow for this, especially in these times. Otherwise, read up as much as you can on shoes, and get the advice of teammates, friends, or family in the sport (this is where this post can help out as well!) You’ll assist yourself on the path to achieving your best and being the best ultramarathon runner you can be in a pair of shoes which you feel the best in and are right for your foot type. Which leads perfectly into the next question….

 

What are the best shoes for running ultramarathons?

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Any one of the shoes discussed above may be right for you and your goals, training load, foot type, and injury history (if any, hopefully not too much). There are a few more brands that I didn’t discuss which do good ultramarathon running shoes. Here are some you can check out:

  • Altra
  • Innov
  • Merrel 
  • Nike Trail Running collection (Did you know they have a Nike Pegasus Trail? I love to jog in my Peg 36’s, and it was cool to learn there’s a trail shoe version of this model) I also hear the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 6 isn’t a bad choice either)

As I always stress, take into account your foot type. For example, I have narrow feet, one foot is half a size bigger, and I pronate slightly more. So I’m going to look for a shoe that is slim fitting, doesn’t irritate the heel or Achilles of my bigger foot, and has slightly more stability or a stability piece integrated into the model of the shoe. Most ultramarathon shoes are neutral in design, as this is best for varied terrain and prevention of ankle sprains. The shoe is more flexible and your foot can adapt to the changes in terrain easier with this type of fit.

It’s also important to consider cushioning and heel-to-toe drop, as the higher the shoe is off the ground, the more likely you are to sprain an ankle. For me, this is a no-go, particularly when fatigue hits, and my step or stride is prone to becoming more clumsy in a race or session. 

 

What shoes do elite ultramarathoners train in?

The best wear the shoes they feel most comfortable and confident in. They definitely trial and test their shoes before race day, whether it’s in speed specific, race-specific or base-building training sessions. Know the shoe and how it works. I know of elite ultramarathoners who swear by Salomon and others who love Saucony. It really is about personal preference. Often companies that align better with the outdoors scene, trail running specifically and are known for durable, reliable gear, will draw in the ultramarathon crowd on a larger scale. 

 Keep in mind, most elites have a sponsorship of some sort, so it is likely they’ll be sporting a specific model of their sponsorship line of shoes. They’ll probably promote them too, on social media and on race day. Also, to end on a nice note, I saw plenty of these beautiful wildflowers which have just started to bloom on the trails today. What a beautiful time of year to be clocking in mileage….

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