It’s still (just about) summer, but with the recent rain off-road running has already become a bit soggy – cross-country races will be here before we know it.
I received my pair of adizero xt boost trainers about a week ago, and thought it would be a while before I took them out for their first run. However, a few days ago, when I ran my loop around the fields behind my house I was surprised how wet and muddy the lower part of the closest field had become. Dog walkers were wearing their wellies – always a sign that the ground underfoot is changing.
So today I knew, even though it was warm, muggy and 23 degrees, that there would be mud waiting for me so I decided to give the xt boosts a try. Needing to work on a bit of speed, which I’ve really neglected over the summer, I decided to do my 10 x 1minute reps around the field rather than on pavements because I just couldn’t face running on the road! Tarmac exhaustion.
I knew this session would be tougher on the field, as I’m running along grassy edges, through a lot of mud and puddles, some areas of more compact mud where the sun bakes the ground and a few kinder stretches that are almost trails. It’s quite a rutted route around the field though, and there are a few little inclines – all perfect for blowing out some speed and doing a hard session when you are short of time.
The xt boosts felt comfy when I put them on and they definitely didn’t feel too heavy, which some trail shoes can. They also didn’t feel rigid around the cuffs – another feature that I don’t like in some trail shoes (especially when they’ve been caked in mud a few times and start to resemble the texture of wood). Unlike traditional trail shoes, the fabric of the high-cut collar flows from the shoe up your ankle, rather than stopping with a rounded top. They were much more comfortable in this aspect than I expected.
I have small, narrow feet; size 4 in normal shoes. I usually go up one size for trainers, but with adidas I go up 1.5 sizes as they always come up a bit small. I thought the laces for the shoes were a bit too long, as even doubled up they were still flapping around my feet and swinging up and catching the skin on my ankles. Obviously I have small feet so had to pull the laces tight, but I think even someone with much wider size 5-5.5 feet would find this too. The fabric around the laces was quite bunched – this wasn’t a fault; as I said, I have narrow tiny feet and am used to this on most of my trainers.
I’d had a sneak preview of the shoes during the London Marathon expo week back in April, when I was invited to view the adidas autumn/winter collection and I was really impressed with the look and the advancement in technology they offer. When I first took the trainers out of their box I was again impressed with the design and I love the high-cut collar they give you. Acting like an in-built gaiter, this keeps out dust, sand, mud, stones, or other debris – which really annoys me when it somehow finds its way into your trainers then rubs causing irritation. The collar also provides extra support for your ankle, so crucial in off-road running where the terrain constantly changes. I also realised after my first run that it helps wick away sweat, which I seem to produce a lot of, even – bizarrely – around my ankles! I’m sure this will be beneficial in the really colder, harsher weather when your feet are freezing as you run.
The shoes are easy to put on (the collar is very stretchy) and they felt snug. There was no rubbing from the cuffs of the trainers, which I think is another distraction we can all do without.
My run went through plenty of mud, puddles, grassy banks and a little bit of a drier pathway, and there was no slippage as I hit the wet ground underneath. When I ran a few days ago in normal trainers around the field my feet were soaked after the first lap, though I think the higher midsole lifted my feet up a bit so I didn’t notice them feeling wet as I ran.
These shoes have a boost midsole, which helps to transfer your energy back up to you through your legs, and I felt as if I was zipping along nicely in them. The fact they are so light also helps with this. They felt flexible underfoot, as well as stable. I’ve had a knee injury on and off for a few years, which meant I cautiously avoided most cross-country races last winter due to worrying that the terrain would cause the injury to flare up. However this year I’ve done a lot more strength and conditioning exercises on my left side to strengthen my glutes, thanks to doing six sessions at Southampton Running School earlier in the summer, so I’m ready to give cross-country races a go this season. I don’t want to feel my fit are slipping away as I hit wet conditions underfoot, as I think this constantly jolts and aggravates your knees, and I felt today that my ankles and knees felt stable in this shoe. The true test will be a few months down the line when conditions are a lot worse than they are now.
You also get a really rugged outsole which I think makes you feel you are getting protection from harder knocks, such as when your feet hit against a larger rock. This is especially noticeable around the toes. I also thought the Continental Rubber lugs were strong and effective. You get four biting surfaces for both lateral and linear traction.
Your feet are going to get wet once you are running in the rain, as there’s a mesh upper – but if you are worried about this you wouldn’t be running on the trails or in cross-country races. Also, I know the shoes will soon be caked and covered in mud, but I would really like to see more colour in them, so that they look distinctively like women’s trail shoes rather than unisex.
As far as the session I did, I managed 9 x 1 minute reps off a 75 second recovery; after five I was ready to give up! Running off-road stretches you so much more than on paths – I find this session easy and a bit boring when I do it on the road, and only give myself 60 seconds to recover. I tried to focus on keeping my chin level, with my arms pumping, especially during the inclines (another gem I’ve learnt from the Running School). As soon as I get tired my arms begin to pump across my body instead of forward, so if you decide to do a session like this make sure you are looking forward about five metres and pump your arms (held at a 90 degree angle) to help propel you forwards as you tire. And you will tire quickly!
I haven’t done as much running as I hoped to over the school summer holidays, so am not as fit or as fast as I would like to be. So, if you’re feeling like me it’s also worth taking each rep at a time. After five intervals I didn’t think I would make it to eight, but I just put in the effort, and said one more each time. I was surprised I did the ninth, and happy – I didn’t go for the 10th as I was feeling really tired and weak by that time. As I mature into my running I’ve come to realize it’s not always worth doing the whole number, if you are slowing down dramatically. I would rather do eight or nine reasonable efforts then stop, then carry on to the bitter end and do a slow effort. I think really struggling on when you know the speed has gone really negatively impacts on me after the session – I always feel better about myself when I’ve said ‘That’s enough!’
It’s been hard to fit in much training over the summer, and I didn’t think I would make it out for a run today, so I was chuffed to get round the field, with some speed thrown in, and it helped me get through this afternoon. Doing one thing for you every day is so valuable, whether it’s for fitness or mental health. I am really looking forward to running in the mud this winter – if you would like to give it a try I’ve written a feature on giving cross-country a go in the November issue of Women’s Running mag, which will be on sale 26th September. There are some top tips from Liz Yelling in it too! I’m sure all cross-country runners are slightly madder than normal runners!
Has anyone else tried the adizeros yet? Who else is looking forward to the cross-country season?
Warning: take care if you are doing efforts off-road. There’s a risk you may get seriously faster