19Nov/120

Spira shoes – saving runners’ knees

Just recently, I met Andy Krafsur, the founder, CEO and inventor of Spira and it's Wavespring technologoy. Of course it didn't take very long for us to start jabbering away about running not in the least because it never takes long for Andy to show his colours. Literally. He came to a meeting about Job Creation we both were invited to participate in (with White House representatives) with a boatload of his running shoes in all colours and sizes. Andy is passionate - which is probably the understatement of this week.

Spira shoes came from the thought that it should be possible to run longer in more comfort then most of today's running shoes make possible. Many runners complain of joint trouble and so Andy started thinking it ought to be feasible to develop something that would make the landing of every stride a little smoother. And hey presto!, before too long, the Wavespring technology was born. In the shoe, a couple of small but extremely powerful springs take the hit on every step you take, lowering the impact and enabling a comfortable stride. This is, of course, against all the natural running principles I have been writing about lately so my interest was piqued instantly. For me -  natural running, or barefoot running (with or without the necessary shoes, defying the term) is so much in line with my own beliefs that life should be "natural" that it is hard to imagine veering away from that. But having been trying to run barefoot, or with the simplest shoe possible to offer some protection against sharp stones etc - my body still doesn't quite agree it is such a great idea. So when Andy suggested I try the shoes for myself, I told him I would be happy to give it a go. But - only on the one condition that I would write totally honestly about what I would find. I am not in the business of doing endorsements, I just want to share what I experience on my path to health and fitness.

The women's Odyssey shoe

So I set out in the hills of California to test these shoes. My very first run consisted of some interval training on a more or less flat terrain. That is, flat by California standards and probably hilly by Dutch ones. It was interesting - the shoe is comfortable to wear, fits well and I felt that my stride was fine. But I also had the feeling that I was not able to run my fast intervals as quickly as I normally do when I accelerate. It may be that the springs were absorbing some of the energy I was applying to my faster pace so instead of propelling me forward, the shoe was reducing that speed a little. I am talking about seconds, but still, significant if you are running purely for speed. I had hoped of course to find that the springs would propel forwards but I wasn't sure.

So next I took them on a steady run - nothing heavy, just easy running on tarmac. And this really did make a difference. It felt really comfortable, like sitting in an old comfy chair really - my legs were churning fine and my pace wasn't dissimilar to my usual pace in these kind of runs. A bit like running on a trail vs. running on tarmac, that little bit of softness on every landing. Plus - my knees felt really good at the end and so I was happy with the result.

I saved my most strenuous test for last, downhill running. And boy, those hills can be pretty tough on your joints! And here for me the Spira really hit its stride, so to speak. That is where the spring technology for me really came out. Instead of holding back my pace so that I wouldn't land too hard and jar all the bones in my legs, I could just let myself fly down those hills - gaining a lot of minutes potentially on a race that takes in some curves. And even after all that beating, my knees and ankles felt just fine.

In short, for me the Spira is a very comfortable training shoe that means you can train actively and consistently for any race - lowering the risk of injury over time. I personally will not do my intervals in them, because you have to feel the acceleration in your sprints and not feel you are losing speed. For race days, I would opt for the Spira any time I am running a race with downhills in them, but I would probably stick to my regular shoes for races on the flat having enjoyed the benefit of smooth and injury free training thanks to Wavespring and Andy Krafsur.

Two minor things for me: I thought the shoes could have gripped a little better on the downhill and secondly as a former triathlete I do like running barefoot in my shoes. The insides of the Spira however was rubbing too much for me to do that 😉

All in all - I would definitely recommend these shoes as part of your running wardrobe. Whether you are a new runner or an old pro - you will find that a place for them in your routine runs as well as potentially in your races. And circulating shoes is a principle that I would recommend to all of you anyway, so why not add these to the mix?

For more information about the technology and the shoes please check the site here

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