Sunday, 21 October 2012

Am I a natural runner or do I run naturally?

Am I a natural runner? Do I run naturally?

This is a question I have just started to ask myself as a part of a journey I have been taking for the last four months.
Perhaps with luck I had been running in a variety of the 8mm drop Saucony’s for the last 4 years. In the last 12 months I had been in the ‘minimalist’ Brooks Green Silence and the 4mm Saucony Kinvaras. I saw it as luck as I had commenced becoming a runner with fairly minimal shoe support and gait correction.

In June I decided to ‘take the next step’ and try to work out why I was having heel issues and trouble with my calves and hips when I upped the kms in my weekly running.  I had a gait analysis done by the terrific crew down at Active Feet in Bayswater. Apparently I ran with a ‘midfoot to rear’ strike and slight over pronation. I was to be sold the Asics DS Race 9 to help correct my problems. So after trawling the net to find the best deal on these, no – one will ship to Australia at the price I wanted,  I decided to pop in to Runners World on High St in Kew. Neil there was fantastic. We had a chat, I told him my history and I was steered clear of the Asics. I was sold on some New Balance 890 v.2 These were a lightweight, minimal shoe similar to my Sauconys, but the foam padding was vastly different to what I was used to and after 9 or so km in each run I began to get sore feet – fore and mid sections.

This was the tipping point – do let the shoes correct me and forever rely on technology or do I learn how to really run and work through this the right way?
What was going on? 

I then put my mind to some research and though about that gait assessment. The shoe comparer bought Inov-8 to my attention. I did some reading on various blogs about these (Thanks Stan!) and my running form. After some barefoot sessions in the gym with Leigh from I was shown how I ran very narrow, almost landing on a straight line down the basketball court. I had quite good form but needed to keep the natural width between my knees as I run. With a few tweaks Leigh had me running better already. My mantra was now ‘drive the knees up and straight, light feet, knees up and forward, light feet’. I had tried the inov-8s at Runners World so I took a punt through In the meantime I spent the next few weeks completely cutting down the kms and focusing purely on finding that good form. I must admit, it became almost an obsession but I really enjoyed the running again. I started to feel better and the hips and feet were thanking me. A week later and the 233s arrived. These babies’s had even less cushioning than what I was used to, but all the light feet practice had paid off. I was taking the first real step towards that natural running form.

After a month I was ready for my 15km DE Castella run. This was the unknown. I was just going to run the run, focusing on my form and gait and see what happened. I went out with the leaders, thinking ‘cadence, knees forward and up, light feet’. This worked well and I soon settled into about the top 50, with a consistent effort but not going for broke either. As the rolling hills wore on people beside me began to drop and I kept on with my mantra. Fast forward to the finish line and I set a new PB over the recorded 10km and the race in 1:07:13 – Happy days! I finished 25 in my division and 45 overall!

With this little personal victory I hit the training track a little harder and began to push the pace on my training runs that little more. Soon I was a constant 4:27 km man.  3 weeks into the journey and I was ready for the next phase, the 3mm Inov-8 X-lite 155s. Reading Stan’s blog again and many other reviews on the web I had the confidence in myself and the shoes. I could do no wrong.  A week later and after a few 2 x 3km trial runs I did my first real 10km in them. They felt great, but I had a few niggles in the calves.
I continued the longer training runs, but was very form focused again and was consistently making little tweaks to my stride and landing. A couple of weeks in, and some alternating between the shoes and I was running stronger and the calves were much more relaxed. Possibly a lot of stretching each night also helped this process.

The moment of crystallisation came on a beach run. I wasn’t up for the distance but over analysed my footprints. I tried a few different gaits and found what felt best. Looking back at my prints and I was landing perfectly on the fore/mid foot area. I took a risk and flew back along the beach and then ran the last 500m along the road barefoot. Whooping and hollering quietly to myself I ran all the way back, no thumping of the feet or jarring of the legs, just a great feeling. The following day I cracked a 51 minute 12km, my best time ever over a flat course.

At this point I decided to enter the Two Bays Trail Run – 29km over trail and varied terrain. Much as I love the road series, they were not going to be doing this run with me. It was time for some trail shoes. Again I turned to Inov-8, why move from a good thing? I wanted to get the Trailroc 245 to continue with the 3mm drop to match the road shoes, but when Wiggle had 25% off ‘in stock only’ and there were no 245s, I took the gamble on the 235s – zero drop, ala natural running form.

They arrived and the first run was a fast and ferocious bash through the bush and along the trail. They felt great, I felt fast and free. I had to think about what I was doing with my knees and feet (knees forward and straight, light landing) again but I arrived home with muddy shoes and happy legs. The following morning was 3km asphalt run around the block near work and again I pulled up feeling great. I had a slight calf niggle along the way but minor adjustments fixed that. To finish I hit the tready and did 3 x 500m with 30sec rest. Again, wonderful (but I’m not as keen on the tready now!).

Finally, on Saturday I did almost 6km over rolling hills (including a 1.5km stretch up a 6 degree incline, and then quite quickly back down it!) over a mix of pavement onto trail in the zero drop Trailroc 235 and enjoyed the whole run. I could ascend and descend hills with ease and my feet felt great and my calves felt just as good as before I left. Even as I sit here now, the legs have no pain.

The hip trouble I had is gone and I’m enjoying it again. So my question is, am I a natural runner or have I learnt to run natural? 

When can I classify myself as a barefoot runner?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on just how much attention you pay to your form when running. Has it helped your love of running?
Cheers and happy feet, Lachie 

The Update!!! 6 December 2012

Well it's now been 2 months since this post and 5 months of Natural Running. 
I've since done over 90km in training including 2 x 10km races in my 'barefoot/natural/zero drop' 235 trailrocs. When I put them on I feel ready to fly. Running feels effortless.

I have run up to 20km in them with out foot pain or calf/Achilles problems that people warn about and I really enjoy the sensation of being able to feel the ground and be in-control of my running. I still need to work on my leg strength, as I do notice that my quads get much heavier when running with this drop. It's something I've not felt as much with the 155s that are off a 3mm drop. 

I'm now waiting for  my 155s to wear out so I can go out and purchase some of the bare x - zero drop road range sold by inov-8. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The best running shoe review - Inov-8 Trailroc 235 review


A Shoe review: Inov-8 Trailroc 235 review

So these first reviews might take some tweaking, but hopefully they can guide some people in the right direction as to whats out there...

These shoes, I love! But, if your now considering the Inov-8 Trailroc 150s -I seriously think you can't go to wrong. You will need to have developed your natural running and be comfortable in the 'barefoot' range to truly maximize their performance. That shoe is uber light and felxible and has the same insane levels of grip provided by the trailroc 235. For now though I have racked up over 400km in my 235s and continue to love every run in them.

All the techinical details are here at the adventuremegastore:  It's not my domain so I'll leave it to the experts. 

I can say the Inov-8 Trailroc 235 is a zero drop, minimalist trail shoe. It's promoted as being fast... I have done some barefoot running in the gym and over a few hundred meters along the streets while working on my gait and technique, so I had been quite keen to see if I could really do it. 

To be honest, as this shoe is not yet available in Australia (As of Feb 2013 it now is!), I um and ahhed about it. I wanted the Inov-8 Trailroc 245 (Which would match the 1 arrow 155s that I have, hit the link to a great retailer to find out more) but when these came up on sale I had to hit the button. 

A big thanks to the very patient team at for all their patience in answering my questions. The advice was spot on. Without them I would not have made the purchase.

My questions were: 

How does it fit compared to the Inov-8 Road - X 233? ( a link to my review of a great shoe) What is the grip really like? How will I go transitioning to a zero drop shoe?

The answers may appear below.

First up, the shoe is better looking in the flesh. I can't say what it is, it's just a better colour than what is pictured. 

The fit is more true to my Inov-8 Road X 233 - for me that is the better length. Width is an exact match to the inner sole of the 233 and X lite 155. All have the Inov-8 anatomical last which  allows for a wider toe spread (more room at the front!). 

On the trail they felt fast and furious. They have a tri-compound grip where the front, midfoot and rear sections of the shoes have different tread patterns according to how we use our feet. The front offers more grip for digging in and gripping the trail. I smashed out a quick 4km through the bush and on a fire access track. The traction up and down the ascent / descent was spot on and I could take on some crazier angles to avoid the huge puddles. My foot landed where I wanted it to and it stayed there!

When I did hit the puddles I had no hesitation in my stride - it was like they weren't there. So, the grip is awesome. 

My feet and calves also felt great. Me, I was knackered after going out so fast! It was a real blast getting them down and dirty straight out of the box. 

On the street today I did a rolling hill 2.6km in a personal best time (4:10 minute/km) - the 0 drop encouraged a quicker cadence and I was rewarded. They bigger lugs and tread did initially feel strange on the tarmac but this was forgotten by the end of my run. 

I have the 3mm (1 arrow) Inov-8 X-Lite 155s and the drop to the Trailroc 235 (0 zone) was barely noticeable. Hopefully this is because I have developed a natural/minimalist/barefoot stride. I am going to use these on the trail, on runs up to 7/8km in the next two weeks. I'll also use them for my tempo work, which is a 400m hill sprint with a walk to repeat. I aim to build up my feet and calves for the Lara 10km Fun Run on the 4th and then the Bush bashing 10km Marysville on the 11th of November.

An update...

As of February 2013 I've now put over 200+kms on these babies and I still love them. When I used them for the Lara and Marysville runs I felt like I could run forever. They were great on the gravel/crushed rock of Lara and exceptional on the downhill, off road sections in the Marysville run where I went flat out like a crazed jack rabbit. Both runs I ran a PB. In fact, they feel most at home either ascending or descending a bush/forest track. I've yet to feel like I've put a foot wrong and when I've gone close, these shoes have helped make me stick.

Stay Hydrated on the trails with UltrAspire - See the range at
Today I did a 12km hill climb on predominately road but with a 800m trail loop that dropped and rose 200m. You probably may have heard me laughing my head off in this section. I could run freely and not worry about grip or slipping. The only concern was the knee high grass and not knowing what the actual surface was like. 

Have they hurt my feet? No, I now feel as though I am a barefoot runner. Yes, I do have to be aware of my form but the subtle changes that I make whilst running make all the difference. When I wore them in the 28km Two Bays Trail Run in January I was able to tackle everything this epic run threw at me - trail, rock, sand, slippery wooden boardwalks. In-fact, their grip even saved me a few spills. Hit this link to find out more about the terrain we faced. 

I've joined the Dandy Runners, a group that runs the trails in Melbourne's Dandenong Ranges and in my runs through there I've not put a foot wrong. I've had to run up 20% inclines on clay, sand and rock and the tri-compound grip has been exceptional. Wherever I've asked them to take me, they've taken me there and beyond.

The shoes themselves have really held up. They are a lot dirtier now, but the stitching and tread is still as good as new. If this continues, I'll fall apart before they do...

For me, I highly recommend the Inov-8 Trailroc 235. It is the best running shoe I have. Now I want some of the bare-x for the road. I'm really looking forward to the next stage of running natural. If you like the sound of them, take this link here: Inov-8 Trailroc 235 

Cheers, Lachie

To get all your barefoot trail gear head to 

Use the fish followers code fish10 to get 10% discount on Inov-8 shoes and the rest of the range at barefootinc!

So who am I?


I'm Lachie and I'm the fish that can run. 

A bit about me...

I'm a runner by morning, teacher by day and the last part of the day I enjoy most as I get to be dad. 

I live in Melbourne, Australia

Just on 5 years ago I was at a bucks night and all the boys were talking gym routines. I sat back and thought, "I've done a bit of walking, but not a whole lot for the last ten years." Then it dawned on me, "there's the gym at school!" 

My first little angel had been born and I wanted to be that dad that could do stuff with the kids. 

So, with a short row, ride and run routine I gradually became a runner. Now I run two - three mornings a week and a few new event entries see me out on the streets and the trail on the weekend if I can. 

In 2011 I ran the Great Race - 13.3 kms against the legendary steam train, Puffing Billy and then the RunMelbourne Half. (1:41ish)

in 2012 I ran the 4 Bridges 5km in Geelong, the Mothers Day Classic 8km in Geelong and the RunMelbourne Half (1:36:23)

Since August 2012 I've veered down the natural/minimalist running trail and can really say that I'm running better and faster than ever before. 

So, what'll be on here? I'll be posting my training at times, race and event info - and results! I'll also post the odd review of my new gear as it arrives.

My current shoes (and loving them) are the Inov-8 Road X 233, X - Lite 155, Bare X-Lite 150 and the awesome Trailroc 235.

If all goes well, I may be able to meet a few readers for a weekend run in the Yarra Valley, up in the Dandenong Ranges or for an early morning training run in Kew. 

The Good Stuff...

For the remainder of 2013 I've got the Salomon Trail Series, I'm heading back to Marysville to try and crack a top three this year,

and the big one...

Jan 14th I'm tackling the Two Bays Trail run - 29 scenic but brutal kms

Well, I'll keep you posted

Cheers, Lachie