Alexandra Sports Biomechanical Assessment Review

Next month marks my one year ‘runiversary’ (sorry, I love making up words – that’s running anniversary if you hadn’t figured), yep that’s right I’ve been running for a whole year, can you believe it?

And whilst I’m not entirely sure I’ve improved that much, nor even whether I like it that much, one thing is certain…I’ve spent more money on running gear and trainers in the past year than I ever have, that’s commitment for you!

If you’ve read my article Does Having The Right Pair Of Running Trainers Really Make A Difference you’ll have seen that I now own a proper pair of running trainers that were prescribed to me after undergoing a biomechanical assessment at Alexandra Sports.

So I thought I’d talk you through the process and give you a bit of an insight into my own personal assessment in order for you to see just how useful having your running technique scrutinised can be.

First up it’s a sit down and a chat with one of the specialists to discuss what running I do, what terrain I run on, distance, any injuries, any races coming up etc. I’d say I’m a fairly bog standard leisure runner (my words not hers!) in that I might run the odd race, but mainly it’s me heading out two or three times a week, running between 5 and 10k on a mixture of surfaces and I have slightly dodgy knees, but nothing serious. Rather embarrassingly they also need to take a look at your existing pair of trainers to see if there are any areas of excessive wear, which can provide huge clues as to how you run. So out come my muddy, grotty Karrimor as I shamefully confess that I have been wearing these to run in for the past 9 months. Bless her, she didn’t even bat an eyelid and made me feel totally at ease, but I was proper cringing inside!

Then she needs to assess how my legs, knees, ankles and feet are aligned when I’m standing. Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m quite a wonky person; my head tilts, my shoulders aren’t aligned, I walk slightly inwards due to a hip misplacement and after many a session in front of my magnified mirror, I’m fairly certain one of my eyes is bigger than the other, so I was expecting to be told I’d need some hefty footwear to sort it out. But I was wrong, because it turns out that when I’m standing still, everything from my knee down is all as it should be; nicely aligned and with no obvious problems. OK, so basically I’m 3/4 wonky and the other 1/4 goes to pot when I start moving…hmmm not sure a pair of trainers is going to sort that out!

Anyway, it’s time to get on the running machine barefoot and have my running technique videoed and then diagnosed. The idea behind the video is that it can capture in slow motion every single movement the leg and foot makes as it goes through a running stride, as well as looking at what happens to the foot as it comes into contact with a surface. This can then be assessed by the specialist to see how much you pronate (the degree to which your foot naturally rolls when you run).

I haven’t run on a treadmill for a very long time and I’d forgotten how strange it feels, but that combined with the knowledge that I was being watched and knowing that my backside was being videoed (never a nice thought!) I must confess it wasn’t exactly the best feeling, nor no doubt the best looking, run I’ve ever done but as we all know…looks can be deceiving.

Because in fact, I was surprised to hear these words come out of the specialist’s mouth:

“That’s the best pair of feet I’ve seen all day”

Ummm, excuse me; did I just hear you correctly? You’re talking to me? Jeez all I could think after hearing that was that she must have seen some right old shockers that day if mine were being deemed the ‘best’!

The diagnosis was that yes I have a slight swing, which makes my feet turn inwards ever so slightly just as they strike the ground, but other than that I’m not doing too bad. This means I don’t need too much support from a trainer or any particular special features and it also means I’m going to have a lot more trainers to choose from – hooray!

With my socks back on it’s time to get my feet measured and I’m feeling like a kid being measured for their very first pair of Clarks school shoes. I have big feet (size 8) so when I was told that some brands of running shoes can come up small and it isn’t unheard of to need to go up one or even two sizes bigger, naturally I started to freak out about looking like a clown.

However, I soon forgot about this when I saw her heading over with a tower of shoe boxes (ah-ha so there are some perks to having big feet; more stock to choose from!). Please, please, please be those lovely looking pink trainers I can see on the shelf over there and not those hideous orange ones…

Come on, admit it, when it comes to trainers, at lot of it boils down to what they look like right? No one wants to wear something they don’t like.

Am keeping everything crossed!

Pair One – Saucony

The first pair I try on are road trainers and they are intended as a bit of a test. Although I do a mixture of road and off road running, I do prefer going off the beaten track and therefore like a bit of grip to my trainers. The fitter wanted me to try these on first so that I could feel the difference between the types of trainers and I’m so glad she did, because I knew straightaway that these ones were not for me.

I mean don’t get me wrong, these were proper, proper comfy, in fact it was like putting on the comfiest pair of slippers imaginable, but I wouldn’t fancy running in them. They felt too soft, too unsupportive and too light for me. I want to know that when I’m wearing a pair of trainers they can handle the mud, they can handle running over tree roots and field furrows and this pair just wasn’t going to cut it. But it’s fine because the fitter knew I would say that and I’d passed her test – shame though ‘cos they were pretty!

Pair Two – New Balance

First impressions? I love these trainers! They look so nice, please let me have these. And this is where it gets tough, because your mind is telling you that you want them, which then has the power of tricking you into believing that these are the best fitting trainers you have ever worn. They go into my ‘maybe’ pile.

Pair Three – Mizuno

The orange pair. Nooooooooo! They felt OK on and felt OK to run in, but they just didn’t feel as nice as pair two. Was it a psychological thing? Who knows…the fitter made me put them in the ‘maybe’ pile.

Pair Four – Brooks

Brooks are known for their trail running shoes and these promised to offer lots of grip. They looked nice, were comfy and the injected gels in the base of the trainer made them really springy and comfy to run with. Deffo in the ‘maybe’ pile.

Pair Five – Asics

All my fave colours so I felt drawn to these straight away, unlike those orange ones (still nervous that they might be my ones!). This pair were ever so slightly heavier than all the other pairs and also had gel in the sole like the Brooks. They felt solid, supportive and it felt good running in them. Whack ’em in the ‘maybe’ pile.

Right so that’s narrowed it down from 5 to 4, in fact I’m making an executive decision here and in the interest of keeping me in this running game I’m saying no to the orange pair – bye bye!

That leaves three contenders, pairs two, four and five, which means running in them again, so that I can compare them against each other. Bye bye pair two.

And the last test?

Running with one of each of the remaining trainers on each foot. Seriously! Incredibly this made my decision easy, because the minute I started running it was clear that one just felt better than the other.

And The Winner Is…?

Pair five, the Asics.

Here’s a bit more info about them:

The Asics Gel-Fujitrabuco 5 Womens, to give them their full and proper title, are built with both comfort and support in mind. Interestingly they’re sold as ideal for trail runners who over pronate, which isn’t something I do, however because of the gel within the base of the shoe it suits most conditions and most running styles. The upper part of the trainer is made from breathable mesh, perfect for keeping the foot dry and cool, even if you are going to be running through dirty great big puddles. And the inside features a ComforDry Sockliner made of antibacterial fabric that should help with all those nasty foot odours.

This particular shoe is relatively heavy compared to others and this is down to the special systems within it, such as the GEL® Cushioning System, the Trusstic System® and features including an anti gravel tongue and rock protection plate.
Having worn them for a few months now, I can clearly see and feel the difference between these and my old Karrimor, which in all honesty I’m not sure how exactly I managed to make last so long! They feel supportive, sturdy and dare I even say it, I think they might make me a run a little better as well.

As you can see from the picture, I’m just a teensy, tiny bit excited about my now, not so new, trainers. They are or course not as shiny and pristine as that; they’re covered in mud, well worn in and treated like a pair of trainers I’ve had for years. But hey at least it’s proof I’ve been out running in them!

Which has got me thinking…maybe I need a new pair? You know, for when I do more road running. And it would be nice to get a pair that’s a bit lighter for the Summer…

Uh-oh I think I may have started something!

Do you have a favourite brand of trainer?

We’d love to hear from you, so get in touch!

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