The brand’s 3D foot-mapping service helps you find the running shoe that’s absolutely perfect for you.

In my last year of running, I have spent more on running gear than I have on designer wear, and this coming from a self-admitted metrosexual. Personal preening aside, while nothing says you can’t run a long race in old shoes or ones not specifically meant for running, it becomes a lot easier when the gear you employ works for you rather than impedes performance. The first thing about going gear-crazy is this: nothing beats good, old-school practice. You can always get faster by training harder. Add to this the right gear and you will shave off a few more precious seconds, not to mention finish stronger than ever before.

The most important gear for a runner is their shoes, and it takes a good few wrong ones before you get it right. Japanese shoe maker ASICS is among the few international brands that tries to reduce this hit-and-trial period by offering a very unique service called gait analysis at their retail stores across the world, including in India. The idea of this exercise is to record data about your feet and give you the best shoe model (ideally from their range) to complement your natural running style. In certain cases, these shoes can also be corrective too, nudging your foot to land or take off properly in order to reduce chances of long term injury.

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I recently got a gait analysis done at the ASICS store in Delhi, to see how this personalised shoe would help me with my running. The process starts with a 3Dfoot-mapping, where you place your foot inside an enclosure and the computer records a 3D picture of it, measuring every contour and relief along the way. From arch height to length and girth, everything is recorded and suddenly you realise that your two feet aren’t as similar as they appear at first. Next, you wear some special marked shoes and run on a treadmill, and a camera placed directly behind you records your movements at an exaggerated number of frames per second, so that it can all be played back later to see how your foot lands. Pronation is a big word in running circles and this step will tell you precisely this: whether you land heel-first or do a mid-foot strike, does your foot remain neutral or do your ankles collapse inwards or outwards upon ground contact, and how exactly do you lift off. All this data, almost overwhelming for the uninitiated, helps the ASICS team to decide what model to fit you with.

I was diagnosed (if that’s the correct term) with extreme pronation and prescribed (if diagnosed, then prescribed) a pair of ASICS GEL Kayano 23 to wear for my running. It is the latest in their range of stability shoes, the kind that are stiff on the inside and do not allow the ankle to coil inwards upon landing.

Over the next few days, I took my Kayano for a few spins, and here is my take on the results.

  • Gel-based shoes are always heavier than foam-based ones, which means one has to adapt to the extra weight. However, this becomes most noticeable only during long runs. But the cushion is responsive and springy, and you can feel the spring right into the last mile.

 

  • ASICS shoes have a generous heel-to-toe drop, which means it’s not as easy to do a mid-foot strike as in a shoe with a less angled sole-board. But the protection feels doubly secure.

 

  • More specifically, the Kayano 23 has a stiff spleen running the length of the shoe and this, for someone like me who has never used such a construct before, felt extremely taut and maybe even somewhat constricting. I may have had ankles more upright, but it didn’t feel innate, even as it possibly tried to alter my running dynamics to something more textbook.

 

  • The overall comfort and embrace were superb. With the laces drawn in tight, the shoes, in spite of being fairly bulky, worked almost like natural extensions of my feet.

A few caveats. I never tried any other shoe at the store, so I can’t really compare and say if I prefer the Kayano versus the Nimbus or another model from the brand. I didn’t run with these on the treadmill again, to see if they did indeed improve my posture. Also, I am not a fan of running on treadmills, and find my stance terribly affected and in a state of discomfort when on one. This perhaps could have contributed to an increased margin of error, which could have then changed the results the machine reported and consequently the choice of shoe that the brand team suggested.

Other brands offer gait analysis too, but ASICS was possibly the first to introduce 3D foot-mapping in India. Potential progress or plain placebo, curiosity or concern, whatever be your reason to try it out, go for it once, if only to realise just how imperfect our bodies really are and that in this imperfection lies immense margin for improvement through self-realisation and self-motivation. This kind of humility is truly liberating and reduces the pressure all runners subject themselves to, thereby getting you across finishing lines faster than ever before.