Inspired by Joe Friel’s article “Six Common Mistakes Triathletes Make,” senior editor Aaron Hersh provides a checklist of triathlon gear errors that could derail your next race.
Never training in your race shoes
If you’ve ever experimented with minimalist shoes, you know the toll they take on calf muscles. Even a short workout in a pair of Vibrams can thrash your legs. The biggest reason these shoes are so much harder on the calf muscles than typical trainers is the drop from the heel to the toe. Typical cushioned training shoes have a fairly substantial ramp that lets the forefoot sit lower than the heel, taking strain off the calf muscles and Achilles tendon. Minimalist shoes have a tiny (or zero) drop from the heel to the toe and leveling the shoe lifts your forefoot, putting tension back on the calf muscles.
Like minimalist shoes, many racing flats have a small drop from the heel to the toe. Robust cushioned trainers typically have an 8-12mm lift, and many racing flats have only 4mm of rise.
Just as it takes time to acclimate to minimalist shoes, acclimating to racing flats doesn’t happen overnight. Wearing them just on race day will cause your lower legs to fatigue quickly. Instead of leaving your racing shoes in the closet until race day, slowly work them in to your weekly run training.
Because of their construction, racing shoes are typically best saved for days you run fast instead of slow recovery workouts. Start to acclimate to your racing shoes by swapping them in for your trainers during your weekly tempo or interval workout. As you get stronger, you can use them for an entire workout once or even twice a week.