Rachel Schilkowsky gives us a tour of her running shoe closet and how she rotates through each platform to maximize her training and performance potential.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Huffington Post, women over the age of 18 own 20 pairs of shoes on average. If they’re considering only regular, non-athletic shoes, this statistic is way off base for me; I typically cycle between no more than three pairs of ‘regular’ shoes throughout the entire year: my flats, my flip-flops, and my boots. However, if we’re throwing athletic shoes into the mix, 20 pairs sounds about right, if not a bit low.
Visitors to my apartment often marvel at the number of running shoes we have piled up beside the door. Upon seeing the heap, someone inevitably asks “Do you wear ALL of those?!” My answer? “Yes. Yes I do.” Unbeknownst to those outside the running community (and even some of its newest members), not all running shoes are created equal. In fact, each and every model of running shoe is designed for a specific purpose. Most people assume that there is only one right shoe for their running stride, while the fact is every runner should also be running in different shoes based on the terrain they are training on and the type workout they are doing (ex. long run vs. speed or tempo, trail vs. road, etc.).
Luckily for me, Topo Athletic’s line of road shoes, which includes the Ultrafly, Fli-Lyte 2 and ST-2, has me covered for all of my training and road racing needs. Below is a breakdown of how I incorporate each of these shoes into specific parts of my training and racing. Please note that this is just one example of someone’s shoe rotation. What I use for my long runs could very well work better for your tempo runs depending on your preferences/what you’re used to running in.
If the point of an easy run is to recover from your last hard effort and prepare for your next one, it’s important to ensure that your whole body is being given proper rest. With the Ultrafly, Topo’s most cushioned shoe, I can minimize the impact and stress my legs experience, therefore allowing my bones and joints to recover along with my muscles.
During a typical mid-season long run, I may run over 16 miles, a journey which has me on my feet for almost two hours. Though such a workout is an integral part of my training that affords me countless benefits later in the season, it is incredibly hard on my body, especially on my bones. As a result, it is absolutely crucial that all my long runs are done in a supportive and heavily cushioned shoe. Protecting my body from overtraining at a long, sustained effort allows me to get the very most out of my workouts and have peace of mind while doing it.
Tempo runs, also known as threshold runs, are a staple of any distance runner’s training, my own included. For me, it is much easier to maintain the ‘comfortably hard’ pace of a tempo run and be relaxed while doing it when I am in a more flexible and lightweight shoe such as the Fli-Lyte 2. It gives me the ability to be up on my toes and glide along smoothly, which both literally makes me faster and, more importantly, makes me feel faster. Ultimately this allows me to complete longer and high quality tempo runs.
Choosing the right footwear for a fartlek-type workout can be tricky because you are splitting your time between faster paces and slower paces. Rather than stress over this choice, I simply go with Topo’s Fli-Lyte 2 – the Baby Bear of shoes, if you will, in this situation. It’s both supportive and flexible, cushioned yet lightweight. It allows me to be dynamic during the fast intervals, but still provides me the support I need to get through the entire run, warmup and cooldown included.
When it comes to track workouts, there’s no doubt that its harder to go faster in larger, heavier shoes, but being in track spikes for an extended period of time also has its drawbacks. The ST-2s have really filled a void for me in terms of how to get in faster-paced work in a safe and effective manner. With its snug fit and light-as-a-feather feel, I can zip around the track and easily hit my quicker paces without putting my lower legs through the ringer days before my race.
Road races are where I personally feel the ST-2 really shines. I’ve worn mine in distances as short as a mile and as long as a half marathon, and felt they provided me exactly what I needed in both instances. The sleek, lightweight design enables me to quickly respond to moves or easily maneuver a sharp turn. The roomy toe box allows my feet to splay and breathe throughout the race, minimizing the risk of blisters. The solid structure of the shoe provides just the right amount of support to safely carry me through a longer race.
Rachel Schilkowsky is a Cornell-trained engineer by day and an accomplished runner by night. She was 5-time D1 NCAA All-American at Cornell (including two 4th place finishes in the 3000m steeplechase) and most recently placed 7th in the 2 mile event at the 2017 USATF Indoor Championships and 12th at the 2017 USATF 15K Championships 6 days later. She also set PRs at both the 3K (9:08) and the half marathon (1:16:29) this year!