|Greepers - way better than elastic|
It took me a year to realise it but elastic laces were slowing me down in transition.
That's exactly the opposite of they way it's meant to work!
I'll explain why, explain the best solution I've found (Greepers.com that's them alongside) and the story of how I got that pair from one of the top British female triathletes.
When training in running in trail or road shoes I always used laces in shoes. I wear orthotics to correct over pronation, so my foot is at risk of sliding around, and I felt laces held the shoes better on my feet.
However, for races I switched into elastic laces so I could pull them on faster. I trained a couple of times in the elastic-lace versions, but mainly saved them for races.
In every half-Ironman, and the one full Ironman, I did in 2016 I damaged the toes of my left foot. Usually, one would overlap and rub on the other, either producing a blister or causing bleeding.
I ran Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire in June and my big toe came out badly bruised.
All this happened despite me taking extra time in transition to wrap micropore tape around my big toe to prevent friction.
Previously I'd tried talc, body glide, a thin version of compeed, and a toe separator made by a podiatrist. Nothing worked.
Four days before Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh (a brutal run course!) I noticed someone asking on social media whether people had negative experiences with elastic and other types of speed laces.
That's when it hit me. The elastic laces let my whole foot slide around, just a little but enough to bash my toes.
I'd heard about Greepers from Chris Stirling, a extreme triathlete pro I'd interviewed. I already had a pair in one of my trail shoes and thought they were good but slightly slower than elastics. However, they are essentially 'normal' laces, and once pulled tight, my feet didn't move. I decided on the Thursday night I needed a set.
I tried transferring the set from the trail shoes, but failed. They're cut to length and what fit the trail shoes was too short for my road Hokas (Vanquish 2 since you ask).
At I emailed Greepers to ask, 'Do you have a stockist in Edinburgh please? I'm heading there tomorrow (Friday) for the race on Sunday'.
I did point out this wasn't a big deal, it was only a set of laces.
Peter, the owner and inventor of Greepers, personally replied and, a few emails later, to my utter astonishment, I received a text from top British triathlete Nikki Bartlett! She is one of Greepers' brand ambassadors, and if I called at her house on my way to Edinburgh she'd leave a set for me on the doorstep when she went out for a ride.
Imagine emailing Pinarello for a bike part and Chris Froome texting back, offering to leave it outside his place in Monaco!
In my TV day job I've met and interviewed many high profile people in entertainment and in politics, yet I was overwhelmed by this open, generosity of spirit. That is one of the qualities that makes triathlon so special. As it happened, I met her on the doorstep and we had a quick chat - good luck in Bolton, Nikki.
I knew the run course Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh would be tough, so I taped up my big toe as I had done at Staffordshire, yet my transition time was 1'16" faster using the Greepers. Then I headed out the test them, and my feet, to destruction.
Lucy Gossage, the female pro who won Staffordshire, described the Edinburgh run as follows: "The run course is immense and it made the Staffs course, which is hard enough, look like a walk in the park! More or less all up or down... Fun challenging and epic!"
It has 900ft of elevation gain. That's like running up the stairs in a 90 storey tower block, then running back down again. It's the downhill that punishes the legs and feet the most, forcing the foot forward into the front of the shoe.
Afterwards, I peeled off my socks, expecting the left one to be a slightly bloody mess. Nothing. No damage whatsoever. The Greepers held my foot in the shoe and did not slow me down in transition. Next time I won't even tape my toe, so I'll be even quicker through T2.
And just so we're clear, I eventually bought three more pairs of Greepers at full price, so in return Peter did not charge me for the pair from Nikki.
In this world of faceless corporations, where individual humans feel virtually powerless against the blank walls of business giants, this was a feel-good moment. It speaks volumes for both the business of Greepers, its owner Peter, and the pro Nikki Bartlett who is one of the brand ambassadors. Well done all round.