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THEN AND NOW: Running shoes, equipment, have come long way

Mark Hubbard at Runner’s Attic in downtown Yarmouth.
Mark Hubbard at Runner’s Attic in downtown Yarmouth. - Eric Bourque

YARMOUTH, N.S. – New people are taking up running and, thanks to better shoes and other developments, their chances of enjoying the sport in a healthy, positive way have never been better, says local running instructor Mark Hubbard.

Whether they’re looking for a new pair of running shoes or maybe they want to make sure they’re ready for the cold weather that’s on the way, modern-day runners are in a better position to avoid injuries and handle wintry conditions than they would have been years ago.

There was a time – back in the early years of the running boom – when buying shoes might have involved visiting a store, trying on a pair and, if they felt good, purchasing them. There might not have been much of a selection and the shoes might not have been the ideal pair for the person buying them.

Hubbard says when someone comes into Runner’s Attic, where he works, looking for shoes, he will ask them if they have knee problems or the like. He will try to see if they pronate or supinate. Some people may need more cushioning. Basically, the idea is to find a shoe that best meets their needs. Running shoes have come a long way, Hubbard says.

“It used to be, I think, that you’d have a designer designing a pair of sneakers and they would just snap it together and sell them,” he said, adding that today it’s very high-tech, given the use of computers and all of the research and analysis that goes on.

Some shoes may be more expensive than others – given all the hands involved in producing them – but the idea is to help people run without getting hurt, Hubbard says. Runner’s Attic has over 100 styles of running shoes.

While their chances of getting injured are reduced with a good pair of shoes and a sensible approach to training, however, Hubbard acknowledges that running can still hurt, particularly for a new runner.

“I liken it to arm-wrestling,” he said. “If you’ve never arm-wrestled before and you arm-wrestle tonight, tomorrow morning your arm’s going to hurt, but if you keep arm-wrestling, you’re going to build up muscle, you’re going to get more tolerant, you’re going to get stronger. You’re just going to persevere.”

Aside from shoes, meanwhile, Hubbard cites the improvements in running clothing that help keep runners warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

“When you see us outdoors running in the wintertime, (when it’s) minus 10, we’ve got three little layers on,” he said. “I think if you were running back in the seventies, you’d have a parka or you just wouldn’t bother going out. You’d look outside and say ‘I can’t do it. I don’t have the gear for it.’ Now we’ve got the gear for it.”

A fairly new shoe has traction for ice, he said.

Running remains a pretty popular activity in the Yarmouth area, with a good number of events in the spring and summer and people out on the roads pretty much year-round.

“When you see us outdoors running in the wintertime, (when it’s) minus 10, we’ve got three little layers on. I think if you were running back in the seventies, you’d have a parka or you just wouldn’t bother going out. You’d look outside and say ‘I can’t do it. I don’t have the gear for it.’ Now we’ve got the gear for it.”

Mark Hubbard

“There are schools that have started run clubs,” Hubbard said. “We do run clubs here. The YMCA has a group.”

And more people are giving it a try.

“We are getting lots of new people,” Hubbard said. “Every shape, every size, everybody is out there because it’s just healthy to be moving.”


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