Sydney is a city for runners. The City2Surf, 14km race from the city centre to Bondi Beach is on this weekend. I arrived too late to get an entry, but I'll be watching the 60+ thousand runners taking part this year..
On my first day, sitting in the lunchtime sun in the Botanic Gardens, literally hundreds of runners passed along the waterfront. Something that struck me was a far higher proportion of runners running lightly, not heelstriking and I only saw a single knee support. Very different to my experience in the UK.
The barefoot and minimalist movement has certainly reached Sydney. Every running shop - and it was great to see so many dedicated running shops - was sporting a selection of Merrell true gloves and trail gloves and the Saucony Hattori. In one shop, which had a big, dedicated barefoot floor, they even had Zem Gear "shoes" and the Evo Barefoot range. A full selection of Vibram Five Fingers were everywhere, even in tiny child sizes.
I tried out the Hattoris, which were comfortable to wear, but grossly overpriced at AUS$139 for what is essentially an aqua sock with a rubber sole. Shame, as I would have liked to try them out. The Merrells were also grossly overpriced, the True Glove and Trail Glove being AUS$190 - AUS$200. This is way more than the price in the US. I succumbed to the True Glove anyway, so I'll be letting you know how I get on in the future. My first run in them was a pleasure though. The shoes are very light - which is always nice for running uphill.
It was sad to see that the usual marketing speak and overwhelming choice has invaded the barefoot shoe market. Inevitable I guess, and it hasn't taken long. In one shop (which didn't sell Vibrams but did sell the Hattoris), as soon as I mentioned that I ran in Vibrams but was interested in the Hattoris, the salesman immediately reeled off his spiel about how the Hattoris were so much better because they let the toes dorsiflex much more (or was it less?) I couldn't feel much difference - both shoes feel very natural to move in.
I joined up with the Sydney Thirsty Hash House Harriers on Thursday night. Its been a while as I last hashed in London in 2010. They set a great trail, taking in plenty of the waterfront, the Domain and Hyde Park. The waterfront at night is an amazing place for views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
If you are in Sydney, I highly recommend getting into the parks for a run.