When I get to the desert in about a month, someone mentioned there may be a touch of sand.
Not a problem as such, but sand in your shoes while you are running is a recipe for disaster, with the certainty of blisters ensuing, and with the soft sandy dunes I am likely to be having to run on, the feet easily sink down so that the sand comes up over the top of the feet and the ankles and it is mighty easy for the shoes to fill up very quickly.
Desert gaiters are therefore the order of the day.
Last time, I went I used parachute silk in the form of an elasticated ‘tube’ to come up to just below my knees, with the lower end permanently glued onto my shoes. Not exactly a stunning fashion statement, but it did the job well enough. A few repairs were required towards the end of the event to fix rips and holes to the material where the slipping through dry river beds of gravel, clambering up cliffs and sliding down the sheer faces of dunes, had finally taken their toll. Liz used similar accessories in 2011 when she had her own foray to the desert and they worked well for her too.
Things have moved on a bit in the intervening years though.
Velcro attached gaiters were relatively new in 2008, but 5 years later there are plenty from which to choose and I have a couple of pairs to take with me from Raidlight and RaceKit. Both are similar design, but different material, the RaceKit items being made from ripstop and the Raidlight variety from a lightweight Lycra but with a reinforced panel at the front. The idea is that the gaiters are slipped over the feet in much the same manner as socks (with no soles!) would be, then the shoes can be put on and laced normally, which is not an advantage you get with those that are permanently stuck in position and finally, the outside gaiter material can be pulled down and the mating parts of the Velcro joined to provide a sand-proof seal. That’s the theory.
I’ve had the Velcro glued and stitched onto my new trainers, which I wore for the first time (without the gaiters) on Sunday. No blisters from new shoes and with two pairs of socks there is a little room for expansion when my feet swell in the heat. The stitching seems strong enough and I’m going to be putting a lot of trust in the cobblers that did the work – Hoxton Shoe Repairs, since any failure could be catastrophic for not only my feet, but also my race and many years of planning and training. No wonder there are so many discussions on the forums surrounding this singular subject, since the ingress of sand to the shoes is the one thing to avoid at all costs.
I was planning to report that everything was happy in the marriage between shoes and gaiters, but unfortunately, having worn them a couple of times durning the week, they do not appear to have put nearly enough glue on them and although secure, the single line of stitching at the upper edge is not really sufficient to stop the Velcro flapping up.
I’m therefore going to be having to take them back for a second attempt at implementing the double line of stitching which they promised, but did not deliver on after the first visit. Watch this space for more details.
Post Update here