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Is the RealFlex Run 2.0 for you? The Conclusion (Part 3/3)

First an apology that this post is so late. Part 2/3 of this review was published in November 2013 with a promise that the last part would be out in a couple of weeks. Well life and running events caught-up. First Airtel Half in December; then extensive physiotherapy to fix some running injuries during second half of December and first half of January, and finally the Mumbai Full and the several weeks of recovery thereafter dealing with more injuries. Finally have the mental energy & motivation back to conclude this.

The good news is that current mileage on the RealFlex Run 2.0 stands at 270km, which means it’s really been put through the grinder. It has also become a favourite go-to shoe for most of my training runs. I haven’t done any races in these as I kept going back to my Saucony Kinvara 3 which was a tried and tested option. I am looking forward to race in the RealFlex 2.0 at the Budh International F1 track HM in March.

When we talk about shoes and our feature preferences we tend to think in terms of extremes – on cushioning (none to 2 inch springs), on heel drop (zero to 15mm), on flexibility (contortionist “yogi” to rigid planks), on  pronation support (none to big hard wedges) and on uppers (minimalist to extreme padded pillows). And therefore the debate of what shoe is right for a certain person sees some pretty extreme stances being taken.

I personally think the RealFlex 2.0 is a shoe where someone at Reebok has made some really smart design choices and “compromises”, and I don’t use compromises in a negative sense but rather in a sense of saying “maintaining the balance”.

What I mean by this is that the shoe hits the cushioning, heel drop, flexibility, pronation and uppers sweet-spot in a way which will appeal to a wide variety of runners without people having to fight over whether minimalist shoes are good or cushioned shoes are good or whether one needs stability/motion control.

Now that I have said this let’s go back to our runner profiles (if you have read the previous review on the Reebok Cushion you are familiar with this but even if you haven’t don’t worry) and see how things work for each.

Runner Type 1 (used to Cushioned Comfort): If you are a runner who is already running in a highly cushioned shoe. The RealFlex has great cushioning while still being extremely light. I would easily recommend it for people who want cushioned comfort and yet yearn for a lighter, faster shoe.

Runner Type 2 (Heel, mid/fore Foot striker): Two thing stand out for heel strikers, first the heel drop which is 8mm and therefore more than conventional minimalist shoes with 4-6mm drop. Second the extra tough outer rubber in the heel area which gives some extra protection and prolongs the life of the shoe. So a good choice for the heel striker.

And yet the heel drop is much lower than the monsters with 12-15mm drop. The 8mm shoe drop “feels” much lesser and personally I was deceived into thinking the profile was very much like my 4mm heel drop Kinvaras (do read to understand the significance of this). This coupled with the flexibility of the shoe also makes it a great choice for the mid/fore foot striker.

Runner Type 3 (Newbie): You are a newer runner; are looking at a comfortable running shoe; are going to do most of your running on hard surfaces (tar or cement roads and sidewalks) without a lot of consideration at the moment for speed, form, gait, etc. Your running style is still evolving and you are apprehensive about the impact running may have on your legs or you may already have some issues. Well choose the RealFlex 2.0 with an easy mind, the added benefit a much lighter shoe and if at any point you want to go aggressively minimal well you are already in a great transition shoe.

Runner Type 4 (Body Weight “irrelevant”): If you recall I had recommended the Reebok One Cushion for the “heavier 80kg+” runner. Well the good news is that this shoe will work for them as well. However because it is lighter and flexible it will also work extremely well for the lighter runner without compromising on the response. So you won’t need the weight of your body to elicit a “response” from this shoe.

Runner Type 5 (You are also fast): If you are already on low profile shoes or racing flats and are a forefoot to midfoot striker but yearn for some more protection then again the shoe is a great compromise.  And since it is very light and relatively flexible the responsiveness is super.

Runner Type 6 (High Mileage Road Runner): High mileage on road means a lot of wear and tear of the lower half of the body. Till now this meant having to wear highly cushioned, bulky and heavy shoes. With the RealFlex 2.0 there is now a much lighter and cushier option available.

Finally a category that I said I would not review for – “The Pronators” since I believe most people can actually do pretty well in neutral shoes and since there is research (new and old) to show that inside the shoe (irrespective of type) the foot is still doing what it is doing ! Read this and this if you are interested in this topic. Well the RealFlex is interesting since it has dual density midsole which makes the mid-foot area more rigid then the rest of the shoe. I suspect this would be of help to the mild pronator (and assuming that these shoes actually help).

So if you are looking for a minimalist, cushioned, flexible, low heel drop, stable shoe which runs cool (a lot of these adjectives would be normally mutually exclusive for most shoes) then the RealFlex Run 2.0 is for you. I am almost tempted to call it an “every runner’s shoe”.


P.S. Two other shoes have been patiently waiting on the sidelines – the Skechers GoRun2 M and the Puma Mobium Elite. Hope to complete those reviews before end of March. The good news is that the GoRun2 already has about 150km on it


Broke the 4:30hr Marathon mark at Hyderabad “Flyover” Marathon

This is just a quick and dirty post ! I will write a detailed race report on my Hyderabad “Flyover” Marathon experience shortly. First, arguably this is the toughest city marathon in India and definitely the toughest full marathon I have ever run. Pleased to report that I recorded a personal best time of 4hr19min12sec at this event. This is a 20min improvement on my time set at Mumbai earlier this year of 4hr38min31sec.  I placed 5th in my age category, 37th in the gender category and 40th overall. My first “result page 1” finish 🙂

In February 2012 I started a new marathon training program with the objective of doing a 4hr marathon by February 2013 the fact that I have reached the mid-point is greatly satisfying. Also watch-out for my post on my marathon training. Maybe you can pick-up some tips from it.

Ok, enough chest thumping !


The bane of Black Toenails and how to deal with them

For those who did not read the title carefully, this is not a post about how to cure black-toenails but rather this is a post about how to deal and manage black toenails once you start having this problem. You will feel nice to know that black toenails are a fairly common problem for long distance runners.

There are two types of black toenails, the first is when you get toenails which turn black and fall off after a while (sometimes they don’t turn black completely) and the second when the black toenails are accompanied with pain and swelling and at times oozing.  If you have the first type of toenail problems you are lucky, just ignore the nails and learn to accept the issue. Maybe you should buy some black nail polish and paint all the nails black so that your feet look pretty 🙂

If you have the second problem though, that is, black toenails with pain then you will have to start dealing with the problem.

First why does this condition happen – well primarily because the toes are banging the front of the shoe when you run (the foot slips in the shoes and also expands) OR they are rubbing against the top of the shoe because you flex your toes up while running OR they are banging the bottom of the shoe as you bend your toes down while running (you may also have “hammer” toes). Over a period of time the banging causes blood to accumulate under the toenail, which clots and turns the nail black (actually the black is below the nail). The trauma also causes the nail bed to separate and eventually the nail falls off on its own or can be cut off since it is all dead anyway. You will then grow a new nail and the cycle will repeat. The accumulated blood pressure under the nail and at times surrounding tissue causes the pain.

Which toe nail turns black or how many would depend on the structure of your foot. For most people it is the large toe since that is the longest, however for about 25% of the population the largest toe may be the second or third one and they will find the black toenails there.  I personally have a non-painful first toenail issue and a very painful second toenail issue in both feet.

After a very long run or a marathon if you have painful black toenails and want immediate relief you will need to release the blood from under the nail and surrounding tissue. That either means a visit to the doctor to drill a hole in the nail or if you are the non-queasy kind you could heat up the pointy end of a pin (a safety-pin works well) and simply use it to make a hole in the nail and release the pressure of the blood below. If you have inflamed tissue then heat up a knife and create some cuts to release the pressure. Make sure that you sanitize your hands before this and that you apply an antiseptic ointment to the toes afterwards (Betadine works well). Avoid wearing shoes/socks for a few days and stroll around in open sandals or flip-flops instead.

Ok now that we have the “first-aid” done lets look at the long-term management of the condition. There are several things that you may need to try before you may or may not reach a “solution” –

  1. Buying a shoe which is 1/2 or 1 size bigger than your current shoe would help by creating more space for the toes to expand when the foot strikes the ground and/or when the foot “grows” by a few centimetres when you run long. The bigger shoe will give it space to grow. Most people have nail issues only on runs longer than 18-20kms
  2. Since you may have already bought a nice new shoe, one way to create more space inside it is to simply remove the insoles. This will reduce cushioning slightly but will improve space dramatically. Make sure you run with socks otherwise the seams may cause chaffing.
  3. Also buy slightly bigger socks to go with bigger shoes. Avoid cotton socks buy synthetic, moisture wicking running socks. The Injinji toe socks definitely help.
  4. One issue with bigger shoes (and also in general) is foot slippage which causes the front to rub against the shoe. To keep your heel and foot from slipping forward in the shoe use this lacing technique and make sure you pull the laces tight. When tying laces place your shoe at a 45 deg angle so that the foot is firmly at the back of the shoe. This will help a lot.
  5. Give your toe some added protection – use some 3M doctors tape to wrap the toe and nail or better still use J&J Dynaplast tape (cut a strip) and also put a gel toe cover (I am not sure if you will find this in India). However these will only help a little bit. You can put an egg in a whole lot of protection but one hammer blow will still break it !
  6. While running we tend to either curl down or flex up our toes. Both will cause constant banging/rubbing on the toes. Try to run with the feet open and relaxed (easier said than done!).
  7. Applying some Vaseline/Petroleum jelly to the toes helps. Although I am not sure why. Maybe it helps prevents friction between toe and shoe upper.
  8. If you reduce your running volume that will definitely help. The less trauma the less problems !

Well that’s it folks. Hope some of this helps in relieving your pain. I used to have really bad nail issues but a combination of all the above has helped me manage it so that the pain remains bearable.

Singapore Marathon December 2011 – Experience Report

Yes, yes, yes I am lazy and that’s why I am writing about this marathon almost 7 months after it happened.

This is from the perspective of a foreign runner, running in Singapore for the first time.

Reached Singapore on Friday evening for the race on Sunday. Settled down and then in the evening decided to head for the Expo.

SUPER PRE AND POST ORGANISATION (WITH SOME GLITCHES):  I was really apprehensive when I went for the bib collection because I saw a really really long line….was pleasantly surprised to be out with the bib in less than 15 minutes.

THE GOODY BAG & EXPO: This was a huge disappointment; in fact it should not be called a GOODY bag at all, only full of pamphlets. The expo area had lot of  companies/products but the space for the crowd to move through and around was really small, several stalls had people moving shoulder to shoulder. Not a great experience, when you have 20,000 people registered (FM plus another 30,000 for the HM) please have a bigger space for the Expo!

Feeling a lot of nervous energy on Saturday morning, hot and sultry in the but still decide to go out for a short run to open up the legs and acclimatize a bit. End up running 6kms feeling really hot towards the end.

PRE-RUN BAGGAGE COLLECTION: There were long long queues of people once again, very apprehensive but managed to snake through in less than 30 minutes. However there should have been pre-race warnings to runners to come-in for baggage drop at least 1:30hrs before start time.

Loo facilities were a bit tight! Literally hundreds of runners stood in the bushes just metres from Orchard Road (behind the Hilton) and peed away to glory! Home sweet home J

REACHING THE START POINT:  Again was huge issue. Thousands of people squeezing through very little space. Reached the start point 10min late, a lot of people were up to 30min late.

THE RACE: Race start till F1 pits – HUMAN TRAFFIC JAM.  This is something which I am just amazed and quite annoyed with!! Most roads were cordoned off for runners but the space left to run was just about 10-12feet with 20,000 runners there was absolutely no space to move any which way. What were the organisers thinking allowing 20,000 people to register?! GREED?!

I am running on the sidewalk and in the corridors under the building. Stumble over some stairs and go down. Fortunately just some minor bruises on the hand. Up and running immediately.

Post the F1 pits things are much better although water points were very crowded. Suggest having point on both sides of the road to make sure the crowd parts two ways. Volunteers were superb trying to keep up with the thousands who were descending on them. Glad I am using my Nathan Endurance vest otherwise would have wasted a lot of time.

Pass 100s of runners on heartbreak flyover (about 36kms into the run).

LOVED the race itself. I manage a 4hr57min finish. Was tough, humid and hot and really tested the grit and determination of runners.

RUNNING ETIQUETTE: Sorely missing, was this really Singapore I was running in ?! People were walking in groups of 3 & 4 (and sometimes 5 & 6) together through narrow areas blocking the entire running path; “outstanding citizens” were tying shoes right in the middle of the narrow paths (very dangerous and of course stupid);  people were throwing water cups in the middle of the road instead of to the sides. Surprised at all this given the very high civic standards of Singaporeans in general.

POST RACE: Superbly organised. In and out with medal and t-shirt in next to no time. There could have been something more substantial to eat like a banana post race but otherwise happy with the arrangements. Huge area for the runners to relax. Loved the cold water towels handed out by PayPal. Baggage collection too was a breeze although a bit of a walk.

Had a huge McDonald’s breakfast (the whole 9 yards!) before heading back to the hotel.

Will I race at Singapore again, highly unlikely. Should you run this race? Not unless you love heat, extreme humidity and very tight running spaces. Did I enjoy my Singapore Marathon experience – definitely!

Super thanks and kudos to all the volunteers who always had a smile on their faces!!

Mawana Sugar Marathon 19th Feb 2012 – Race Report

First and foremost, I did a PR of 1:55:09 for a Half Marathon today at the event, coming in at the 25th position in the Veterans category. This is a 10min improvement over my earlier best. Also makes me a sub-2hr Half Marathoner!

One thing for everyone. The Mawana Full Marathon is intended for “Elite & Fast Runners Only” since the course closes after 4hrs. A lot of people crib about this without understanding this fact. On the other hand, the Mawana Half Marathon is for “Amateur & Slower Runners” since it uses the same route as the full (2 loops v/s 4 loops) and is effectively open for 4 hrs.  Having put that to rest on to the race report –

  1. The event website – Very bare information just elementary stuff like registration, prize money and a bit on course open timing. Nothing on the actual course or rules and regulations. UPDATE: I have now discovered that the link from the Mawana Sugars website which I was referring to for the above comment was landing on a wrong page. The actual link is which is quite informative and has all the relevant information.
  2. Online Registration Process – Very smooth. Basically a simple straight forward form. Once filled it would automatically generate a bib number and confirmation which needs to be printed out and carried to the bib collection one day prior to the event. No payment required while registering online.
  3. Bib Pickup – I was expecting chaos but suprisingly a smooth process. First step for online registrations was to pay the registration fee of Rs. 50 (this has to be the cheapest marathon in the world!!) and then go to well marked counter to colect your running bib. Upside was a standard “marathon sling bag” and surprise surprise a very nice white dri-fit T-shirt with a nice event logo on front and back. Also this time they had a D-Tag disposable timing strip for everyone. Ample instructions and rules and regulations also in the bag alongwith a route map. Route map did not have distances or facilities marked.
  4. Pre-Run – Reached around 6.25am. Again was surprised that things seemed fairly well organised. Lot of counters to keep your bag. Completely cordoned off area at India Gate (the start and finish point). Large holding areas. Ample, and mostly clean, mobile toilet facilities although I think the ladies may disagree on this one.
  5. General Atmosphere – A lot of rowdies and college/school crowd who made a lot of noise during pre-run and at the start point. But overall not too bad once they had been left loose. Since this is an AFI event the timings are used as qualification for “sports quotas” (more on this later). And so a lot of young testerone loaded “boys” turn up!
  6. Facilities during run – Water was available throughout the run at almost every 2.5km or so. At one point I saw Electral. At several points there was also salt and lemons. No other energy drinks. No mobile toilets on the route however post CWG games there are very clean public toilets available almost every 3-4 kms on this route. (On a personal note – this was the first time I didn’t take a pee break)
  7. Problems during run – 2 loops for the Half was great since it allowed you to judge your finish in the second loop very well. However the problem was there were NO distance markers at all!! You were only sure that one loop was 10.55km and that around the U-turn (on Parliament Street) was the 5.2km ish mark. In hind sight I am glad about this since it meant I was doing less tracking and more running!
  8. Problem number Two (not relevant for honest runners) – The cheats had a field day at the end of Rajpath! There was a u-turn at Vijay Chowk, a loop back of around 200m and then a left turn. There was no timing mat at Vijay Chowk ! Several of the people (read as cheats) who were looking at “sports quotas” or just wanting a good timing certificate merely jumped over to the otherside and skipped about 800m in total (there friends shouted out to them – “Aage mat nahin hai, Aaja”.
  9. Weather & Course – Fantastic. Couldn’t have asked for better conditions. Was cool for the entire half that I did. Course was flat except for the slight climb from India Gate to Vijay Chowk (but then you get the downhill benefit later).
  10. Post Race – No medal except for position holders. No refreshments (come-on they charged Rs. 50). However vendors selling all sorts of stuff were present and another Rs.50 would get you a hearty meal if you wanted it ! Several runners later headed towards Andhra Bhawan (500m away) for an all you can eat meal !

In short an excellent run. Full paisa vasool. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to run a PB Half Marathon or a sub-4 hour PB Full Marathon.

Maybe a sub-4hr Full Marathon beckons next year !

Run India Run.

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