A British company has invented the world's first pair of running shoes that will keep going for more than 1,000 miles before wearing out. Sadly, it can't guarantee the same for the user.
A single pair of the UK Gear trainers, which will be launched next month, would get a keen runner all the way from John O'Groats to Land's End – and still have life left in them. Experts normally recommend changing running shoes every 350 miles.
UK Gear developed the shoes in conjunction with the British Army, which already issues the firm's standard trainers to new recruits. All 450 instructors at the Army Physical Training Corp's (APTC) Aldershot base will wear the shoes from next month.
Captain Barry Stoddart, the APTC's chief instructor, was one of those who put the trainer through its paces. "I've done over 1,000 miles in them. I had not one problem although I found it stiff at first. I run every day, about 70 to 80 miles a week, and tried the shoe on the road, track, treadmill, cross country. It did the whole job," he said.
David Hinde, UK Gear's chief executive, said the company, which also supplies the US army with shoes, initially wanted to develop a "training shoe with military DNA", so he got the Army to help him test out its first pair of shoes six years ago.
"We found during the process that there was a need for something specific to the Army. It became clear a normal commercial running shoe wouldn't survive the rigours of day-to-day training in the military." All 15,000 British Army recruits now get issued with a pair of UK Gear shoes every year.
The APTC's Major Dougie Peters said the new generation of recruits had needed something different from standard-issue boots to run in. "Back in the 1970s and 1980s all runs were done in boots, but the generations were changing. People weren't able to run in boots because they hadn't worn that kind of footwear as kids," he said.
Sergeant Julia Bloomer, one of the few female APTC instructors, was among the 40 involved in the testing stage. She found them "very functional and comfortable", adding: "The big thing is they are fit for purpose – multiple purposes, in fact."
Although The IoS can't claim to have clocked up the full 1,000 miles in the pair it was issued, it did visit the Aldershot base to test the shoes. And our verdict?
We found them slightly unforgiving, jarring in fact, but that could have as much to do with our tester's running style as with the shoe. That was certainly the experts' view: Jonathan Morrison, whose London-based Profeet store specialises in analysing runners' gaits and making custom-fit shoes, advised me to pick another pair.
"It's not ideal for you because you pronate [roll inwards]. It's too flexible through the mid and forefoot, so it won't help control the motion of your foot, although it would probably function quite well as a neutral shoe."