Old School Not Always Better

Inge ScheveJuly 26, 2010

A lot of things were better in the old days. But distance workouts in rubber boots?

“It felt mostly like running on cutting boards, but we didn’t think twice about it!”

These days, running shoes are so lightweight and comfortable that you barely feel them at all. That was not the case back in “the good old days,” or at least until the end of the 1970s. In Norway, people were using rubber boots for distance runs in wetlands as well as for interval workouts on gravel roads.

Lars Erik Eriksen, who was on the Norwegian national team from 1977 to 1985, is one of the rubber boots’ most dedicated fans.

“I used rubber boots in all kinds of terrain. I even ran in them on hot summer days. Back then, running shoes were not particularly good, so rubber boots was a natural and convenient choice for us,” Eriksen says.  The merited skier has several international medals on his resume, including Olympic silver from the relay in Lake Placid 1980 and gold medal from the World Championships in Oslo 1982. He also snagged a silver medal and a bronze medal from that event.

Do you think the rubber boots contributed to your performance?

“When we were fit, we didn’t really think a lot about what we were running in, but I do remember we thought the weight of the footwear was an added bonus. It was basically extra training. It was really heavy if we were running in wetlands and stepped in to where the water level reached above the top of the boots and filled them with water,” says Eriksen.  

Did you use a specific kind of rubber boots?

“We preferred the ones that were slightly shorter, the green ones with bigger, grippier outsoles. But you should have seen the chunky ones Myrmo (ed. legendary Norwegian cross-country skier) and his friends were using… That was back in the early 1970s. At that time, athletes were using those tall, heavy black ones. You can see them in photos in old training text books. There are pictures of athletes wearing that kind of stuff,” Eriksen says.

How did you feet handle running around in rubber boots?

“Well, it kind of felt like running around with wooden cutting boards under your feet. The shock absorption was non-existent. It was definitely not gentle on knees and hips. But we managed,” says Eriksen.

But then real running shoes came along. Eriksen recalls a blustery fall day when a young boy named Bjoern Daehlie came up to him and wanted to tag along for a run. Eriksen of course sported his usual rubber boots, while the future king of XC skiing ran in modern running shoes.

“I took Bjoern for a real overdistance workout. We did some real soggy wetlands, and it was sleeting as well. But with my rubber boots, my feet stayed dry, while Bjoern was so wet and cold that he even shed a few tears. But he completed the whole workout, I’ll give him credit for that,” Eriksen recalls.

From www.langrenn.com, July 15, 2010 By Ola Jordheim Halvorsen, translation by Inge Scheve

Inge Scheve

Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.

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