Gaiters are designed to prevent sand, dirt and other debris from entering your shoe. They fix onto your shoes and come in a few different designs.
Gaiters are certainly not required for every type of race – however, if you are venturing into the desert (Marathon des Sables, some of the 4 Deserts series) then some form of gaiter is recommended – though it’s surprising the amount of runners who go without them. Running up and down sand dunes can fill your shoes with sand, and any piece of debris inside your shoe can lead to rubbing and blisters very quickly.
Types of Gaiter
Many shoe brands make their own gaiters (Salomon, for example) and are designed to quickly fasten to the shoe via a strap that goes round the sole of the trainer. These are great and popular for general trail-running. For more extreme conditions like sand dunes, you want a pair of desert-style gaiters which cover the complete shoe and have a decent length to them.
sand-bagger style, covering the whole top of the shoe
You should select your gaiters dependent on the application. Most desert runners a choose lightweight nylon material, such as the Rough Country Silkworm model. These are super light and don’t trap in heat and moisture like thicker, more heavy-made Goretex materials. Parachute material is also very popular, given it’s lightweight and superior strength.
How To Secure Gaiters To The Shoe
If you don’t buy gaiters already designed for your specific shoe (such as the Salomon ones above), you have to find a way of effectively securing them to your shoe, in such a way that they don’t let any debris in.
There are three options for attaching your gaiters to your shoe: velcro, glue and stitching. Velcro is a nice option in that you can remove the gaiters as you wish, but doesn’t provide a true ‘seamless’ seal – and you still have to glue / stitch the velcro strips into your shoe.
Gluing the gaiters to your shoe can work well, as long as you don’t screw it up. However the most bulletproof, and expensive, option is to pay a cobbler to stitch your gaiters onto your shoe for you. It’s important to find someone that is used to doing this for running shoes and knows the importance of not leaving any loose ends inside the shoe. Obviously this method costs a bit more (you could try this yourself, but only if you’re confident you won’t screw it up).
One recommended supplier and stitcher in the UK is Sandbaggers (http://www.sand-baggers.com), based in Glasgow. If you send them your shoes they can supply and fit their own parachute-material, designed specifically for desert running. They regularly provide this service for MdS runners so know what a stage race entails.