Maybe Umstead will cure my knee

We left off in The ITBS/something Saga with a three and a halfish mile barefoot run free of pain and even premonition of pain (called “The Presence”). Well, the next day The Presence was back on another barefoot 3.5er. Took a day off, then ran 2.5ish in the sandals with no pain. Took the next day off. On Saturday, I ran a fast and socked 11 miles (I wore the pair from Charleston – those things are pretty much destroyed now) with a little pain in the middle, but it went away as fatigue set in.

This Saturday is the Umstead Marathon. I don’t really know how prepared I am, so I plan on pacing accordingly. I thought about employing a Galloway method of regimented walk breaks, like a run for ten minutes, walk one or something. But that feels too, what’s the word, regimented. I also don’t think it’s going to matter much; no matter what I do, existence-questioning levels of exhaustion are pretty much inevitable, I think.

Putting those two paragraphs together in a

sort of way, I wonder: if exhaustion makes the knee/itbs/whatever pain go away, I should have a pain-free marathon, right? Maybe instead of pacing myself, which would delay the exhaustion and (theoretically) prolong the pain, I should try to hang with the lead pack right from the start. Sure, my lungs would explode, but my knee would feel great!

Whatevs, running around in the woods is a great way to spend a Saturday morning. I just hope the romp doesn’t last too far into the afternoon. I get hungry and cranky.

So I’m questioning my itbs diagnosis. My memories of previous bouts included a lot more pain and immobility. I feel for MissZippy who has been struggling with the ol’ band herself. Her experience sounds more like what I went through before than what I’m going through now. First of all, the pain goes completely away after sporadically during runs. Before, not only was running impossible but so was walking down stairs. Is it possible I pinched it just a little bit? Or is that like “a little pregnant?” Or is the issue something else altogether?

The pain never gets bad. It’s more of an annoying “something’s not working right”ness. The fact that it goes away during runs is just weird. I haven’t been taking any pain relievers, other than the occasional application of menthol-y stuff.

So what do I do? Do I rest six weeks, hope it goes away only to never really know what it was? Do I see a doctor, who will tell me to rest six weeks then charge me hundreds of dollars for the advice? Or do I keep running?

The itb/knee is going to have to make a stronger case for rest if I’m going to do so. I mean, what, you’re just going to hurt a little bit, and only sometimes, and not interfere with the full range of motion required for me to get around? Sorry, knee/itb, not that impressed.

I do wish it would stay gone, though.

Invisible Shoe review and unsolicited advice for everyone else

An unexpected perk of being a barefoot runner is all the free shoes. I just received a pair of Invisible Shoes to try and write about. You can make your own for very cheap, but I tried that and failed. Knowing a bad word from a highly respected member of the footerati such as I could undo all his hard work, Steven Sashen promised to make a pair for me himself. Actually, no he didn’t, I made that up. Anyway, I have a nice pair of sandals to review, but first a tangentially related rant.

I have advice to all the “barefoot shoe” manufacturers. I’ll set aside the fact that the term “barefoot shoe” makes me feel like my brain getting hit by a 2×4. This is a pure, sans-sarcasm offering to anyone who wants to profit from the growing market for simple, flat-soled shoes:

Sell your shoes for $10.

The whole point of a minimalist shoe isn’t what it does for a runner, but rather what it doesn’t do. You (dear shoemaker) need to find a way to communicate to customers this fact. Your shoe won’t influence the way we run, they won’t support anything, they won’t make us faster, they won’t make us run farther, they won’t make us trail wizards, they won’t make us run smoothly, they won’t make us feel like we’re running on puffy clouds, and they won’t make you a swimsuit model. Most importantly, they won’t make you immune to injury. All the shoe needs to do is make sharp things on the ground less sharp, keep the feet warm, and fit.

When I hear the price of something expensive, my usual reaction is “that better come with dancing girls!” You see, if I’m paying say $10 for a hamburger, I’ll say “I trust that comes with a side of dancing girls.” Because I expect more for my dollar, and it would be fun to watch the Can-Can on lunch break.

So what happens when a runner sees a “barefoot shoe” priced at regular running shoe prices? If they’re me, they’re going to expect dancing girls. If they’re a normal person, they’re going to expect the shoe to do something for them. Not only is that against the principle of what you’re trying to sell, but it will lead to runners getting injured wearing shoes they thought would make them injury free. For a runner to learn how to run smoothly, they need to expect very little from their footwear.


Go ahead, use it. That’s a freebie. If you want a limerick, though, it’ll cost ya.

Anyway, if you want to stand out from the rest of the minimalist vendors out there, sell it like you mean it. Tell the world your shoes are truly minimalist, and priced accordingly. Your competitors will be asked what their shoes offer that yours don’t, and they will have to either admit their products are not really minimalist (they offer lots of gimmicky bells and whistles), or that their prices are artificially high as a signifier of quality (“they’ll last forever!” yeah, well so do my $5 aqua socks).

Back to the Invisible Shoes. The fact that this is a small operation without access to the resources of a Nike or Adidas, makes the $50 pricetag of their custom-made sandals pretty reasonable. The fact that they sell the materials for $13 – $25 and give detailed instructions on how to make them yourself for free communicates the minimalist message nicely: the shoes are so basic you can make them yourself.

I should mention their tagline, “Better than barefoot.” When I first read that, I was all, “nuh-uh.” But that’s what a shoe company is supposed to say. They should be “better” than barefoot, otherwise why not be barefoot? So sure, I disagree (tactile feedback, etc), but I approve.

Re the shoes themselves, I think I’m going to like them once I figure out the best lacing method for me. The thin slab of sole is a nice buffer over gravel (where for me they currently are “better” than barefoot), and the toe thong doesn’t bug me when wearing toe socks. They’d be great for races like Umstead where there’s long stretches of rocky bridal paths. Not this year, though; not until I know how I tolerate the laces on the long runs.

Wait, I have a marathon in nine days? Shoot – I forgot to train.

Anyway, expect some more Invisible Shoe adventures in the future. And c’mon, shoe companies: LESS SHOE MORE YOU. Let’s do this thing.

Fun with training graphs

Here’s an informative graph of today’s run (oddly 100% pain free – not even a tiny twinge in the knee for the entire 3.7 hilly miles. It was also the first totally barefoot {as in socks don’t count because I’m that much of a stickler} run in a while. I’m pretty sure it’s mostly coincidence, but if you want to think running barefoot has mysterious powers of healing be my guest. I can’t think of anything else that was different, though. It was over 70 degrees out. The ground felt wonderful, even the curse-inducing pebbles and stones stayed out of my way. I got lost in the focus to maintain thudlessness. All my energy was funneled to the purpose of forward motion. The road got none of my energy, none of my force. I pretended I was balancing a book on my head. Books are still superior to e-readers in that one and only regard. I waited for the pain to come. It never did. Just the familiar sensation of honest, pointless effort. What? Oh, right, the graph):

This run was art.

I don’t know why more runners neglect the informative pace/elevation graph. Those other graphs are so two dimensional or something.

But seriously, where did the ITBS go? It’s probably just waiting for the right time to strike. Or barefootery instantly cures ITBS.