A couple of months ago I started skimming the ULTRA list , a mail-forwarding LISTSERV for discussions of distance running. Alas, the signal-to-noise ratio is low and the flame-to-civility ratio rather high. But occasionally there's an excellent race report or a thoughtful bit of advice. Along those lines, worthy of note was Bud Glassberg's post (2005-04-07) describing his experience at the Umstead 100.
Bud's essay combined the three elements that always appeal to an ultrarunner's soul: humor, crude bodily functions, and shoes. That last theme in particular caught my eye, as it involved something quite exotic and beyond my ken: ultra-thin slippers with a carbon fiber sole and almost no padding. They reputedly provide an experience close to running barefoot but with protection against sharp objects. Bud tried them on a few hours into the race, and approaching the end of the event observed:
... Looking down at my feet, I noticed that I had not noticed my feet since changing to the AEI shoes at 21 miles. Here I was at 87+ miles and had no blisters, no pain at all, and only a blackened toenail developed in the first 20 miles. These slipper/shoes came in like a long reliever in baseball and took over. They did the job and deserved the win.
Well, with a national pastime metaphor on top of everything else, how could I possibly resist? I contacted Dave Schoenfeld of AEI Shoes and ordered a pair—a seriously silly transaction, since I had just injured a toe and couldn't anticipate running for many months. Never mind that!
AEI shoes are fascinating to feel, in that they flex longitudinally but are extremely stiff transversely. I've worn them around the house where they've protected my still-sore foot from further harm. Schoenfeld makes them in his basement, in a limited range of sizes. They look charmingly primitive; Dave sells them cheaply (I suspect at or below cost) since they're in a prototype/experimental phase of development.
Some day, I fantasize, I'll be able to try them out on the trail—as a small step toward the goal of complete barefoot running ...
(cf. AchieveNewBalance (2002-07-17), ...)