Monday, April 1, 2013

Just...Odds and Ends, Part I

Where has the week gone??  It's been just one thing after another since I've returned from my last trip.  I've accumulated a bunch of thoughts and experiences, each too tiny to warrant putting together a blog entry, but now they've accumulated to the point where if I don't put them down in writing, they'll continue to bounce around in my head like so many ping pong balls.  Here's the first installment:

The Running Shoes Incident
This was the top incident on my mind when I got home from my trip to SC and GA.  You see, I love Brooks Ravenna shoes.  They are the most comfortable and best-fitting shoes I've ever covered a few miles in.  They fit my feet like a glove.  They don't give me blisters or black toenails.  They feel as good when new as when "broken in" with a few miles on them.  So imagine my state of mind this past summer when I learned that they had made some changes to the design in the next generation of Ravenna shoe.  I did what any sane-minded long-distance runner would do:  I scoured the internet and scooped up a few pair of the old style at clearance prices.  Yep!  I'm a hoarder!
My hoarded stash!
This past July I broke out two new pair from my stock-pile and started putting miles on them.  I designated them "Orchid I" and "Orchid II" with little Magic Marker marks on the sides of the heels so that I could tell them apart and keep the miles equal on the two pair.  All was going well until I did a longish run in pair Orchid II and felt some pain in the balls of my feet for the first time ever.  It started to hurt after about 5-6 miles.   I just chalked it up to something simple like bunched socks or the laces too tight. 

It happened again on other long runs over the next couple of months, but it seemed to me to just be random and not connected to a particular pair of shoes.  So in my naivity, and by luck of the rotation schedule, Orchid II came with me to Wichita to run the Prairie Fire Half Marathon in October.  And guess what?  At around mile 5 or 6 I began to feel that very same pain in the balls of my feet...just like the pain I'd felt on other long runs.  It became excruciating and resulted in my only being able to walk - not run - for the rest of the race.   I was beginning to think that I was developing a Morton's Neuroma.  But investigating this further, I came to the conclusion that the pain was in the wrong location to be a neuroma.  It was right at the base of my big toes, at the sesamoid joint.  

I was truly scratching my head on this.  Then, by reviewing my running log, I put it together!!  The foot pain was totally coinciding with doing longer runs in Orchid II!  (Yay me, for religiously keeping detailed running logs!) I confirmed this by making sure I wore Orchid I for my 10-mile run a couple of weeks later and by bringing that pair with me to run the Tulsa Route 66 half marathon a couple of weeks after that, in November.  No pain!

Okay.  I've got this figured out.  I decided to wear only Orchid I on all my long runs, and Orchid II on my shorter training runs.  This kept the overall mileage on each pair of shoes pretty much equal, since I'll do one long run for every 2 or 3 shorter runs.

The ill-fated new pair of Orchids,
and the other new, unworn pair
So fast-forward to early March, 2013.  I broke out two more pair of new shoes from my cache of hoarded Ravenna's.  Both Orchid I and II were getting a little long-in-the-tooth and a little tread-bare and it was time to retire them.  I concentrated on wearing only one of the new pair, to get them ready for my upcoming races in SC and GA.  But there was a major problem!!  Within 2 or 3 miles during a run, the balls of my feet were hurting....big time!!  Just like that previous pair...Orchid II.  I made several attempts to wear this new pair, thinking the foot-beds just needed to be softened up and molded to my foot.  This just wasn't going to happen!!  So I ended up bringing my good old trusty pair of Orchid I's with me to run the SC and GA races. 
Soles of Orchid I...beyond the "wear bars!"

When I got home from the trip, I had time to put more thought into this problem.  What did these shoes all have in common?  First of all, they're all the same color:  Orchid.  Second of all, by removing the insoles, I could see the manufacturing date imprinted on the shoe last.  The perfectly comfortable shoe, with 250 pain-free miles on them, had an 06/08/10 manufacture date.  So did the shoe that was comfortable for about 5-6 miles before becoming painful.  The new shoe that hurt after just 2 miles was manufactured on 06/10 of the same year.  The other new, unworn pair of shoes has that same 06/10 manufacture date.  I'm afraid to even try them!  So now I have two pair of brand new running shoes that I can't or won't wear. 

But...the good news is that I have four more brand new pair on the closet shelf:   One of those four pair are blue, another pair are pink.  I took the blue pair out for a test run of about 3.5 miles this week and they were so comfortable...just as I remembered these shoes should be, right out of the box.  I took them out again a couple of days later and they're still wonderfully comfortable and cushy.  I expect the pink pair will be the same.  I've had previous pairs in these two colors and had no problems with them.

I'm now suspecting a manufacture problem with the Orchid shoe.  the soles are molded to color-match the shoes' uppers, so it's quite possible there's a Quality Control problem with that lot of soles.  But since these shoes were manufactured more than 2 years ago and have been discontinued for more than a year, I doubt I have any recourse with the manufacturer.  I'll just write this off as a risk I take for hoarding discontinued shoe models.

Which now brings me to my next little story....

The Socks Incident
As part of my investigation into the "feet hurt" problem in that new pair of Orchid shoes, I took a look at the socks I was wearing.  

Backing up a little bit here...I have come to love the SmartWool PhD ultra-light running sock.  I have several pair in the "Mini" style, which is a short crew-style, coming above my ankle by about an inch or so. 

I've never worn what are called "micro" sock style, since I've always been afraid the sock would creep down my heel.  But all of these PhD style socks are so form-fitting I convinced myself it was worth buying a couple of pair of the PhD Ultra-light micro style and trying them. 

When I received them last fall, I really liked the look of them.  They're trimmer and less "frumpy-looking;"  I've always felt that the mini-crews made my ankles look fat.  Silly vanity, I know!   Well, I started wearing them without looking back.  Of course, this nearly perfectly coincided with my pulling out those two pair of new shoes last fall, which really complicated things, when it came to identifying the cause of the ball-of-the-foot pain. 

I remember that, aside from the ball-of-the-foot pain I was experiencing in Orchid II, I was also noticing that the entire soles of my feet were starting to feel a little more beat-up after longer runs.   I even blogged about it, saying that the soles of my feet felt like they'd been smacked with a board after completing a particular half-marathon.  Then, after running the Columbia SC Half Marathon and Georgia Half Marathon in March, I had some blisters on the balls of my feet and big toes that I've never had before.  These were both hilly courses and running the downhills no doubt caused some foot slippage in my pretty-much worn-out shoes at that.   But I just never put this together with the fact that I'd changed sock style.

Left to right:  "New style Ultra-Light" in Micro model;
Old-style "Ultra-Light" in the Mini model;
and "Light" in the Micro model
So in my quest this past week to sort out the problem with that new pair of Orchid shoes, I left no stone unturned.  I took a closer look at those socks.  I pulled a pair of the newer PhD Ultra-light micro's out of my sock drawer.  And I pulled a pair of those much-worn and trusted PhD Ultra-light Mini's out as well.   Fingering them side by side, I immediately noticed a major difference in the thickness of the knitting in the toe and heel areas.  How could I not have noticed this difference before??  Turning them inside out, it was obvious the huge difference!

Left to right:  New-style Ultra-Light which has no cushioning;
old-style Ultra-Light, which had chunky-knit cushioning;
Current "Light" which has terry-loop cushioning
While the old-style "ultra-light" socks had a chunky knit in the toe and heel areas, the new-style "ultra-light" had absolutely no extra thickness.  they are as thin from heel to toe as dress socks would be.

 Silly me!  Thinking maybe I'd just ordered the wrong style, or that I was remembering wrong about what style my tried-and-true Mini's are, I got on-line to my favorite sock store,  The Sock Company, and ordered a couple more pair of the Micro's only this time ordering the "Light" not the "Ultra-Light."  They arrived a few days later and to my immense disappointment, they are much thicker than anything I have in my running drawer! 

When I put my running shoes on with these new socks, the fit is very snug...too snug?  Last time I wore cushioned socks like this - many years ago - I got a black toenail on my big toe.  Took nearly a year for the black to grow out!

Now I was really confused!  Confused enough to pick up the phone and call SmartWool directly.  I was feeling like Goldilocks and the three Bears!  Only instead of "too hot, too cold, just right,"  my problem was "too thin, too thick, just right." 

I got a very nice young man on the phone in Customer Service and laid out my whole sad-sack story of confusion and poor memory.  When I was done, he thought about this for a moment or two, and then figured it out, telling me that they'd re-designed the Ultra-Light knit last summer, making them thinner and, in their minds, better than ever....just about the time I'd ordered those new Ultra-Light micro's.    Arggghhh!!  But at least this little mystery was solved. I wasn't losing my mind or my memory. 

I have several pair of those PhD Ultra-Light mini's, all in very good condition, so I guess I'll be wearing them for the indefinite future.  Or until I get up enough nerve to try those thicker, more-cushioned PhD Light micro's.  But not before I get one of these new pairs of shoes more broken in.

Onward we go!!  But those Orchid I shoes will be spared the donation bin for a while...I'm not quite ready - or convinced - that I can let them go.  Not just yet.


  1. I think my feet hurt just reading of the problems you've had.

    I am glad you figured out the shoe issue. maybe they were made on a Friday and people were rushing to get done and get home.

    And with the socks - don't you hate it when you find something you really love that works well and then they go and change them. I really really hate that.

    It seems you have it pretty well sorted now though.

  2. This running stuff is pretty darn complicated. Catching up on your posts.