Murder, he wrote
Running shoes were born to be clobbered. And runners are good at it, pounding them mercilessly for hundreds of miles while keeping them lashed to sweaty feet. Running shoes are born, bought. brutalized and then they die. And you thought human life was a bitch.
It is, however, a natural death, this humane form of "shoe killing". While it's not a pretty sight, it's normal, accepted and legal. Shoes die so you can live to run.
But as with people, some running shoes go before their time. Not via those act-of-God-type disasters like accidents or weather-related mishaps, but rather by way of that most criminal of premature causes of death - murder. And the guilty party is often the very runner who once embraced those shoes as a friend.
Case history number one in "The Shoe-i-cide Chronicles": The Country Club Killer. This killer does most or all of his miles on the very manicured grass of a golf course. He's naturally attracted by the pleasant scenery, the peaceful atmosphere and the soft, leg-saving surface. The problem is that this very perfect graoa is very perfect for a number of chemical reasons, one or more of them toxic to running shoes that have polyurethane midsoles. It's easy to spot these victim shoes because they're usually still damp from the morning dew-laden workout, and they always bear a telltale green stain along with remnant blades of freshly mown grass. Further examination quickly reveals the cause of death. The polyurethane in the rear half of the midsole is partially disintegrated, leaving a gaping hole as if it were attacked by some vicious, foam-eating parasite. In contrast, the EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate, the heart of most running shoe midsoles) foam in the forefoot, though heavily stained from many mile's on wet grass. remains intact. The synthetic upper and rubber outsole also remain healthy. This horrible running-shoe death is apparently caused by a pesticide, herbicide or some other non-organic polyurethane-hating "cide" that's dumped on those fairways by the barrel. Fortunately for the multitude of golf-course runners - or would-be country-club killers - few running shoes (and I'm sure no golf shoes) have polyurethane midsoles these days. If your shoes do, keep off the grass.
Case history number two: The Pizza Man Cometh. This killer emerges from the shadows only in the summertime, dispatching the shoe, through a hot, ugly death-by-dismemberment. Sometimes the criminal compounds his offense by attempting to retire: the lifeless trainers to the dealer, claiming they "shrank." Close examinations reveals that, yes, some parts shrank, others didn't, and the cement that once held them intact has dried up and lost its grip. These shoes didn't shrink. They were cooked. The killer, who planned to meet friends later for an after-work run, sealed the victim shoes in his gym bag in the morning and left them locked in the trunk of his car all day. A hot August day can cause temperatures inside the trunk to reach pizza-baking levels. EVA melts under these conditions. The heat-activated cement that holds the shoe components together fails and dries up, causing the shoe to fall to pieces. The shoes are gone, well beyond repair. You can avoid committing this crime if you'll just follow what I call "the dog rule". If it's too hot to leave your dog in the car, it's too hot to lock your shoes in the trunk.
Case history number three: The Martha Stewart Wannabe. This is a murder so brutal, so unspeakable and so stupid that I've only seen it once. The killer returned the shoes claiming they just suddenly became deformed and fell apart. Like the case of the Pizza Man Killer, the victim's body was dismembered, but the appearance of the pieces suggested that something more devastating than typical summertime heat was the culprit. The shoe parts were horribly disfigured, as if they had been exposed to some Martian space-ray weapon. The carnage was such that it was difficult to determine the identity of the victim. Using the good-Shoe-Guy, bad-Shoe-Guy technique of interrogation, the chain of events that led to the shoe death fell into place. The killer had innocently taken the shoes for a long run in the rain early the day before. When he went to put them on for that morning's workout, they were still soaking wet. Ever the household wizard, he plopped the shoes in his new microwave oven, thinking a couple of minutes on highs should be enough to dry them out. You can figure out the rest. The shoes were annihilated. No word on the condition of the oven, though he probably returned it to Sears. Dubbed the most creative of all shoe killers, this perpetrator promised to never again to try to dry his shoes in any appliance that can bake a potato in minutes or cook popcorn in seconds.
Good running shoes should be allowed to age gracefully during a life of faithful service on the roads, followed by a well-earned retirement in that popular running-shoe rest home known as gardening. Putting them out of their misery before they're even close to being miserable is a crime. And the sentence, unless you can claim "defective" and plea bargain your may into a fresh pair, is to pay a fine equivalent to the price of a new pair of shoes.
Credits - WorldwideRunning.com would like to thank J.D. Denton for the permission to reprint his article "Murder, He Wrote - Three ways to guarantee an untimely running shoe demise", originally published in the July/August 1999 issue of "Running Times". J.D. Denton owns and manages a Fleet Feet store in Davis (Usa/California). Under the pen name of "Shoe Guy", he is a widely recognized writer and expert on running shoes.
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