Running has changed my knotty ways

Naturally adventure-prone, I’ve always found that directions dampen my enthusiasm for a journey. But when I decided to head down the path toward runnerdom, my outlook did an about face. My intuitive method having failed me, it was high time to listen to those who had succeeded.

My first sojourn into the land of instruction started small…very small. Despite Dressy Bessy’s best efforts, I have forever been the girl who lags behind, bent over retying flailing laces. I could never be a confident runner if I didn’t conquer my ineffectual shoe tying habits. Sure a double knot would do the trick and may yet be my go-to knot for races. But have you ever tried to untie one of those suckers? Besides, the bulky, unappealing double knot is like wearing a sandwich board that reads, “I never learned to tie my laces.”

So decades later, I sat back down with Dressy Bessy AND her instructions. Turns out I had been tying a “granny” knot my entire life. The granny is a bad knot for shoes as it loosens from movement; unlike the “reef” or “square” knot that tightens with your tread. Not only is the reef more reliable, it is elegant…perched perfectly perpendicular to the laces.  

Flush with pride, I wondered if lacing up had evolved in the years since Bessy hit the scene. I wandered the Web and found the “Ian” knot, named after its knot-obsessed inventor Ian Fieggen. The Ian – though a little harder to pick up than the reef – is perfectly symmetrical and adds lifespan to your laces. The Ian is easily understood when seen, but difficult to explain. Check out the video tutorial at if you are determined to try this at home.

Not confined to knots, Fieggan is the Willy Wonka of laces, inventing insane and wondrous interweavings with just over three feet of string. Fieggen’s website ties together color-coded diagrams, how-to videos and written instructions for lacing and tying to get specific outcomes. Fieggan offers tying tips for sportspeople, children and the elderly. For runners he advocates soft, flat laces that minimize pressure points as well as numerous lacing strategies that can keep you heels snug, reduce the pain of plantar fasciitis, decrease pressure on the upper foot and relieve hot spots. Fieggan even sells a lacing handbook that comes with eyelets and laces for practice…an obvious homage to Bessy’s pioneering work in the field. 

If Fieggan’s site modernized this granny, then a search for “lacing systems” rocketed her light years into the future. It turns out that some lace-up shoes are entirely knot-free. Integral or retrofit, lacing systems feature strong laces that weave through raised eyelets and feed into locking spring closures which pinch rather than tie the strands together. Some systems come equipped with dials so you can crank laces to your desired tautness. Think sleep number for your feet. 

Though awed by the sheer coolness of lacing systems, I am held fast by the knot for now. I want to master my new tying skills and honor traditionalists like Bessy and Ian before experimenting with no-tie options. Years down the road, you may find me dialing in my laces or winding the perfect Ian knot, and although I may then be a grey-haired woman on the jogging path, I will never again be a granny.



Hitting the pavement on the first Tuesday of the running rEVOLUTION was great. Waking up stiff and sore on Wednesday morning was not. Two Advil later, I sat down gingerly to figure out what I had done wrong to make my ankles, knees and hips complain. 

I opened my running journal and recorded the workout. A brisk walk followed by run/walk intervals capped off by some stretches. I had run relaxed with the minimum of superfluous movement. I even lightened my tread to minimize impact on my joints. Still, the wear was palpable. I had to do more to lessen the burden on my body while it ramped up meet to the running challenge.

Online articles suggested a short jog to warm up the body before a run. Since the just jog alone had made me tender, I had to find another option. My first thought was stretching before my workout. However, the articles advised full stretching be done after exercise to reap the greatest benefits and to lessen the possibility of injury. Then it hit me. I could ride a bike or jog on an elliptical trainer to get the aerobic warm up suggested without jarring my joints prior to my next run.

Then I came across a phrase that I’m considering for my first tattoo, “post-exercise stretching will reduce muscle soreness.” There it was, simple and true. I had to admit I cut short my stretching when I began thinking about all the things I had yet to accomplish that evening. But in the word’s of Edgar’s raven, “Nevermore!”

My second and third running excursions of the week adhered to new rules….a 15-minute no-impact warm up before my run and a mandatory 20-minute stretch following. You’re right; baby steps like these won’t have me winning races anytime soon. But they will keep me moving in the right direction and eventually demote the Advil bottle to inessential status somewhere behind the spice jars. 


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