Complex's Sneaker editor wonders if he really needs a shoe to break down his athletic prowess—or lack thereof—by the numbers.

by Russ Bengtson [@russbengtson]

As I write this, the time is 10:31. I know this because, from where I sit, I can see it on my office phone, my mobile phone, and on my computer. I have tabs open for Google Analytics and Chartbeat (among many, many other things—sorry, Chrome), so I can keep track of pageviews moment by moment. Wu-Tang had it wrong: Statistics Rule Everything Around Me. So it makes sense that eventually this technology would find its way into my sneakers. Which is wonderful. Here’s the thing, though:

I don’t want to know.

Please, don’t take this the wrong way. It’s amazing what Nike has done with Nike+, taking the “smart shoe” from more or less a pedometer on your iPod or iPhone to its current incarnation as a multi-function mini sports lab you carry with you everywhere. And, if you’re not down with the Swoosh, adidas’s miCoach provides similar information (which, in turn, represents quite the leap forward from 1984’s Tron-level Micropacer). For those who make a living with their legs, these things must be a Godsend. No more dealing with stopwatches or retracing your route via car or computer-equipped bike to track mileage. All you need to do is run (or play), and let your shoes take care of the rest.

But see, after a day spent around statistics, all I really want to do is get away from them. That short interval when I lace up my runners and go out for a couple of miles belongs to me, not the numbers. Before, it’s pageviews and bounce rates. After, it’s probably ERA and PPG and OPS, depending on the season. During that fleeting precious time between, it’s my legs that need exercise, not my brain. And the last thing I need is another reason to look at my phone. For me, just getting out there is the challenge, not beating my time from the night before, or going exactly a half-mile further per week (if distance is a concern, that’s what streetlights are for—just go a couple more). The goal of my runs is to DE-stress, not add to it.

And don’t even get me started on the basketball measurements. I already know I’m slow and earthbound, I don’t need statistical proof of it. (The only numbers I need to know to show that are after “DOB” on my driver’s license.) Would I feel differently if I were still in college, during that brief, magical period where I could sneak in a dunk every once in a while? Perhaps. But at this point I know I’m likely to get worse, not better—it’s the way of the world—and to have that decline laid out in graph form on my phone would be too much.


Are there things I want to know? Of course. But I only want to know them about other people.


Maybe it’s just me. In fact, I know it’s just me—or at least people like me. Heck, even the name “miCoach” gives me chills, sending me back to freshman soccer in high school where our coach was a guy fresh out of the Marines who’d never played (or coached) soccer in his life, and all he had us do was run, run, run. (In hindsight, of course, that was probably the best training possible for soccer. At the time, it was torture, especially as a seldom-used reserve.) I don’t need that dude in my shoes.

Are there things I want to know? Of course. But I only want to know them about other people. I want to know how LeBron’s vertical compares to Blake Griffin’s. I want to know how many times Tony Parker breaks out into a sprint each game and whether Boris Diaw breaks into a sprint, like, ever. Would it have been neat to track Michael Jordan’s vertical by year? Absolutely. For the NBA, which is already so stat-driven, adding another layer makes perfect sense. And it makes sense for other sports, too. Send computer-enhanced trainers to the NFL Combine and lose the stopwatches, seed them through marathons and allow the obsessives to time their splits and keep track of their each and every step. Let me know how many miles Lionel Messi covers in a match. Pool all that data somewhere and form a virtual sports lab with more information than ever before, use it to make shoes precisely engineered to the exact needs of literally millions of athletes.

You’ll just have to do it without me.