Surviving the First Time at a Running Store! High Five!!!


Meg has written 31 posts on Salty Running.

I'm a married, step-mother, the 4th of 5 kids. I'm livin' the dream as a manager in retail, putting that English degree to great use. Oh, and I'm sarcastic.

The VERY friendly staff of Road Runner Sports in Westminster, CO (img via their facebook page)

When you combine genetics, working retail, and running the feet can be quite tortured. My poor feet are pretty beat up, and recently even just standing has been a pain in the foot-literally! I’ve been having some serious heel pain. My mentor Salty said it was probably time for something I’ve feared for a while: my first visit to a running store.

As a retail manager you might think this would be no big deal for me but actually I’m quite the introvert. And where interacting with strangers/salespeople is difficult, the idea of visiting a store full of “real runners” away downright intimidating! When I have a salesperson helping me, I get flustered and stressed.  The pressure starts to mount about buying or not buying.  The idea of deciding not to buy or telling him/her I need to think it over causes my stomach to turn, my palms to sweat, and sometimes I even get choked up!  Seriously, I’m not kidding on the last one.  But I popped a Xanax to calm my nerves and went for it.

First stop, Road Runner. I explained to the man who greeted me that I was a new runner and had never been fitted for shoes. He filled me in on the importance of shoes for injury prevention as well as performance and about pronation.  He explained how checking the fit for over- or under-pronation is important because it helps determine the type of shoe a person should wear.  If over or under pronation is present, you could wind up on the DL, so it’s important to find a shoe to help balance out the foot.  The amount of support the shoe gives helps keep heels, toes, arches, legs, and back stay healthy and strong.  He even mentioned that I may end-up in a shoe a whole size bigger than before.  He had me take a seat while he got someone to come work with me for a fancy foot analysis.

These little piggies don’t like to see the light of day!

The next guy came over, and whoa, he was a high-fiver. I showed him the shoes I had been using…high five! He tells me they’re neutral and we’d see if they were the right type. Then, to my horror, I had to take off not only my shoes, but my socks, too!!! Nooooo!

I know I’m not alone when I say I don’t know how people deal with feet.  When I get the occasional pedicure I have a friend with me and I joke with the pedicurist with apologies about having to handle my feet.  My inner mantra is, They do this for a living.  They’ve probably seen worse.  I myself have seen worse feet and I go barefoot at home, but having the high-fiver use the foot measurement gizmo on me still freaked me out!

With all the hi-tech analysis, I thought it was funny to go old school with foot measuring. Photo credit

Once I recovered from that trauma, I stood on a pad that determined the pressure areas on my feet with a rainbow of scientific analysis. Then he asked questions about where I run, if I have pain, how often I run…stuff like that. All this was entered in a computer. Next was running barefoot on a treadmill for a video recording, which felt incredibly awkward, but was part of the process. I got another high five for managing to run a minute or two on the treadmill…seriously.

We watched the video and to my surprise I could actually see the over-pronation in my right foot (and was able to get the results emailed to me, which was cool).  He thought my email address was funny so…you guessed it, HIGH FIVE!!!  After that he molded some inserts to my feet (high five!) and brought out 4 different shoes to try with and without the inserts. Here are the shoes and my opinions:
  1. Brooks Ravenna 3 – My favorite
  2. Saucony Progrid Guide 5 – Not bad
  3. Nike Structure 15 – Ok
  4. Asics 30/30 – No way, I felt like I was wearing bricks (He said that was probably too much stability for my needs)

It turns out the Switzerland of shoes is not the best style for me. No more neutrality for this girl!

While I was trying shoes on, I asked some questions about running outdoors in the cold since temperatures are starting to drop.  He was pretty blah with this area.  Basically, the advice was put on a hat and wear some gloves.  Maybe this change in attitude came because we had talked about cost.  Talking money gave me the opportunity for an out, my way to leave without buying.  I simply said that I wanted to get an idea of the shoes I might want and then be able to budget for it in my upcoming paychecks.  No high five for that.

This store wasn’t a bad experience at all. The shoe information was helpful. The shoes I have been using were just something I selected off a wall at Dick’s, but now that I understand all running shoes are not created equal I feel like I can make a more educated decision.  I plan to visit another store or two before I make a choice, but I may even go back to Road Runner in spite of the high-five thing…
Man, if that sales guy had written this every sentence would conclude with an exclamation point!!  HIGH FIVE!
To read more of Nutmeg’s adventure finding the right running store and to find out which shoes she wound up with, check out her follow-up post, Shopping for the Right Running Store.
What was your first visit to a running store like? If you haven’t visited a running store, how do you go about finding the right pair of running shoes?

13 Responses to “Surviving the First Time at a Running Store! High Five!!!”

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  1. Mint says:

    Ha ha – I had the complete opposite experience. I was so excited to go check out a running store and when I did, the people were so helpful and awesome and friendly (shameless plug for Fleet Feet Madison). In fact, they are good friends of mine 7 years later.

    It sounds like you did not buy the shoes. Be careful with Dicks’ Sports – I think it is so important to get properly fitted for the right running shoes – even if it takes several tries to get into the right ones, it will make a huge difference in your ability to put in the miles.

    As a fellow pronator, I suggest you check out Mizunos. They have models that are very lightweight, yet provide great support.

  2. Salty Salty says:

    I’ve had bad experiences at running stores where some high school kid just looks at the shoes on my feet and simply suggests a similar version of the same shoe. It’s important, especially when first being fitted as a newbie, to get the full treatment. I haven’t had the full work-up in a while and the last time I went to my Fleet Feet store (shameless sponsor plug!) the clerk had me run around barefoot and concluded I could go neutral, which I never ever thought I could!

    BTW I always have a pair of Ravennas in my rotation. LOVE them! Can’t wait to find out what you ended up going with :)

    • Mint says:

      Yes, I’ve had bad experiences too (but my first was great)! I went into a running store after I started marathon training and here is how it went down:

      Me: I am training for my first marathon and I am looking for something I can use to carry water or sports drink, do you have any recommendations?

      RSG: Oh, I can easily run 20-22 miles without taking any water.

      Seriously? That was his advice?! Well aren’t you awesome running store guy. But I just said that I needed something. Very lame and elistist (and I didn’t believe him either). Let’s say I never went back. Moral to the story: running stores can be very helpful and awesome or they can be really bad. In my experience, you will be able to figure it out pretty quickly.

      Many of the good ones have great beginner running programs Nutmeg. Check around and see if yours has one. That type of program can be just what it takes to get started off strong. Plus you can meet some great new people and have a lot of fun along the way.

  3. Debra says:

    First: congratulations for conquering your discomfort to go in for the full treatment at the shoe store. I did my first big shoe shop at RunTex in Austin. It’s a really good store and the guy watched me walk and run, asked about my running, looked at my existing shoes, etc. I felt like he helped me choose shoes that really fit me well and worked for my goals. In that visit I ended up in Brooks which I had never worn or really even noticed before. I’ve gotten two more pairs of Brooks since then (one from RunTex, one from REI) and they work just as well for me.

    I think the only thing I would say is I’m wondering why you didn’t buy shoes on that visit. If you weren’t satisfied with the shoes you tried on or want more information I get that but if you found shoes that you liked and got good service, why not buy there? You could go to a specialty store and pick your style and then go shop online to save some $ but to me, if they took the time and effort to work with you and educate you, why not buy from them (and local)?

    • Salty Salty says:

      Glad you found a great shop, Debra! Nutmeg wanted to get the experience in several stores before deciding on a pair of shoes. She could tell you that, but I just wanted to make sure no one thought she was being a jerk and using the service of the store and then turn around and by the shoes more cheaply somewhere else! There was a method to this madness, I swear :)

    • Nutmeg says:

      As Salty said, I’m shopping around. If’ I’m going to unload $100 on shoes, I want to make sure I’m making the best investment (I work retail, so I wouldn’t be a jerk. Also, I work retail, so $100 bucks is a chunk of change out of my paycheck). I feel like another opinion or two would be a good idea. I don’t want to be taken advantage of because of my newbie status or let all the bells & whistles blind me.

      • MG says:

        Since you have choices for stores, I think it’s really smart of you to get other opinions. All running stores are not equal, sadly. I used to have to drive 80 miles one-way to visit a running store, and I did it because (I had a ton of free time and) I believed in supporting running stores vs generic sport stores. They fitted me for shoes and I trusted that they had picked the right options. After a injury-plagued out-of-town marathon, I went to a different store and they were horrified by the shoes I was running in. I had been wearing a stability shoe, and it was actually over-correcting my problems and causing new ones. They put me in a different shoe and I was able to increase my mileage the following year without a reoccurrence of my IT Band issues.

        Debra, the “good” store was a RunTex and they also put me in Brooks. Funny!

  4. Debra says:

    I meant no offense by the question. I was just wondering what else you needed in order to make the decision. It makes sense if you’re still planning to visit other stores.

    • Nutmeg says:

      I just wanted to be clear that I wasn’t using them for information so I could then buy the shoes elsewhere for cheaper.

      • Cinnamon Cinnamon says:

        I always feel bad if I don’t buy, like they’ll think I’m doing that! I know when I sold cameras in a boutique store that was a big problem we had too.

        It’s important to remember though that it’s perfectly okay to do your research as a consumer. Especially as someone new to the sport, you’re trying to figure out which direction is right for you to pursue, and it’s okay for you to try a couple of different avenues. I look forward to hearing what the other stores say!

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