Shopping for the Right Running Store


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.

English: Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety

This list seems about right! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here in Colorado, we’re lucky to have a lot of choices when it comes to shopping for athletic or outdoor gear, and where I live is no exception. Even though I was a little uneasy about my experience visiting a running store the first time, I knew it was important to shop around and find the product and the sales environment that was right for me… After all, if I’m going to keep doing this running thing I’m going to want a good running store on my side to help me along the way, right?

If you read my post last week, you know I have some anxiety about shopping, and even with one store under my belt it was tough to face trying two more stores and risking two more social anxiety attacks.  Nonetheless I got up the courage (aka took a Xanax) and out the door I went to two more stores, Runners’ Roost and the Boulder Running Company.

First stop: Runners’ Roost.  It was pretty much the exact opposite of Roadrunner Sports–no high fives, not a lot of staff around and no other customers!  It was also a smaller store which made it a little less overwhelming.  But the salesperson who worked with me was less-than enthusiastic; in fact, he was very…well…uninterested.  He simply had me walk and run for him without my shoes on and then watched me on the treadmill.  Then he grabbed some shoes without really explaining anything in detail.  I noticed the shoes he brought out were neutral because I saw them on the wall under the neutral sign.  The ones he grabbed were:

  1. Brooks Ghost 5
  2. Asics Cumulus 14
  3. Nike Pegasus 29 (the latest version of the shoes I came in with)

I wasn’t feelin’ it.  In-your-face salesmanship isn’t my thing, but as a retail professional myself, I know it doesn’t take much to engage your customers and the effort goes a long way.  I left feeling a bit confused and wondered who to believe—Roadrunner and stability shoes or Runners’ Roost and neutral shoes?  Was I too impressed by the bells & whistles at Roadrunner?  And I did see that my right foot was overpronating on the video at Roadrunner, right?

So, off I went to the third store hoping I didn’t get a third, completely different opinion.

I arrived at Boulder Running Company in the middle of the day on a Wednesday…and wow, was it busy.  This had to be a good sign!  I was approached by a salesperson who introduced himself as Trent and listened to my story.  He wasn’t HIGH FIVE enthusiastic, but he seemed genuinely interested.  He had me walk and run across the sales floor. I was again filmed while running on the treadmill.  Even with my shoes on, I saw the right foot do its thing.  Trent asked another salesperson what he thought and they seemed to agree that stability was the way to go.  RELIEF!

Trent told me you don’t want your shoes too snug, because the foot spreads out with impact and that you want room in the footbed of your shoe to allow for that.

Trent and I then went over to the benches where he measured my feet.  He brought out a bunch of shoes and I started trying them on (I didn’t remember to write them all down).  He explained about not wanting them to be too snug, which was was contrary to my thinking.  I guess I connected snug with support, but Trent set me right!  He explained how the foot spreads out with impact and that you want room in the footbed of your shoe to allow for that.  While he was grabbing more shoes, I heard another salesperson tell a customer that you want to be able to “play piano with your toes.” This was an ah-ha for me and I realized my old shoes really were too small for running!


Still can’t play an actual piano with my fingers or toes, but my toes have plenty of room in my shoes.  (Photo credit: esc861)

So, I tried on a bunch of shoes; some I didn’t even bother walking around in at all, others I ran around in. When I was trying to make a final decision, I went on the treadmill again to be filmed.  This was great because I could actually see the correction.  Trent explained that we wanted to make sure it wasn’t over-correcting because that could cause problems, too.

Somehow, Trent and I got to talking about work and I told him I was in retail.  He took me over to a non-running shoe area and introduced me to his co-worker in that department, and they explained the store’s philosophy: if feet are important to runners, a good running store should take care of their feet in all aspects of life, not just running. It seemed pretty smart to me!  They showed me some options that would be good for work since I can’t wear running shoes. They never pushed the other shoes on me, but they wanted me to see what quality options they offered if I wanted them. I felt really good about it, like they were trying to help me learn instead of just making me spend money.

My new shoes with the awesome massage ball and foam roller I also picked up for some great pampering.

Trent answered my questions and offered advice without trying to pressure me or up-sell.  He helped me figure out winter running options and pointed out that sometimes some things are overpriced.  I liked the honesty, and appreciated the time we spent and his interest.  He gave me his card, his website, and told me about the Wednesday night running group.  I would shop there again and would certainly seek Trent out again, too.

And the best part of the story is that I left with a brand new pair of New Balance 860s for my toes to play piano in as I go!

What do you think?  Did I go about things in a smart way?






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6 Responses to “Shopping for the Right Running Store”

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  1. J. says:

    Hurray for new shoes! Glad you had a good experience, learned some new things, & found the right shoes.

  2. Pepper Pepper says:

    I’ve got to say I am kind of jealous I have never had these type of experiences! Having run for so long I have drifted to the shoes I like and haven’t ever had this thorough review of my feet done! Next shoe shopping trip I want a treadmill video!

  3. The problem with running shoe stores is that you can go to 5 different stores and get 5 different answers for what type of shoe you “need”, and the answer is usually based on an approach that is outdated at best (stability, motion-control, neutral). The type of shoe you choose has not been shown to correlate to injury rate, which is a key concern, so you just have to take a leap and go with what feels comfortable, until it doesn’t – then find a new solution, but hopefully in a logical progression (IT band issues? Try something with less stability). Pepper’s approach is just as valid as yours.
    Note that I’m not criticizing your approach, as I’ve done the same thing, and in many cases it does work out well. But now if I follow that approach, I’ll end up 75% of the time in the wrong kind of shoe, as I now know I don’t need as much stability (or weight in the shoe) as what any “gait analysis” would suggest.
    I have heard of Boulder Running Company (even from as far away as Cleveland) so you definitely went to the right kind of place. Unfortunately, the vast majority of shoe stores are stuck in old models.

  4. Salty Salty says:

    I was just at my local Fleet Feet and listened to them fit my mom. They were super patient and did a great job. The Pepper Pike store doesn’t do treadmill gait analysis, but the Northfield store does – go check it out Pepper! Last time I went there I was analyzed running – just across the salesroom floor and Ed put me in neutral shoes. That’s the first time ANYONE has put me in neutral shoes and I gotta say I like them and am doing fine.

    I think there’s a huge learning curve with running shoes and it takes years to figure out what really works for you. I think when you’re just starting out the gait analysis is the best way to go to try to make an educated guess. There is no exact science to picking the right show, as Greg suggests, but having someone who knows the shoes and sees how you run is going to more likely lead to a good fit. I hope those new puppies treat you well! Trent’s the man!

  5. Cinnamon Cinnamon says:

    I have a couple friends who work/have worked at Paragon Sports in NYC (hey boys!) and I absolutely LOVE picking their brains about shoes. These guys spend all day showing and talking about running shoes, so they have lots of opinions on what works and how each shoe will perform They often get to wear test as well, which lends them extra insight.

    And I can’t vouch for other stores, but Paragon definitely isn’t brand preferential (hello, RW shoe finder). I’ve seen my friends recommend shoes from K-Swiss, Puma and even a couple brands I’d never heard of, which I find really interesting. I’m a die-hard fan of the fit of Mizuno shoes, but my curiosity is piqued. Because of my shoe-salesmen’s exposure to a wide variety of shoes, next time I shop I may consider branching out beyond Mizuno, Brooks and Saucony, which are pretty much all I know.

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