[caption id="attachment_1987" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Photo taken from www.crossfitpalmsprings.com"]
Before I started running, I would walk into any ol' Lady Footlocker to purchase what I thought were good running shoes. The advice I typically got was from sales associates who were hired to sell all types of shoes and they typically didn't know enough about running to make a solid recommendation. It wasn't until I started running consistently (and had my first encounter with runner's knee), that I found my way to a running boutique, Fleet Feet
in Montclair, New Jersey. They were able to fit me properly, school me on the ins and outs of running and made me feel comfortable enough to ask questions. They definitely set the bar and my expectations of what a running store should offer are pretty cut and dry.
We've said it time and time again. Before you step foot onto the pavement, you should make sure that you have the perfect shoes. This doesn't mean picking up the latest edition of Nike's Air Max, but visiting a running boutique in your area to find out exactly what you need. But, there's a few things you should look for in a running store. After all, all stores aren't created equal. Some are more knowledgeable than others, some are more friendly than others and some have more inventory than others. Here's a few things you should consider when you're choosing your local running resource.
A while ago, a friend of mine asked if I'd accompany her to a local running store here in Virginia Beach to get fitted. We walked into the store and no one greeted us. They were pretty busy, so we gave them a pass. As we moved on to the fitting portion of the visit, the sales rep seemed torn between helping my friend and entertaining a 5 year-old "customer" in the store. Needless to say, we excused ourselves after being ignored for 20 minutes.
Friendliness goes far beyond just helping you get what you need. It's about the sales associate engaging with you as you embark on a new journey in your life. After all, it can be pretty scary and stressful for newbies. I always feel like sales associates make assumptions about me when I walk in the store. I don't fit the typical profile of a recreational runner, so there's no way I'd know anything about running, getting fitted for shoes or be willing to drop hundreds of dollars on a pair of kicks. Greeting me at the door is a given, but what I really look for is a sales associates' willingness to spend time to help find exactly what I need.
2.) Knowledgeable and experienced staff
Having worked in retail for many years, I'll admit I'm a little sensitive to the quality of customer service and knowledge of the staff. I'm also one of those weird people who like to strike up conversation with employees. After all, if I'm going to be spending my hard earned cash there frequently, I want to trust that the staff is knowledgeable and have experienced blisters, fatigue and any of the other awesome (and not so awesome) things that come with running. They don't have to be former Olympic Gold medalists or track stars, but they should definitely have some experience with distance running.
3.) Fitting process
One of the most important aspects of running and buying new shoes is getting properly fitted
for running shoes. If the boutique is reputable, they will have some type of set up where they will record you running to determine if you pronate. Depending on your pronation, arch and other running characteristics, they can make a good recommendation on the size, make and model of the shoe you should purchase. If the running store doesn't give you some sort analysis, run!
4.) They want to make you better
The running community is AWESOME! Whenever I meet a stranger and realize they are a runner, we have an instant connection. We end up swapping stories, sharing tips and encouraging each other for the next race. So, it's only natural for a good
running store to host running clinics and seminars all to make their customers better runners. They may even host races. Either way, if they are't rooting for you and giving your resources to show you that they care, ditch them.
I should say, that since buying running shoes every 400 miles can get expensive, many people opt to get fitted at their boutique, test drive the shoes and then purchase online. That's quite alright. What's your favorite running boutique?
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