Shoe Stores and the Dark Ages

Even before I started reading this blog, I was skeptical of most running shoes stores. I remain skeptical.

As a backstory, I was always a mid foot to forefoot striker, but because I played football (and drank too much beer in college), I was, and still am bulkier and heavier than most cross country and track athletes.  A shoe clerk would see me and put me in an overbuilt stability shoe (e.g. Brooks Beast).  This caused recurring knee problems and shin splints in my late 20's.  Once, I went to a high-end "marathon" shoe store, and the advice was to change my running style and land on my heels.  After a few months of this advice I hurt my knee and quit running.  Fortunately, a few years later, I was walking through some sort of outdoors show in Green Bay, Wisconsin (my cousin was racing there), and came upon a tent sale.  I am not sure if the clerk was 18, but he was a cross country runner, and knowledgeable as all get-out.  I explained my difficulties to him, and he asked me to run.  At this point I was carrying an extra 60-70 pounds (still need to lose another 10 pounds).  He watched me run, and scratched his head, "you have great running form, and should be in a neutral shoe."

"What about heels striking and stability."

"Those shoes will never work for you.  No wonder you are always injured."

The kid was correct.  Over time, I went from neutral shoes to minimal shoes, and have completed a few half marathons and a marathon.  I currently use the Nike Free 3.0 v5.

So when I recently went into a highly regarded local shoe store and asked where the minimal shoes were, they said they were phasing out the shoes.   They believe minimal shoes cause injuries, and directed me toward a neutral/stability shoe.  I scoffed and left.

I find this blog and the information/reviews/forums invaluable.  I have to thank Pete for his work these past few years. I have received more intelligent commentary and insight on these forums, than I would at most shoe stores.  I hope this blog continues to skew toward minimal shoes.

So why are shoe stores, on the balance, so rigid in their thinking?


  • Thanks Fred! Old habits die hard, and trends tend to drive what's on the shelf. If minimal isn't selling, they won't carry it.

    As for my minimal tendency, no worries of that going away as I still hate running in traditional shoes and don't think could ever go back. I may review a pair here or there, but the vast majority of my own running will be in flats and Kinvara-style shoes :)
  • Two thoughts:

    1.) As Peter pointed out, stores stock what sells.  This brings me to point #2
    2.) For the vast majority of runners, traditional trainers work just fine.  Even in my case, I'd be lying if I told you that I've been any less sore, injured, etc. in minimal shoes than I have been in traditional shoes.  I stick with the minimal shoes because they feel and look cooler--that's pretty much it.  They're not really any better, just a different way to answer the same question (how to keep Bryan on the road).

    IMHO, there's no grand conspiracy of ignorance.  Most people do what works well enough for them and, if they're smart, try something different when it doesn't.
  • I think that the main problem may be the lack of attention for a good running form. Most of the people who run don't ever get their running form analysed or corrected by some sort of training. So for most people, shoes have to make up for that and provide the extra protection and cushioning to compensate for that.
    I became a member of an running group a few months ago. There are more than 100 members running on at least a weekly base, but there is only 1 trainer with a more result-focused group where you will actually get commented on your running form (he is a Pose method trainer). Almost all people in this group run on minimal shoes and/or spikes during core training. So more that 90 percent of the people who are a member of this running group never get serious comments about their running form. And the people who are a member of a running group is a small portion of the people who run and buy running shoes.

    So are shoe stores to blame by not selling minimal shoes? Chances are that they"ll injure people with a bad running form, and as a shoe store, they don't have any influence on the way the shoe is used. So maybe that's why they stay on the safe side of the shoe spectrum.
  • I'd go as far as to say for most folks, it really doesn't matter.  It could be better, but it won't stop a lot of people from running thousands of miles.  Not to mention that working in a store is like being a doctor for all of about 10min--if you're lucky--without the pay.  You don't have time to change someone's mind, body, and soul--especially if they don't really feel like listening (and believe me, most folks don't).

    Just a thought.

    FWIW, I spent two years at one of the biggest running shoe stores in Cincinnati, and a summer in a small one in my home town of Canton, OH.
  • That I can agree with.  A lot of my learning wasn't on-the-job training.  I really enjoy studying shoes and gait and such, so, unusually, I actually felt compelled to acquire knowledge outside of my work time.  Sure wish I felt that way about my current job, lol.

  • Admittedly, it does help if the people working for you are actually runners with some experience.  At least they know what works for them and can work from there.  It's different than just having someone who just needs a job who knows nothing about running, shoes, gait, etc.
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