Things to Look For In a Good Running Shoe Store

edited January 2014 in General
In another thread @simplyrunning listed indicators of a running shoe shop (points 1-4 below). I added points 5-9. Anybody want to add to the list?

A good running shoe store:

1. Will not be afraid to strongly discourage you from a shoe that simply catches your eye, or your "new thing" radar. 
2. Will have severe misgivings about letting you buy ANY shoe without running at least 200 meters in it. 
3. Will counsel you that most often, the most expensive shoe is NOT the best for you. (Sometimes, maybe every 5 years or so, it may be.) And they'll bring you out one to compare anyway, so that you can feel for yourself which shoe is, in fact, "you". 
4. Will NEVER suggest (or let you suggest) a larger size when you really need a wider one -- and they will explain WHY, and tell you where to find what you need if they don't have and/or can't get it. 
5. Won't try to push high-margin insoles that you don't need on you. 
6. Won't eyeball you walking or running across the store and tell you that you overpronate and thus need support/motion control. 
7. Won't use your static arch height to assign you a shoe from the neutral/stability/motion control categories. 
8. Will have staff that can have a good conversation with you about your training habits, what you do/don't like about your current shoes (if not a new runner), and what your past injury history is. 
9. Will have staff that are shoe geeks who have personally run in a lot of the shoes that they sell (recognizing of course that new staff may be less experienced initially, but should be supported by those more knowledgeable).


  • That's a great list.  I can't think of what to add. 
  • Excellent. It seems impossible, though. At least here in Brazil.
  • What about never selling big, bulky shoes to kids? Low, flexible, wide, etc.
    Also, respecting any prescription or parameters for a shoe from a health professional (with adequate footwear and running biomechanics knowledge, of course!).
  • I disagree about never selling bulky shoes to kids. My son's ankles cave in a bit, but being the kind of guy who is into minimalism, I insisted he get a pair of those zero drop shoes Merrell makes for kids (don't remember the model now). I thought the flat shoes would strengthen his ankles and feet. That didn't happen. He never felt comfortable. So after a few months of those, I gave up on that idea for him, and we bought him a pair of Under Armour shoes that look like more traditional trainers. He's much happier in those, and I swear when he's barefoot now, it looks like his ankles are stronger, and his gait looks better.
  • That's a good list.  I would hope that a good running shoe store would also have an owner/manager who is a passionate runner and wants to promote the sport and would hire staff who are likewise.  Unfortunately the store in my town fails on several of the 1-9 points above and the manager and staff are simply not passionate about the sport if they are runners at all. This lack of passion for running manifests itself in many ways. Several people here have explored the possibility of opening up a store but companies like Brooks, NB, Asics, Saucony and Mizuno are reluctant to open up competing accounts in a town of only 50,000 and without some of those I don't think a new store would be successful. It's very frustrating and everyone with a good local running store to shop at should consider themselves very lucky!  As it is Running Warehouse gets plenty of business from me and most of my running partners.

  • edited January 2014
    So while I'm honored that the initial list was warmly received, please allow me to refocus on the prime directives. Framing those original 4 items were these 2 key attributes:
    At a minimum, a real running store:
    1. MUST be staffed by runners*, and
    2. MUST care more about your health and progress than its daily receipts.
    These elements are so essential that they stand outside and bookend any specific, listed items. They preclude item 5 from occuring. And their absence makes items 8 & 9 impossible.

    Here's why.

    The right shoe is the shoe that disappears into your foot and renders you more aware of the RUNNING than the shoe.

    Only a store of, by, and for runners would have staff that would have fallen over themselves to run in all these shoes to learn how they behave on each other, for the purpose of extrapolating for whom they might best work. Only runners would know and respect the training repercussions of guessing without this evidence. Non-runners don't get what the big deal is, and won't until they become runners. (Hang around and listen -- it's mostly non- or novice runners that gush about any "newest thing" that you just must buy, rather than gushing about running. Runners will gush about a gizmo only insofar as it allows them to regale you with stories of better runs, under certain circumstnces.) Again -- if you're aware enough of the product to gush more about it than your running, there's probably something better. Hopefully it's cheaper!

    Regrding michael's input:
    -What's bulky for one runner is freeing for another; there is no hard rule about this for kids in general. If the INDIVIDUAL child is not running more smoothly in a particular shoe, then it's not right. In general though, you can be a bit reassured by the fact that kids are not yet generating enough force to be doing adult-level damage to their frames, and won't be until they've become big enough to fit into adult shoes.
    -"Prescriptions" are touchy; very few MDs are aware enough of the structural capabilities of any current running shoes to realize that even severe overpronation can often be handled with the proper shoe. But to add the orthotic into this shoe is often overkill, and thus potentially damaging. Most orthotics are designed to augment neutral shoes. A good staff member will rightfully call your attention to this BEFORE you might possibly cause yourself an inverse injury. This is not a failure to "respect" the Rx, but a precaution to ensure that you have a complete view of the playing field. MDs who are runners are wise enough to first send you to a store they trust to be fitted as closely as possible. Only THEN, if your problem persists, will they ask you to consider paying for orthotics.
    (Since they are aware that their knowledge of specific models is not exhaustive, running-minded MDs certainly would never limit choices to "only model Z, company X, because of Y last".
    Such a statement
    1. usually reveals that the MD is most familiar with shoes from 7 years ago and
    2. can put a staff member in the untenable position of either allowing the client to buy something that (s)he KNOWS is contraindicated, thus further contributing to the continued or compounded injury, or contradicting an MD. )

    The more variables (read: gizmos -- like insoles, etc.) shoved into the mix, the more opportunities, or points of articulation, you have for them to interact badly -- with no real way of knowing which item or combination is the actual problem. The goal is true minimalism: the least correction necessary for a balanced, efficient stride.

    A real runner/staff member who cares about your progress would NOT sell you an insole (or any additive) unless it was a way to help you make due in one of those "dry" seasons where NO shoe is 80% there.

    NorseRunner : I feel for you but I'm forced to point out that what you sadly describe is simply NOT a running store (anymore). Venture forth, and find one. It's SO worth the drive! Better yet, find out what these companies' minimum distance between specialty running accounts is these days, and make it happen.

    Thoughts on items 6 & 7:
    A talented staff member actually CAN look at your walking and glean some indicators, but you will also notice that (s)he tests any hypothesis by observing you and your shoes over time while you're NOT concious of what you're doing.
    BTW - It's quite easy for a determined person to fool a staff member who's not constantly watching, or even one of those computerized analysis machines by standing/stepping "properly" when under observation. (Fooling the machine is easy. I've done it, and I'm sure others have.) People with flexible feet can stand and even run "as" pronators, neutrals, and even supinators on command. We all try to run more properly, whatever we think that is, when someone's watching. It's only human. But in this case, it's not helpful.

    Most people, when submitting their feet for observation, will perform some version of "standing up straight for the nice man" like mother used to tell them. This is a great way to see how you stand when you're focused on being assessed. Unfortunately, it has NOTHING to do with how your foot actually behaves when it's being asked to propel you forward repeatedly over time.

    So definitely take a wary, experienced eye's opinion over a computer's "impartial assessment", any day. Relying on this "tool", a non-running employee can all too easily fool themselves into thinking that they've "diagnosed" the client's needs. Some stores even think that buying one of these frees them to hire non-runners. Not a chance.

    For this reason, I submit
    10. Won't rely on an infernal machine to replace real thought.

    Real runners know that you can't buy your running health, and they won't try to sell you junk you don't really need. They trust that when you see that they take care of you and your running, you'll see to it that the business takes care of itself. (Runners know that short-term gains are deceptive and ultimately destructive. Your business and confidence in them as a healthy runner over the next 40 years is worth much more than 3 over-inflated receipts this year. )

    If you don't immediately get this comforting vibe, LEAVE. This place is not the store for you.

    *Take care to NOT write off people who may look "out of shape", but indeed happen to be experienced runners in the midst of battling the ravages of time or non-running related injuries/illnesses.
    (Much as with veterans, the inconspicuous are most often the ones who saw serious action and survived to pass on their skills.)
  • Regarding kids, the far more important point is that they will most likely be wearing the shoes the entire day. A growing foot should not be placed in a constrictive shoe with a big heel lift if that is the shoe that will be on their feet for 8-12 hours every single day. For most of us adults that's what we grew up with and may very well be part of the reason some of us have trouble in anything more minimal.

    Regarding pronation, unless a person has an injury history that might be linked to the movement patter (overpronation is not a diagnosis and how much is too much probably varies from person to person) I tend to think better not even really worrying about it. 
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