On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

To buy online, or to support a local running store?

Happy National Running Day!

I went to a specialty running store the other day, one that I won't name because I don't have very much good to say about it.  I've been to this store twice now, and frankly I'm not sure if I'll be going back.

At least some of that is because of the employees.  The store has a great selection (new flavors of Nuun I'd never tried! several different types of sports-specific laundry detergent!) and reasonable prices.  They have a huge wall of running shoes - one wall each for both men and women - and an equally impressive range of clothing.  They have treadmills for gait analysis and a giant, welcoming, signed poster of Meb on the wall.

When I go to a running store (as opposed to finding cheap stuff online), it's for the knowledge of the employees.  And that's where my experience got kind of weird.  The first time I went in, I had an odd run in with a sales associate who stopped helping me midway through my question to help some other people.  Like, just turned around and walked off.  I got his attention again to ask about the shoes, and he said, "Oh, yeah, that's right.  Well, I'm helping these people now."  Still, that's a one-off and not at all representative of their customer service.  What I was asking about was the women's LunarGlide, and he said, "No, we don't carry them for women.  I'll bring you a men's shoe."  That was kind of weird, too, but I know that some women do wear men's running shoes, so I let it slide.

The next time I came in, I heard one sales associate tell a customer about these crazy new shoes called "veeebrams."  Weird.  Have I been pronouncing Vibram wrong?  Then, before he would bring me the shoes I wanted, the salesman insisted on doing a foot measurement test on me, making me stand on these black pads to tell me what size/arch I was. Sure, I was game.  Well, my feet have been an 8.5 since about Grade 9 and I've had mild issues of overpronation all that time, too.  So I was shocked when he told me that I actually wear a 9.5 and have a medium arch with normal pronation.  Can you even tell my pronation from having me stand still?  I was even more shocked when I asked to see the Nike Free in an 8.5 and he brought me a 9.5, because that's "my size."  Now, he did not bring both the pairs for comparison.  He did not listen to what I wanted.  He trusted the computer.  Even weirder still, he argued with me and told me they fit when I said they felt sloppy and that I wanted a snugger fit.

Out of curiosity, I asked if they carried Karhus.  He was confused for a second (not surprising, as they're slightly obscure).  But then he said confidently, "Oh, yeah, I've heard of those.  Those are an old brand; they don't make them anymore."

I am NOT condemning the store based on two weird experiences.  In fact, their selection is great.  But I'm not sure I trust their sales staff to help people find the right shoes, and that concerns me.

Now, for those of you in the NYC area, heads' up that today you get 20% off of anything and everything at the RUN by Foot Locker store in honor of National Running Day.   And I swear this store and this promotion is TOTALLY and COMPLETELY unrelated to any of what I've written above.


  1. Not as defense of potentially incompetent employees, but I believe that the angle at which the leg meets the ankle tells you something about how you pronate (or not).

    We have a new (small) running store that does that treadmill stuff. You should visit when you are here.

  2. Great tips! I have started running more regularly and was wondering if I should go to this store (I think I get which one) and I had heard from another blog that they sized her feet wrong too. Too small. And she had to get her big toe nail cut out of her toe because the shoes were too tight.


    I think I'm gonna stick with my friendly neighborhood shoe place!

    Ali :)