Why Your Local Running Store Matters




If you run, you are a runner.

It doesn’t matter how fast you run or how long you run, but it doesn’t matter where you buy your running shoes.

These days, there are many places to buy running shoes: at a big sporting goods store, at a chain mall, at an online retailer, on a discount website, or at a store. specializing in running. The best way to buy your next pair of running shoes is to walk into your local running specialty store and spend half an hour trying on shoes with an experienced shoemaker who knows how different shoes fit. , feel and ride and which models might be best. for the size and shape of your feet and the particularities of your running gait.

Not only will you be amazed at how different shoes feel on your feet, but you’re bound to feel energized by your own run. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fast young runner, someone who’s been jogging forever, a middle-aged back-of-the-packer, or a complete newbie to this thing we all love to do almost every day.

This includes Gina Kutz, a resident of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, who decided to go all-in during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 because she needed to exercise at a time when gyms were closed.

She admits she knew nothing about running shoes when she walked into a locally owned Fleet Feet store and was fitted for her first pair of running shoes by store owner Jessica Anderson. Kutz learned why some runners need more support and stability from their shoes, why it’s better to have a different pair of shoes for trail running or faster workouts, and that most shoes last for life of 300 to 400 miles.

“At that time, I was not a runner, so I needed all the help I could get,” Kutz recalled. “I was intimidated to walk into the store the first time, but Jessica made me feel welcome and calm. Not only did she help me find my first real pair of running shoes, but she helped me also helped start my journey as a runner.

Kutz has since run a marathon, two half-marathons and more than a dozen 5Ks. She returned to her local running store to buy more shoes, sports bras, running clothes and accessories. The more she visited, the more she realized it was less about the amenities and more about the ambiance.

“It’s one of those places where you walk in and are immediately inspired,” says Kutz. “It’s not about buying stuff, but it feels good to be around active runners and people who are there to help you with whatever you need.”

America’s Best Running Stores

Last month the The 50 Best Running Stores in America have been announced by a running industry organization that hosts The Running Event each fall in Austin, TX. Winning stores will be honored at an industry celebration on December 1, when the 2022 Running Store of the Year is announced.

“Our team evaluated hundreds of store submissions and had the pleasure of learning about the races, clubs, charitable efforts, employees and general culture that make each specialty store a true force for good. “said Christina Henderson, executive director of The Running. Event. “The industry is made up of extremely passionate and dedicated retailers, and our team knows there are many amazing stores that are not represented on the list. These winning stores have proven their commitment to their customers, their employees, their community and the growth of the sport that brings us together: running.”

The more than 900 specialty running stores in the United States have been the cornerstone of the sport for recreational running for over 40 years, providing a sense of community and spreading their knowledge and passion to all levels of runners. Yes, many have had a runner-geek quirk, but expert shoe fitters are here to help every runner find their next pair of running shoes.

You can buy bread, milk, vegetables, and ground beef at a chain supermarket and your local gas station, but you’re probably better off going to a bakery, butcher, or traditional grocery store for these items. If you’re looking for quality and service, you get what you pay for, and the expert in shoe fitting and customer service (not to mention race smarts, inspiration and encouragement) you’ll get at a specialty running store far outweighs the benefits of buying shoes at a discount and having them shipped to your door for free two days later.

“If you don’t have a good fit, you have nothing,” said Kris Hartner, owner of Naperville Running Company in suburban Chicago, which has twice won the Running Store of the Year award. “It’s an individual process, as each shoe brand and model fits slightly differently. The best way to find out what works is to try several models.

In addition to a knowledgeable and personal shoe fitting service, most running stores offer some type of running gait analysis, a wider range of models than most online sites, shopping centers or large surfaces, as well as clothes and accessories and a lot of inspiration.

Specialty running stores offer a wider range of shoes than big-box retailers and online discount sites, plus they offer invaluable expertise in shoe fit and running gait. (Photo: Courtesy of Naperville Running Company)

Big things happen in small stores

Small independent running shops have always been the heart and soul of running. They are all about community; not only do they support and encourage local runners, but they also help local schools, races and training programs. Additionally, most can refer you to a local medical professional who can properly diagnose any running pain you may have quickly and efficiently.

These are all the things that Josh and Kara Levinson focused on when developing the collection of Charm City Run operates specialty stores in Maryland and made it one of the running industry’s greatest success stories of the past two decades. They opened their first community store in Timonium in North Baltimore in 2002 and saw it thrive with good customer service and a friendly local vibe.

They replicated that experience and opened new stores statewide with great success, gaining national recognition as the Running Store of the year in 2016. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, they adapted with enhanced online sales that allowed them to pass on their expertise in shoe fitting, local knowledge and top-notch customer service, not to mention the Free delivery at home.

As the pandemic waned, the noticeable increase in recreational running was apparent and the store thrived – a testament to the community bonds the stores and its staff had worked so hard to build for years, but also because of the efforts they deployed for their local community when adversity struck.

“There’s been a huge increase in business,” Levinson said. “Part of it was because we were offering more to our customers, but I think people have really doubled down on local. No one wants to see a lot of local businesses disappear, but it’s not easy to survive. local stores aren’t just going to stay. They need to be supported. I’m proud of our employees and that we persevered.

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