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I’ve always been told one of the most important things a runner can do is to buy a great pair of running shoes. Being a bit of a cheapskate and not really considering myself a “real runner” has always left me buying a cheap pair of Adidas from Kohls.
Recently, I wanted to test out the theory that great running shoes are critical, so I decided to visit my local Brentwood Fleet Feet.
I expected the store would be high pressure and very expensive and full of runners who all seemed to know everything about running. Consequently, I expected to feel completely intimidated.
Instead, I think I not only found a great place to shop, with friendly workers and no-pressure help, I may have found my next pair of running shoes.
A Runner’s Store
Fleet Feet, located in the Brentwood Place Shopping Center, is a fairly good sized running store.
They not only carry running shoes, they also carry running gear, including:
- running shirts
- running shorts
- hats and warm weather gear
- running socks
- running bras
- stop watches
- heart monitors
- nutritional supplements
Why would someone want to visit Fleet Feet Sports?
Their biggest draw is their great knowledge and customer service.
Price Isn’t Everything
One thing that has hurt me in the past about buying running shoes is that I might buy a $40 pair of shoes, but then find a week later that they kill my feet. Those shoes end up sitting in my closet, and it is $40 wasted.
Shoes at Fleet Feet range in the $80 to $110 range. There are a few shoes less and some more, but most are in that range. What makes this higher price worth it (besides a better quality running shoe) is that Fleetfeet’s knowledgeable staff will help find the perfect shoe for each customer.
The shoes may cost more, but they will not be put on a shelf after a week of running because they didn’t work out for me.
Finding The Right Shoe
The biggest way they do this is using the GAIT analysis system. Using Gait, a free service to customers, a customer will run on the treadmill in the store and the Gait analysis system videotapes the runner’s feet while they run. The staff are then trained to analyze the runner’s gait and find a pair of shoes that will work best for them.
Some runners run more on the outsides of their feet, some run so that the weight hits more on the insides of their feet. Doing either of these can result in a lot of wear and tear on the feet and the knees. I watched Drew Jones, one of the staff at Fleet Feet, observe 2 different people using the Gait system and it was fascinating to see the difference.
Some people run in neutral, but many runners overpronate or underpronate,” said Jones, referring to the tendency of runners to use their inside or outside of their feet. “That is what causes a lot of pain and injury. We try to find a shoe that will keep the foot and the knee stable.”
Why Orthotics Are Important
Looking around the store, I asked Jones about the shelf full of orthotics that the store carried.
Just as soon as I asked the question, a customer came into the store looking for a pair of orthotics so I was able to watch Jones answer his questions.
Orthotics ran around $35. Jones explained to the customer that the purpose of the orthotics was to keep feet stable, reducing injury to the foot. He also showed how the orthotics sold in the store are made so that they become a sort of custom fit for each customer, making them a much better deal than an insert that someone would buy from a cheaper discount store.
Running Socks Make A Difference
Jones pointed out that it wasn’t just shoes and orthotics that makes a difference in a runner’s comfort. “A huge mistake that a lot of new runners make is to use cotton socks.” The cotton holds moisture and then becomes a source of blisters for the runner.
While I was in the store, I watched several runners come in to purchase socks. At around $6 a pair, I could definitely see how that would be a worthwhile purchase, particularly since I have encountered a few blisters myself.
Clothing & Fitness Apparel
One of the things that I appreciate is that the female staff will help fit women with a sports bra.
I also appreciate that the store carries lines of clothing for all sizes of runners, including Moving Comfort Woman (MCW), a line of clothing for women who range from 1X to 3X in sizing.
Expert Knowledge About Footwear & Running
I was really impressed at how helpful the staff was, but how low-key they were about sales.
Fleet Feet is definitely a place where an individual could come in, get advice about what sort of shoe they should buy and go elsewhere to buy without any pressure.
However, I also think Fleet Feet is the sort of store that after getting the help and talking to the highly trained staff most customers come back because they find the service is worth the money.
A Great Community For Runners
One other thing you will notice if you visit the store is that it is a place where running is more than an individual sport, it is a community.
For the first time, Fleet Feet is sponsoring training sessions for the Country Music Half Marathon. Jones pointed out that the staff really did not know what to expect at first, but already in the first 2 weeks they had seen 80 people or more turn out for the training sessions. For a one time fee of $50, runners are provided with training, a weekly long run, advice and a goody bag with products and a t-shirt in it.
Fleet Feet also hosts free fun runs led by the staff at Fleet Feet. Ryan Snellen, who helps organize these events, assured me that even beginner runners are welcome, although the runs do range between 3 and 6 mile — which may be a bit intimidating to some beginning runners.
Snellen said they vary the location of the runs and if anyone is interested they should check the Fleetfeet website or call. Snellen said he also organizes vendors for the runs who come in and give out free products occasionally. Also, New Balance, who helps sponsor the runs, will give out things like shirts and jackets to runners who attend frequently.
In addition to the Thursday night runs and the Country Music Marathon training, the store has several other opportunities. Runners interested in speed training can sign up for the speed training sessions to help them improve their times.
For Newbies And Experienced Runners
After reading all this, it may still sound like the store would be an intimidating place for a non-runner or a walker.
I found it to not be intimidating at all. The store was busy the entire hour I was there on a Tuesday afternoon. Several of the customers said they were new to walking and several said they were new to running. The staff made them feel very comfortable.
Stop by Fleet Feet and visit with the staff. Have them do the Gait analysis for you (it’s best that you dress comfortably if you plan on doing this.) After talking to the people at Fleet Feet, you may find a new or renewed appreciation of running, or you may find yourself the owner of some quality running gear.
I recently moved to the area and am on a fast track to getting to know my way around. I have 4 kids, so I will be writing a lot about family-friendly activities. I also network with several other mothers and am always looking for good ideas.