Running Stores – What’s a Gimmick, What’s Not

May 21, 2013 — Going shopping for a new pair of running shoes, shorts, accessories can be a great time and can sometimes make you feel like a kid in a candy store. There is so much going on, so many new colors, new styles, etc. and because generally you only go to a running store once every couple of months, it’s great to see all the new stuff!

It isn’t like going to a department store, where there are so many things you couldn’t possibly even look at them all. A running store is special because there is just enough in there to look at everything and think “I want one of everything”, now obviously purchasing one of everything isn’t realistic, but the general feeling is “I could see myself wearing this” with almost every garment in the store.

Today, I explore some things to be aware of when going to a running store. It should be noted – we don’t actually have a store (yet), so this is just from a consumer perspective and from expos and things where people come up and ask us “is this a gimmick” or something along those lines.  So here is list of commonly asked gimmicks.

FreeScanFooterFoot Scanners – You’ve probably seen these things in drug stores and maybe an occasional running store if you wear a certain brand. Basically you step into this box and it “measures all your foots pressure points” or something like that, it scans your foot and evidently tells you the 88 places your foot strikes down. This is a gimmick! Not to say it doesn’t work, but if you’re paying for it, you’re getting scammed. I’ve seen coupons for free foot scans, it better be free! A hardly-trained sales associate can tell you the exact same thing this machine can tell you. This is the exact same test as the “wet test”, basically dip your foot in some water then stand on a paper bag, your foot will look like one of the images in the picture below. Literally the exact same test – one looks like it costs a few hundred dollars, one looks free. I could go on about this but FleetFeet actually does a great job explaining all of this here. 


Moving on. Foot scanners are probably my biggest pet peeve about running stores; but to clarify all running stores should do some sort of fitting for you if you’re a new runner, injured runner or not sure of what you’re looking for. They will do the wet test (or the foot scanner), then watch you walk and/or run on a treadmill and then they should also measure your foot, from here you’ll be able to find a shoe that should be right for you. You should also listen to your feet and your body. A machine or other human can only tell you so much and make recommendations, but it’s never going to be 100% accurate. If a shoe doesn’t feel right to you, don’t wear it!

“Fit Specialist” – I’ve heard “well the fit specialist at such-and-such store told me to get this shoe”. Oh that person is a specialist, huh? They make no more than $11/hour, they aren’t specialists in anything. Saying that someone is a fit specialist is the same as saying they work at the store. You shouldn’t get all googly eyed and think you’re being treated like a king because the fit specialist saw you. Everyone who works at a running store is a “fit specialist” – at least by title. Of course, like any “specialist” some are better than others but ultimately don’t be pressured into buying anything just because this person is a specialist. If they were really that special in the fit department, the position would require advanced training and a degree. Again, don’t get me wrong, most of these associates know what they are doing and you should listen to them, but know that you can have an opinion too – it’s not surgery. So the name “fit specialist” – gimmick.

Hydration/Fuel Belts – Believe it or not, these are not a gimmick. Yes some people think they look stupid, kind of like a fanny pack, but when it comes to hydrating – there are no gimmicks. I am one of those people that think these things look stupid, but I’m also one of those people who wishes he wasn’t too proud to wear one. If I’m out for a long run, I can usually get about 90 minutes in before I would really like a drink, if I don’t get a drink after about an hour and 45 minutes, well then I’m miserable. My technique is usually carry a bottle of Gatorade with me for 5 miles, then drop it and pick it up on my way back and rehydrate. My way isn’t that efficient. This is another instance where it’s about listening to your body – if your body says you’re thirsty, you should probably drink something. There are all sorts of fuel/hydration belts on the market, so I’m not going to recommend any specific one (because I haven’t tried any), but if you’re ever out for a long run and you need some water – hydration belts are the way to go. Now what about hydration packs you ask? These are like Camelbak or something that you wear like a backpack. Those can be okay, just keep in mind you’re putting pressure on a lot of different areas and getting sweaty in a lot of different areas as well. With a belt or a hand-held strap, you’re really only putting added pressure on one spot.


Compression Socks – Compression socks are one of the newer trends in running, triathlon-ing, and cycling. Compression socks (or recovery socks) are widely used in the medical profession as a way to decrease pain and basically increase how effective and efficient your blood flow is. Compression socks improve your circulation, reduce fatigue and genuinely help you recover faster from a hard run and some injuries. Compression socks are not a gimmick! A few things you should know about compression socks:
A. They aren’t cheap – a good pair can run north of $60
B. They are TIGHT – like very difficult get on type of tight, but that’s how they are designed – not so much a problem for women, but men your leg hair might feel a little weird after you take them off.
C. You can wear them during a run, but they are really designed for after you’re done running for the day.
D. They are becoming trendy and that probably drives the price up a little but that also helps make them more hip, come in different colors, all that good stuff.

Okay so there’s four things – two gimmicks, two non-gimmicks. Over all, don’t be too intimidated when going in to a running store. All are welcome at any running store and they should be happy to see you. Also, remember to listen to your body, feet, and wallet – you have a choice in what you wear!

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