Buying new running shoes, especially for experienced athletes, is not just a fleeting shopping moment or a purchase made on a whim. It is a thought-out, planned experience. For some, like myself, the process of buying new shoes begins months before it’s actually time to buy. For many athletes, the buying process includes researching shoes, studying their own foot type, or becoming familiar with local running stores–the act of buying new shoes is a very deliberate process.
Over a week ago my friend invited me to join her in her new shoe purchase. Like the athletes I just described she was well armed with information long before it was time to buy shoes. She knew what stores she did and didn’t like in the Baltimore and Annapolis areas, she knew why she was ready to move on from her trusty Asics, she could describe her fitness level and walk/jog work-outs, and she was well versed in the different arches of her feet and the orthotics she uses to get a comfortable fit with shoes. So when we met up at the new Charm City Run store at the Annapolis Towne Centre I knew it would not be your average shoe purchase experience.
We were greeted by the store’s Partner, Tom Mansfield and his associate. The store has a clean layout that I think serves two purposes: shoppers can easily browse the gear racks and shoes without bumping into each other and athletes trying on shoes have plenty of space to move around the store to test the shoe’s fit. My friend described to Tom that it was time to replace her old shoes, something she knew by the way she experienced the slightest twinge of shin splints during her work-outs. Describing how her right foot has a flat arch and her left foot has a more normal arch and that the use of orthotics has tremendously helped her comfort level in shoes, Tom put her in a neutral shoe to analyze her gait.
I am constantly aware of my gait from tempo runs to strides and have written often about the day I will have my gait analyzed. Needless to say I was thrilled to find that Charm City had a treadmill in the store with a camera set-up to watch the runner’s feet rigged to a wall-mounted TV screen. We all watched my friend run at an easy pace and Tom replayed the video to show her the form of her footfalls. I think she was more than pleased to see that she had a relatively straight footfall with just a hint of supination in her right foot. Seeing that the neutral shoes evened out her footfalls, Tom fit her in that category of shoe type. To my question of what the main shoe types are, Tom labeled them as neutral, supportive, and motion control (I believe this was the third category) with the supportive category having the most variation of models.
From three main neutral shoes, a pair of Asics, Sauconys, and New Balance, my friend walked the store in each testing their support and comfort level. She rated the Asics as “pillowy,” the New Balance as “boxy,” and it was in the Sauconys that she felt just right. With just enough cushion but mostly firm support you could tell that she was most comfortable in them and when she asked which was better, firm or soft, the answer was “whatever you’re most comfortable in,” so she clearly made the right choice.
Once again it was proven that when it comes to buying the right pair of running shoes it’s not at all about style or color, or even price, but about finding the right fit. And as far as our store experience, I can tell you that I’ve been charmed and when it’s time to replace my own trusty running shoes, you’ll find me on the treadmill at Charm City Run as part of the complete experience.