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The Problems With Shopping Online For Running Shoes

A running store employee highlights the value of in-person shopping for running shoes in an age when online shopping is king.

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Visit A Store, Save Your Body

You don’t have to look farther than Amazon Prime Day 2018 to see that online shopping has hit its stride. On July 16 alone, shoppers purchased more than 100 million products on the website, ranging from Kindles to cookwear to running shoes. It’s comforting to think that people all over the world bought running shoes on July 16, possibly joining the running community for the first time. But the convenience of online shopping, on Amazon and other sites, has impacted local running stores significantly.

To get a first-hand perspective, I spoke with Timmy Howard, an avid runner and employee at the Blue Mile running store in Broad Ripple, Ind.

Howard began working at the Blue Mile because he wanted to get fully involved with the running community, something he sees as a valuable asset of running stores. “I like the interactions that I have with each individual—from someone who has never run to the expert,” he says. From his point of view, the increase in online shopping has many runners confused. They have access to hundreds of shoes. The problem? There’s no one to help them choose the shoe that is best suited for them.

“The internet is too bogged down with options,” Howard says. “The benefits of going to a running store are the knowledge and the 1-on-1 experience you get with someone who makes running their life.” A quick search for “women’s running shoes” on Zappos reveals almost 2,000 options. To narrow down the options, your best bet is to select your preferred brand, heel height, toe style, material and insole. To many runners, that’s like asking them to name the exact time they’ll get on a 5K next year: nearly impossible.

Howard said he sees many runners come into the Blue Mile with injuries, and many of those injuries were caused by doing little research on their body type before purchasing running shoes. “They simply clicked ‘order’ and ran with no idea of what harm they may be causing,” he says. He recommends that runners visit their local running store for a proper fitting with a gait analysis. This can not only help prevent injuries, but also inform runners on how their bodies work.

“We only have one set of legs and one body,” Howard says. “The amount of money you will spend on doctor bills or physical therapy when you get injured will be far greater than the extra $20 you attempted to save.” Going to a local running store might open the door to other options, as well. The Blue Mile, in particular, has regular group runs and special events—free ways to connect with other runners in the community.

The convenience of online shopping can’t be argued, but its effectiveness should be considered. If you want to connect with the running community and are wary of the injuries that can come from new shoes, a visit to your local running store is the right option for you. “Take the time,” Howard says. “Talk to an expert and save your body.”


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