How to Get the Most When Shopping at a Running Specialty Store

How to Get the Most When Shopping at a Running Specialty Store

One of the most common questions I get is how to get the most when shopping at a run specialty store. I’ve worked in the industry for 7 years (man time flies) and there is so much people don’t know about local running stores! I love my job, I love helping those with similar interests, and I also enjoy learning about the newest running specialty products.

How to Get the Most When Shopping at a Running Specialty Store

Many people are often intimidated to come into a run specialty store.  There is a mindset that everyone working, and that comes into a local store is a professional, fast runner.  I can assure you that is not the case!  

In order to get the most when shopping at a run specialty store, first, get the right mindset. Everyone who walks in is treated with the same respect, whether you are the veteran runner or the first time runner.

We rarely see professional runners because the nature of the sport is professionals know what works for them and are probably given free shoes every 100 miles. They don’t need to be fitted for running shoes.

Comparatively running isn’t an expensive sport. The most important and costly item you need is a pair of running shoes.

A good pair of shoes means shoes that work for your particular gait, stride, and feet. A good pair of shoes for me does not mean good shoes for you. Similar to marriage, there is a different, healthy shoe for every single runner.

I was asked to write a post about how to get the most when shopping at a run specialty store. See here we are!

So get the most when shopping at a run specialty store? 

First, tell us all the aches and pains you have when running.  
Sore feet?
Sore knees?
Bum butt?
Shin splints? Does one leg hurt more than the other?
Did you lose half your toenails?
Don’t feel like you are rambling, the more you can tell us about your running history, the easier it is to narrow down shoes.

Second, trust us.  Running specialty store employees go through a lot of training.  In order to get the most when shopping at a run specialty store, you must trust us. While it may seem weird that only a few shoes out of a dozen are the best fit for you…it’s what we are here for. Also, trust us that your foot size might be different than you always thought. It happens, feet change.

We have looked, studied, and helped dozens of people with shoes.  Anyone working the floor in run specialty has done many gait analysis and fitted people for running shoes. Trust that when we pull a neutral shoe, you don’t need that high-end stability option despite the shoe looking cooler.

Third, ask questions:

Most running stores are a wealth of training information.

This could be anything from training plans to local races. Online resources can tell you a lot, but they aren’t specialized in your area. You might want information on local run clubs, high school running, trail running, training programs, or where to do your long runs. Run shops know all of that. Information relevant to Florida will not be as relevant to New Jersey. The more you ask, the more information and advice you get the most when shopping at a run specialty store.

Most local running stores also have group runs, fun runs, and activities to bring the running community together. Running can be as social or solitary as you want.  Half of run specialty is customer service, and it doesn’t just stop when you have a running shoe that fits.

In summary, a running specialty store is a great resource well past shoes. First, to get the most when shopping at a run specialty store you must trust the employees. You can find out information about gear, training and local events if you have any questions feel free to ask.

Finally, have you subscribed to the LOLZletter? It’s a free newsletter that comes out each Monday. In the newsletter, I share running industry trends and things relevant to the sport.  I also wrote an ebook all about running shoes.

Questions for you:

What tips or advice do you have about visiting a running specialty store?

Have you ever been properly fitted for running shoes?


  1. Just like you said Hollie – don’t be intimidated or afraid to give too much information!

    I have not gotten a full analysis but did have someone look at my gait and recommend some shoes. Honestly the Brooks pure Flow line has worked for me for the past 3-4 years, however my latest pair is giving me a blister on one toe, and just don’t feel the same way as they used to. It may be time for me to go in and visit a running specialty store again soon! May be time for me to break up with my Pure Flows!

    Awesome post!

  2. The FIRST thing I tell someone when they want to start running is go to Running Etc and get fitting for a good running shoe. It is so important and I swear by their expertise!

    A tip for going to one of these stores: try different brands than you are used to. Its not bad to tell the employee that you normally wear a brand because it works for you…its part of their evaluation. But don’t refuse to try on other brands! I was a saucony girl forever, but I’m starting to branch out!

  3. There’s a specialty running store right by me and I absolutely love it! I have to admit I was intimidated and nervous the first time, but the people who work there are so helpful, nice and passionate about running. They helped me so much! I think it’s a good idea to ask the workers about race discounts and running routes in the area, especially if you’re new to the area! My place has a huge packet full of different routes. It’s great!

  4. We ask a series of questions when customers first come into the store 1) Have you been fitted before/are you looking to replace a pair you already have, 2) Do you have any aches and pains, and 3) are you training for anything. Those questions kind of help guide the conversation and give us some background knowledge. I remember when I went to get fitted for my first pair of sneakers in 7th grade and I was so intimidated, but now that I work at a running store, albeit infrequently, I’m on the other end of the spectrum and try to chat with the person so they don’t feel the way I did my first time.

  5. I used to work for Nike Running and I learned an amazing amount about each type of shoe we sold. I can pretty much break down the nitty gritty of each shoe… but I wish I did have a broader range into other brands. As part of my orientation I had to go through a full gait analysis and I actually ran in every single shoe model we sold so I could see how the sole structure affected my stride. It was pretty cool. Great tips!

  6. Specialty running <3 <3 <3 One of my favorite parts about this industry is the community aspect. Running brings people together, especially if folks train together through an official program or run for fun after work. And community events are a blast too! Personally, most of my closest friends I've met through work/run specialty.

  7. I’ve definitely been intimidated to go into a running store especially because I feel like I’m not a “real” runner since I don’t really race and stuff. But when I finally went they were SO helpful and I’ve never had a problem with shin splints since!

  8. I’m totally guilty of being intimidated by the running store. Even a regular sports store is daunting. I just don’t feel like I belong so it’s nice to hear that that is not actually the case from a pro.

  9. Count me in with the people who’ve been intimidated by a specialty running store! The first time I went in one, I barely said much at all, and while they did analyze my gait and fit me with a pair of shoes, I wasn’t overly crazy about them. I’ll have to go back soon and try again. Thanks for the helpful tips!

  10. Yes! Agree with all! As an employee at a specialty running store, i can’t tell you how many questions I ask people, every time. have you been walking today, how much time are you on your feet, what are you training for, injuries, etc etc etc. I always try to get people talking as much as possible! And changing their words when they come in saying “im not a REAL runner..” YES YOU ARE.

  11. I’ve gotten fitted and refitted several times and at several running shoe stores. One thing to remember as well is that it’s good to get refitted after an injury- I got refitted after my stress reaction and layoff last year and it was a good thing because I went from stability to neutral shoes.

    I also encourage everyone who is going to be running SOME to get fitted and buy running shoes- even if they mostly do gym classes or cross training, it’s good to have high-quality running shoes you’re fitted for if you plan to occasionally jump into a 5K or do boot camp classes that have some running (not to mention a lot of running shoes out there are great for those types of workouts with shorter running distances as well).

  12. If you’re relatively new to running, have made a huge improvement recently or are a young woman that has either hit puberty or given birth it is important to have your gait re-analysed. All these factors may impact on your biomechanics and continuing to rely on an old analysis may lead to injury.

    Similarly, if you always buy the same shoe but it has been “upgraded”, do your homework before buying online. Some brands will give a model the same name, but will cheekily add heel height, weight and/or support, which will change the performance of the shoe and of your gait when you wear it. If the upgrade has been significant, don’t buy blind.

    Make sure your gait is analysed barefoot and at your normal running speed, both on and off the treadmill: If you are not used to running on treadmills your gait may well be different, particularly if you are a long-striding runner. Similarly, if you usually run your steady runs at 7mm, there’s no point having your gait measured at 9mm. Don’t be afraid to get them to ramp the treadmill up – if they don’t have the expertise to be able to see your gait at that speed or have the technology to slow the footage, go somewhere else as what they try and sell you may not be right for you.

    If you are a long-time haven’t had any significant changes to your speed/training/injuries and the “diagnosis” of the running store differs greatly to last time, seek a second opinion. I have seen some fantastic running store advice but am sad to say that have also seen some shocking things, including an inability to distinguish between pronation and supanation, and recommending heavily build up shoes for natural forefoot strikers which actually cause them to heelstrike. I’d love to agree with Hollie that all running store staff are expert, but unfortunately it just isn’t true. In my experience, chainstores tend to receive poorer training than independent stores, and the bigger the chain the worse the advice.

    If you are particularly injury-prone, go and see a physio who specialises in gait analysis and biomechanics. Store staff are limited in the advice they can give and are ultimately paid to sell shoes, not give you lengthy biomedical feedback or advice on how to correct it beyond “this shoe should work better than that shoe”.

    Be wary of stores/physios that have particular brand loyalties. If everyone on the shop floor and all the point of sale material relates to one brand, and/or staff bring down several models of one brand or seem to be pushing the same brand on several of the customers around you then be aware that they may get commission on those shoes, or may be getting them at a heavily discounted trade rate. Ask to try some other brands too.

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