So there I stood, confused and intimidated by the sight of the massive shoe wall at the local footwear dealer. Truth be told, I am not a seasoned runner but I did know that my 2-year-old running shoes were taking a toll on my feet. The time for a new pair of shoes was now.
This is an all-too-common occurrence at footwear stores as customers struggle to find the right shoe for their athletic needs. I looked online initially and saw a few shoes that I thought might work for me, but then I decided to do a little research and made a call to San Diego's largest running shoe retailer, Road Runner Sports.
I was put in contact with Stuart Slomberg, the director of retail operations, and asked him what kind of advice he would give to a first-time runner like me.
"There are a number of questions we ask our customers prior to getting started," Slomberg said. "Have you had any injuries? What are your training goals? Lastly, have you ever had a foot/gait analysis?"
With that, I knew I was dealing with the right people. It's that kind of information funnel that helps a good retailer narrow down the needs of customers. This is very important because Road Runner Sports has, quite literally, hundreds of different styles of footwear on its walls and, without knowing where to start, it can feel overwhelming.
While I do highly recommend going into a brick-and-mortar store so you can try on the shoes and get a feel before you commit to any purchase, that's no longer the case for many people. Maybe you're the customer who likes shopping online and prefers to skip the whole customer service aspect of the experience. I asked my shoe guru what he thought was the biggest difference between purchasing shoes from a physical store and an online shopping destination.
"This depends on their level of running experience and how long it's been since the customer has shopped in our retail store. If they are comfortable with knowing their running needs, online is a fine place to shop," Slomberg said.
"The physical retail experience also benefits the customer as they can get hands-on assistance from a running expert to include a customized fit with our brand of socks and custom insoles. So, we would recommend that all new runners and those that have only bought online to visit a retail store to determine their running needs and make future purchases from both channels, which provides each customer the best of both worlds."
With that in mind, I took off my Vans and started slipping on some pairs of Asics and New Balance shoes, searching for the perfect pair that would help turn my physique from a dad bod to something more like King Leonidas from "300."
As a lifelong San Diegan, Ken Lewis has surfing and ocean life in his DNA. A 30-year surfer himself, Lewis has worked in the surf and skate industry for most of his career. Send him thoughts about the surfing and fitness worlds to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Instagram @hanger18.