Sunday, April 29, 2012

Review: RoadRunner Sports

I've never reviewed a store before, and this is a precursor to some running shoes reviews, but I do have to mention my very favorite store.

I'm a fairly new runner, only 2 years in now, and a full 6 months of that was injury and post-injury recovery. I'm still not back to my regular 5 mile runs, but I'm working on it.  When I first started running I refused to buy into the hype about running shoes. I just figured shoes were shoes and the rest was just marketing.  Well, there's a lot of marketing and hype, but I learned very quickly that proper running shoes do matter. I'm not a fan of the barefoot running movement, and my opinion may well change but for now I am a firm believer in the right shoes for the right activity.

I first went to RoadRunner Sports two years ago after a month or so of running and some resulting knee and ankle pain.  After discussions with runners and physical therapists, I decided to go get fitted for a proper pair of running shoes. RoadRunner Sports is a bit of a drive, and my first impression was that it was quite pricey.  Nevertheless, I persisted and had myself evaluated by one of their "Shoe Dogs" who identified me as mildly over-pronating and suggested some stiff neutral or light stability shoes. I had always thought I had flat feet and discovered I had quite a high arch. Now isn't that interesting. I was also fitted for their custom orthotics.  

The entire staff has a commitment to customer service that is rarely seen these days, and certainly quite rare in retail.  Since I had never purchased shoes before, I spent quite a bit of time testing out the recommendations. There are many treadmills there so you can test them out as long as you need to. I spent some time going back and forth between their two recommendations and a couple I wanted to try before I finally decided on a pair of Nike Zoom Equalon 4s. My first run the next day I noticed a significant difference. No more knee or ankle pain - wow! I have been a convert of proper shoes ever since.  I also identified a second brand, Brooks Glycerin 8, that I intended to purchase later to add into my rotation.  

I should also mention that after a few months I noticed some knee and ankle pain returning.  By going back into my running app (Nike+gps at the time), I identified that I had hit over 450 miles - time for those new shoes.  Not only did I learn that shoes matter, but replacing them at the right time also matters.

When it came time to replace my beloved Brooks (they had become my favorite), I went back to Roadrunner Sports for a new evaluation.  I could have just ordered new shoes, but I did want to see if, after some time, there had been any difference in my running style.  I had thought I no longer needed the stability shoe and could move into a straight neutral, but I did want that to be confirmed since I didn't want to risk yet another injury.

This second trip is what really sold me on this store.  As expected, working on my form had been successful and I was no longer overpronating and I had some new shoe recommendations.  Now came the fun, test driving new rides.  The staff was exceedingly helpful and pleasant as I tried all of these: NikeFree, Nike Zoom Vomero, Mizuno Wave Rider, Mizuno Wave Creation, Brooks PureConnect,  Brooks Glycerin 9, Asics Gel Cumulus 14, Asics Gel Nimbus 13.  A full 2 hours later, after test runs back and forth, I finally decided on my new shoes (and identified another one for a later purchase). I'll leave the decision for a later review.  Suffice it to say, I got quite the workout, and so did the staff.  Wow, not even a hint of exasperation as I was handed off to another staff member when the first one went off to lunch, and he came back twice as helpful afterwards when I was still there.

I'm sold, not only will I go back for my regular purchases, but if I can't make it I'll order online because clearly they have great hiring and training practices.  Such great customer service deserves loyalty!  Oh, and I've never found my rides cheaper than their VIP price.  BTW: there's a clearance section in the back that's well worth checking out for some real bargains on discontinued models - now that's worth the drive!

 If you don't have a Roadrunner Sports in your area, find the closest running specialty store, but if you have a choice - they're worth the drive.

1 comment:

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