I’ve avoided the running store thus far because I was afraid someone might recognize me as a non-runner and immediately point his finger at me and yell, “Interloper!” Then, collectively, everyone inside would chase me out of the store. And seeing as how they would have running experience and I don’t, they would easily catch me.
I walked into the store and immediately felt a little overwhelmed. Shoes, compression gear, socks and other equipment I didn’t even recognize were all over the place. And it was busy. There were several sales associates helping people, but more customers were waiting. I walked around, looking at the offerings, thinking to myself, “What are you doing here? They can smell the non-runner scent on you. Just slink out the door and no one will notice you were here.”
I decided to take a look at the shoes (since that was the whole reason for the trip in the first place), even though I had no idea which pair I needed. As I was staring at a pair of green and yellow shoes with fancy mesh and lightning bolts, Joe approached and asked if anyone needed help.
I told Joe that I was just beginning to run, so I didn’t even know what questions I was supposed to ask. He seemed to perk up at the thought of helping a newbie. We moved to some benches, and Joe told me to remove my shoes.
That’s when I realized my socks didn’t match.
Joe had me walk around the store, observing my awkward gait and weird, wide feet. It turns out I don’t have much of an arch, and I roll in on my ankle to compensate. He then measured each foot (confirming my footbesity – a size 12 1/2E). He disappeared into the back of the store to find the perfect pair of shoes.
Up first – a blue pair of Brooks. Joe diligently explained the technology that went into designing and making the shoe – but not so much that it was all over my head. The shoes had some sort of cornstarch-like material developed by Brooks that gradually changes the contour of the sole to fit the runner’s anatomy. I slipped them on. They were instantly the best shoes I’ve ever worn. I felt like all the bones in my body aligned, and I was two feet taller. He encouraged me to take a jog outside in them, so I wandered out onto the sidewalk, thinking the whole time that any other store would grimace at the thought of a customer exiting the store with unpaid merchandise. I loved these shoes, but Joe wasn’t done.
The second pair I tried on were a blue pair of Asics. They weren’t designed with the same amount of support as the Brooks, and it showed. And even though they were the same size, they were loose and clunky on my feet. Joe retrieved a smaller pair (a 12E), but they just didn’t feel as good as the Brooks.
A pair of New Balance running shoes were up next. They were engineered to provide more support around the whole foot, and while I liked them, they didn’t give me the same “feeling” as the Brooks.
In the end, I took home a pair of blue Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12 running shoes.
My original budget was $100, and these were listed at $109.99. With a 10% discount for signing up for the store’s listserv, my total came to $104.93. A little over budget, but well worth the experience. Besides, this exact pair of shoes retails for $110 on the Brooks website, and that doesn’t include shipping. And I wouldn’t have even known that I needed that extra sole support to begin with.
Which brings me to an aside. There was something uniquely Louisville about Ken Combs. As a community, we’re fiercely proud of our local businesses. Ken Combs, as far as I know, is the only locally owned running store left in Louisville (EDIT: I was reminded about Swags Sport Shoes), and it’s definitely an establishment we should be proud of. The selection, knowledge, and most of all, the service, are attributes we have to be careful not to take for granted.
So, now I’ve got good shoes. One less excuse not to run.