What I’ve Learned From Working in a Running Shoe Store

My very first job when I was in high school was working for my local Fleet Feet Sports, a running specialty store. Here’s some things I picked up (along with loving the discount!):
running shoes
* Not all shoes are created equal. People buy into hype; if you’re a 300 pound man looking to get into running, you in a Free shoe has disaster written all over it. So many times I’d have people come in and demand a certain shoe, feel convinced it is what they need because of a craze or commercial. I’d do my best to advise otherwise, sometimes they’d listen but not always and in the end you just have to let them do what they will. I’d be hard-pressed to believe those shoes lasted much longer than a day or two or he didn’t come down with shin splints so painful he was crying like a baby.

* Products are meant to sell but the right ones do so for good reason. Like above, companies pay tons of money to market their goods…advertising is an art and a game. This isn’t always to say that their merchandise doesn’t back up the slick claims and aren’t top quality, just that as a buyer you’ve got to be smart. Do some research, know your stuff, and if you don’t then don’t be afraid to ask. If you go to a running specialty shop, the good ones will have their employees go through training so they will KNOW what things/shoes/accessories/etc. work and which ones are just hype. Just ask it.

* Know your boundaries. When people came in to get fit for a shoe, I’d ask to see the person walk so I could see what kind of foot type they had. From there I’d be able to offer them the best shoes to keep them injury free. I can’t say I love feet, runner feet tend to be gnarly, but with socks on I’ve got no problem. Even sans socks I don’t mind watching people walk. But when a man came in, took a seat, and proceeded to take off his shoes…as he was getting to taking off his socks he asks, “Do you have anything here for really bad foot fungus?” I drew the line. Keep your socks on thank you very much, the anti-fungal treatments are on the shelf over there.
running shoe sale
* Loyal customers get the schwag. Local running speciality stores are in competition with the bigger chains that may have cheaper prices on certain things. What you don’t get from Big 5 is the knowledge about running in particular; so if you’re going in regularly and are nice to us employees we remember that. This means if we get some freebies from retailers or know it’s okay to slide a little 10% off discount your way, we’ll keep you in mind. I’ll call it the ‘I like your face’ discount.

* Got injuries…we’ve probably been there to. Runners tend to work in running shoe stores and we are PEOPLE, not just employee droids. If you’ve got a problem, question, or anything else feel free to engage us in a little communiqué. We can offer up some tips, suggestions, advice, or if nothing else commiserate. Especially if you’re knew to the sport, feel free to pick the mind of your shoe fitter.

* Give us feedback.Okay, we don’t necessarily want to know that your last run was wrought with excruciating GI distress…but telling us that you did love the shoes we fit you in really does feel nice…just saying. The same goes if you didn’t think that shoe was too stellar, talk to us and we can work with you to find another one that works. In the place I worked there was a 30 day guarantee, if you really didn’t like a shoe, come back in and we’ll refit you and make a swap. Sometimes picking the perfect shoe takes a little bit of work…trial and error. As for which gels or bars taste good, let us know…a particular piece of apparel chafes really bad…let us know. Then we can order the things that people want.

fleet feet sports

Fleet the Foot!

I really did have a lot of fun working in the running shoe store…that said I also feel that at some point in their lives EVERYONE should have to work a customer service type job just for the sake of a reality check. Think of it as a reminder that in the end everyone is a person and should be treated as such…at the end of the day we all lace up those trainers and bust a sweat like you.

1) Where do you get your running shoes, clothes, and supplies?

2) Do you have a relationship with a particular store where you get your running goods?

3) Have you ever worked in customer service type jobs and what have you learned?

4) Do you find feet a little bit disgusting?
I have a foot thing…I just don’t like touching them. Don’t worry, I include my own nasty running feet with the judgment. ;)

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20 Responses to What I’ve Learned From Working in a Running Shoe Store

  1. 1. I get most of my gear from Target or an actual Nike or Adidas store – I should try an actual running store
    2. no, but one day…
    3. I absolutely think that everyone should, at least once in their life, hold a service job. Eye opening. And we all need, almost daily, people to serve us (I’ve personally done everything but retail – food service, dog grooming, human resources, customer service. I should round it out with some retail!)
    4. feet are gross. dancer feet are triple gross

    • haha…we should have a foot-off. :) oh ya, i’ve done food service too and that one is prolly the worst i’ve seen…i’ve always wanted to do a hidden camera type thing of just how bad some customers really treat the workers…talk about the need for an ego check! :P

  2. Amy

    I don’t have loyalty to a particular store, we don’t have a local running shop near my house but I would love if someone opened one up! I would be sure to be a regular :)
    Oh God, I did my time in customer service! Four years at a clothing department store where I learned that it is important to smile at everyone because it makes your day go a lot faster and people treat you more nicely :) Then a year at a DVD store where I learnt that people really need to get more hobbies than just watching and collecting DVDs. Then three years at a pharmacy where I learnt that a dietitian working for the pharmacy’s weight loss shake program is like selling your soul.
    My sister really, really hates feet- so all the bridesmaids had to wear closed in shoes. We all found it highly entertaining that she wore peep-toe shoes as she is so vocal about her hatred for the southern phalanges!
    Good on you for working so closely to runners feet, you are one brave chick Cait :)

    • haha….that’s so cute about ur sister!! i guess u can’t exactly argue with the bride tho! :P oh man, i was about to run so fast from that dude i woulda actually looked like i could sprint for a quick second! ;)

  3. I LOVE my local running store. There is too much to write in regards to what I love… it’s everything!! They’re really supportive of our XC teams too, which is awesome. I can’t even imagine the whole foot fungus thing… that made me wince a little when I read it! NASTY!

  4. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to work in a running store lol. I did work at an Eastern Mountain Sports and served as their “shoe-specialist”, so I learned a lot about how shoes are made and what makes them all different, but it wasn’t the same. I love my local running store, North Wales Running Company – the people there REALLY know their stuff and it seems like they really care about fitting you in the perfect shoe!! Last time I got shoes I was trying to decide between two models, and I was sort of talking through the pros and cons of each with the girl helping me (bless her for listening to me think out loud!) and the owner was listening in and said, “hey you know what, I’ve got a buddy who has exactly your foot type and he’s short and light like you are – lemme call him up and see what he thinks”. And he picked up the phone and called his friend and said “hey man, I’ve got a girl in here trying to decide between the Ghost and the Pegasus, what do you think?” and then handed the phone to me so his friend could give me a 3rd opinion!! I’m never going to another running store if I can help it, those people have my full loyalty lol!

  5. In high school I worked at a grocery store and even as a waitress, so I’ve done my share of service industry jobs! I love going into running shoe stores and letting them tell me what I need to get – I might trust the staff a little TOO much, if anything!

    • that’s how it should be!! hey, so long as u’ve got a stand-up employee, u have no reason not to trust them! i’d just raise an eyebrow if they start trying to sell u some 100lb dumbbells to use. ;)

  6. I used to always go to a running shoe sore, but now the deals are just too good online and I typically buy there…well actually, I don’t really have a need for running shoes anymore. Cycling? I have a favorite local store that I visit far too often haha.

    • yes, online is wat tons of people are doing now-a-days! on the one hand if i knew the shoes i wanted i’d be temped for better deals but on the other i feel bad for the local stores too!

  7. I loved this post! I hate feet! the only ones I love are Logans….but he has cute little boy feet :)

    I really notice a difference when I find the right shoe. Everyone kept telling my nike lunarglides were awesome but they felt like crap for me….I never buy a shoe for its appearance!

    I work in retail right now and have learned a lot about women actually. One of my favourite parts of working with women’s fashion is making someone see how beautiful they are :) nothing a belt and the right top can’t bring out! overall I can’t believe how hard we are on ourselves as women. So since working there I’ve tried to be positive about my own body and uplift others to do the same!

    • ya…glad u liked the post! u know wat…i’m not a total fan of the new wave of lunarglides and the whole minimalism shoes thing. unless i plan on racing, i still stick with the structure triax…they’ve worked for so long i don’t wanna mess with it…so go with what feels right to u!! oh, and i get so annoyed with people who refuse to buy a shoe just because of the color…really?!

  8. Jen

    LOVE the local running store(s) here. I had a favorite, and then a new one opened up, so I tried it. Awesome experience! The guy really took the time to help me get the right shoes. Sometimes, just to save time, I’ll go to one of the chain sporting goods stores, and then remember why I tried a running specialty store in the first place.
    Customer service jobs… was a restaurant manager for about 10 years…the worst job EVER! So glad I’m in a different job now.

    • i have to agree, food service is HORRIBLE!! i don’t know how u lasted 10 years!! suuuper glad u’ve got an awesome running shoe store to keep u shoed up and set! :)

  9. Eew, seriously? If you have foot fungus, why would you ever subject someone else to your grossness?!

    I have a local running store that I love – See Jane Run in Oakland- and they do all sorts of fun events, too. My first job was at Starbucks. Dealing with people before they had their coffee was very entertaining :)

  10. I totally get some gear and my shoes (when they have them) at fleet feet! Mostly I get my clothes from Dick’s or Sports Authority though. And I’ve been working in retail for about 3 years. All I have to say is be nice to the people in stores because they clean up after your mess and they don’t get paid much to do it. And I don’t have a problem with feet, I’m not going to go out of my way to touch them however.

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