Running specialty shops have been the foundation of the running industry since the 1970s.
There are many places to buy running shoes nowadays—at a big sporting goods retailer, at a mall chain store, online, at a discount website or at a running specialty store. The roughly 800 running specialty shops around the U.S. have been the lifeblood of the running industry and the sport for more than 35 years, providing a sense of community and spreading the knowledge and passion to all levels of runners. Yes, many have had a runner-geek quirkiness to them, but that’s the culture of running that has thrived for decades. In this gallery of photos from some of the country’s best shops, we offer a glimpse at what they provide and a few reasons you should consider shopping there for your running and fitness needs.
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1. Excellent customer service.
Why shop at a specialty run shop for your running needs? Excellent customer service, individualized fitting (which often includes expert video gait analysis) and in-depth knowledge of all things running. Photo: Big River Running
2. Learn how to train.
It’s the best and least intimidating place to learn about training for your first race, whether it’s a 5K or a full marathon. You'll typically only Photo: Movin' Shoes
3. Learn from experienced employees.
Running shop employees eat, sleep and breathe running. It’s about what you’re getting for your money. Running smarts = priceless. Photo: Movin' Shoes
4. Get your injury questions answered.
Most specialty running stores have coaches and sports medicine experts on staff (or easily available) for questions about health, injuries, rehab and recovery. Photo: Big River Running
5. Help the local economy.
If you spend $100 at a locally owned business, on average, $68 goes back to the local economy. Spend the same $100 at a national chain and only $43 returns to the local economy. Photo: Fleet Feet Syracuse
6. They're all about running.
You wouldn’t go to a bakery to get an oil change or new windshield wipers, would you? So there’s no sense going to a store that sells football and hockey gear to buy running shoes and apparel. Photo: Gazelle Sports
7. Support local races, schools and causes.
Local running shops support local races, schools and running groups. Photo: Movin' Shoes
8. Group runs and special events.
Specialty running shops offer group runs and special events on a regular basis. Sporting goods stores offer fly fishing demos and great deals on pro sports jerseys. Photo: Columbus Running Company by James DeCamp
9. Unparalleled customer service!
Passionate, knowledgeable runners work at running stores. That's one of reasons Fleet Feet Syracuse was named the 2012 Running Store of the Year by Competitor and Formula4Media. Photo: Jana Birchum/Formula4Media
10. Get shoes you can't get anywhere else.
Specialty shops often have running shoes that aren’t sold at larger sporting good stores or national chain retailers. Photo: Marathon Sports