I Wish People Understood Running Shoes Aren’t “Good” Shoes

I feel like apologizing for sounding like a broken record but I think it’s because I have to talk about this every day at work, not necessarily that I’ve written about it too many times.

But regardless I will make my points immediately so you don’t have to read the whole thing to benefit – running shoes are specialty shoes, they are not magic cure-all good-for-everything shoes.

  • Running shoes are terrible “Everyday” shoes
  • Running shoes do not have “good” arch support
  • Running shoes are not good work shoes and telling me how many hours you’re on your feet won’t change that
  • Running shoes are terrible gym shoes
  • Running shoes will not “correct” anything about how you move unless the problem was caused by already wearing worse running shoes
  • You do not need to wear “good” running shoes just because you are old

A big part of my frustration comes from the fact those customers keep the lights on, they are actually my job’s core audience, and yet we don’t actually serve them well. The industry tells them we do but at the ground level we’re stuck serving them merely as best we can with terrible options. Like, we don’t even sell good running running shoes let alone good running shoes for non-running shoe problems. It’s like we’re a tennis shop selling badminton rackets to hockey players.

But that’s a corporate problem and I can’t hope to change that. I can only shout into the void and tell myself that I’m #informing people.

I think there’s two reasons at the heart of the problem. One is just marketing and there’s two sides to that coin too. Athletic shoe marketing obsessively uses words like support, structure, help, comfort, performance and promise you access to your best self; meanwhile medical advertisers treat feet like a Starbucks order where you gotta know if you’re a high arch, wide-foot, over-pronating, heel-striker; which is all nonsense to make you feel overwhelmed.

Now, some people LOVE being the Starbucks order of feet, it makes them feel unique and important. And like so many unique, important people they use tons of words they don’t understand. And those people I don’t think can be helped. At least not by me.

So top-down advertising is a problem. The second part of the problem is bottom-up. People have aches and pains and think athletic shoes will help. But, no, it’s being an athlete that would help. It’s what you do, not what you wear.

People want to walk in and buy the solution to a problem. I’ve learned that I have to sell someone a shoe first before telling them how to solve their problem for free with a few exercises or they will complain about me to national leadership.

Another part of the problem that I should acknowledge though is no one else is even trying to serve the market. Running shoes captured the whole make-feet-feel-good-please market because no one else is trying.

There are actually good running shoe manufacturers making all around great shoes but only marketing to hardcore runners so they don’t occupy enough of the market to be in in stores everywhere; while the Pop-Tart running shoe manufacturers make glorified lifestyle shoes that are actually worse than lifestyle shoes but they market them to everyone. Smartest of all they market them to women. Women make choices for themselves but also for their kids and for their husbands.

If you can convince parents they are doing the right thing for their kids by doing the magic voodoo gait analysis then you not only got them, you got the kid indoctrinated for life too.

And I think big lifestyle brands can’t risk looking like they care. Like, if Converse built an ad around being only 1/3 as bad for your feet as Nikes they’d be giving up their carefully cultivated care-free image.

There are some small companies that are really trying and I want to leave with something good and worthwhile so here’s a video from one of my go-to channels:

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