What Really Goes On In A Running Store: The Myth Of Gait Analysis

Opening definitive statement: Any gait analysis that doesn’t involve a treadmill and a high speed camera is nonsense and even then there’s no useful running shoe information gathered.

This video, so shockingly lamely produced, is actually the best informational video on running shoes I’ve found in my years of searching.

It’s short, it’s clear, it’s unequivocal.

And if it were widely seen I could stop being confronted with the same moronic expectations every day at work.

I serpticiously put a poster up in the store that contains a bunch of this information to try and preempt the tedium and nonsense but, naturally, posters just become part of the scenery.

Now of course I worry about confirmation bias so I’ve been digging back in lately, trying to find out what the other side says and I’ve found… nothing. There is no other side. There’s nothing I can find defending heel drop shoes, orthodics, stability shoes and pronation control, etc. It’s just all grandfathered into the industry and the cultural knowledge.

I used to keep my copy of Brian Metlzer’s Kicksology at work with a highlighted passage about a running shoe study. This study took two groups, one assessed and assigned footwear using conventional gait analysis while another group was assigned at random… And there was no difference in injury rates. So if you go to a running store and they have you walk around barefoot and they nod knowingly – they’re still as good as you guessing at random.

Yet, I deal with people every week who want that bit of smoke and mirrors. It pervades the industry not because it gains any useful information but because it builds trust. It creates the illusion of expertise and it reinforces the customer’s vision of their own specialness. Just like everywhere else in society a wildly above average number of people are convinced they aren’t average. They believe that if the situation was simple they wouldn’t be confused; if this didn’t require expertise there wouldn’t be so many experts; so many options; so much.

But the truth is that’s not expertise, it’s just marketing. It’s all the same capitalism where what we’re selling is feeling good. We’re selling the act of purchasing and all the noise and ritual is just to enhance that so you’ll do it again. And the incentive in the industry is to keep you buying and buying again sooner.

The exponential increase of capitalism means an industry that sold 3 billion pairs of shoes 5 years ago needs to sell 6 billion this year to stay afloat.

Because the truth is a holistic approach to fitness will get you what you’re really after but it’s not super profitable to any one industry.

There’s a study referenced a few issues back in Runner’s World where pronators and neutrals were assessed for power output and the stability shoe group was in fact putting out less power – then they gave them some exercises for arch strength and got that power balance corrected.

So even if you believe that you need a stability shoe the right thing to do is still not to buy a stability shoe or an insole, it’s strength train and get your arches back.

Everyone else, every manufacturer of shoes and orthopedics and physio who convinces you your feet are just broken and you’re weak and need something more just wants your money even if they don’t know it. Even if they are well-intentioned salespeople trained by well-intentioned salespeople.

Cheer Up, It’s About To Get Worse

I just learned about a study across 72 countries about age and happiness and it turns out there’s a huge trough from roughly 35 to 44. Great news for me and my core friends who are all closer in age than non-twin siblings can be.

And I was looking forward to 35 too because as a dude (which 2/3 of my core friends are as well) under 35 we’re most likely to die by violence or accident but over 35 it switches to the big 3 where we’re most likely to die by cancer, Alzheimer’s, or heart disease and those are things you can prevent with daily habits.

But no. Statistically I can expect to be more depressed for the next decade and having spent my entire life up to this point being severely, suicidally depressed that’s just, well, that’s depressing.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel though that all the people studied turned sharply upward after 44 and mostly got happier and happier until the end of days. Statistically speaking the happiest age to be is 82. So get stoked.

It’s not talked about in what I read but I wonder if there’s survivor bias in there. Like, all the unhappy people kept dying (which is true, loneliness is more deadly than smoking according to a different study) and therefore the study only included the survivors. Would they be grateful they survived or did they survive because they’re grateful? A hard study to design.

But it all got summed by Jim Jefferies a long time before this study. He talks about what he learned from his elderly father is that you just have to out live your depression. When you’re young (and this part is echoed in the discussion of the study I read) you think you’re going to get all these wonderful things like a fulfilling career and a wonderful partner and then you don’t. Pause for laughter. But eventually you look around and go it’s not that bad though.

In the grand scheme we know there’s two kinds of unhappy people, those who got what they wanted and those who didn’t. And it’s because happiness when you’re young is about purpose and you lose purpose either way. Happiness when you’re older is, seemingly and probably, about small gratitudes and that sort of lame shit.

So get miserable because you’re going to cheer up.

Follow Up To My Awful Company Post From Yesterday – It’s Still Awful

Got this gem of an email this morning.

From: Same fuckface @ My Work
Sent: Wednesday, August 19, 2020 11:47 AM
To: Me
Subject: RE: EPP Altras

An Ontario store just e-mailed me about your shoes – not sure how it ended up in Ontario but they are shipping it to you.


Oh, you’re not sure, Andrew? How they ended up in Kingston is you mailed them there, Andrew.

And like, you have no idea? But… Shouldn’t you though? Something came through your work flow and got fucked up and you have no idea? I’d be trying fix that, my guy.

And btw, apology accepted. Way to take ownership.

What’s great is my email exchange with Shipping contains this exact phrase, as part of their telling me to fuck off and I copy/pasted it into my email with Andrew to be like, hey look how your staff are telling me to fuck off rather than helping:

we went and asked Andrew and he gave direction on what store it was for so that is where we sent the shoe

So Josh in shipping got a package, didn’t know what to do (great for someone who works in shipping), asked Andrew who told him to ship it to Ontario, then they both blew me off when I asked if they knew anything about this missing package saying there simply aren’t any missing packages and everything gets sent where it’s supposed to go. Only to have Ontario receive the package and email asking why they were being shipped a random pair of shoes and that they were sending them back.

So A) Thanks Ontario for not just keeping and selling my shoes at your location and B) Again, my own superiors at my company had no qualms about fucking me like that for no reason and had no intention of dealing with it.

Yet I’d be endangering my job if I pointed any of this out in official company channels.

Sweet world, thanks crony capitalism.

This Is Just Workplace Venting But Holy Fuck Is It Awful Dealing With My Own Company

Everyone at my work has a go-to horror story of emailing with the higher ups. Here’s my latest.

This is the end of an hour’s work on my part trying to track down a seemingly lost pair of shoes that are already paid for.

From: (Doucheydouchedouche @ My work)
Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2020 1:13 PM
To: (sincere hard working me, also @ my work)
Subject: Re: EPP Altras


They had a packing slip with them, I said to ship to whatever store was listed there and that’s the extent I know about it.

That’s the whole email. Thanks top-of-the-food-chain, glad you’re the person I got directed to by everyone else who also didn’t give a shit to help.

Like, you’re not a surly teenager at a record store, you are a high up, central figure in the corporation.

And here’s a summary of the phone exchange with the shipping department from before that:

Shipping: If we got it on the 11th then we shipped it on the 11th

Me: Who did you ship it to?

Shipping: Whoever.

Me: Whoever? Whoever who?

Shipping: Whoever we were supposed to.

And I’m like no motherfucker because I’m who-supposed-to. Then he emails me the tracking info for a different company sending something to Kingston and says he hasn’t seen anything from yet a different company lately.

On the phone before Shipping I had talked to head office reception and even they had this same company-wide attitude of yeah, I probably did my job, who the fuck are you to ask.

They have this not-my-job-don’t-talk-to-me attitude about everything. Like, they have a not-my-job-attitude about things that are their exact job.

And it’s not that they are just not helping, it’s that they actively act like we – the employees on the ground level dealing with inventory and customers – need to fuck off.

Like, what do they think the company does? What is the point if not to enable us to do our jobs? Why aren’t they concerned when an issue’s been raised and supply chain has broken down?

And even still why be a dick about it? We’re on the same team. I’ve met city road crews that aspired to be harder working and more helpful.

I know that to you, dear reader (mostly Heather), this seems an over reaction to a single email but like I said, we all have these stories and stand around baffled by them whenever we have to interact with them.

Like [name]’s story is the time he got an email with a subject line like ‘this still isn’t right’ and then no body to the email just a chart we had no idea what to do with.

It’s like if your boss’ boss sent you a weather map for New Zealand and was like why is this wrong? Answer: I don’t fucking know, why don’t give me any clue as to what you’re actually asking me?

Or [other name]’s story about how he tried to helpfully tell a higher up that something we have a lot of in our inventory didn’t show up as being in our inventory on the public website. To which that higher replied with a screen shot of an actually not relevant page of the website and the words “Sure does” as if [other name] was doubting that the website itself existed I guess? I don’t know, I’m not such a fuckstick that I actively try not to figure out what someone is telling me when I pay them to help me run my business.

Like, we’re always doing the thing that you would punish us for not doing and yet you just act like we’re cunts. WTF? How do you have a business?



Author’s note: Still fuming, this was written as a brutal rant and then edited to not violate an NDA or anything. Fucking stupid Boomer company man bullshit.

Thinking You’re Really Good At An Exercise Might Mean You Suck At That Exercise

For me it’s Clamshells. Every semi-literate and internet-accessing runner knows they need to clamshells and I hated clamshells. Not because they were hard but because they too fucking easy.

I would test myself – can I do a hundred, each side, unbroken? Yep. Then I’d do  three sets of a hundred.

Then I’d get bored and figure I graduated to the harder stuff. Single leg deadlifts, pistol squats, 30k long runs.

Now I’ve been to a physio with the aim of improving that running and he’s got me back struggling to do 2 sets of 8 clamshells. Why? Because my body was compensating and I didn’t know it.

I have a weak left glute and my hamstring takes over. Totally undetectable in normal life or in moderate running but training for an ultra marathon as I am is like UFC fighting – when you’re just highschool wrestling or doing kid’s karate or something you can have big holes in your fight game with no consequences but the UFC will expose every flaw you didn’t know you had and you better plug those leaks or you are going to get killed.

But, but, but… I’ve been doing all the exercises runners are supposed to do, I’m supposed to have plug those holes, I wasn’t negligent…

Nope, it just took someone outside of me, who really knew what they were looking for, to see how I was cheating the extremely simple exercises of the clamshell (and the bird dog) and now not only do I have to do them properly, I have to unlearn doing them wrongly.

Because if the body is getting the outcome it wants it does not care about long term sustainability. If you’re running then your body assumes you’re running away from a tiger and it gets you fucking running, if you eat a bazillion tons of sugar your body assumes this is the only food you’ve found and are going to find and it tries to store it all. Until it can’t do those things and that’s why North America is full of diabetics with fucked up hips.

As a metaphor: You’ve worked at a company where one or two people were doing 50% of their job, right? What happens? People around them end up doing 125 or 150 percent. And who gets burned out, maybe quits? Not the 50%ers. They’re just coasting, loving life. But who looks like the problem, who complains, who snaps at people? The actual backbone of the team.

You, as the executive of your body, don’t get feedback from the 50%er that’s chillin’, you hear from the overworked, bitchy, 125% bastard that’s trying, that wants to put in the work and can’t. And that’s why we end up playing wack-a-mole with illness and injuries.

Unless of course you find the, sometimes very quiet, upstream problem. And maybe it’s something you think you excel at…

How Not To Buy Shoes At A Running Store

Don’t Bring Your Mom. This really means don’t bring anybody for ‘support’ but also literally don’t bring a parent -they’re the worst.

What happens is you get two people speaking as one then suddenly breaking to argue with each other then turn back to you as one again; or the parent interrupting you to pepper the kid with unhelpful questions; or acting like they’re a celebrity body guard with their kid as a client and insisting what they’re wants are.

Now oddly I’ve had the opposite situation – where an adult child has brought in their elderly parents and acted as a coach and translator and it’s worked out great – except for one time the child described herself as a professional movement specialist and shit-tested me constantly. Mostly though the dynamic works for elderly people who ‘don’t want to be a bother’ and don’t want their kid to spend money on them.

With parents and children though the parents are really controlling – of their kid and of me – out of a good place of wanting the best for their kid and of course the problem is they have no idea what’s best or how to act so they come off like an unbearable dick. Dads do it too and can be worse but dads taking their kids shopping is a blue moon compared to mom’s taking their kids shopping.

Come To The Running Store To Buy Running Shoes. I’m already fucking up my list here because this is a what-not-to-do list so I guess just don’t do anything other than this is my point.

The exception is that we get a lot of old people who need a comfortable supportive shoe or people fresh from the podiatrist or physio who got recommended a specific shoe for a specific injury or need and that’s fine.

My go-to hilarious example of this sin though is I had a girl come in – to The Running Room – and reject each option I brought out because it looked like a running shoe. But then wanted to keep trying stuff and acting a bit like I was letting her down.

And I was like, no bitch, you let me down. You let the whole store down.

And the criminal variation of this sin is the person who wants an everything shoe and then wants to just plow ahead when I tell them that’s a terrible idea. Because I’ve learned to clarify right at the start that you want a shoe specifically for running? and I sometimes get the reply yeah, running and walking and the gym and stuff.

The honest answer is that that shoe exists – just not here and you can’t handle it, suburban mom. In a perfect world I’d have access to a selection of zero-drop crosstrainers and you’d have a fully functioning achillies tendon but here we are.

A great running shoe is a terrible gym shoe – and vice versa – for 90% of the population and 100% of suburban moms. And I explain why using my years of study and insight just to be told it’s fine.

So now you have two different goals. That’s bad. My job, and truly my joy, is figuring out what your bio-mechanical needs are and what your goal is then eliminating all the shoes that aren’t it. And I have absolutely eliminated every shoe in my store and sent people off with a list of shoes that might suit them to find and try elsewhere.

But some people just want to buy shoes. Just one pair, today, and feel things about it. That is their goal. Not being better, not working towards something, just having new shoe day.

It’s something I saw when I worked at a video store, when I was a cook, when people ask me for romantic or life advice… Someone asks is this good and I say no and they say they’re gonna go with it anyway. Which only begs the question of why did you ask, why the little show of being interested in expertise or feedback? Why did you come to the running store if running isn’t your priority?

And of course the honest answer is we’ll listen. That’s why so much of our clientele is the elderly and the injured – they don’t even necessarily want their concerns assuaged, they just want them heard. They want to get to say what’s on their mind because their doctor and their friends won’t let them get all the way though it. As bartenders are to emotional issues so is the shoe salesman to physio.

Which, again, is fine when people who need to do that do that. People who are needy have needs and if I can meet those needs, great. It’s people who are wanty that I can’t fucking stand.

Shoe Rivalries

This one’s for my running shoe nerds. And no one else.

Seriously, I’m just going to write this as my internal monologue dictates and not explain a fucking thing.

I’d say my first shoe rivalry was between my Ghost 12s and my 1080v10s (Already, writing the names of shoes feels abstruse and annoying… let’s solider on). I had the Ghost 12 by Brooks as a comfortable daily trainer and at first I hated the 1080 for the way it looked. I thought it was too sneakerhead. Plus, at work we only had the single, horrible, blue version.

But then I tried it on and declared it incredible. The heel cup, the rocker, the cushion, the light weight, I was blown away. I was excited to go out and pay full retail for a non-ugly one outside the company but then I happen to talk to our New Balance rep and got a sick deal. I picked up a 1080, a Tempo, and a 1400 and the dawn of my collection was born.

The dawn was born? The fuck does that mean? Moving on…

Anyway, I was sure, I was assuming, that the 1080 would subsume the Ghost as my high mileage shoe. It’s just such a technically interesting, audacious shoe and the Ghost so dull, so unassuming. But nay. My early runs in the 1080 – admittedly on tired legs from previous day’s hard intervals – were sandy, lifeless, heavy heel-striking runs. Suddenly I feared the shoe was a bust. I only wore mine out to be sneakerhead, and/or hypebeast.

Those are real terms. For real.

Meanwhile the Ghost 12s and I were rolling along like a wonderful, low key loving marriage. Just simply, humbly, putting in the daily work; plowing the modest fields.

Now, I’ve since taken the 1080s out on my biggest run of the year so far – my 30k trip round the reservoir – and we had a wonderful time – but I still feel in my heart of hearts that the Brooks Ghost 12 is my go-to shoe. It’ll put in the work, it’ll get dirty, it’s good for any speed, all substance no flash.

Is there a winner here? Yeah. Me.

Next rivalry I’d say is the Brooks Levitate 3 versus the New Balance Tempo. Battle of the hybrids.

Hybrids because there’s a class of shoe now that’s the racing side of daily trainers but still distinctly not a racer. Like, cooler than a Subaru but still basically a Subaru. Anyway…

I got the Levitates right after my Ghosts and was like, I guess I’m a Brooks guy, they just put out really good shoes this year. And I got my Tempos alongside my sick deal on the 1080s and I was feeling pretty ride or die for New Balance.

So the Levitate and the Tempo both feel like edgy side kicks to the stars of their brands. Well… the Tempo really feels like a stripped away 1080, meanwhile Levitates are the only Brooks shoe with any flash or style. Like, the Levitate to the Ghost is like a Gambit to a Cyclops; the 1080 to the Tempo is a Wolverine to a smaller, more badass Wolverine.

Now there’s two kinds of nerd gibberish to alienate readers.

The glaring flaw with the Levitates is the laces. Period. So I switched those out but now they kind of feel like a Frankenshoe even though there’s nothing wrong with the aftermarket speed laces I put on there.

And the not so glaring flaw with the Tempo is the sizing. I dealt with it when Charles and I were testing them in-store, I deal with it every time I sell one, and I still just don’t know if true-to-size is too small.

Run in a New Balance Tempo in your size and in a half size up and they’ll feel like two different shoes that both work. It’s baffling.

Whenever I’m bringing one out for a customer I bring both sizes and whenever someone buys one I tell them not to hesitate bringing them back and exchanging them for the other size. Which happens.

It’s still a great run. It’s just that the whole run you’re thinking should I be running in the other size?

Now, I want to do some direct speed-work testing in the Levs and the Temps to see which is better but my internal impression right now is I like the Tempos more. I had the most joyful run in months in those shoes and felt like I was just flying. Whereas in the Levs I just felt like yeah, this is some nice running.

And the Tempo offers more on paper. It is lightweight and it is low drop whereas Levitates are merely like a lightweight, low drop shoe.

Levitates are the racing end of the daily trainer spectrum and Tempos are the daily trainer end of the racing spectrum. That’s what it is.

I was tempted to say that the rivalry was really between the Tempo and the 1400 – both by New Balance – because I got them at the same time and had dream-like, wonderful runs in both of them right away… but really the 1400 is just the odd man out, the 3rd wheel in a collection of eight things that come in pairs.

It’s a 10mm drop, who does that? To a racing shoe? Did we all use to do that, is it a relic of a bygone era?

Still an absolutely great run though, being clear. It’s just hard since I mentally organize my shoes into my training by heel drop and stack height and blah blah blah and the 14 can’t hang with the 1080 and the Ghost and it can’t hang with the hybrids and it can’t hang with the low boys like my Tracers and Altras.

Fuck, the straight up nonsense this is for my usual readers makes it so uncomfortable to write…

But one last thing so that I’ll have talked about everything and since I just mentioned them: my Hoka Tracers and my Altra Escalante 2.0s.

And when I said I’d talked about everything I thought wait, that’s seven. What am I missing…? My ASICS. Good old forgettable ASICS.

Anyway the Hoka Tracers are a 4mm drop and the Altras are, of course, zero.

Altra is changing their branding from saying Zero Drop to saying Balanced Cushioning which is, let me the first to be an ass about it, fucking awful. Zero Drop people take pride in being Zero Drop people. I encountered us douchebags at the store like once a month.

Anyway anyway, the Tracers become forgettable because they’re a stutter step to the Altras and it’s important to transistion wisely to ZD and blah blah blah not what this blogs about.

How Work Is Going


That could be the whole blog, and I’m merely writing this to get a lot of little, boring-to-others, things off my chest so I don’t talk too much about myself socially.

So for those who don’t know, I work at The Running Room in Westhills. I got hired as a running coach before the COVID layoffs and made enough of an impression to be brought back as full time defacto manager afterwards.

There’s been a lot of chaos getting set up and running (no pun, fuck off) with new procedures and stuff but me and the other full time defacto manager have it on lock because it’s he and I opening, working all day doing everything, and closing. So the store is just ours. And we get lots of practice at every little thing.

What’s really great though is I’m starting to see my stated goal achieved. I’m in 100% give a shit mode when it comes to shoes and I’ll spend an hour with someone trying stuff on and talking it out. And what I wanted was for that to be appreciated, to be seen bringing excellence to something I can bring excellence to. And everyone leaves happy and grateful when they’ve dealt with me anyway but lately I’ve started getting phone calls and emails thanking me specifically.

I had a guy today assume I’m studying kinesiology because I’m so particular about movement and shoes and orthodics. Which I take as a massive compliment.

Just like with run-coaching, my goal is to build trust and rapport and feel that I’ve done good. And a lot of people buying shoes are either starting out and feel overwhelmed or are injured and those are easy home runs for me to feel helpful and useful and good.

And occasionally you get the very serious runner and we get to have a very serious running talk and it’s awesome.

Because getting the right person into the right shoe is like a puzzle or a video game and it can be really fun to get to a good answer from very little information. And it’s awesome to so-well know the tools at my disposal and what the trade-offs of each shoe are.

And then with people I’ve really found it’s just time. People want to feel heard when buying shoes just like they want to be heard in every aspect of life . So you listen and show that you’re listening and be thoughtful and honest – again, just everything else in life.

There’s no such thing as going above and beyond when your stated goal is to do good in people’s lives with your abilities. There are no extra miles, just the miles that need to be run or don’t need to be run.

Which is why for all my gung ho, Wes Watson, Jocko Wilink, bullshit in one area it shocks my co-worker that I’m so lackadaisical in others. Like, he’s so extremely procedural and rule-following and teacher-pleasing – no, teacher-fearful – that he cannot compute when I don’t do something that I don’t see the why of.

Which has made us a really good team. I have another blog in draft about my bad habits at work the dichotomy of my super give a shit in some areas and complete no-fucks-given-mocking-those-who-care in others so I’ll wrap this up. But yeah, works going great.

Great Advice From Strange Sources

Good advice is everywhere if you keep your ears open.

Get Dressed

I first thought about about what I now know is called enclothed cognition when watching a documentary on phone sex workers.

A pro was coaching some noobs and she explained that some people might feel that because they’re working from home, over the phone, they could be in their sweats with no make-up and that’s the perk of the job but no, she said, get dressed, if you want to project sexiness you have to feel sexy so yes, you’re just lying around at home but put on the lingerie and the make up.

This is why I tell people the first step in fitness is buying a new outfit. Mentally put together a character of you-as-a-fitness-person and give them a costume. Yes, you can work out in old sweats and whatever but you know what? Then you’re just going to feel like you, in some old sweats. And when you’re mind projects onto other people what they might see if they look at you is just you, in some old sweats.

And if you felt all that good in old sweats you wouldn’t be starting a fitness journey.

Buy brand new clothes that look and feel good. When you see yourself you will see a fitness person. And possibly more powerfully, when you are seen or imagine being seen by others you will feel that they see a fitness person.

If you dress like a jogger, like you belong jogging, then you will much more easily feel that you belong jogging.

Or doing phone sex work, whatever.


Don’t Get Too Hungry

This seemed like counter-intuitive diet advice when I first heard it. I mean, isn’t dieting about being hungry all the time and merely controlling it with willpower? I naively thought…

But no, that just leads to beating yourself for not being miraculously strong, which leads to quitting, which leads to nihilism which leads to bingeing.

What made the advice stand out even more is that came not from a typical diet coach but from an eating disorder recovery specialist.

Stick to a schedule and it’ll keep your hormones balanced and emotions out of the eating equation, don’t let yourself get too hungry. Hungry isn’t good, don’t think that relying on will power is the only way to make an achievement real. Or as the kids say, don’t play life on hard mode for no reason.

Normally I think Interviews Are Garbage

Because interviewers ask questions that the subject has already expounded on, and clarified, and moved past, by the time they’re interviewed.

Listen to the Sam Harris podcast, listen to the Jocko podcast, listen to the Gilmore Guys podcast…. and then listen to interviews with any of them and it’s straight up shameful and wasteful in it’s repetition. Interviewers are stuck in the print based paradigm where maybe the reader hadn’t heard everything the subject said this year a hundred times.

HOWEVER… This interview with Wes Watson (and honestly all interviews I’ve seen with him) is actually a more accessible version of the man and is a refreshing reminder of why we follow him.


Also, we see that the guy from London Real is a douche bag, right?