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Local Running Stores and Barefoot Running

Posted by on May 20, 2011 | 10 Comments

I get a fair number of questions regarding the issue of the local running stores and minimalist shoes.  Some carry a wide selection of minimalist shoes, offer clinics teaching good running form, teach their staff about the fundamentals of good running form, and even support us barefoot running hippies.  Playmakers in Okemos, Michigan and ZombieRunner in Palo Alto, California are good examples.

Others take more of a middle ground approach.  They may carry some minimalist shoes, but don’t really do much to sell them or educate the consumer.

Finally, some take a pretty strong “heel striking is the only right way to run and the rest of you guys are idiots” approach.  I hear The Running Room chain of stores fits this category.  😉

As I mentioned in my last post, the minimalist shoe market is expanding rapidly.  It has become abundantly clear this movement isn’t a fad or a trend, it is a paradigm shift in how we think about running.

Those running stores that pick up on this trend will prosper, especially as more and more companies enter the market.  The running stores that keep their heads in the sand will suffer mightily.  They may stick by their guns, but they will be dominated by the forward-thinking competition.

I do what I can to help stores that are embracing the minimalist movement.  I shop at their stores instead of the big box sporting goods stores.  I offer to hold clinics.  I do what I can to promote their store, their events, and even their sales.  In short, I want to do what I can to make sure they succeed.  They give to the running community; this is my way to repay them.

So what about those stores that universally reject barefoot and minimalism?  I don’t support them in any way, though I am still pleasant.  Essentially I keep a friendly channel of communication open in preparation for the day when they finally come around.  When this happens, I happily offer them all the same stuff I offer the other stores, including my business.

Can we do something to help persuade them?

Of course!

I always tell all my barefoot and minimalist shoe friends to send emails and make phone calls.  Find the owner or manager of your local stores and contact them.  Ask if they offer any clinics that teach barefoot running, POSE, ChiRunning, Good Form Running, or any other natural running form.  If you feel confident in your own knowledge, offer to help conduct clinics.  Ask them if they carry your favorite brands of minimalist shoes.

These communications will help convince them there is a legitimate market for these services and products.  We’re great at communicating with each other online, but not always so great at communicating with the people in our local running communities.  Little things like this can make a huge difference.

What about your area?  Do you have any local running stores that are especially supportive?  How about stores that are openly hostile?  Have you tried engaging them in discussions yet?  Leave your story in the comments!




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  1. Graham
    May 27, 2011

    In SW Ontario, I have a great outdoors store called Adventure Guide. They jumped into the VFF’s fairly quickly, as they looked to be a good option for their many kayaking customers. Since then, they’ve really embraced the minimalist market and carry Merrell, NB, Vibram and Vivobarefoot.

    Unfortunately they don’t really do clinics. And the Running Room (Shudder) is just as bad here as elsewhere.

  2. Chadisbarefoot
    May 21, 2011

    I live outside the Nashville area, and that’s where I have to go if I want to hit an actual running store (not Dick’s, etc.). Athlete’s House near the Belmont campus is a great “Mom and Pop”-type operation that are squarely in the middle ground, it appears, on the minimalist movement. They sell Vibrams and New Balance Minimus models, but the sales people seemed to approach them as a novelty or a “training tool” rather than a legitimate, daily running option.

  3. Barefoot Running University » Barefoot Running Dogma… Things I Need To Avoid
    May 21, 2011

    […] local running stores that support the natural running movement. This was the motivation for my last post.  Some stores are doing a phenomenal job of educating the running public, especially brand-new […]

  4. KittyK
    May 20, 2011

    Canada is behind the times too. In Vancouver we don’t have a store that SELLS minimalist shoes AND provides clinics. Minimalist shoes are found at the local Chain Outdoor stores (as water shoes mainly). However they don’t teach people how to run in them. Our local running store, “Runners Den”, does host a “good form” clinic and has a wealth of knowledge of BF/MR (via ME :D..) however they don’t sell minimalist shoes. However, they have started stocking the NB Minimus; which they were very proud about.. didn’t have the heart to completely break their bubble on that one.

    I am getting lots of questions on MR/BFR so I am going to ask if I can run some BRS clinics out of the store. It’s getting to that stage where people are willing to try it and I don’t want them to break themselves.

    • Paul Wallis
      May 20, 2011

      Let me know if you decide to teach clinics, we can compair notes. I’m teaching a BF clinic at my gym (only 2 people right now), as Running room has said “no” to barefoot clinics. It would be easy to just say ignore them and do my own thing, but I’ve taught the 10km, triathlon, and marathon clinic in the past. I have a history with them and made many friends over the years.

  5. Paul Wallis
    May 20, 2011

    Thanks for the post. I mostly agree. The running room managers haven’t stated to me that I was an “idiot” (at least to my face). However they have been very upfront that they will not sell minimalist shoes, or teach a barefoot clinic (I’ve offered several times to set one up). I’ve taught at the store clinics on and off for about 5 years at the running room, it’s very frustrating being in my position.

  6. Rorie
    May 20, 2011

    Here in the UK we’re waay behind the minimalist movement compared to you guys in the US.

    I used to managed a running ‘specialist’ store but after 2 years decided to leave to launch my own business to cater for the UK minimalist market (

    Personally I couldn’t handle selling shoes to customers which potentially were causing the very problems they were supposed to cure – integrity had been lost. This is the battle many of the big retailers have (they don’t want to lose out on any potential sales) but knowledgeable staff can at least advise on the benefits of BFR/MR and ultimately give the customer the choice.

  7. Bob
    May 20, 2011

    City Park Runners in Winnipeg is absolutely fantastic. They are a small independent store located near our biggest park. They offer a great selection of minimalistic shoes including Vibram, New Balance, etc. They embrace the barefoot experience (they have accepted me with open arms into their running clinics), and have brought experts in to teach a barefoot clinic. I have not been able to convince the owner to remove the shoes as of yet, but I’m working on him. Also need to find out when the Merrell clinics are coming north of the border, hint hint. We can put you and your family up for a few nights if necessary. As you can see we Would Really like to see you and your clinics here.

  8. Troy
    May 20, 2011

    Gazelle Sports in Kalamazoo has been real cool to me. Last I was in there they had a wide variety of Vibrams as well as the Merrell Barefoot line and the New Balance Minimus line. they also have good form running clinics bi-weekly (I think). good people down there!

  9. Shacky
    May 20, 2011

    In San Diego, we are lucky to have Movin’ Shoes and the San Diego Running Institute. Both are minimal friendly. Road Runner Sports? Not so much. They finally started selling VFFs but I think it’s only because there is such a high demand for them.