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My first pair of running shoes were bought off the shelf about ten years ago in Sports Direct, the two main criteria for selection being

  • Price (below £40)
  • Must look like running shoes
  • An improvement on my fashionable but ineffective sporty looking shoes

They cost me £35 in fact and if I remember rightly they were a pair of white and lilac Reeboks, and in all fairness they did the job. At that point thought I was only doing very short distance (quite infrequently) and much of it walking so I guess I didn’t see the point in spending much more.

I later by chance happened upon a pair of bright red Sauconys, won in a prize draw at a Triathlon Expo (yes people do actually win those things) and Sauconys have pretty much been my brand of choice ever since.

I did deviate to a flashy pair of Nike’s with neon soles for a bit, but they were all style and no substance and the wearing of those coincided with a bout of severe knee and hip pain anytime I ran anything more than 10K in them. Notice how I have no clue what the model of the trainer are, just their colours and makes, I am a bit like that with cars too.

But anyway, when I signed up for my first marathon in 2012 I decided it was time to get serious and I went into a proper running store to get measured up for a pair. But this wasn’t the enjoyable experience I thought it might be for the following reasons.

  • The shop assistant wasn’t as impressed with my “I’m running a marathon in April” declaration than I would have liked
  • I hated running on a treadmill in a busy shop and being told that I over pronated (I had no idea what that meant)
  • The shoes he suggested were ugly and felt heavy on my feet
  • They cost me £80, about £45 more than I wanted to pay

So why am I suggesting you get proper trainers fitted then?

Because in the 4 years since getting my supportive Sauconys I have had very few problems with my feet (no missing toenails for example) and my knee and hip pain have all but dissapeared. So whoever that guy was who chose my trainers…he knew what he was talking about even if he could have been more excited by my running endeavours.

20140506-235841.jpgBut I know that for many beginners to running and in particular overweight runners, the thought of going into a specialist store is frightening. What do you ask for, how do you choose, will the shop assistant rip me off, or laugh at me behind my back? Will I spend more than I wanted to and will the trainers be any better than a pair I could buy for half the price from an outlet store?

So for the purposes of research I hooked up with my local running shop Sweatshop in Westfield, Stratford City and agreed to do a full review of their GAIT Anaylsis and sales technique in exchange for a pair of shiny new trainers. I did get my trainers for FREE (Whoop Whoop) but this post is 100% my honest view on the process.

So here goes.

I was slightly apprehensive as I entered the store. Not knowing what to expect. I was a bit embarressed about the state of my cheap circuits trainers, my non running trainer socks and my terrible post marathon feet (I should have got a pedicure in preperation) The shelves full of shoes should have filled me with excitement but instead I felt overwhelmed. What if they chose me another ugly pair?

20140506-235751.jpgThe lovely Chantal would be looking after me today and she soon put my mind at ease by asking me some light hearted questions about my running, what distances I was doing and what races if any I had done recently, turns out she did Brighton Marathon too!!

She described the process and why it was important to get the right kind of support and for the right type of running. I run mainly on roads which made that bit a little simpler I guess. First step was to check where the pressure was felt on my feet which was done by standing on a machine which showed a green light where my foot hit the glass…very high tech, but also quite interesting to see just how uneven my feet were.20140506-235821.jpg

Chantal was fitting me for a cutting edge set of insoles called Foot Balance which are 100% customisable to your feet. This is not a cheap thing to do by any stretch of the imagination, but I guess if you are going to be running distances like I do (carrying the weight I do) I guess your feet deserve the extra £45 spent on them. The insoles are heated up and then moulded to your feet helping you to achieve proper alignment, improved performance, better injury prevention and incresed comfort…I guess time will tell hey?

Next onto the running machine and now my heart rate was starting to increase and that was before she got it going, I haven’t really done much running since Brighton (please be kind to me with the speed button). So in a pair of neutral shoes I ran at a steady pace for 2 minutes for Chantal to view my running technique and to take some images of my feet in action. She showed me that I actually had a very neutral running stride, which means my Sauconys had done a great job in correcting my over pronation and that I didn’t need such supportice shoes now. Which was good to know.

Now for the fun part – selecting the right shoes.

20140506-235858.jpgChantal brought me a selection she thought would work for me. Old habits die hard and I was instinctively judging them on looks before even trying them on. But actually after trying them on pair by pair and doing a minute or so on the treadmill it was plain to see which ones were going to work and which ones were not.

So the pair I selected were….

Aaahhhh you are just going to have to wait to Part 2 of this review.

I was in the sweatshop store for about an hour and I felt completely at home there. It was interesting watching other runners coming in, they didn’t all look like yout typical club runner (As if there is such a thing) and every one got the same treatment with staff that listened and asked lots of questions before making any kind of suggestion.

A huge selling point for buying your shoes from Sweatshop is their 30 day shoe satisfaction guarantee which means that you can run in your shoes for up to 30 days and if you’re not 100% happy with them they will exchange them for a new pair. Can’t say fairer than that really. I mean how many times have you rushed a purchase just to get out of the shop, or the trainers feel ok in the shop and then you go out for your training run and they start to hurt. I don’t know of any other stores that offer this saftey net.

So how can you make the experience easier for yourself?

  • Do a bit of research before hand on what styles/brands you like
  • Be honest with the staff about where you are at with your running
  • Have a positive attitude towards the experience before entering the store
  • Ask questions, especially if staff use terminology you do not understand (they will not laugh)
  • If you have a set budget, let them know
  • Do not feel pressurised to make a decision straight off, take pictures go for a coffee and think about it, even come back another day if you must.

And remember most running store staff are runners too, but they would have started as a beginner and they are only experts in running shoes because they work in a running store. They are there to help, they have had the relevant training to help and not only in terms of the technical abilities of the shoes they stock but also the biomechanics of running and also customer service training. They really are there to help so use them.

Please remember, this is not about you spending money you don’t have on kit you don’t need. This is about you aknowledging that you are a proper runner too and your feet deserve proper running shoes that are going to make your running life just that little bit easier.

Still can’t bring yourself to treat yourself?

How about getting GAIT Analysis as a birthday or xmas present?

Who need perfume and chocolates when there are shiny new running shoes to be had?

Look out for Why EVEN you should get fitted for proper running shoes (Part 2) in the next few days to see if they got it right.

I would like to say a huge thanks to Sweatshop for making this review happen.


  1. Interestingly I’m quite a big fan of Sweatshop and their staff, I have often purchased from them and find their Rathbone Place staff excellent as well as the staff who used to run the now defunct Dartford store.

    However, my experiences at the Westfield store have always been poor, the last time I went in looking for racing flats I was offered a series of shoes that were not suited to my need and a clearly inexperienced member of staff barely understood what a racing flat was – therefore after several fruitless visits there over the last couple of years I’ve resolved to only use the stores I trust. However, it is good to know that they do have staff who are knowledgable too.

  2. I got pins and needles in my toes the other day- I’ll have to look up my nearest store that does gait analysis! x

  3. Great advice for beginners and a good reminder for those with more mileage 🙂

  4. Wow! That is very in-depth. I had my gait analysis done at Runners Need and they were ok, but no different to the lady who looked at my feet a couple of years ago in a local independent running store. The returns for Sweatshop are excellent – I had a tiny issue returning some Asics that I bought at Runners Need after I found that they make my toes numb after about 5 minutes. Back to Saucony it was!

  5. Thank you for this! I am what one might call a newbie runner. I just ran my first 5k on Saturday. In shoes I bought at a generic clothing shop for all of the reasons you mention. I was thinking that I should probably go to a runner’s shoe store and do all of this but have a hard time spending that kind of money on myself. Like you say though, if I want to really do this, run, I mean, I should probably think of it more as an investment. I kind of also want performance underwear too LOL. 😉

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] got the idea from Julie Creffield. She made me feel way confident that I can go in and do it […]

  2. […] Why EVEN you should get proper trainers fitted (Part 1) […]

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