Evaluation: Matchmaker, Shoemaker?

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, March 1995

Evaluation: Matchmaker, Shoemaker?
By Sara Corbett

We're not all fortunate enough to have a knowledgeable running-shoe salesperson at the local sporting goods store -- someone who'll gently intervene when we snatch up the first comfy pair we find, who'll deftly steer us toward shoes suited to our biomechanical idiosyncrasies, who'll shelter us from sore mackerels, aching joints, and even injury.

If you've yet to find that special someone, consider shipping your most chewed-up running shoes to the Customized Shoe Analysis Clinic, operated by the mail-order mavens at Road Runner Sports. First, send them a check for $21, and you'll get a questionnaire and a sack in which to ship your sneakers off to their shoe gurus, who'll assess your shoes' heel wear, inclination (the direction it leans toward), and midsole compression. Their computer will then generate a "personalized profile" of your running style, and the ready experts will recommend shoes from the ten brands and 65 models that Road Runner Sports carries.

As an overpronating, heavy-heeled, lightweight marathoner with fallen arches, hammertoes, and unusually narrow feet, I was vain enough to think that my battered Nike Air Tail Winds would stump the experts. Yet the sneaker savants sent a two-page printout, correctly remarking on my overpronation and excessive heel strike. In places, the profile felt as customized as a mailing from Ed McMahon; the computer's rendering of my sole wear and compression, for example, matched dot for dot that of a 170-pound recreational runner from Frankfort, Michigan, whose analysis Road Runner Sports had sent me as a sample. But when it came to which shoes belong on my feet, the experts produced two solid recommendations: New Balance's 998 and Saucony's G.R.I.D. Shadow, both high-mileage trainers with sturdy heels and motion control.

My neighborhood running-shoe salesman also put me in the 998s, confirming the clinic's analysis. So perhaps Road Runner Sports can match you with your dream shoe -- or a shoe that's as close as it gets. On the other hand, if you've got trustworthy advice just around the corner, as I do, you can put that $21 toward your next pair of running shoes.

From Road Runner Sports, 6310 Nancy Ridge Drive, Suite 101, San Diego, CA 92121; 800-551-5558.

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