Monday, May 25, 2009

Buying shoes – a pain in the sole

I hate buying shoes. I’m a tightwad anyway, and lately I have been running on the treadmill in my old, old, “basketball” style shoes – the ones that are leather all the way around. The only problem is that they also had holes in the soles and also the insides were so worn out that the plastic inners were showing through. So, I decided it was time to only use those for mowing the lawn and time to get some running shoes for the treadmill.

I went to Sports Authority to look at some the other day. I was amazed at how many brands and models of running shoes they have! A veritable smorgasbord to choose from. The only differentiator seemed to be price and color, because all any of them said was “man made uppers”. Nothing about “stability”, “cushioning”, etc. Nothing about for “over prontators” or “under pronators”, etc. Not only did the boxes and labels on the shoes themselves not say, but there was no literature explaining it either. How the hell was I supposed to pick from this morass? So I came home and looked at the manufacturers web site for one of the brands that was well represented at Sports Authority. I started with ASICS. These folks had a decent site and good information about their shoes and which were meant for which type of foot, etc. However you couldn’t print the list of their shoes with pronation range because they put it in some stupid little sub-window with its own little non-standard scroll bar. (ASICS – fix your site; this is a great resource – we need to be able to print it). So I had to pick a couple of models, print them, and head back to the store.

Well, I found those models actually hurt my left ankle. The right one was fine, but the left on both models hurt. I tried a couple of pair of each to be sure it wasn’t just some strange defect. OK, back to the web sites.

Next, I tried the New Balance web site. Not as well organized as the ASICS one, and didn’t easily offer data on what type of foot/gait their shoes were designed for – you had to dig for it. About this point, I found that the Sports Authority site gave better info on these shoes than the New Balance site. Between the two sites, I picked two more models of shoes and went back.

Of course, the Sports Authority brick and mortar store didn’t carry either of those two models. About this time I was getting tired of this and just picked a New Balance model that seemed to have the right level of arch for my near flat feet and looked to me to be a stability shoe. Bought them, came back and checked the web sites, and sure enough they were the right type.

I got to run in them today for the first time and they felt fine.

But I have to ask: why in the hell do they make this so hard? It should have been EASY to go to any of these manufacturer web sites, click “men”, click “running”, click “compare” and get a printable list of what foot type / gait type each of their shoes is made for and what its key characteristics are. How can they NOT do that? All I can think of is massive incompetence on the competitive advantage they could get by making this easy and by placing such information clearly on their boxes and in stores.