How to Buy Running Shoes: This Is What Good Advice Looks Like

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The online trade is on the advance - also in running. But should you really buy running shoes online? And what about good advice for runners in specialist shops, are digital foot scans indispensable or is a treadmill analysis sufficient? Running experts explain what a good running shoe consultation - online and offline - should look like in 2018.

Consulting remains the trump card in the specialist sports trade.
Consulting remains the trump card in the specialist sports trade.

At sports retailers, especially in the specialized running shops, advice on site has been supplemented, sometimes even replaced, by online advice for several years now. What possibilities does stationary trade already use today to offer digital measurement as part of a even more comprehensive advice? And to what extent does the industry support them? talked to representatives of Adidas, Brooks, Salming, Salomon and Saucony about the status in the running industry.

Treadmill analysis and digital foot scan fundamental

"The good specialized retailer should be able to give the customer a detailed running shoe consultation, including treadmill analysis, digital foot scan and the possibility of a test run,” says Julia Schehl, Brand Manager Salomon Germany. Ideally, the test run is evaluated by an expert with digital tools in a comprehensive analysis.

In order to then offer the right product, Salomon developed "Running Avenue": “During a simple three-step process, the runner starts in the middle of Running Avenue with a Sonic (largely neutral running shoe). From here it goes - depending on individual needs - to the left or right on the avenue: from support and guidance (Sonic Max) to easier and faster (Sonic Pro)," explains Schehl.

Sales support with TechReps

According to Lara Hasagic, Marketing Manager Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Brooks Running supports their dealers directly in the shop: "We have been employing so-called "tech reps" for years to provide high-quality product training, further education and to support the specialists directly in the shop. These professionals in the field of running shoes and customer advice work closely with their colleagues from the retail.”

Comprehensive analysis tools for the specialist trade

Whether you roll over the outer edge of your foot, first touch the floor with your forefoot or push with your metatarsus, there are many different running styles and suitable running shoe models. According to spokesman Oliver Brüggen, Adidas has developed a way to systematize consultation in retail: "With the new "Run Genie" technology, our trained sales staff can individually recommend the right model". "Run Genie" is the brand's own wearable technology. A clip on the running shoe analyses the individual conditions on the foot when the shoe is worn and recommends the appropriate products based on the individual running style, foot position and availability in store.

Saucony relies on "Stride Lab" running style analysis

A different way to include the running style in the advice of the right running shoe model is chosen by manufacturer Saucony. Mika Froesch, Country Manager Germany / Austria explains: "A standard consultation is often no longer sufficient today, as it is important to take a closer look at the individual runner. A professional and comprehensive consultation should therefore be combined with a running analysis by the specialist dealer, in which the entire body is taken into account.

It is crucial to understand how the runner moves. In addition, important aspects such as individual goals and injury history should be evaluated. When personal data and the individual running analysis are considered, a suitable model for the individual runner can be recommended. With "Stride Lab", Saucony offers its own running style analysis: "We look at the entire body of the runner, from head to toe, thanks to three different camera perspective. Then we analyze how the runner moves. Based on the analysis the opportunity is given to offer tailored tips for stretching or stability exercises,” says Froesch.

Bold marketing slogans replace expert advice

With the increasing choice of brands and models in the market, the demand for advice is also rising. “Consumers expect a quick but nevertheless correct orientation. Many specialist dealers but also most brands have not implemented this very well so far,", says Jan Kratchovil, Head of Marketing of the Scandinavian sports brand Salming. “Often the customer is overwhelmed with all the expertise of the salesperson and distracted by bold marketing messages that all end up telling the same story. That's what many people call consulting. In this almost infinite selection of brands and products, we have to provide the customers clear messages from the very beginning.”

Online service is a challenge

Salming head of marketing, Jan Kratchovil agrees with this. He is particularly reminiscent of the low attention many consumers have - especially when reading online texts: “Retailers and brands rarely take a clever enough approach to this. If you feel surprised as a customer, you are worried about making the wrong choice. Then you postpone your decision, maybe buy later but somewhere else. Therefore it is very important to convey safety and a stress-free purchase process right from the start. This can be achieved well through clear categorization, compact but meaningful descriptions and a coherent product portfolio. Positioning and consulting belong together. We plan and develop our products as a brand exactly this way. The customer needs to be able to understand the product range," says Kratchovil.

No matter what, sometimes it is still crucial to test the product in real life, even when purchasing online. Brooks Running, similar to must running brands, uses an interactive shoe finder to advice customers online. The shoe finder asks the users about their running styles and movement patterns and finally recommends a suitable product from the portfolio. Just like other running brands, Brooks relies on an extensive right of return for its web shop. Lara Hasagic: “All products can be returned after an individual test phase within 30 days without stating any reasons.”