VENDOR REVIEW: Fleet Feet (Middleton WI)

Guess who got a new pair of running shoes?

Me! That's who.

There is something very satisfying about getting into a comfy, new pair of sneakers. But that's not the main thesis of this post.

I want to give a rave review to the Fleet Feet running shoe store at which Deborah and I procured our new foot gear yesterday. It was one of the smoothest and most effective shoe shopping experiences I can ever remember having.

It went down like this: 

1. Salesperson Curtis interviewed me briefly on what I was looking for (a comfortable, best-value, entry-level running shoe so that I could start running again, a little bit, nothing serious) and if I had any injuries or handicaps that might influence my shoe selection (arthritis in my left big toe, currently in remission, but often exacerbated by exercise, specifically running). 

2. Curtis had me step onto the disinfected platform of a fancy looking device that took 3-D measurements of my feet. 

3. From the image and data produced by the machine, Curtis gave me a run-down on what he saw as the important aspects of my foot physiology (not unsurprisingly, my feet were quite average, which was good as far as available shoe selection). The details of this are quite inconsequential. What is important is that Curtis used the hard data to retrieve from the shop's inventory three models of shoe in my size that he hypothesized would satisfy most metrics of my perceived running shoe needs. It did not hurt that my foot physiology was very similar to Curtis's own, sans the arthritis, so he also had some additional experiential expertise to apply to the equation.

4. Model #2 of the three presented to me was selected based on how my feet felt in them overall, how protected my injurious toe felt in them specifically, and how they faciliated proper running gait, as determined by Curtis's observation. I tested all three pairs out by running on the treadmill that was in the shoe shop. I also mixed and matched pairs on alternating feet for a compare and contrast. I have to say that all three models were very close to each other as far as my assessment metrics, and Curtis hit the bullseye on all of the shoes presented. They all fit perfectly on the first go. They were all superior to any running shoe I have ever had, by a vast margin. The hardest part of it all was trying to discern the minute nuances between the three shoe models that eventually landed me on model #2, a pair of Saucony Rides (see image above).

5. The shoe shopping experience also landed me three pairs of running socks. I had never given much weight to the importance of socks when running, but it makes common sense that they would matter, and sock technology has come a long way since the last time I bought running shoes (I cannot actually remember that long ago, so it was probably easily 20+ years). I don't know anything about running sock technology, notwithstanding Curtis' brief explanation about this subject. However, at this point in my shoe shopping journey, my trust in and comfort with Curtis was high enough to bank on his sock knowledge.

The Saucony running shoes I got were modestly priced. I didn't think or ask about price while I was trying on the shoes, because I did not want my frugality to bias my selection, and Curtis was aware of my need for a best-value running shoe early in the process. So, he did not bring out anything exorbitantly egregious, price-wise.

After leaving the store, Deborah and I went to the gym to give our new footwear a spin in a real world scenario. I ran two miles on a treadmill at a medium-low pace to see if that level of activity would inflame my arthritic toe. I am writing this about 24 hours after that run and I can report that there has been no increase in toe pain from baseline* as a result of the exertion. So these shoes have a lot of promise for my gradual return to the running realm. I do not think I am every going to be running a marathon or anything, but running is great aerobic exercise that I will probably intersperse with bicycling, depending on time and place. 

In conclusion, I give Fleet Feet (8440 Old Sauk Rd, Middleton WI) a 5/5 star review. I have no idea how many of my readers are runners for whom this review is useful, but there you have it.

*Note: As a consequence of being on a vegan diet for over a year now, my arthritis inflammation has practically disappeared. My current baseline of pain is very close to zero on a 0-10 pain scale, where 0 is no pain at all and 10 is the most excruciating pain imaginable. I rarely notice pain or burning in my injured toe anymore, and when I do, it is usually following consumption of an inflammatory food, such as whole wheat pasta. Before starting on the vegan diet, my toe would always hurt, ranging from about a 1 to a 4 or 5 on the pain scale, depending on the day. At night it would sometimes throb and burn, making it hard to sleep. And it was most painful after a lot of activity on the joint, like walking or running. I started to notice the toe pain was no longer noticeable about two weeks into the vegan diet and at six months, it was virtually gone. I am not condoning or encouraging a vegan diet for anyone, but there is evidence that it's a good diet for reducing arthritic pain. The mechanism of action seems to be an anti-inflammatory effect of the diet. Arthritis is essentially an inflammatory disease where the immune system attacks the damaged tissue in the joints. In some cases, it can be auto-immune, where the immune system begins to attack healthy tissue that it thinks is foreign.

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