May 12, 2020

Virtual Shoe Fitting

How to get running shoe advice from an expert online

Considering the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, Team SportTracks is in a relatively good position: our jobs easily transition from our in-person headquarters to working remotely, and the density of our city, Durham N.C., is low enough to allow individual outdoor exercising, such as running. But at the onset there was one minor problem: my running shoes had over 500 miles of use and I needed a new pair.

A screenshot of the Gear Tracking page of SportTracks endurance sports software

As a firm believer in supporting local specialty running stores, I wasn't interested in buying shoes from a large online store. It was becoming a more urgent problem, though, because I no longer needed to pack multiple lunches in the morning and transport kids to school and myself to the office. Suddenly I had more time before and after work to do some running. My milage increased just as my shoes were expiring, and my local running shop was forced to remain closed. But then there was a development...

Bull City Running Company has put together a way to do virtual shoe fittings online. You just visit their website and pick a time to do a fitting. I signed up and was sent a short form to fill out. The form had a series of questions about what kind of terrain I ran on, what my weekly milage was, that sort of thing. There were also instructions on how to measure my feet at home using a sheet of paper, a pencil, and a ruler so I could include my current shoe size in the form.

Photographs of bare feet being measured for show size using a sheet of paper and a pencil

Even though I had gone through the shoe fitting process with this shop in the past, I diligently measured my feet as instructed. My feet are around 10.5 mens US, so, as advised by the shop, I get size 11.5 mens US for my running shoes, to allow room for swelling feet during long runs.

To prepare for my virtual fitting, I dressed in my normal running attire: socks, shorts, and a tech-material running shirt. I had my old running shoes at my side as well. This is the thing to do when you visit a specialty running store in person, as the experts at the shop will want to inspect the wear on your outgoing shoes, and take a close look at your feet. You will also need to try on a few pairs of shoes and do some short bits of running in them to see how they feel.

When it was time to do my virtual shoe fitting, I logged onto the Zoom call and was delighted to see my old buddy Ellen Moss on the other end. We spent a few minutes catching up because we hadn't seen each other in a while due to shelter-in-place restrictions. But it wasn't long before I was holding the tread of my old sneakers up to the computer camera so Ellen could look at the wear. Shortly after that she had me place my laptop on the floor to get a look at my feet.

A photograph of a laptop on a floor with a Zoom video call between a running shoe expert and a client

Ellen had me walk back and forth a few times, and do a test that required me to balance on one foot and dip downward with my body three times. It was like a mini workout within the shoe fitting. This gait analysis led her to the conclusion that I had an over pronation, and the same or similar "moderate control" category of running shoe was my best bet.

With the testing out of the way, Ellen proceeded to show me a few pairs of shoes that would suit my particular feet and running style. They were the current generation of New Balance 860's that I had used last, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20, and the Mizuno Wave Inspire 16. She explained how the 860's had evolved, and what made the other choices different from my last pair. 

A photograph of a laptop with a Zoom call between a running shoe expert and a client

After our time on the Zoom call wrapped up, Ellen sent me an email with some details about my gait analysis and links to all of the different shoes we talked about. The virtual shoe fitting happens on video chat and the purchasing happens with links to the store's website after the call. 

Even though I had enjoyed my New Balance 860's, I was in the mood to try something new and opted for the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20's. While I was shopping on their site, I also decided to pick up a pair of Goodr OG running sunglasses. The days have gotten longer here, and I need to keep the sun out of my eyes on runs. Plus, I wanted to support this local business a bit more. When I checked out, there was an option for free local shipping. Win! The very next day the items showed up on my doorstep.

A photograph of a pair of Brooks running shoes and Goodr sunglasses in a shopping bag

I carefully took the items into my home and proceeded to disinfect various surfaces, washing my hands numerous times as I went. My first priority was to try on the sunglasses. I opted for the gray "Going to Valhalla" model, and thankfully I was happy with how they looked, fit, and felt. Next up was the running shoes.

There was an interval run on my schedule for later that day. Without hesitation I added the Brooks to my SportTracks gear tracking locker. It automatically logs the milage I put on these shoes, so I know when it's time to swap them out again. I attached my New Stryd footpod to the laces and tried them on for comfort. So far, so good. Then I was out the door for the run. The shoes felt great, and the sunglasses felt like I had been wearing them since birth.

A screenshot of the Gear Tracking section of SportTracks endurance sports software with Brooks running shoes

This is a time when it means a lot to support your local small businesses. If your running shoes or bike parts are in need of replacement, you should contact your local shops to see how they can help you. If you'd like to work with Bull City Running Company, you can visit their site and sign up for a virtual shoe fitting of your own. Ask for Ellen! She's a hoot!