It All Counts
Getting our customers on a treadmill can be important, however similar to the overuse of the calculator, it is critical not to rely solely on this. The team at achilles heel will also glean considerable information from man not machine. The use of both manual and technological techniques combine to drive out what we hope will be a harmonious marriage between our customers and their new shoes, whatever the activity.
It is important to take a holistic approach to finding the best shoe for you so you may find yourself answering some questions you may not have expected! Keep with it! All will be revealed in the end. Rest assured, you won’t find yourself doing a handstand whilst wearing wellington’s in the middle of the shop floor.
Everyone is Different
The process we go through varies from person to person. The route to finding the first pair of shoes for a new runner, or assessing another for their latest footwear will not be replicated from one to the next. It is this fluid individual approach that we pride ourselves upon. Don’t fear if you don’t get to spend as much time, or any, on the treadmill compared to the person next to you, it doesn’t mean that we love you any less! Specificity is King!
With that in mind here are some of the things that you may, or may not experience before you finally settle on a pair of shoes. It is important to note here that the final decision is yours. We can, and will advise on what we think is best for each customer. We do this by using all of the information and tools at our disposal, but at the end of the day the choice is yours! The more you tell us the more accurate our recommendations are likely to be.
As Maureen Lipman so wisely informed us for many a year it is indeed good to talk. So with this in mind the first thing we always do is to take time to speak with each and every customer. We want to make sure we understand as much as we can about you, mostly within the bounds of relevance, and why you have entered the land that is achilles heel.
Expect some friendly chat then to form the cornerstone of your experience with us. It is vital to us that we understand your expectations, we can then work together to fulfil your needs as a customer. Here are some of the questions you may be asked, answers on a postcard please:
If you do have a pair of running shoes and are experiencing ongoing problems we would likely get you on the treadmill and record you running. This footage allows us to review exactly what happens when you run, it is a vital tool that helps to unearth the root of the problem.
The ability to replay this footage, and slow it down, supports a detailed level of analysis that is invaluable. We then also use this video to talk you through what we perceive is the cause of any existing problems. It isn't often you get to check out your own running stride in this level of detail, I certainly found it to be very interesting. It was slightly disturbing to see the full horror that is my oversized calf, but now I can at least comprehend why my relationship with skinny jeans has not always been a fruitful one.
It is highly likely (almost compulsory!) that you will be asked to fold up both trouser legs at some point early on in the proceedings. Do not be alarmed. It will likely be followed by a request to walk the length of the shop and back. It is surprising how differently this request can be interpreted. To eliminate any doubt do as follows. Walk away from your ah bunny, turn and walk back to where you have just recently departed, think tidal.
It may be the case that you will also be asked to adopt a stork-like pose and carry out a few small leg dips. If you do happen to come along bedecked in pink feathers it would add an air of authenticity to this balance test, it is not however totally necessary. This little game allows us to see how good your balance is, and shows the typical amount of movement your ankle joint makes.
The Knickerbocker look helps us to get a good view of the foot, the ankle joint and the lower leg. It is our observations of this area that help us to understand what happens sans shoe when you take flight. This, alongside the information gleaned from conversation, begins to build a picture of which category of shoe would likely be best for your foot. It is possible that we may ask you to hop on to the treadmill at this point too if we would like any further clarity on what your foot likes to do when it moves at a faster pace.
It is these activities that help us to gain an understanding of your foot type, which in turn drives the shoe category that your feet would best be housed in. There is no hard and fast rule here and the old phrase ‘if it ain't broke don't fix it’ works well when replacing your old running shoes.
Broadly speaking we consider 4 different shoe categories: a neutral shoe, then mild, moderate and maximum support.
A neutral shoe is well cushioned but without a supportive structure in the arch, it is suitable for a couple of different foot types:
- A neutral foot that is mostly well behaved, exhibiting only a healthy amount of natural pronation (inward foot roll). This level of movement is important as it enables the body to effectively distribute weight and pressure throughout the body. Something even more important on the run as the force exerted is far greater.
- A supinated foot would also be a happy bedfellow of a neutral shoe. This foot type doesn’t have the same range of natural inward rolling motion, therefore the body’s weight is unevenly distributed toward the tiny toes and the outer edge of the foot. Cushioning is therefore key for these little hoofs.
The mild, moderate and maximum shoe categories also provide excellent cushioning, alongside varying levels of support structure. The purpose of wearing a shoe with added arch support is to help slow down any excessive over-pronation that may be present. Essentially these shoes work to mimic the effective biomechanics shown in a neutral foot.
So it is the presence and level of inward roll of the foot that we are looking for when we ask you to either take a journey along the achilles heel catwalk, balance on one leg or run on the treadmill. At times following your runway rampage we may try on a couple of different categories of shoe before settling on one. The Venn diagram intersection of foot types is a busy place.
Drawings courtesy of Asics. Thank you.
Once we decide upon the category of shoe it is time to get busy with the fizzy. Our aim is to have each customer try out as many shoes as possible from the wide range that fall within that particular grouping. Each shoe subset is bursting at the seams with models from all of the key brands such as Asics, Brooks, Nike, Saucony, Mizuno and Adidas.
Although all of the shoes within each category will have the same aim, whether it be to cushion, support or both, each can perform quite differently when on the foot. Some brands will suit certain individuals more than others. Several elements come into play, perhaps the width of the shoe, where the positioning of the support is, the feel and level of cushioning, the overall fit, and of course how effectively the foot looks to be held in the shoe.
In order to allow our customers to reach a considered decision we get them to try on and walk or run in one pair of shoes, we observe how these perform and then pop one of this pair off and replace it with a different shoe from another brand. This shoe comparison game lets us see how effectively one performs against the other, it is also far easier to identify any preference this way. We repeat this process keeping the preferred candidate on and instructing the loser to leave with nothing. This results in the eventual declaration of a winner, although we are very mindful of not rushing anyone into a decision. In the instance of a photo finish a wee trot on the treadmill sometimes helps.
With all of our customers we encourage a shoe home trial settling in period, get to know your new shoes. Pop them on in the house, use them as your slippers and make sure you are 100% happy with the fit, feel and size before you take a canter outdoors.
Before you take to the road in your fresh new runners and you are not happy to the max with your new running shoes pop back along to the store (or pop them in the post in the instance of a web order) and you can switch the size or the shoe or just plain return them, we hope not though!
So there it is! Hopefully this gives you an insight of the achilles heel gait analysis and shoe fitting process. Nothing to fear! Friendly faces abound.
Put simply, ah...running made better.