Spring has sprung, a reality that tends to accelerate the energy at run specialty stores across the U.S. Over recent weeks, we’ve seen the conclusion of the indoor track season and the arrival of the outdoor campaign, spring marathons and St. Patrick’s Day-themed races, which kick off the racing season in many parts of the country.

Running stores also solicited Best Running Store nominations, hosted creative and lively events from lectures to fashion shows and crafted a few April Fools Day Jokes to keep things interesting. Various new store openings, meanwhile, underscore the continued momentum of the run specialty marketplace.

Now, that’s one big shoe!

Over in Connecticut, Ridgefield Running Company (RRC) has got a big shoe to, um, color. 

The former Store of the Year honoree is participating in the KICKS Public Art Event, in which local citizens and business purchase a six-foot tall fiberglass resin sneaker sculpture and decorate it for public display. RRC Artist Laureate, Tharini Pande, will handle the task of embellishing RRC’s sneaker, which will sit outside of the store’s Main Street location until it is auctioned off in September to benefit Kicks for Kids and the ArtFul Visual Arts Initiative.

This running store helped runners find their “solemate”

For years, many running shops have encouraged customers to avoid buying running shoes based on aesthetics or color and instead focus on fit and feel. Fleet Feet San Antonio put that idea to the test, seeking to remove the biases we carry about brands, colors or other factors beyond fit and feel.

At its February 13 fun run, staff blindfolded runners and had them try on footwear from ASICS, Karhu and Mizuno. Participants selected their favorite model before taking off the blindfold and heading out the door for a three-mile run in their chosen “solemate.” 

“Our participants loved the idea and are already asking if we can host another event with different brands, making this a definite repeat event,” Fleet Feet San Antonio marketing director Amanda Fremin says.

Skinny Raven labels its staff

I must admit, I dig these “Spike Specialist” hooded sweatshirts from Anchorage-based Skinny Raven. So perfect for running store employees during the track season.

Run shops embrace role as conduits of information

Running stores champion their role as education providers and shops across the country continue embracing that charge in dynamic ways. 

At the March 19 fun run from its Midtown Atlanta location, Big Peach Ride + Run put healthy eating on the menu. Local dietician Alissa Palladino led an interactive session in which customers learned how to make their own healthy and delicious pre- or post-run trail mix. 

On March 20, Brooklyn Running Co. hosted a workshop with Finish Line Physical Therapy examining the physical aspects of menopause as well as tips to navigate that experience with confidence. New Jersey-based Hadddonfield Running Company (in photo), meanwhile, offered an important and timely discussion about body image and running with local counselor Kate Ringwood. Topics included how body image impacts performance and sports-related pressures that influence negative body image.  

Alongside Olmos Park Physio, San Antonio-based iRun Texas hosted its “Super Shoe Sessions” on March 26. The informative, hands-on, feet-in event explored the latest in super shoes from brands like New Balance, Saucony, ASICS and Mizuno. 

RUNdetroit gets a little wacky on April Fools Day




RUNdetroit combined its favorite brand mispronunciation, its love of unusual events and April Fools Day into one wacky idea: the sauCONEY Race on April 1. Participants determined their own route and raced from the RUNdetroit storefront to Lafayette Coney Island Downtown, where they were tasked to consume one Coney Island Hot Dog before returning to RUNdetroit. 

Did you get fooled?

Speaking of April Fools Day, run specialty brands and retailers alike played “gotcha” and harmlessly hoodwinked some fans. 

Pensacola, FL-based Running Wild earned a good laugh with its Running Wild sneaker (in photo above), a court-styled shoe featuring vegan leather, a zero-drop sole, plush cushioning and customization options.

Fleet Feet Cincinnati teased the arrival of Frank’s Tank, “a slightly used rickshaw” to serve runners’ needs – once store owner Frank DeJulius learned to drive stick, of course.

And Boston-based running retailer Marathon Sports got some folks on the West Coast excited when it promoted the opening of a new store in Venice Beach.

New stores and moves

As if its big shoe art project wasn’t enough, Ridgefield Running Company recently added a new sibling to its retail family. Owner Megan Searfoss led the purchase of Woodbridge Running Company in Brookfield, CT, and rebranded the shop Brookfield Running Company. Along with the four-year-old Darien Running Company, that’s now three Connecticut-based stores for Searfoss.

On March 9, 605 Running Company celebrated the grand opening of its second location in Sioux Falls, SD. The new storefront at The Bridges is located about four miles south of 605’s flagship store in downtown Sioux Falls.

Atlanta-based Big Peach Running Co. expanded beyond Georgia for the first time with the opening of a retail shop in Melbourne, FL, in mid-February. Big Peach now has a total of 11 stores under its banner. Also in Florida, Fit2Run continued its rapid expansion with a store in Key West.

Fleet Feet continues its ambitious, yet steady march toward 400 units with the opening of new stores in Jefferson City, MO, and Watkinsville, GA.

And some run shops have settled into new digs. Second Sole moved its Canton, OH, storefront to a new location 100 feet away, while Fleet Feet Madison relocated its 1900-square-foot shop in Sun Prairie, WI, to a new 2800-square foot corner storefront in the suburban community.

And one last thing: Running Insight is hunting for 2024 anniversaries

Last summer, Running Insight debuted its first-ever anniversary issue, an earnest attempt to recognize running retailers and brands celebrating noteworthy anniversaries. The festive issue will return for its second installment in July. 

If you’re a run specialty store or brand celebrating a milestone anniversary of 10-plus years in 2024 (ie. 10, 15, 20, 25 years, etc.), Running Insight wants to know. Drop me a line at [email protected] or @runspecialtyinsider on Instagram.

Have a compelling event, project or initiative to propose for a future Running Spirit column? Contact Running Insight senior writer Danny Smith at [email protected] with details. You can also follow Danny on Instagram @runspecialtyinsider.