The kid-like feel of getting new sneakers at A Proper Fit…
Remember when you were a little kid and you got new sneakers? I loved that feeling. I still do.
My Mom would take me to the shoe store, where the shoe guy would put my feet into that cold shoe measure thing and press my arches and touch my toes and push my heels all the way back to the end to make sure everything was perfect. Way back then, the shoe guys never wanted a kid to leave the shoe store with ill-fitting sneakers or shoes. It just wasn’t gonna happen.
Then the shoe guy would ask what I wanted and disappear for a few minutes into the back room, where I imagined a castle-full of shoes and sneakers with pulleys and ropes and magical devices to find the shoes. I always sat on pins and needles, hoping he would return with the shoes or sneakers I wanted… but he would inevitably return with not only those, but balancing several other boxes of shoes, too, to make sure something fit properly.
A Proper Fit was the goal. A Proper Fit, not only for my feet on that day or that summer, but for proper growth and proper ankles, knees and legs with those sneakers or shoes.
Well, yesterday… as a grown-up with a kid attitude and training for the Runner’s World Challenge/Marine Corps Marathon, I headed to the ONLY place I will buy running shoes, and that’s A Proper Fit in Fall River, Massachusetts…
In this old Factory City, inside this renovated building, in a small, sunny shoe store that smells wonderful with shoes and leather and care and competence is Dick Johnson, a man who not only knows shoes, but loves shoes. Dick is a man who’s been selling shoes for decades… a man who measures with the hands of a surgeon and who loves people to love their shoes because they FIT PROPERLY.
I was recommended to Dick in May 2011 by a friend, when I was complaining of perpetual blisters and foot pain, no matter what running shoes I was wearing. I was training at the time for the Cox Providence Marathon and I was seriously contemplating how will I ever do 26.2 miles with this pain?
It was one week before the marathon when I took the drive to Fall River to see what this A Proper Fit was all about. I found a shoe store from the past… people sitting in comfortable chairs, surrounded with shoes, waiting patiently for Dick to begin his measuring magic. Dick knew these people of all ages, all shapes, all professions… getting fit for new work boots, nursing shoes, dress shoes, golf shoes, running shoes. Dick smiled and laughed and asked about brothers, sisters, moms & dads while he worked. He told stories of being a boy and working in Brockton, MA in the shoe business.
I relaxed in this environment of shoes… with its stools with that elevated rubber mat thing where you put your feet and shoes so Dick can investigate your foot and your shoes. That foot measure thing with the sliding gauges. A shoe propietor who cares about what goes on your feet.
When it was my turn, it was like I was the only customer in the store. Total attention. Tell me about your feet, your shoes, what you want running shoes for… Dick inquired. I told him about my upcoming marathon as a novice runner. He pulled the inner-linings from my old shoes and studied the foot-patterns and markings. He showed me where my feet, toes, arches, heels hit. He used that old measure thing to measure my feet… all the while telling wonderful stories of working this shoe business.
Dick disappeared into that marvelous back room and came back with New Balance running shoes, because New Balance is “Committed to American Workers”… the only shoes he’ll sell, with great pride. He came back with 2 pairs, both a full size larger than my old shoes. He sensed my fear. He again showed me the patterns of my feet on the old inners and explained that pain, blisters and the like come from ill-fitting shoes. He also explained that he would be building and reconstructing the inners to the patterns of my feet… lifting the arch much higher for A Proper Fit.
But you don’t get to leave the store. No. You walk up and down the hallways of that renovated building in the old factory city while Dick waits on another customer and then checks and re-checks your shoes in-between. For the PROPER FIT.
I had never, ever worn a more comfortable pair of shoes in my life.
I asked what I should do to break in the shoes. What about the marathon the following week?.
Dick smiled. Wear them. Wear them home. Wear them on your marathon. They are A Proper Fit!
It was hard to believe, but I believed him. I wore them that week. I wore them on my 26.2 mile journey. No pain. No blisters. Nothing but perfect.
I was sold on the old-fashioned way of fitting shoes. The Proper way. Like when I was a kid. And I haven’t and won’t purchase running shoes anywhere else.
Yesterday, I again headed to A Proper Fit as I get really into my training through Runner’s World Challenge for the Marine Corps Marathon… and I was Dick’s first customer of the day. Dick knows his customers because he cares. How’s Barry? How’d your move to Bristol go? What running adventures you got going? And as he analyzed my old inners and pointed out all of my foot-falls, we talked politics, Italian food, Portuguese food, kids not getting properly fit for shoes anymore, the lady who lived downstairs from him and his mom when he was a kid who used to give him coffee each morning (his mom didn’t know) and turns out she’d become the great-grandmother of Olivia Culpo, RI’s Miss USA.
Small world, he smiled.
Then Dick disappeared into that magic back room and came out with 2 pairs of New Balance running shoes. I tried on both, walked, and chose these beauties…
Dick then worked on the new-shoe inners to fit them properly to my feet with the high arches and all that. And I walked some more while he re-worked the inners of my old running shoes. Yes, Dick re-worked my old shoes, too.
The cost? Same as any walk-in, grab the shoe box from a shelf, try on, walk around, hope they fit athletic or department store.
So, do I feel like a kid again? Yes, I do.
My mind and now my feet are ready for the Challenge, thanks to Dick Johnson at A Proper Fit.
Disclaimer: This post is all my own thoughts/opinions/experiences. Dick Johnson has no idea I’m writing this… !