A Proper Fit in running shoes…
This is how I feel about running again after having such set-backs last year with a calf injury, weeks of physical therapy, then bronchitis (twice, yikes!), canceling my marathon in June, followed by a foot injury and then shingles (WTH) and my first asthma flare-up in decades. I attribute lots of it to our house renovations and all the dust and debris, the record-breaking winter of snow and ice and maybe just all of this combined.
It’s all OK, though.
New Year. New Beginnings. Gotta start somewhere kinda thing.
So yesterday, I took a little ride to the ONLY place I’ve bought running shoes since 2011 —
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.
As a novice new runner in my late 50’s, I was recommended to Dick in May 2011 by a friend, when I was suffering with 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 66 Troy Street in 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, casual shoes, golf shoes, running shoes. Dick smiled and laughed and asked about daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, moms & dads while he worked. He knew these people who came back time and time again because he likes people, they like him and he knows shoes. 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 proprietor 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 and my foot pain. 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, 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 insoles and explained that pain, blisters and the like come from ill-fitting shoes. He also explained that he would be building and reconstructing the insoles to the patterns of my feet, lifting the arch much higher for A Proper Fit.
Dick did all of this.
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 A PROPER FIT.
I had never, ever worn a more comfortable pair of shoes in my life, never mind running shoes.
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 ready to run again. As Dick was with another customer, he looked up and said, “Hey, Sharon. How’s the boss? How are things in Bristol?” Dick has the memory of all memories.
“I’ll be right with you,” he added.
I said, “Take your time,” because I was back again in that small, sunny shoe store that smells wonderful with wonderful stacks and stacks of shoe boxes and leather and care and competence and Dick Johnson, a man who not only knows shoes, but loves shoes. He told me over his shoulder that he had a pair of running shoes for me, but wanted me to try other pairs, too. He said he’d been thinking of moving me up a half size. What is so amazing about all of this is that I hadn’t been there in a year. I hadn’t worn through my current running shoes because I hadn’t been really, really running. In a year. Simply amazing. I snapped a photo of the great whirl of that shoe store…
Then Dick disappeared into that magic back room and came out with 3 pairs of running shoes. I tried on all 3 pairs, walked around in each and then Dick was ready for my Proper Fit. He took my right foot in his hands and said, “What happened to this foot?”
What? That’s the foot I got lodged into a crevice of rocks on Martha’s Vineyard last August. That’s the foot I thought I broke. That’s the foot I never addressed with a physician. Dick knew something had happened to my foot. Wow.
I settled on a pair of New Balance running shoes — yes, a half size larger and incredibly comfortable, but Dick still had to work his magic with adjusting the fit with of the shoe insoles. (AND re-adjusted my old pair of running shoes, which he always does!) Perfection…
As Dick was finishing up with me, an older couple walked into the store, people who had never been there before.
“I’ll be right with you,” Dick called out.
This older man needed help with shoes related to his diabetes. He told Dick that he’s been suffering for years with his feet, has a closet-full of shoes he cannot wear because of discomfort, wants to walk for exercise and was strongly recommended to Dick. He asked, “Do you fit people with diabetes?”
Dick answered, “For 50, maybe 60, years, sir.”
I couldn’t help smiling.
I told the gentleman that I wouldn’t be running if it weren’t for A Proper Fit.
Then I asked his wife if she’d mind snapping a photo of Dick Johnson with me for a blog post I’d be writing…
A man surrounded with shoes, shoe knowledge stored in his head and a love for his customers’ Proper Fit.
Back home, I breathed in the wonderful chill of that January late afternoon and went for a run, a 1-mile run, in my new running shoes…
It’s a New Year.
A New Start.
A 1-mile New Beginning!