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Taking Chances With Gear Running

Posted by on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 @ 7:49 am | Leave a reply

 

Gear Running PhotoIn 2009, Paul Horan took a chance — a big chance. He and his business partners bought the oldest running store in the Twin Cities area. The store, Gear Running (http://www.gearrunningstore.com), based in Edina, Minnesota, had been the “it” store in town from 1985-2006, but when the store owner started to step away to pursue other personal interests, the store began to lose its footing in the market. Horan had been an avid runner since high school and had at one point run for the Gear Running store team. He also had worked in clothing retail for most of his career and was looking for a retail opportunity to call his own. When the chance to buy Gear Running presented itself, he jumped on it.

Horan’s own market research had turned him onto “natural running”. He understood that it wasn’t just a fad, but a trend that would play a role in the future of the running market. “I thought the Newton technology was fascinating, how they spent so much time trying to mimic the barefoot gate, while still being substantial under foot. And we were lucky that our inventory levels were such that we could bring in a lot of it, and bring it in right away.” Horan hoped that a new brand like Newton Running would help him to differentiate his store from his competitors

Horan’s differentiation plan paid off, Newton became Horan’s number one brand after the first year he carried it. Gear Running has in fact sold more Newton shoes than any other storefront.

Thanks to many years spent on the retail side of the clothing industry, Horan says, “I had very good experience in retail and great connections as far as a customer base.” When he changed to Gear Running, many of his former clothing clients, began to visit him at the shoe store. Others, aside from his competitors, were also happy to see him take over the store. Many local runners had fond memories of the store when it was doing well. “People would always say, ‘Gear Running. I love that store,’” says Horan.

And his customers loved Newton shoes. “Every day, I was open jawed at the number of people who came in because of Newton shoes or who were turned on when they saw the shoe. We did well from the get go. And it kept building and building and building.” And, it’s not always your typical elite runner who is into minimal running. “We have guys all the time, they don’t appear to be the kind of guy who would run in that type of shoe. Suddenly they’re all intrigued.”

“We have a former NFL hall of famer who has bought about 12 pairs. He thought his running career was over. He’s a bigger guy, but in great shape. He heard about Newtons. He bought one pair and then came back and said ‘I need two more pair,’” explains Horan. “We have a lot of customers who have had great improvement with the Newtons and feel like they can run again. And the 30-day guarantee is a nice safety net to have in your back pocket.”

Horan says there is another group of 10 to 12 women who walk around the nearby lake. “They all have the pink Newtons. They’re walkers, but they love them.” He adds, “The shoes sell themselves to a degree because they’re so colorful.”

The other secret to Horan’s success is a partnership he founded with Team Ortho (http://www.teamortho.us), the largest race organizer in Minnesota. “We’re their exclusive retail partner. So when we go to their expos, we’re the only retailer there.” Horan explains that every race has a Facebook page, and Horan has run multiple contests on these pages giving away a pair of Newton shoes. “They will simply say, ‘Like’ this page to be eligible to win a pair of Newtons. And just one of those pages gets around 10,000 ‘Likes’.” He adds, “You also get all of these comments. For the most part it’s a love fest, so then other people think maybe they should try them out.” Every time a new product comes in Horan will have Team Ortho give away a pair. “They’ll post the picture and people are just like ‘those are the coolest!’” He sold 200 pairs in December last year as a result of these social media giveaways.

The next giveaway candidate? The new EnergyNR . Horan, who primarily runs in the Distance, thinks the new EnergyNR will spark even more interest in Newton because of its versatility and potential to be a cross- trainer. “I’m excited about that one,” he says.

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From the Expert: Ian Adamson Talks Stability

Posted by on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 @ 7:50 am | Leave a reply

Having good stability is a critical requirement for all runners. Each time your body moves over your foot (called mid-stance in the gait cycle) you are loading two to three times your body weight on your foot and a little less at each successive body part up the bio-mechnical chain – ankle, shin, knee, thigh, hip, etc.

Ian Adamson talks Stability in RunningIn mid-stance, all this force is on one leg, so you need to have good stability in order to do it safely and efficiently. If you are unable to balance on one leg with all this load, you can’t run. Put simply you will fall over. Runners with poor balance tend to rock side to side since they place their feet in a wide stance.

Stability is not just about balance, since muscular strength is required. Try this exercise to demonstrate:

1. Stand on one leg in front of a full length mirror

2. Keeping your foot flat to the ground, do a shallow squat by flexing your knee hip and ankle as far as possible

3. Make sure your body stays upright (don’t bend forward at the waist)

4. Slowly return to an upright position and keep repeating for as long as you can on two second cycles (one second down, one second up)

This is essential what you are doing (in the vertical axis) while running, but with about one body weight. Imagine doing this with two and a half. Most likely your leg will get tired and you will have to stop due to muscular fatigue.

Now do a few more repetitions and look a little more closely at your alignment (and consequently your stability.) Is your knee tracking straight and true? If not, this is almost certainly happening when you run. As a result, the misalignment at your knee will cause excess stress, which with repetition and load (that would be running) can cause pain and ultimately injury. Typical inures from knee misalignment include medial or lateral knee pain, ITB syndrome and medial shin splints (extrinsic muscles controlling the foot trying to compensate), plus a host more.

The solution is not obvious for most runners.

1. Choose a shoe that is not thick and soft so the surface under your foot is stable. Any shoe that relies on midsole foam for cushioning and is more than about 6 mm thick is probably not good. Soft foams are also unstable, the thicker and softer the worse it gets. Newton shoes do not rely on midsole foam and are essentially hard runner once you load them in a running gait.

2. Stabilize your leg to control the motion at the knee. The knee is a stable joint (like a hinge) and is controlled at either end. The primary muscle controlling the femur (thigh) in the stance phase of gait is the Gluteus Medius, the big muscle on your butt to the outside. This muscle stops your hip dropping and keeps your knee aligned side to side.

A good strength exercise for leg stability is the single leg shallow squat described above. This can be done while brushing your teeth (you do this anyway right?), with a goal of doing 30 repetitions each leg (two seconds per rep.) You have to do these exercises with precision, otherwise your are practicing poor form and will get good at doing these badly! For some people, this may only be two or three repetitions the first time until failure. Failure is when you loose control of your leg, for example knee doesn’t track straight, your hip drops, rises or you loos balance. Don’t worry, progress can be quite fast so after a few weeks you should be able to do this easily.

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