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Author Topic: My encounter with an angry running shoe salesman  (Read 4437 times)
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sailorwind
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« on: April 28, 2011, 09:28:29 PM »

I just had the most frustrating half hour lecture from an ignorant salesman at the running shoe store and figured this might be the place to recount it to others who might share my incredulity at the stubbornness of some people. 

Relevant back-story:  I bought my first pair of KSO's (first pair of any VFF's) heading towards a year ago now.  My feet are totally broken in and I wear them all the time, but mainly for casual walking or for hiking on trails or jogging on a textured track with some give.  A few weeks ago I wore them on a hike that turned out to be 2.5 miles of concrete and I got MAJOR friction blisters on the bottoms (and especially balls) of my feet.  First time I'd ever gotten blisters from them.  Basically, I discovered that I had erred on the side of a size too big for my first VFF's (I have three other pairs, but one is a size smaller and the other two are Smartwools and Performas which I guess run a size small anyway) and it was recommended to me that I get a pair of Injinji micro crew socks as a liner for vigorous walking on concrete. The one good thing that happened in the encounter I had with this salesman was that he took the socks out of the package and encouraged me to try them on with my KSO's (I guess he was hoping to make a sale even after the story that comes next).  It turned out that because my toes don't go all the way into the pockets of the socks, I couldn't get them into my KSO toe pockets, so I'm back to square one on that.

This salesman, when he realized what I was wearing, started RIPPING into me.  He informed me that absolutely everyone who runs in VFF's will most certainly get stress fractures and that Vibram has been trying to get this store to sell VFF's for quite a while now but that the store's owner refuses to sell a shoe he knows will certainly hurt the runner.  He informed me of this multiple times.  In fact, when I said I'd actually wanted to try on a pair of Merrill Pace Gloves while I was there, he informed me that the above sentiment was true for ALL minimalist shoes and that while he found his Merrill True Gloves, which the dealer had given him a free sample pair of, extremely comfortable, he'd only wear them around the house so as not to injure himself with them.  He then informed me that I shouldn't wear my VFF's running because that's not what they were designed for.  I was extremely confused at that point.  He informed me that they had been designed and made purely to be boat shoes and for things like kayaking and were never meant to be run in and that's why they are sure to injure the runner.  I tried to set him straight, but he swore that that was information he'd gotten straight from the VFF rep who had originally tried to talk them into carrying VFF's at the store.  I felt like he was just going on and on and not letting me out of the store.  He said Vibram had changed their history on the website to lure in people (I guess implying saps like me, even though I didn't buy them for running at all.  I just started running this week).  It felt like he'd wanted to vent for a LONG time about the barefoot running "fad" and tell someone who prefers minimalist shoes to their face that they are screwing up their bodies because people were meant to walk with shoes on.  Yes, he actually said we were meant to walk with shoes on.  He said that we were designed to WALK barefoot, but that we were designed to need shoes with at least some padding on the heel and some rigidity in order to run.  I guess I just happened to be that lucky person.  Or maybe he does that with EVERY person who shows a preference for barefoot.
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« on: April 28, 2011, 09:28:29 PM »

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Go_Blue
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« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2011, 10:26:59 PM »

LOL!   Grin

That is all I have to say.
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« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2011, 11:06:05 PM »

that made me laugh....I know a few people like him.
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« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2011, 04:58:27 AM »

Oh man. At least he thought he was helping you, I guess. But it's so easy to find information out there online about barefoot running and safety. Best of luck with your KSOs!
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« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2011, 04:58:27 AM »

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« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2011, 05:16:53 AM »

evolution is so smart!
thousands of years ago not only nature evolved the homo sapiens to be able to walk ad to think, but designed it so that he would be able, some years later, to think a way to build a shoe that let him walk the proper way.

I never thought that, is like storing stones so that one day people would be able to use them as fuel for their space ships!  Grin
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« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2011, 07:13:03 AM »

I really tried to argue the whole "meant to walk in shoes" thing with him.  I told him that on pavement we probably do need a shoe shoe because it's not a natural surface with give like the ones created by whoever or whatever you believe created the world and designed our anatomy.  But it was futile.  This guy knew best. 

One of my favorite parts was when he started ripping into Born to Run and how he kept pushing barefoot running in there but the only research he did was the Tarahumara (?) and according to him they aren't barefoot runners because they make those huraches (sp?) and those are SHOES.  I tried to explain the goal of the book wasn't to start a barefoot running revolution, that Chris McDougall himself in the book NEVER ran barefoot, he always had "regular" running shoes and he just tried to learn the FORM of a barefoot runner in them.  But apparently this guy had done more research than McDougall.
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« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2011, 10:01:03 AM »

Yeah, people like to tear into Born to Run about the barefoot thing, which usually seems to mean they didn't really read it because there's only one like one chapter specifically on the whole shoe industry thing and BF Ted is the only person in the book running barefoot or in VFFs. The biggest complaint McDougall seems to have in the book against traditional running shoes is heel drop and such ruining form. And he does give info and points from more than just the Tarahumara on the less is more idea. Just because many people have been inspired to try something different with their shoes (or lack there of) and form as a result of the book doesn't mean it was intended to spark a barefoot revolution. The intent of the book was to relate the story of the Tarahumara and his experiences running with them. I've seen in interviews where he's said he almost removed the chapter about the shoes before it went to print! Lol.

I don't get why barefoot or minimal running pisses some people off so much. It's not like anyone is running around forcibly removing shoes from unwilling runners (I'm pretty sure we all still dress ourselves and make our own purchases) or stealing all the "regular" running shoes. There are still plenty of non-minimalist designs out there. There's room in the market for options. And if I run in VFFs or sans-shoes, that's on me. If I get a stress fracture or step on something nasty it doesn't hurt anyone else. If I run in traditional running shoes and my knees start hurting again, I'm pretty sure that only hurts me as well. It's not drunk driving people... it's SHOES what one person does or does not wear on their feet does not endanger anyone else (unless we're talking stepping on another person's foot with your stilettos or boots or something... lol). I just think it's ridiculous.

I generally don't discuss VFFs with the staff in athletic shoe stores that don't sell them unless they ask me about them. I've gotten positive comments from a guy who worked at the Nike outlet and a gal at the store where I got my Kinvaras because I was wearing my Jayas at the time, but I wouldn't discuss them with the people at the store that put me in stability shoes and inserts. I just don't care to waste my energy.

I've gotten nothing but positive comments when wearing my VFFs, but I'm not around the "running community" much IRL so the people who see me in them don't really have a connection to the whole debate usually. I'll share my experiences with VFFs or other minimal shoes or barefooting if people ask and seem genuinely interested and I might be up for a little friendly debate here and there under the right circumstances but generally I just do what I want and leave everyone else to draw their own conclusions and decide what they want to wear.


The point about we were meant to walk barefoot but not run barefoot is pretty funny, IMO. So before shoes, it was ok to walk around but if you suddenly needed to run from danger you better put something under your feet first? Lol. I just keep picturing a prehistoric man being chased by a large animal and calling "Time-out! I need to fashion some properly cushioned and supportive shoes first!" ;-)


But bottom line... I figure if I want to wear VFFs or 5" heels or Crocs or Docs or huaraches or my birthday shoes or cardboard boxes on my feet, it's nobody's business but mine. But therein lies the point with this guy... he's in the *business* of selling running shoes. Maybe that's why he's so enraged and threatened by barefooters....
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The Yeti
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« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2011, 11:38:56 AM »

Ugh, What a maroon. I can't stand those type of people that feel the need to lecture everyone they see on using the wrong footwear. Sorry that happened. I'd be pretty miffed at that too. 

Go for a run! It'll make you feel a lot better.
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« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2011, 12:30:43 PM »

It happens. In my short number of years I have learned that there is no arguing with a know-it-all on any subject. If they become condescending, and you really want to frustrate them, just lightly dismiss their opinion- it REALLY gets them!

I had a guy at my BJJ school start lecturing me about my Vibrams once. I let him say what he wanted to say, then when he finally stopped for air I politely replied, "I disagree" and left it at that. I guess after I left he continued to rant to one of the coaches, but interestingly that coach now runs in KSOs
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« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2011, 03:48:53 PM »

The only difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has limits (Albert Einstein)..... 

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« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2011, 08:09:53 PM »

Bwahaha!  Grin  What a Tw@t.

Of course stress fractures are possible - if you overdo it, too fast, too soon. People can't resist, and I guess there is a danger as a stockist of selling some impatient customers a novel new shoe that they'll go straight out and run 5-10 miles a day in and do themselves damage. This salesman knows he can't protect himself from the foolish people who do this, but a disclaimer and advice would cover him, surely?

It would make some kind of sense him refusing to stock the shoes if he just couldn't be bothered to go through the safety warning advice every time...(A.k.a good customer service)  - instead he just sounds plain negative and a right boorish git at that.

It's perfectly reasonable to deduce that slow and steady conditioning in Fivefingers over months builds muscles, and a stronger foot, better able to cope with barefoot running. I should think actual BARE barefoot running gives even less chance of stress fracture because the runner feels everything, and as a result lands softer and more gently on harder terrain. I'm sure our ancestors ran on hard rocks and sun-baked mud without their feet collapsing under them....  Roll Eyes

If I had a guy go at me like that I'd have to slip in the fact that when I used to run in "safe" protective trainers in P.E. at school I lost count of the times I twisted my ankle or went over on the side of my foot, or pulled my shins. A year of walking long distances and running short distances in barefoot shoes? NO twisted ankles, no pulled shins. In barefoot shoes I walk and run more softly now than I ever did, and furthermore my feet feel stronger and "solid."

If these shoes are such a scornworthy gimmick then I can't see the gimmick behind them - I have a pair of KSOs and all they are is a bit of thin moulded rubber the shape of our feet, attached to a bit of fabric. No wanky "air cushion" technology or "torsion systems." The toe pockets help spread out our poor toes which have got crushed from decades in tight shoes, and wider toe spread improves our balance. And that's all there is.

The protection bit peddled by Vibram also makes sense because our towns and cities are covered with tarmac and concrete that gets hot enough to burn bare feet in the summer and freeze them in the winter. Next to going barefoot, Vibrams and other barefoot shoes surely must be the healthiest alternative?  Smiley
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« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2011, 12:13:30 AM »

I just had the most frustrating half hour lecture from an ignorant salesman at the running shoe store and figured this might be the place to recount it to others who might share my incredulity at the stubbornness of some people.  

Relevant back-story:  I bought my first pair of KSO's (first pair of any VFF's) heading towards a year ago now.  My feet are totally broken in and I wear them all the time, but mainly for casual walking or for hiking on trails or jogging on a textured track with some give.  A few weeks ago I wore them on a hike that turned out to be 2.5 miles of concrete and I got MAJOR friction blisters on the bottoms (and especially balls) of my feet.  First time I'd ever gotten blisters from them.  Basically, I discovered that I had erred on the side of a size too big for my first VFF's (I have three other pairs, but one is a size smaller and the other two are Smartwools and Performas which I guess run a size small anyway) and it was recommended to me that I get a pair of Injinji micro crew socks as a liner for vigorous walking on concrete. The one good thing that happened in the encounter I had with this salesman was that he took the socks out of the package and encouraged me to try them on with my KSO's (I guess he was hoping to make a sale even after the story that comes next).  It turned out that because my toes don't go all the way into the pockets of the socks, I couldn't get them into my KSO toe pockets, so I'm back to square one on that.

This salesman, when he realized what I was wearing, started RIPPING into me.  He informed me that absolutely everyone who runs in VFF's will most certainly get stress fractures and that Vibram has been trying to get this store to sell VFF's for quite a while now but that the store's owner refuses to sell a shoe he knows will certainly hurt the runner.  He informed me of this multiple times.  In fact, when I said I'd actually wanted to try on a pair of Merrill Pace Gloves while I was there, he informed me that the above sentiment was true for ALL minimalist shoes and that while he found his Merrill True Gloves, which the dealer had given him a free sample pair of, extremely comfortable, he'd only wear them around the house so as not to injure himself with them.  He then informed me that I shouldn't wear my VFF's running because that's not what they were designed for.  I was extremely confused at that point.  He informed me that they had been designed and made purely to be boat shoes and for things like kayaking and were never meant to be run in and that's why they are sure to injure the runner.  I tried to set him straight, but he swore that that was information he'd gotten straight from the VFF rep who had originally tried to talk them into carrying VFF's at the store.  I felt like he was just going on and on and not letting me out of the store.  He said Vibram had changed their history on the website to lure in people (I guess implying saps like me, even though I didn't buy them for running at all.  I just started running this week).  It felt like he'd wanted to vent for a LONG time about the barefoot running "fad" and tell someone who prefers minimalist shoes to their face that they are screwing up their bodies because people were meant to walk with shoes on.  Yes, he actually said we were meant to walk with shoes on.  He said that we were designed to WALK barefoot, but that we were designed to need shoes with at least some padding on the heel and some rigidity in order to run.  I guess I just happened to be that lucky person.  Or maybe he does that with EVERY person who shows a preference for barefoot.

I really tried to argue the whole "meant to walk in shoes" thing with him.  I told him that on pavement we probably do need a shoe shoe because it's not a natural surface with give like the ones created by whoever or whatever you believe created the world and designed our anatomy.  But it was futile.  This guy knew best.  

One of my favorite parts was when he started ripping into Born to Run and how he kept pushing barefoot running in there but the only research he did was the Tarahumara (?) and according to him they aren't barefoot runners because they make those huraches (sp?) and those are SHOES.  I tried to explain the goal of the book wasn't to start a barefoot running revolution, that Chris McDougall himself in the book NEVER ran barefoot, he always had "regular" running shoes and he just tried to learn the FORM of a barefoot runner in them.  But apparently this guy had done more research than McDougall.


...it was recommended to me that I get a pair of Injinji micro crew socks as a liner for vigorous walking on concrete. The one good thing that happened in the encounter I had with this salesman was that he took the socks out of the package and encouraged me to try them on with my KSO's (I guess he was hoping to make a sale even after the story that comes next).  It turned out that because my toes don't go all the way into the pockets of the socks, I couldn't get them into my KSO toe pockets, so I'm back to square one on that.

You can still wear them, as in VFFs, you don't need to have a perfect fit for all your toes. Besides, you can also pull from the base to fill the tip of the pocket, the fabric won't be tight but that isn't an issue.

He then informed me that I shouldn't wear my VFF's running because that's not what they were designed for.  I was extremely confused at that point.  He informed me that they had been designed and made purely to be boat shoes and for things like kayaking and were never meant to be run in and that's why they are sure to injure the runner.  I tried to set him straight, but he swore that that was information he'd gotten straight from the VFF rep who had originally tried to talk them into carrying VFF's at the store.

He was actually right about the initial purpose of the first VFFs (VFFs Classic). It is not a secret that the initial expected market for them was people looking for (literally) something to be worn on a yacht (Vibram's owner is a sailor), a kayak, a canoe, as a camp shoe, as an after-hike shoe,  and that they never thought they were going to be used for running:

Interview to Michael Martin, National Sales Manager for Vibram FiveFingers
(from minute 6:30 to 12:20)http://www.livingbarefoot.info/podcasts/LivingBarefoot_EP3.mp3

But of course that doesn't necessary mean you can't use something developed for some purpose for other things.


I really tried to argue the whole "meant to walk in shoes" thing with him.  I told him that on pavement we probably do need a shoe shoe because it's not a natural surface with give like the ones created by whoever or whatever you believe created the world and designed our anatomy.

Ask some barefoot runners and most of them will tell you that the best surface to start running barefoot is on concrete and asphalt:
(stage 3 onwards)http://www.runnersworld.com/community/forums/runner-communities/barefoot-running/new-barefoot-minimalist-runners-start-here


One of my favorite parts was when he started ripping into Born to Run and how he kept pushing barefoot running in there but the only research he did was the Tarahumara (?) and according to him they aren't barefoot runners because they make those huraches (sp?) and those are SHOES.  I tried to explain the goal of the book wasn't to start a barefoot running revolution, that Chris McDougall himself in the book NEVER ran barefoot, he always had "regular" running shoes and he just tried to learn the FORM of a barefoot runner in them.  But apparently this guy had done more research than McDougall.

You can gather from most Chris McDougall's long lectures that he's clearly against the design of conventional modern running shoes and the way the running industry is selling their products. It's possible that that seller had never read 'Born to Run' but he had already listened to some of McDougall's talks uploaded in YouTube:
(minute 44:30 to 50:30)
Authors@Google: Christopher McDougall

(minute 15:00 to 16:00)
Christopher McDougall; Are we born to run (TED)
« Last Edit: April 30, 2011, 01:30:51 AM by Zephyr » Logged
sailorwind
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« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2011, 12:18:25 AM »

Quote
If I had a guy go at me like that I'd have to slip in the fact that when I used to run in "safe" protective trainers in P.E. at school I lost count of the times I twisted my ankle or went over on the side of my foot, or pulled my shins. A year of walking long distances and running short distances in barefoot shoes? NO twisted ankles, no pulled shins. In barefoot shoes I walk and run more softly now than I ever did, and furthermore my feet feel stronger and "solid."

I actually did assert a statement very much like that.  I'm not actually a runner (yet, just started working on that), but I had horribly weak feet all my life.  I was constantly twisting my ankle, having my foot collapse under me, getting shin splints just from walking fast, and had major arch issues and plantar fasciitis in both feet, and that's not even mentioning the fact that my sense of balance was, well, a sense I didn't have at all.  I was constantly tripping on my own feet and walking into the edges of door frames and such. They all went away within weeks of conditioning myself to walk barefoot.  His response to that was that I only THINK I fixed all those problems, but soon I will get stress fractures which will be worse than all those.  I also said to him a few times "Look, I know you guys are not an authorized seller and I figured that meant you probably weren't sold on the idea of barefoot running.  I really didn't come in here to argue about it, I came in to see if you had Injinji toe sock liners and these are the shoes I wear pretty much whenever I'm not at work, so that's why I'm wearing them now."  

Quote
You can still wear them, as in VFFs, you don't need to have a perfect fit for all your toes. Besides, you can also pull from the base to fill the tip of the pocket, the fabric won't be tight but that isn't an issue.

I couldn't.  I tried for a few minutes to get my toes into my KSO toe pockets with the Injinji's on and they simply would not go in.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2011, 12:20:40 AM by sailorwind » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2011, 12:39:12 AM »

Yes, the point about what the original VFFs were created/intended for is correct, however, the newer styles are intended for many other activities and the originals have proven themselves useful for other things as well. Plenty of products on many different markets have been conceived and created for one thing but have proven useful for other applications.

And YouTube videos or opinions expressed after the release of the book are different from the book itself. I just think that if someone is going to bash a book, they should know what they're talking about. It's fine to disagree with McDougall's general ideas and methods, but it is rather ignorant to bash the book specifically or use it to support one's claims (that McDougall only based his ideas on the Tarahumara and did no other research, etc) without knowing the actual content. It just annoys me when people do stuff like that.
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« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2011, 02:40:22 AM »

Oh man...there are so many things wrong with what that salesman was saying.

If it was me I would have taken my business elsewhere, after I laughed in his face as I walked out.
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