Disclaimer: I do not personally know Patton Gleason(president and founder of Natural Running Store). He has not asked me to write this post. I have not been promised compensation for writing this post. I just genuinely feel compelled to let as many people as possible know about the experience I had after purchasing a single item at Natural Running Store.
When I first started this blog I had zero intentions of posting about a running store. I haven't had a shoe purchase experience worth blogging about, until I purchased a pair of Altra Instincts a couple weeks ago. There are several reasons why I will only purchase my running shoes from the Natural Running Store.
South East Iowa is anything but the mecca of running culture. I typically run 5-7 days a week and I can go days without seeing another runner. As you can imagine, as few runners as there are, there are even fewer specialty running stores. I only know of one within 50 miles (very limited selection of minimalist shoes at this particular store). I try to keep my business local but with option so limited I'm forced to turn to the internet for my running shoe purchases. I have had fairly good luck with purchasing shoes online but there are a few draw backs. For me the biggest obstacle to purchasing running shoes online is the inability to try shoes on. This makes sizing difficult. I usually remedy this buy purchasing several sizes and sending the other sizes back. Therefore, I only purchase from sites that offer free shipping and free returns which narrows the options down considerably. Buying shoes online is also a very impersonal. Usually you get an email saying your order has been processed and hopefully another one saying your shoes have shipped. That is usually all the contact that is received. I prefer the personal attention that is often received from brink and mortar specialty running stores. I like to know that the person I am buying shoes from knows what they are talking about and that they believe in their products. This kind of attention, hasn't been available online. However, the Natural Running Store has rectified all of the draw backs of purchasing running shoes online and even surpassed all of my expectations of purchasing shoes online or in person.
I won't try and tell you who Patton Gleason is and what his beliefs are towards running and life. He can do a much better job than I could. He has an exceptional video posted on his store website that does a good job summarizing his beliefs for you.
From the video and the name of the store you can tell that the only shoes that are available to purchase on his site are shoes that are minimalist or transitional shoes. Therefore, there is not a huge selection of shoes available to purchase but for me this is a positive instead of a negative. I have a moral issue purchasing minimalist shoes from a place that also offers the typical over built, high heeled, motion control shoes that we are all familiar with. I understand that selling shoes is a business but I do not believe in compromising ones beliefs to make buck. If you truly believe in the benefits of minimalist running shoes than I don't see how you can sell a shoe like the Mizuno Wave Prophecy pictured below. The Natural Running Store does not compromise their beliefs in natural running form and only sell shoes that promote it. I do not know this for a fact but I would bet that Patton has personally run in every single shoe that he sells and wouldn't sell shoes that he didn't truly belief in. Therefore I would feel comfortable purchasing any shoe from Natural Running Store.
Natural Running Store not only sell shoes that promote natural running but they also have videos and tips on how to transition to proper running form. Most running stores just want to sell their shoes and not take the time or effort to show the customers the proper way to run. Patton as well as I feel this is irresponsible.
As I mentioned previously, I have an issue with not being able to try shoes on when purchasing them online. Therefore I buy multiple sizes to make sure I get a correct fit. I then return the ones that are too big or too small but even then I do not run in these shoes for fear of not getting a refund. Natural Running Store takes this issue and makes it a complete non issue. I had to read their return policy multiple times just to make sure I was reading it correctly. There are other online shoe stores that offer free return shipping but no other store that I know will allow you to return the shoes within 30 days in ANY condition. Most stores tell you to wear their shoes on carpet as not to put any wear on the out-soles. Natural Running Store feels that you actually need to run in the shoes to know if they are the shoes for you. What a crazy concept! I know some shoe stores that will let you take the shoes for a jog around the block or on their in-store treadmill but 30 days of risk free actual running, that is unbelievable. I was told in an email from Patton I could run an ultra and if I was not satisfied, I could return them. As far as shipping is concerned, I ordered the Altra Instincts on a Saturday and was not expecting them to be processed or shipped until Monday. However, they were shipped on Saturday and arrived on Tuesday! I was shocked by this. Fastest shipping I have ever experienced. I'm sure many of you know, that waiting for a new pair of shoes makes you feel like a 7 year old waiting to open presents on Christmas morning. Fortunately, Patton and Natural Running Store make this as painless as possible.
The final reason I will never buy another running shoe from any other retailer, is the customer service I received. As I mentioned before, buying shoes online is very impersonal. Once again I was blown away by Natural Running Store. Previous to buying shoes from thereI had emailed the Natural Running Store with some sizing questions and got a response back with in an hour or two. Once I finally made my purchase I got the standard emails that I have become accustomed to, "Thank you for your order", "Your order has now shipped" but then I received an additional email. I do not know what is "standard" at Natural Running Store but I have a feeling the level of customer service that I received is common. I also don't want to give away all of Patton's "secrets" but the follow up email I received was anything but impersonal. When my shoes arrived, in my shoe box was more than just a pair of shoes. I received a couple very nice "extras". I would like to think that my order was special but I'm nearly certain every customer gets this level of service. This was the first purchase of any kind where I was actually more impressed with the customer service than the actual product and the product was fantastic.
Pricing at Natural Running Store is on par with other online running store prices but they often offer fantastic discounts. Currently they are offering 25% off all of their Newton Running shoes. I have not had the opportunity to run in any Newtons yet but I have only heard great things about them. This might be my chance to get a great long lasting, shoe at a decent price.
After receiving my shoes I emailed Patton and told him that if more people ran their business the way that he does, the world would be a better place and I sincerely believe that.
Cheers to YOU Patton and Natural Running Store. Keep up the fantastic work!