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Shopping for athletic prowess on North Main

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Hiking, kayaking, swimming – it’s those crunchy granola “holy crap I forgot to shave my armpits again” forms of exercise that I enjoy. As for running, hells-to-the-no is what I’ve always said to that... until I turned 30 and subsequently lost my ability to metabolize food. After Googling the phrase “how to get skinny fast,” I feasted my eyes upon one of those enticing Couch to 5k programs; it promised to turn me from flab to fab in just a few short weeks. Maybe running isn’t so bad after all, I thought.

Being the intelligent gal that I am (cough), I phoned some runner friends for footwear recommendations. Those living within 10 miles of the city all pointed me to the same store – Rhode Runner. I drive by it on an almost daily basis, but had never been inside. My buds informed me that it’s the place to go for shoes that will get you from point A to point B sans injury. Apparently, running in the wrong sneakers can cause shin splints, Achilles tendinitis and stress fractures. Who knew?

The original Rhode Runner store opened in 2001 on South Main and moved to its current North Main location in March. In addition to retail space, the new larger location provides a community room in which they hold classes, seminars and clinics. Oh, and there’s a running track right smack-dab in the middle of the store’s floor, which allows customers to test out shoes.

Marketing Manager Eric Lonergan explains: “We provide every customer with a full gait analysis based on his or her biomechanics while walking or running. Our staff is trained by footwear developers in how to identify overpronated, neutral or supinated gaits.” Huh? I had to find out for myselfwhat all this runner talk meant. I arrived at the store and was greeted by a very sweet and helpful employee. She instructed me to take off my shoes and walk naturally, up and down the track. After a few passes, she informed that my feet roll inward (overpronation) and that I’d need a certain supportive sole to compensate. I was then given a few pairs to try on for size, pun intended.

“Our footwear buyer has extensive knowledge of footwear development and picks only the best shoes from each of our brands,” Lonergan says. “Our staff is Good Form Running Certified and we have three USA Track and Field certified coaches who work regularly at our store.” The staff also includes two footwear developers. I purchased a pair of Mizuno Inspire sneakers, which were much more stylish and affordable than I had expected. (Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.) I was definitely suited up and ready to go. Well, all except for the actual running part.

“We invite all levels of runner to join us for our group runs,” Lonergan says. “We hold a Wednesday evening group run at 6pm and a Saturday morning group run at 8am.” Rhode Runner also hosts free running clinics every other Thursday at 6pm. With all this support and guidance, I guess there’s nowhere to go but up... and fast.