“I’m going to be a great driver,” Miss10 told me as the two of us drove down the Coast.
“You think so?” I said.
“Yeah. I’m really good at driving in computer games,” she explained.
We were off to visit The Athlete’s Foot at The Sunshine Plaza. They’d invited me to take one of my kids in for a fitting for their back to school shoes range.
My philosophy to school shoes has always been you pop along to one of those ‘buy one get the other one half price’ stores and grab whatever colour you need in whatever size doesn’t hurt their toes and you’re done. In fact, this has been my philosophy to buying shoes for my own feet for the last thirty years.
These cheap stores, with their high rows of shoe after shoe, have maybe two staff and the service begins when you take your choices to the counter for them to put through the till.
And why not? I mean, they’re only shoes.
“How hard can choosing a pair of shoes be?” I said to my wife when we were discussing the opportunity. “So long as you know the shoe size and they don’t pinch their toes, you’re right. Right?”
“How are your heels today?” Tracey asked me. I didn’t quite follow. “You go to physio for half an hour every week because most days you can barely walk,” she reminded me. “Do you think maybe if you’d been wearing the right shoes you wouldn’t have done the damage to your heels in the first place?”
So maybe my wife had a point. Suddenly I was looking forward to seeing what The Athlete’s Foot people were so keen to show me.
We arrived at the store at the designated time and the first thing I noticed was the place was packed. Not just with customers, but with several staff – none of which were standing idly behind the counter. They were all talking and interacting with people: young kids, teens and even a couple who looked well into retirement. The Plaza itself was barely awake and yet this store was pumping.
And it suddenly occurred to me these people clearly knew something I didn’t.
The true depth of my shoe ignorance became even more evident a few minutes into being looked after by a nice bloke named Jason when he took three measurements of my daughter’s foot on The Brannock Device. Three!
“I only ever look at the length because that’s the shoe size,” I told him rather weakly.
But we were only getting started. We hadn’t even looked at the impressive Fitzi machine which dominated the front of the store.
Using the Fitzi machine, the wizz bang of modern shoe fitting technology, Jason brought up a picture of Miss10’s heels to see how she was standing and then video of her walking and finally, using pressure sensors in the mat, where she favoured her feet when she walked. He peppered her with questions, including asking her if she had any pain when she walked.
He pointed out a couple of things on the screen.
“If she was experiencing any pain we’d probably suggest she see an orthopedist,” he said, and went on to explain about growing bones and what we were both looking at on the screen but only one of us was able to correctly decipher.
This was so far removed from my usual shoe store experience where I hand over my card and they ask if I want cleaning products as well. Jason knew more about my daughter’s feet in ten minutes than me, who’d known her my whole life.
But then you don’t simply walk off the street and start selling shoes in The Athlete’s Foot.
“We’ve three levels of expertise,” Jason explained when I asked about the level of knowledge his staff have. “Trainee, Fit Technician and Master Technician.”
And now we were ready to look at shoes. Jason explained how the store contacts all the local schools to see what their requirements are for their students. The information is kept on file in the store.
“Each school can be different, even from one year to the next, and you wouldn’t want to buy the wrong style of school shoe and then be out of pocket for another,” he told me.
Jason then presented us with three pairs he thought would best suit Miss10 – two Ascent brand shoes, which The Athletes Foot are the exclusive retailer of, and one Clarks.
“Your daughter is a size two and a half,” he told me, “but I’m fitting her with size fours. That’ll give her room to grow throughout the year. You don’t want to spend money on a good pair of shoes to have them outgrown in a few months.” A fair point given kids feet change up to 34 times before the age of eleven.
But finally I felt I was able to dazzle Jason with my shoe smarts.
“But won’t that be a bit loose?” I said. I mean if your kid is a size two and a half then you buy a size two and a half, right?
“No,” he assured me, and went on to explain why, showing me where the shoe had to fit properly and where, when Miss10 walked, the correct crease across the top of shoe should be. “You want a firm heel counter, strong shank support for stability and good flex under the forefoot,” he told me.
I’ve only ever looked for the right colour and, it seems now, the wrong size.
We walked out with a pair of Ascent Apex shoes, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more confident with a shoe purchase before. Certainly not with school shoes for my kids.
Almost immediately Miss10 and I ran into a couple I know from G-town.
“I only ever buy from The Athlete’s Foot,” the husband told me after I explained what we were doing.
“He’s on his feet all day,” said his wife. “They’re got to be right.”
Which was pretty much the argument I went with when I phoned Tracey up a few minutes later to insist we bring Master8 and Miss6 back down before the start of school so they could be properly fitted as well.
Thinking about the technology and the expertise which went into choosing the correct school shoe for Miss10’s feet, it occurred to me that going into the The Athlete’s Foot store this morning I was a little like Miss10 and her driving expectations: I really had no idea what I was talking about.
This was a sponsored post for the good people at The Athlete’s Foot.
When not over here, Bruce Devereaux hangs out at his Big Family Little Income Facebook Page. Come join us 🙂
”Raising a family on little more than laughs.”