Foot Locker. JJB. JD Sports. You could be anywhere on this sceptred isle, be it Balham or Bognor, and your experience of buying running shoes will be the same. You will be pushed and pulled as you compete for scarce space against a multitude of teens desperate to get their hands on the latest tracksuits, and you will find that glaciers will melt before you are assisted by a clueless member of staff. If Dante was still here and keen to update his Inferno, then shopping at the likes of JJB would take pride of place upon the sixth level of hell, just above getting caught behind tourists on a tube platform.
When looking for a brand spanking new pair of runners, Londonist was looking for a more considered shopping experience, and was therefore delighted to be tipped off about the existence of Run And Become , which is hidden away near Victoria. On a warm autumnul evening we strode through the commuter hordes, found the store (with a little difficulty) and were treated to a refreshing blast of courteous, knowledgeable and swift customer service. A few days later we caught up with member of staff Shankara Smith, who agreed to be subjected to the rigours of the Londonist questionnaire....
Age, occupation, where are you from, where are you now?
I'm 33, born, bred and working in London.
What is Run and Become, where is it and why is it there?
A specialist running shop in Victoria. Set up 23 years ago to serve the running community as a shop dedicated to running; with knowledgeable staff and lots of stock.
Run and Become seems to have a pretty strong ethos, could you explain where it comes from?
Tony, who opened it, was a very keen runner who struggled to find decent advice and stock. So he threw in his stable quantity surveying job for the trials and joys of self employment! His aim was purely to have a great running shop and the shop has stayed true to this ever since. Service is what our shop is about.
When Londonist visited the store, we were made to run up and down the street outside. Why did you put us through this embarrassing exercise?
People are so used to it round here that they don't notice you and your running stride! If we don't watch you run we cannot know how your foot lands and moves through the stride. Once we see this we can bring you the shoes we think will work, but each pair needs to be tested outside to check we have got it right and to judge how comfortable they are to you - the most important thing!
One of your assistants told us that we're ‘over-pronating’, what does that mean?
This refers to how your foot moves through the stride from the moment it first makes contact with the grouond. Most people land at the heel, then ideally you want the forefoot to come down with the weight evenly distributed across it so that the foot is in a neutral (straight and evenly balanced) position as it pushes off at the toes. However, quite often the arch slightly or greatly collapses under the weight of the body and the momentum of the stride; causing the foot to lean in over the arch and big toe joint. As soon as this happens the foot is exerting more pressure on the inner side of the foot causing the achilles to twist to accommodate it and the knee too. Running shoes have to have soft cushioning, so when someone over pronates the soft midsole give to the weight of the foot and ends up increasing the level of over pronation. To counteract this, shoe suppliers make some of their shoes with a support on the inside to prevent the foot from collapsing the shoe and causing themselves injury.
What is good about running in London? And what is bad?
It is a fantastic city: all the energy and excitement of a capital city, balanced with lots of beautiful parks and the river Thames. I work in the centre of London and live on it's outskirts, yet running home I can limit the distance on roads to 2 miles (out of a total distance of 6.5). You never have to run along main roads and there are some wonderful side streets to be discovered which you probably wouldn't have cause to go down if you weren't out running. I honestly find London a great place for running, offering lots of variety - you cannot get bored as you can keep on finding new routes. Okay the pollution can be an issue at times but we have clement weather; humidity that makes pollution so unbearable is rarely an issue, besides the parks protect you slot from pollution.
Who would be your most famous ever customer?
Oooh…..there have been a few! But undoubtedly our favourite famous customer is Gordon Ramsey; a really nice man (those who think he's a monster are wrong!) and a very good runner.
What is your most popular shoe right now?
It doesn't really work like that, it's more of a case of what type of foot stride have we had most recently. At the end of the day everyone is different and you have to approach every customer with an open mind and trust in your instincts as well as your eyes.
Oh the list is endless. Clear your mind, feel energised, get that endorphine high, get fit, lose weight, strengthen your heart, lungs etc (don't beleive the fool who warns you of heart attacks, running sensibly often extends the strength and life of those with weak hearts). I had 3 years off running with a complicated injury and discovered that no other form of excersise makes you feel quite so happy as running. Plus anyone can do it, you don't need a trainer or equipment, just head out your door and fill your lungs with oxygen!
Favourite bar or restaurant?
Claridges for breakfast
What advice would you give Ken Livingstone?
Try looking up the word humility and start serving those you represent properly.
What London place or thing would you declare a landmark?
Hammersmith Bridge: the views at sunset are gorgeous
The world is ending in 24 hours. How would you spend your last day in London?
I'd run/walk/cycle along the river, starting in Barnes all the way through to Greenwich, and drink in all the beauty and variety of the city.
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
Funny question, but no I haven't and I've been travelling on it since junior school!