First up, we went to Rogue Running. This was pretty close to where we had breakfast, but Google maps took us there in a roundabout way. It's kind of hidden off of a side street, but the building is huge and there was no doubt we were at the right spot - not only was their name emblazoned on the building, but they had a cool running sculpture out front:
Why yes, of course we stopped to take a picture with the sculpture, haha.
The building was huge but it wasn't all store - there is room for activities such as yoga, plus they have restrooms as well as showers. In chatting with our salesperson, she mentioned that they have huge group training runs from this location every Saturday morning - you can pay to join and get a training program for all kinds of distances and goal races. Good to know if you live in the Austin area.
We wandered around, looking at their merchandise - it was interesting to see different brands of clothing, plus they had a lot of accessories. I had my eye on a very cute gear bag, which I totally didn't need because I had finally upgraded my bag about six months ago, so I didn't buy it (pats self on back). Diane did need a new hydration belt system and they had a large selection to choose from; she found one she liked and bought it - it was a Nathan with two 12 ounce bottles, plus a pouch large enough to hold her iPhone 7 along with GU and Chapstick - all the essentials for a long run. I needed a new handheld water bottle for my shorter runs because the one that I've had for over three years is disgusting. I found one I liked but couldn't bring myself to buy it just yet, as it was $35 - shoot, the entire belt system Diane bought was only $50, so the handheld seemed kind of overpriced.
Then we moved onto the shoes. Our salesperson was wonderful - Diane explained to her what she's been wearing, what she was unhappy about with the latest version, and our salesperson brought out several pairs in her size, in different brands, to try on. The first thing that struck both Diane and I was that they had shoes in her size, and that they were in pretty colors! She had choices! It was really nice; I've gone shoe shopping with her and so often she's been told that they don't have her size, or that they can order it, or that she could wear a men's size - it's been frustrating to not be able to walk out with a new pair of shoes when you want, so this was a fun experience.
While Diane was ruminating on her shoe options, I asked about the Brooks Levitate, which is a brand new shoe that's supposed to be similar to the Hoka in feel. They hadn't gotten their shipment in yet, dang it. But she did have me try on a pair of New Balance shoes that felt pretty good:
The 1080, now with Fresh Foam!
But, they were the same price as the Brooks Levitate, so I didn't want to buy these if I found the Levitates and tried them on and loved them. Diane ended up choosing a pair of Brooks Ghost 10 shoes, and with that and her fuel belt purchase, we were finished and off to the next store. We both really liked Rogue Running - the atmosphere, the selection, the salespeople were all great and we agreed, we'd definitely make a point to return there next time either of us are in Austin.
Our salesperson was a nice man who listened to us and brought out several different pairs of shoes for both of us. I had to laugh when he brought me out the same pair of Brooks Ghost 10 that Diane had bought at the previous store. I laughed even more when I tried them on and liked them. I also tried on a pair of Altras, which felt funny to me, and the Hoka Clifton 4, which felt hard and stiff - not Hoka-like at all! I loved the Clifton 1, hated the Clifton 2, and am currently wearing the Clifton 3; I don't think I'll be buying the Clifton 4. Our salesperson said that they revamped that model because some people complained it was too soft. HELLO, that's what I love about that shoe! Sigh. I asked about the Brooks Levitate, but they had not yet received their shipment either. The Ghost 10s weren't in the same price range as the Levitates, so I ended up buying them, and while I don't know if I'll wear them for my long runs, I have worn them for a few of my shorter runs and I do like them:
Comfortable, plus pretty colors, woohoo!
The next store we went to was Texas Running Company. When we arrived, I realized that I've been there once before, probably five years or so. It's a huge store, located in a big outdoor shopping center that also has an REI, a Nordstrom Rack, a Birkenstock store, and The Container Store. Oh, I could have SHOPPED...but we were on a time crunch, seeing as all of the running stores were only open until 5:00 pm on Sunday, so we didn't stray.
This is a big store, and it's kind of dark as you go toward the back. I found my handheld water bottle and I bet you can't guess the price. Oh, you can? Yep, $35. Our salesperson was nice, and we were super excited when we asked about the Brooks Levitate, because she said they had them! Or rather, they HAD them. Their first shipment had arrived and they had one pair of size 6 remaining - everything else had sold. But we could at least see the display shoe, and I'm still intrigued enough to hold off on my next long-run-shoe purchase until I can test out the Levitates. They had a lot of shoes on display, but we'd tried on most of what our salesperson recommended for us already, and the store was warm - they had their front doors open and weren't using the A/C; a weak cool front had blown in that morning, but by the afternoon, it was in the 80s and that's just uncomfortably warm in a store. We didn't stay long.
Our last destination was Fleet Feet in Round Rock, which was about 15 miles away from Texas Running Company. We made it to the area but Google maps led us to a dead end in a subdivision - what the what, Google?! Luckily it didn't take long to figure out how to get to our actual destination. Fleet Feet is located in a shopping center that also contains an HEB grocery store, so it was a busy parking lot on a Sunday afternoon.
There were several salespeople helping customers when we walked in; we were greeted and told someone would be with us shortly, which was fine. We looked around at still more new-to-us merchandise - it really was fun to see so much running gear all in one day! I found my handheld water bottle, same price as all the other stores. Soon, a younger salesperson asked if he could help us. Diane told him she was looking for some shoes; he responded with "For what, walking? Or yoga?" YOU GUYS. I thought Diane was going to walk out right then and there. I mean, she was wearing her In Training shirt for Houston, I was wearing my new sugar skull shirt that clearly said "Halloween Half" on it (he didn't need to know we only ran the 5K that day) - his assumption was so upsetting to my marathon-running friend. I quickly said "for running" and he changed gears and went into normal mode of asking Diane what she liked and didn't like about her shoes, and he brought some options out. But dang. That was not a good start. Diane said she could see the other salesperson, who was still helping out a customer, cringe when this conversation was happening - my only hope is that they talked to him afterward about not judging customers based on what he thinks a runner looks like.
Despite the rocky beginning, our salesperson was helpful in finding some different shoes for Diane to try on, and he noticed that she pronates on one foot (she does, she's had surgery on that foot) and suggested a stability shoe in the Hoka line - the Arahi, which she liked enough to buy and test out at home. He was the only salesperson to notice that, so props to him. Just...dude. It's much better to assume everyone is a marathon runner and let them tell you otherwise. I've always liked Fleet Feet stores - they are a locally-owned franchise, and I've had great luck shopping in them everywhere from California to North Carolina. I'm going to chalk this experience up to a one-off and go from there - in fact, I'd still return to this particular Fleet Feet to shop, if I'm in the area.
Overall we had wonderful experiences at all of the running stores that we toured that day. I'm still on the hunt for the Brooks Levitate - yes, I can order them online, but I'd really like to try them on locally and not have to deal with shipping them back if I don't like them. Hopefully our local running store will get their shipment in soon. Oh - I did end up buying my handheld water bottle later - from Amazon, for $26 with free shipping. Still expensive, but at least it wasn't $35!