CT: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your store.
GS: I am a 38 year-old father of 2 and my life revolves around 3 main things: my wife Erin (who is an elite runner), my kids Troy and Belle (elementary aged and active), and our store (Running and Natural Movement Specialty). As such, my life is made up of all things running, movement, and health. Natural Strides opened 3 years ago in September 2011 as the first Natural Running Store in the Southeastern United States. That year I quit my job as a Special Education Teacher, which I loved, for something that I knew I would love much more. As a runner who had rewired my gait patterns and was transitioning into minimalist and natural footwear, I found that there were no Atlanta-area running stores who could cater to my needs. Online shopping was time-consuming and frustrating, leading to many ill-fitting shoes and returns. I knew there was a need for a brick & mortar location that could not just give footwear options to natural runners, but actually cater to them specifically, while providing traditional runners with education and another viewpoint to consider. So I took the plunge and it has been awesome.
Our focus as a store is to provide humans of all shapes, sizes, and goals with footwear and education on natural foot health. Ironically, as the owner of a shoe store I make it a point to encourage customers NOT to wear shoes whenever possible. When they need protection or style, we have options that provide that while still allowing for natural foot function. I am very proud to say that we do not and will not put customers in footwear that does not match their inherent foot shape: traditional, pointed-toe shoes have no place here and we are spreading the word about just how much damage can be done to the body by pointed and heel-lifted footwear. All of our shoes are level to the ground, wide in the toe box, light, and flexible. We offer a non-traditional gait analysis, which we do not use to fit people in shoes (that always seemed backward to me), but more to provide insight and our opinion on how they might move more efficiently. Both Erin and I are certified ChiRunning Instructors, and I am also a Certified Personal Trainer with ACSM. Erin is a part of the Altra Endurance Elite team, and is currently in training for the JFK 50 mile this fall. She manages our finances and her accomplishments as a natural and minimalist runner are a huge asset to our store. We also have excellent employees who walk the walk by running and living in natural, minimalist footwear.
CT: What are the most common foot complaints you hear from your customers?
GS: Plantar Fasciitis/Plantar Fasciosis is by far the number one complaint, and I estimate that 30 to 40 percent of people who come into our store for the first time are suffering from it. It is reaching epidemic proportions. With Dr. Ray’s help we have spread the word to thousands that this condition is preventable and treatable by natural means. Many of our customers, young and old alike, suffer from bunions and hammertoes as well. It is fun to work with these people by exposing them to some strengthening exercises and educating them on the natural shape of their foot as it should be. Correct Toes are the perfect complement to that process. We also have had many customers come in with neuromas, and have had several of them return to proudly say that their neuroma has completely disappeared and that they are pain free as a result of their foot-shaped shoes (imagine that), toe socks, and Correct Toes.
CT: What are customer’s initial reaction when they see or experience Correct Toes?
GS: Every customer that is fit for shoes here will see and experience Correct Toes, so we have seen every reaction possible. Most people are at first confused as to what it is, being that it is not something they are accustomed to seeing in running or shoe stores. But with a quick explanation, most get it and are intrigued. Once they wear the product and try on shoes with it on their foot, I would say that 75% of folks are pleased to have learned what their foot should look like and love the feeling of realignment. There are a few (usually women with a fashion mindset) who are not into it and not willing to give it a try at all, but we are happy to at least have “planted the seed” in their mind about natural foot health. We have had people say “No way will I wear that,” and then decide later that they will buy a pair. Most often the reaction is very positive.
CT: What results have you seen in your customers by using a natural foot health approach?
GS: This is what makes our job very satisfying. In our 3 years doing this we have seen so many people come back and report life-changing benefits. It is really cool. Most often people are thrilled that their PF went away or are happy that their neuroma pain is gone, but we also have had a large number of folks see and feel the full body effects of setting their foundation right. Knee pain, hip pain, back pain, postural difficulties—all work their way out of their life when their feet become strong and aligned.
CT: Please feel free to share a customer or personal testimonial about recovery from a foot problem, using Correct Toes.
GS: Here are a couple of testimonials from our customers:
“Want healthy feet? Go talk to these guys; they know their stuff. My wife and I bought 4 pair of Lems minimalist shoes and Correct Toes. After 1 week I had no more plantar pain and started regaining feeling in my toes. This was a problem I have had for some time. My wife also noticed she had no more hip pain and could move her big toe. I am now a believer in the flat zero drop shoe with a big toe box. There isn’t any other shoe I would wear after being in these. I haven’t ran in 10 years but now feel like starting after walking in these shoes. Looking forward to new dress designs in this style in the future.”
“Greg, I recently bought a pair of Lems and a set of toe orthotics (Correct Toes) from your store in Woodstock. I also bought a pair of shoes for my 3 year-old grandson at the same time. He loves them! I just wanted you to know my “hammertoe” condition has improved significantly and my shoes feel wonderful, as do my feet and legs!! I am a very satisfied customer and have already been showing my shoes to all my friends here in Orlando. I am trying to steer them your way […] I will be up at the end of the year to purchase at least one more pair for me and I am bringing my wife to get fitted too!”
Thank you, Greg and Natural Strides, for your commitment to healthy running and optimal foot health!