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Running-Store Smackdown

A half-marathoner goes undercover to size up the offerings at five local shops.

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Nike Running Flatiron
156 Fifth Ave., nr. 20th St.; 212-243-8560

The Goods: This four-month-old bilevel boutique houses the deepest selection of Nike running gear you’ll find anywhere, including thermal tights (from $75) and shorts in every length and color (from $50).

Staff Expertise: Friendly clerks have elementary knowledge of the merchandise and offer gait analysis upon request. Unfortunately, the treadmills aren’t connected to screens, making it hard to observe your own stride.

Other Perks: Customers can test out select shoes and watches during free group runs every Tuesday night.


New York Running Company
10 Columbus Cir., nr. Broadway; 212-823-9626

The Goods: Brooks, Nike, and New Balance merch are rounded out by a huge array of extras like Gu and Clif energy gels (from $1.50), Pro-Tec foam rollers ($25), Superfeet insoles (from $40), and Nathan hydration belts (from $35).

Staff Expertise: The sales team is friendly, but the woman fitting me was just a casual runner and therefore unable to talk shoe specifics. One clerk, absorbed in conversation with another customer, said he used to be sponsored by Brooks.

Other Perks: Free bag check if you’re running in nearby Central Park, and free group runs three nights a week.


Super Runners Shop
745 Seventh Ave., nr. 49th St.; 212-398-2449

The Goods: A decent variety of shoe brands, including ASICS and Saucony. The clothing selection is more limited, but markdowns were up to 60 percent.

Staff Expertise: The salesman didn’t encourage me to do the treadmill gait analysis, but he was eager to share his favorite routes. A different worker demonstrated considerable expertise in running watches.

Other Perks: Custom-fit orthotics, made in-house in under 40 minutes, for $225 (versus about $450 at a podiatrist).


Run by Foot Locker
34 E. 14th St., nr. University Pl.; 212-243-5641

The Goods: All the major shoe brands are represented, but not every color or style. Sale prices were low (Nike Dri-Fit gloves had been slashed from $18 to $9.99), and there were some surprising products in the mix (like $15 Enduracool towels).

Staff Expertise: The busyness of this store makes it difficult to flag down help. Though clerks showed basic running-shoe knowledge, they always seemed rushed.

Other Perks: The occasional athlete-led group run (up next: Kara Goucher on November 1), and a shoe-recycling program.


Winner:
JackRabbit Sports
42 W. 14th St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-727-2980

The Goods: Expect gear from Mizuno, ASICS, Brooks, New Balance, Saucony, and Nike, plus swimsuits and wet suits for triathletes. Shoes are rarely on sale, but end-of-season clothes were marked 30 percent off.

Staff Expertise: Staffers spend upwards of 30 minutes with customers, doing gait analysis and talking arch support, overpronation, and other specifics. One clerk even analyzed my current shoes for signs of wear and grilled me about past injuries.

Other Perks: Free group runs, and yoga and Pilates classes; shoe-recycling and 10 percent–off loyalty programs; and free UPS delivery when ordering online.


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