All Pain, No Gain

With millions of Americans suffering from foot-related ailments, we need a national retail destination dedicated to helping them.

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ed-note-im-oct-15The pain started about a year ago. A sharp, stabbing sensation in my arches when I walked after sitting for long stretches and especially when I took my first steps out of bed in the morning. At first I chalked it up to “getting old” combined with wear-and-tear from years of bike riding. But because the agony came in spurts, I decided to walk it off and hope it would eventually go away.

Instead it got more frequent and intense. Soon I felt sharp stabs with each step. Whenever I was forced to break into a trot to get across a busy city street, my feet throbbed for hours. Making matters worse was the fact that I live in New York, where feet are the main mode of transportation. I walk my daughter to school (about a mile round trip) every morning, and I walk blocks to the supermarket, the dry cleaner, the pet store, the drug store, etc. and often lug heavy bags home. My commute to work requires climbing and descending five flights of subway stairs and amounts to another mile round trip. Last, the elevator in my apartment building has been out of service for the past six months. That has meant tacking on five more flights of stairs several times a day. Long (sob) story short, my feet were killing me by the time I limped back into my apartment each evening.

In an effort to avoid expensive doctor bills, I went online to find diagnoses and remedies. The web can be a tangle of information, but it soon revealed that my affliction was plantar fasciitis. In the weeks that followed, I entered into a trial-and-error phase full of home remedies, over-the-counter solutions and advice from fellow sufferers. I began daily stretching exercises, popped plenty of Advil and iced my feet by rolling my arches over a frozen water bottle. All helped, but none solved the problem. I also invested in, but quickly gave up on, a variety of sock-like, insole and insert contraptions that, despite their POP promises to alleviate my condition, did little. In several cases, they made the pain worse. To add insult to injury (literally), the help working in the few specialty running stores where I bought the aforementioned items knew little about the products they were selling. Luckily, for me, while limping through a trade show I came upon an exhibitor who scanned my feet and gave me a pair of custom insoles that have done wonders to alleviate my pain. The cost would have been around $50 and, the truth is, I would have paid considerably more for the end result.

What if there was a store that provided such solutions? I’m talking about a destination foot care/shoe super center concept on a national scale a la the Home Deport or Advanced Auto Parts. I envision a place anyone with aching feet immediately thinks of as the place to go in the same way shoppers think of Walmart for low prices or Best Buy for electronics. Imagine a totally tricked-out setting that combines remedy, prevention, wellness and comfort footwear fashion. It would have to be welcoming to all ages because many foot ailments have no age barriers. The vibe couldn’t be too medical, stuffy or traditional. It would need to be a Tesla-like, try-on-driven showroom showcasing the best comfort and (possibly athletic) brands for their respective healthful attributes as well as their range of styles. Most important, it would need to be staffed by trained employees who would measure every foot that walks into the door, address the needs of each customer, explain the product features and benefits, and make expert recommendations that would provide genuine solutions.

Who wouldn’t want to visit such a store? I’m convinced millions of walking wounded would. And while there are specialty comfort independents that do an exceptional job in this regard, many consumers don’t know these stores exist. Others feel they’re not the right fit for them. Worse, with highly fragmented marketing efforts, they lack the collective power to get the message across the way, say, Foot Locker does about being the go-to source for basketball sneakers. Millions of Americans walk around in pain simply because they don’t know any better. They represent an underserved market segment ripe for a nationalized concept—one that could generate awareness that would benefit all retailers in that space.

When I Googled “foot care stores” recently, a few online dealers and pharmacy chains popped up. That’s not the concept I’m envisioning. Granted, I’m playing with Monopoly money, but I believe a one-stop “Home Depot for the feet” presents a tremendous retail opportunity—a bona fide brick-and-mortar one. Feet, like other overused body parts (think eyes), require regular maintenance, much of which can be preventive and relatively affordable, especially compared to the costs of surgery for issues neglected too long.

So, if you built it, would they come? It’s an age-old retail question that can only be answered by trying. I hope someone will take a stab at it, pun intended.The pain started about a year ago. A sharp, stabbing sensation in my arches when I walked after sitting for long stretches and especially when I took my first steps out of bed in the morning. At first I chalked it up to “getting old” combined with wear-and-tear from years of bike riding. But because the agony came in spurts, I decided to walk it off and hope it would eventually go away. 

Instead it got more frequent and intense. Soon I felt sharp stabs with each step. Whenever I was forced to break into a trot to get across a busy city street, my feet throbbed for hours. Making matters worse was the fact that I live in New York, where feet are the main mode of transportation. I walk my daughter to school (about a mile round trip) every morning, and I walk blocks to the supermarket, the dry cleaner, the pet store, the drug store, etc. and often lug heavy bags home. My commute to work requires climbing and descending five flights of subway stairs and amounts to another mile round trip. Last, the elevator in my apartment building has been out of service for the past six months. That has meant tacking on five more flights of stairs several times a day. Long (sob) story short, my feet were killing me by the time I limped back into my apartment each evening.

In an effort to avoid expensive doctor bills, I went online to find diagnoses and remedies. The web can be a tangle of information, but it soon revealed that my affliction was plantar fasciitis. In the weeks that followed, I entered into a trial-and-error phase full of home remedies, over-the-counter solutions and advice from fellow sufferers. I began daily stretching exercises, popped plenty of Advil and iced my feet by rolling my arches over a frozen water bottle. All helped, but none solved the problem. I also invested in, but quickly gave up on, a variety of sock-like, insole and insert contraptions that, despite their POP promises to alleviate my condition, did little. In several cases, they made the pain worse. To add insult to injury (literally), the help working in the few specialty running stores where I bought the aforementioned items knew little about the products they were selling. Luckily, for me, while limping through a trade show I came upon an exhibitor who scanned my feet and gave me a pair of custom insoles that have done wonders to alleviate my pain. The cost would have been around $50 and, the truth is, I would have paid considerably more for the end result.

What if there was a store that provided such solutions? I’m talking about a destination foot care/shoe super center concept on a national scale a la the Home Deport or Advanced Auto Parts. I envision a place anyone with aching feet immediately thinks of as the place to go in the same way shoppers think of Walmart for low prices or Best Buy for electronics. Imagine a totally tricked-out setting that combines remedy, prevention, wellness and comfort footwear fashion. It would have to be welcoming to all ages because many foot ailments have no age barriers. The vibe couldn’t be too medical, stuffy or traditional. It would need to be a Tesla-like, try-on-driven showroom showcasing the best comfort and (possibly athletic) brands for their respective healthful attributes as well as their range of styles. Most important, it would need to be staffed by trained employees who would measure every foot that walks into the door, address the needs of each customer, explain the product features and benefits, and make expert recommendations that would provide genuine solutions.

Who wouldn’t want to visit such a store? I’m convinced millions of walking wounded would. And while there are specialty comfort independents that do an exceptional job in this regard, many consumers don’t know these stores exist. Others feel they’re not the right fit for them. Worse, with highly fragmented marketing efforts, they lack the collective power to get the message across the way, say, Foot Locker does about being the go-to source for basketball sneakers. Millions of Americans walk around in pain simply because they don’t know any better. They represent an underserved market segment ripe for a nationalized concept—one that could generate awareness that would benefit all retailers in that space.

When I Googled “foot care stores” recently, a few online dealers and pharmacy chains popped up. That’s not the concept I’m envisioning. Granted, I’m playing with Monopoly money, but I believe a one-stop “Home Depot for the feet” presents a tremendous retail opportunity—a bona fide brick-and-mortar one. Feet, like other overused body parts (think eyes), require regular maintenance, much of which can be preventive and relatively affordable, especially compared to the costs of surgery for issues neglected too long. 

So, if you built it, would they come? It’s an age-old retail question that can only be answered by trying. I hope someone will take a stab at it, pun intended.

The pain started about a year ago. A sharp, stabbing sensation in my arches when I walked after sitting for long stretches and especially when I took my first steps out of bed in the morning. At first I chalked it up to “getting old” combined with wear-and-tear from years of bike riding. But because the agony came in spurts, I decided to walk it off and hope it would eventually go away.

Instead it got more frequent and intense. Soon I felt sharp stabs with each step. Whenever I was forced to break into a trot to get across a busy city street, my feet throbbed for hours. Making matters worse was the fact that I live in New York, where feet are the main mode of transportation. I walk my daughter to school (about a mile round trip) every morning, and I walk blocks to the supermarket, the dry cleaner, the pet store, the drug store, etc. and often lug heavy bags home. My commute to work requires climbing and descending five flights of subway stairs and amounts to another mile round trip. Last, the elevator in my apartment building has been out of service for the past six months. That has meant tacking on five more flights of stairs several times a day. Long (sob) story short, my feet were killing me by the time I limped back into my apartment each evening.

In an effort to avoid expensive doctor bills, I went online to find diagnoses and remedies. The web can be a tangle of information, but it soon revealed that my affliction was plantar fasciitis. In the weeks that followed, I entered into a trial-and-error phase full of home remedies, over-the-counter solutions and advice from fellow sufferers. I began daily stretching exercises, popped plenty of Advil and iced my feet by rolling my arches over a frozen water bottle. All helped, but none solved the problem. I also invested in, but quickly gave up on, a variety of sock-like, insole and insert contraptions that, despite their POP promises to alleviate my condition, did little. In several cases, they made the pain worse. To add insult to injury (literally), the help working in the few specialty running stores where I bought the aforementioned items knew little about the products they were selling. Luckily, for me, while limping through a trade show I came upon an exhibitor who scanned my feet and gave me a pair of custom insoles that have done wonders to alleviate my pain. The cost would have been around $50 and, the truth is, I would have paid considerably more for the end result.

What if there was a store that provided such solutions? I’m talking about a destination foot care/shoe super center concept on a national scale a la the Home Deport or Advanced Auto Parts. I envision a place anyone with aching feet immediately thinks of as the place to go in the same way shoppers think of Walmart for low prices or Best Buy for electronics. Imagine a totally tricked-out setting that combines remedy, prevention, wellness and comfort footwear fashion. It would have to be welcoming to all ages because many foot ailments have no age barriers. The vibe couldn’t be too medical, stuffy or traditional. It would need to be a Tesla-like, try-on-driven showroom showcasing the best comfort and (possibly athletic) brands for their respective healthful attributes as well as their range of styles. Most important, it would need to be staffed by trained employees who would measure every foot that walks into the door, address the needs of each customer, explain the product features and benefits, and make expert recommendations that would provide genuine solutions.

Who wouldn’t want to visit such a store? I’m convinced millions of walking wounded would. And while there are specialty comfort independents that do an exceptional job in this regard, many consumers don’t know these stores exist. Others feel they’re not the right fit for them. Worse, with highly fragmented marketing efforts, they lack the collective power to get the message across the way, say, Foot Locker does about being the go-to source for basketball sneakers. Millions of Americans walk around in pain simply because they don’t know any better. They represent an underserved market segment ripe for a nationalized concept—one that could generate awareness that would benefit all retailers in that space.

When I Googled “foot care stores” recently, a few online dealers and pharmacy chains popped up. That’s not the concept I’m envisioning. Granted, I’m playing with Monopoly money, but I believe a one-stop “Home Depot for the feet” presents a tremendous retail opportunity—a bona fide brick-and-mortar one. Feet, like other overused body parts (think eyes), require regular maintenance, much of which can be preventive and relatively affordable, especially compared to the costs of surgery for issues neglected too long.

So, if you built it, would they come? It’s an age-old retail question that can only be answered by trying. I hope someone will take a stab at it, pun intended.

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