Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Have credit card, will shop online

I do a ton of online shopping, especially for my running gear.  This is for various reasons, of which the most prevalent are:
  1. No waiting in line, fighting crowds, or wasting gas sitting in traffic or stalking parking spaces.
  2. It's so much easier to comparison shop across websites than it is to go from store to store to store.
  3. No more having to sift through stacks of merchandise to look for your size/color, often to find out that it's not available.
  4. No pushy salespeople or bored cashiers to deal with.
  5. No store closing hours.
  6. Easy access to product reviews.
  7. Sales tax in Chicago is the highest in the country (9.5%, and 10.75% on restaurants in certain districts), and online shopping usually yields either zero sales tax or only Illinois sales tax (6.5%).  Those savings can really add up!
I usually only make online purchases if I get free shipping, so that saves even more time and cost.

Even when I'm not looking for any running gear in particular, I still browse online running store sites looking for bargain-basement deals. 

If only keyboards like this really existed.  Actually, it's probably a good thing they don't.

The three sites that I view/use the most are:
  1. Amazon
  2. Running Warehouse
  3. ZBSports
Here is my commentary and reviews on each site, followed by some honorable mentions.

No explanation necessary, really.  Amazon sells EVERYTHING you can possibly imagine, and it's pretty easy to get free shipping if you purchase $25 or more of eligible items (of which there are AMPLE selections).

Running Gear That I've Purchased From Amazon.com:
GU (Chocolate Outrage, Vanilla Bean, and Mint Chocolate)
Garmin 305
Mizuno Wave Rider 15 shoes
Cho-pat knee straps (2 of them)
SPI belt
Handheld water bottle
Compression sleeves
Saltstick capsules

Regarding the GU...
Their prices are the best I've seen anywhere.  They have a "Subscribe and Save" program on GU (plus a number of other things).  Under the program, you can save 15% on 24-pack boxes of GU if you sign up to have it delivered at an interval of your choice, anywhere from once a month to once every six months.  But, you can stop your subscription anytime, plus you can also skip a delivery or obtain an extra delivery whenever you want.  Plus, they send you an email notification whenever your item will be shipping soon so you can take action if needed.  I have personally never experienced any strings attached with this program, and the convenience is terrific.

Regarding the Garmin 305...
There are so many GPS watches and models out there so it was really tough to know what to look for.  Through all the customer reviews on Amazon, it was so helpful to get both the positive and the negative feedback from literally hundreds of reviews.  I was able to do very thorough research on the various options before making my decision.

Regarding the Mizunos...
Best price I've ever seen by far.  They retail for $97 to $115, but a few months ago I got them on sale at Amazon for about $75.  To this day, I have never seen them on sale anywhere else for anywhere close to that price.

For running shoe addicts, the runningwarehouse.com website is killer.  Deadly.  Unbelievable.  Running Warehouse has an unbelievable selection of running shoes and gear.  They have these crazy shoe liquidation sales where you can get running shoes for under $50.

Beyond shoes, they have an extremely comprehensive collection of any type of running gear you could possibly imagine, and then some.  (Shoe dogs, anyone?)  They have fantastic sales on clothing and gear, too.  Plus, they provide free shipping AND free return shipping on all purchases.  You can't beat that!

Running Gear That I've Purchased From Running Warehouse:
Superfeet Berry insoles
Balega socks

I've also been drooling over two kinds of Saucony shoes, both of which they have on mad clearance at the moment.  But, I'm trying very hard not to buy any more running shoes until I go through one or more pairs of my existing shoes.  The temptation has been tough to resist, though...

Show Me How It Fits and Gait Analysis
One great feature they have for shoe shopping is their ShoeFitr, aka "Show Me How It Fits," which helps decipher varying sizing between manufacturers (e.g. a size 8 in one brand may be a size 8.5 in another brand).  When viewing any pair of shoes, you enter your current shoe make, model, and size, and it indicates what shoe size you'd want to order in the potential new shoe.  It also provides a diagram of how the shoe would feel (e.g. tight in the toebox, looser in the midfoot, etc.)  It's obviously still extremely helpful to try the actual shoes on in person someplace before buying them online, but the online sizer definitely helps a lot in providing guidelines.

Additionally, they also offer a gait analysis service where you can send them a videotape of yourself running and they will analyze your gait for you.  I've never tried it but it's a great service offering!

Running Warehouse periodically provides extra discount codes for their clearance merchandise on their Facebook page, which you can view if you "like" them on Facebook.  They also used to provide general discount codes of 10% to 15% which I used to be able to find with a good google search, but it appears that they've strayed away from these.  Regardless, their prices are excellent and they get rave, rave reviews for their customer service.  They get a ton of people asking individual questions on their Facebook page, and they answer every single one of them.

ZBSports.com also has phenomenal deals on shoes and gear.  I purchased my Brooks Glycerin 8 shoes from them and got them for about $50.  Incredible!  I've also been very, very, very tempted to buy other shoes they had on sale, namely some other Brooks and some of their Asics, because the prices were so good.

What I love most about ZBSports is that they donate a portion of their proceeds to three types of charities every year, and you get to vote on your choice of selected charities from each of the three categories (environmental, animal, and health).  It was fun being able to vote for charities I was most passionate about!

Sales and Shipping
Certain items are eligible for free outbound shipping, and they offer free return shipping on most of their items.  One kind of bizarre thing that I noticed is in their sales listings, they seem to always say that the sale ends on whatever day you are viewing the sale.  But then, on subsequent days the sale is usually still there with a new end date (whatever later day you are viewing the sale).  I'm not sure if this is a marketing tactic to create urgency?

VIP Membership
ZBSports has a VIP membership you can purchase which is only $1.99 per year which gives you free shipping on everything, plus an extra 5% to 10% off certain "VIP-eligible" items.  I haven't purchased the VIP membership because most of the items I've looked at were big sale items and were not VIP-eligible.  But depending what you're buying, the $1.99 membership could really pay for itself very easily.

Viewing Items
ZBSports sorts their items based on brand.  One drawback to their site is that they unfortunately they do not list their shoes based on type (neutral, support, etc.).  In general I don't think there's a way to determine shoe types on their site.  It's not a big deal if you know exactly what you are looking for.  But if you're just browsing for new shoes to try, it's tough to determine if something falls under your appropriate shoe type unless you go elsewhere to check.


There are two other online running stores that I consistently hear very good things about:
  1. Roadrunner Sports
  2. Holabird Sports
I have perused both for comparison purposes, but have never actually purchased anything from either.  Yet.  But both seem to offer great prices and customer service.

Roadrunner Sports
I specifically recall that Molly had raved over placing an online order with them one day and then having her order at her doorstep the very next day!  There's nothing better than lightning-quick delivery with online orders, that's for sure!  =)  From what I've seen, Roadrunner also offers periodic free shipping sales - always great.  They also have a VIP membership program for $1.99 that offers free shipping and additional savings.

One really great feature that Roadrunner has is to list "endangered shoes" - shoes that will soon be discontinued.  With this, you'll know better when to stock up on your favorite shoes before they can no longer be found.  Love it!

Holabird Sports
My guess is that the owners are fanatics of both running and tennis, and shaped their business accordingly!  As such, if any of you like tennis, Holabird Sports has a lot of tennis gear in addition to their running gear offerings.  It looks like you can always get free shipping on purchases over $69.95.

Are there any other great online running stores out there that I've missed?!?!? 

If so, please share!!!

John "The Penguin" Bingham used to close all of his columns in Runners World magazine with the phrase, "Waddle on, friends."  Taking a cue from him, I will conclude by saying:

Shop on(line), friends!


  1. I am so bad. Since we have Amazon Prime, that is the only place we shop. But I just get GUs, shoes, and recently, the Garmin 405 for my bestie in NYC. I really need to shop around more.

    1. Oooh, Amazon Prime... I completely forgot about that as an option! I do so much shopping on Amazon that it would probably be perfect for me. Thanks for mentioning it!!!

      You got your best friend a Garmin 405!?!?! WOW! Your friend is going to be THRILLED (and didn't you just get her compression socks a few weeks ago, too?) You are such a good friend!!!

    2. I never got her the socks! Today is her bday so she is going to open the Garmin tonight. I hope she likes it!!!!!!!!!!!!

    3. Happy birthday to your friend! She will LOVE the Garmin! How could she not!?!?!?

  2. Emily - how do you like your Garmin? the Mizunos?

    1. Hi Molly - the Garmin has been fantastic. Now I don't know how I ever ran without it! It's so helpful to be able to track my distance on the fly, and to know my pacing and splits at any given moment. The 305 also has a heart rate monitor which I've never used, but plan on trying it soon. You use Nike+, yes? How do you like it?

      I really like the Mizunos. They are very supportive and smooth. The Mizunos and my Asics (Gel Cumulus 13) are my two favorite pairs of running shoes so far (although I still don't feel much difference between them and my other shoes). How about you?

      How is your knee doing, by the way!?!?

    2. I like the Nike+...especially the $60 pricetag as compared to the Garmin $$$, but there are times when I question it's accuracy. When I've used it at races though it does seem to be spot on. There are things about the Nike+ website that I would like to change (I'd love to be able to download the data into Excel, for example, since I'm an Engineering dork and must analyze absolutely everything possible that I can in Excel). But, I'd also love if it would chart my pace (currently it only charts mileage).

      My leg seems to be getting better. Last weekend I was able to run 10 miles with absolutely no pain. This was amazing to me since the pain usually starts after 4mi. It was great to finally get a long run in and gives me confidence for the 1/2 on May 5!!! It's just around the corner...

    3. Congratulations on your 10-miler with zero pain! That's an ENORMOUS confidence booster! It sounds like it was very much the right decision to rehab your injury. Now you'll be able to go right out and nail your 1/2 without missing a beat! WOO HOO!!!

  3. I have only done a bit of online shopping for running gear...namely, my nike running skirts from 6PM.com...it has some good deals! Blessings!

    1. Thanks so much for the tip on 6PM.com! I just checked it out and it does indeed have some good deals. I will be adding it to my repertoire of online-shopping sites now!

      Running skirts... I've never tried them, but know a lot of people that love them! Maybe it's time to give them a whirl, too, and now I know exactly where to shop for them! =)

    2. love, love, love running skirts. I have one from Old Navy and one from Athleta. The one from Athleta is a little lighter weight, so I prefer that one. I'm a little disappointed though that the shorts underneath do not have any silicone lining on the cuffs to prevent them from rolling up.

    3. Molly - I know Julie loves running skirts but I didn't know you wore them, too! My biggest problem with shorts is that they always creep up on me. Therefore, whenever the weather is borderline warm/cool I'll always pick tights or capris. But it sounds like running skirts generally have less "ride up" potential and that's a great thing!

  4. Thanks for these great descriptions. Have you checked out The Clymb? I highly recommend it for some great deals as well!

    1. I'd never heard of The Clymb but thanks for passing it along! Based on a quick peruse, they have some very unique gear and some different brands that I'm not yet familiar with. It will be fun checking it out in more detail!