- No waiting in line, fighting crowds, or wasting gas sitting in traffic or stalking parking spaces.
- It's so much easier to comparison shop across websites than it is to go from store to store to store.
- No more having to sift through stacks of merchandise to look for your size/color, often to find out that it's not available.
- No pushy salespeople or bored cashiers to deal with.
- No store closing hours.
- Easy access to product reviews.
- 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!
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:
- Running Warehouse
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)
Mizuno Wave Rider 15 shoes
Cho-pat knee straps (2 of them)
Handheld water bottle
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
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!
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?
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.
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:
- Roadrunner Sports
- Holabird 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!
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!