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Runner’s Alley to open new location on Main Street in Concord

  • Zach Procek checks to make sure that a pair of shoes fit Kim Houghton right before she does a test run at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014.  The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Zach Procek checks to make sure that a pair of shoes fit Kim Houghton right before she does a test run at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014. The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Kim Houghton tries on a pair of running shoes as her daughters Avery, 9, (left) and Emma, 7, wait at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014.  The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Kim Houghton tries on a pair of running shoes as her daughters Avery, 9, (left) and Emma, 7, wait at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014. The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Kim Houghton tries on a pair of running shoes as her daughters Avery, 9, (left) and Ella, 7, watch and her husband Matt looks at a pair of shoes at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014.  The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.  Matt is an avid runner, Avery loves running, Emma "sort of likes" running and Mary is just starting out.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Kim Houghton tries on a pair of running shoes as her daughters Avery, 9, (left) and Ella, 7, watch and her husband Matt looks at a pair of shoes at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014. The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May. Matt is an avid runner, Avery loves running, Emma "sort of likes" running and Mary is just starting out.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Various types of water bottles are on display at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014.  Employees of the store go though a process with each customer that involves testing their gait and watching their running so they can find the right shoe for each person.  The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.<br/><br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Various types of water bottles are on display at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014. Employees of the store go though a process with each customer that involves testing their gait and watching their running so they can find the right shoe for each person. The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.


    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Running shoes are on display at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014.  Employees of the store go though a process with each customer that involves testing their gait and watching their running so they can find the right shoe for each person.  The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Running shoes are on display at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014. Employees of the store go though a process with each customer that involves testing their gait and watching their running so they can find the right shoe for each person. The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Zach Procek checks to make sure that a pair of shoes fit Kim Houghton right before she does a test run at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014.  The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • Kim Houghton tries on a pair of running shoes as her daughters Avery, 9, (left) and Emma, 7, wait at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014.  The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.  <br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • Kim Houghton tries on a pair of running shoes as her daughters Avery, 9, (left) and Ella, 7, watch and her husband Matt looks at a pair of shoes at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014.  The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.  Matt is an avid runner, Avery loves running, Emma "sort of likes" running and Mary is just starting out.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • Various types of water bottles are on display at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014.  Employees of the store go though a process with each customer that involves testing their gait and watching their running so they can find the right shoe for each person.  The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.<br/><br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • Running shoes are on display at Runner's Alley in Manchester on Saturday, April 19, 2014.  Employees of the store go though a process with each customer that involves testing their gait and watching their running so they can find the right shoe for each person.  The store is opening up a location on Main Street in Concord in May.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

The back wall at Runner’s Alley in Manchester is lined with shoes of different styles and colors, from a neon Nike to a New Balance with a spongy sole, a brightly colored Brooks to a sleek and lightweight Mizuno.

But don’t be seduced by a shoe’s bright colors or shiny soles, Sean Gray warned. Gray will be the manager of a new Runner’s Alley location in Concord, set to open at 142 N. Main St. in just a few weeks.

“Traditionally, people will go in and pick a shoe by how it looks,” Gray said.

That choice is often the wrong one, Gray said. At Runner’s Alley, the store’s trademark is a “gait analysis” to help customers find the best fit for their feet.

“There’s so many different aspects in a shoe that affect their stride,” Gray said.

The gait analysis begins without any shoes at all – a customer will be instructed to walk, then jog through the store

barefoot. The shoeboxes come out only when Gray or another staff member can ask about past injuries and watch for factors such as the shape of a customer’s arches, or any quirks in a runner’s form.

At the Manchester store Friday, a young woman laced up a pair of shoes and began to pace.

“Do you want to jump on the treadmill and see how they feel?” the saleswoman asked, pointing to the nearby exercise machine.

Another Runner’s Alley staff member felt for a young boy’s toe near the front of the shoe he had just slipped on, while his dad looked on nearby. She went to find a different pair.

“So you can see how the support works,” she told the boy and his dad.

Dressed in running shorts and a blue T-shirt, Gray looked like he could go for a jog of his own at any minute. He’s worked for Runner’s Alley for almost two years now, and he said the company has heard a plea for a location farther north.

“A lot of our business in Manchester comes from Concord,” Gray said. “A lot of people were just asking for us to be up there.”

Since the store first opened in 1997, the chain now operates in Portsmouth, Manchester and Nashua. They serve more than just runners; Gray stressed they also can find comfortable shoes for walkers or professionals who have to spend long hours on their feet. In addition to shoes, the store sells athletic apparel and accessories.

“We can fit pretty much anybody,” he said.

Runner’s Alley also hosts group runs on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings. A flyer for one of its 5K training groups hangs on a bulletin board, near the shoe display and a poster with a diagram of foot and ankle bones. Gray said he plans to establish similar running groups in Concord.

Getting more people into running is his favorite part of the job, he said, even more than getting them into the right shoe.

“What I’ve grown to love about the work is having someone come in that’s never run before,” Gray said. “That’s what I love the most.”

The Concord store is expected to open May 8. For more information about Runner’s Alley, visit runnersalley.com.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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