Shoe return policies

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One of the problems with buying running shoes is that it's very hard to get a good sense of fit just wearing them in the store. Obviously this is an issue with any consumer item, but running shoes are especially bad because of the unique combination of breakin time, repetitive friction induced blistering, and the sheer misery of running in shoes that give you blisters. I've had shoes that took several runs to break in and similarly I've had shoes which seemed fine at first but after several runs become clear would never fit properly.

For this reason, really good shoe stores will not only let you take the shoes outside and run with them but will let you return them even after you've taken them home and done several runs. For instance, I usually buy my shoes at The Runner's High in Menlo Park, which would let you return up to 30 days, even if the shoes were clearly worn from running. [Note: TRH has recently been acquired by Fleet Feet, so I don't know if they still maintain this policy.] [Full Disclosure: I'm a friend of the former owner and at least before the sale got a friend discount, which is another reason to shop at TRH at least for me. I haven't needed to replace my shoes since the sale.] The big running shop Road Runner Sports offers a similar policy:

60-Day Perfect Fitâ„¢ Shoe Guarantee
With our unrivaled Perfect Fitâ„¢ Guarantee you can run in your new shoes RISK-FREE for up to 60 days (from your purchase date). If they're not a perfect fit simply exchange them and we'll be happy to help you select another pair. No questions asked.

And of course, a number of the big outdoors retailers (REI, offer unlimited no questions asked return policies for every purchase.1.

This is relevant because lately I've gotten interested in trail running and after trying some of the more common trail shoes, and finding they didn't fit well, I started hearing good things about Inov-8s. Unfortunately, neither TRH nor RRS sells them, and REI and Backcountry only have a very limited selection of models and sizes, so I'm stuck buying from someone with a less flexible return policy. I don't really know what goes into setting this kind of policy, but it's kind of a bummer. I'd be happy to (as RRS wants you to do) commit to spending a certain amount of money with a merchant in order to avoid getting stuck with shoes which totally don't fit and I can't return. Especially since almost everyone carries my standard shoe (ASICS 2130) and so I could presumably always just get another pair of them. I'd certainly choose such a merchant if they were available. Unfortunately, apparently not.

1.REI will even accept returns for items which they have no ability to resell, like climbing ropes and carabiners. They can't tell if you've treated them correctly and since they're safety equipment they just have to destroy them.


Inov-8s are terrific. the class of the field for trail running. But I've had good luck with Keen's trail running shoes too. And they're return policy is amazing. I bought some from Backcountry and a few months later both shoes developed tears in the upper, so I contacted Keen and they simply said, go to our site, pick out a new shoe and tell us the size and color. Done.

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