Dian Hagen’s feet problems ruled her life.
She had a hard time staying on her feet for work, and she cut out things she enjoyed doing because of the pain. Almost five years ago, Hagen began going to the Bellevue branch of Shoes-N-Feet on the recommendation of a physical therapist. Through working with the store’s well-trained personnel, she’s been able to get the kinds of shoes and insoles that make the pain a little easier to deal with.
“People go to Walmart and buy an insole,” she said. “It’s just a shot in the dark sometimes. All those problems with your feet require different solutions.”
Hagen, 60, is one of thousands of people the store has outfitted with footwear specifically for their circumstances over the store’s 10 years of operations. Early next month the store will expand into a neighboring vacant spot at the Kelsey Creek Center, adding a second division, a specialty running store.
JB Smith, partial owner and manager of the Bellevue store, said the success of the store comes through the high level of training employees receive. They are given more than 120 hours of training and an exam before they are vetted as full-time employees. This gives employees the ability to pick shoes that will be comfortable, and won’t cause or exacerbate, foot injuries.
“Most of the people we’ve seen up until now have been the more complicated footwear customer,” Smith said. “They can’t just go get a size eight off the shelf; they need more help.”
Employees observe customer’s walking styles, as well as analyze where they put pressure on their feet. Smith said the majority of their business comes from referrals from podiatrists and physical therapists. Without the rigorous training, Smith worries the store could lose these referrals.
The expansion to running shoes opens up a whole new base for the Bellevue store, the first Shoes-N-Feet store to make this move. To Smith, it represents a natural extension. Running shoes are constantly changing with new trends emerging, such as the minimal bare-foot shoes.
“Lots of people got involved in them right away because they are such a trend, but for the wrong people that can create more injuries than help,” Smith said.
The Bellevue store is the second of numerous stores founded by Smith’s father, and Larry Huppin, a podiatrist. Continued changes in the styles of specialty shoes have helped the business expand. For Smith, this allows her to help long-time customers like Hagen, find the shoes that will be easy on the feet, while keeping a nice look.
By NAT LEVY
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer
Contact Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer Nat Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-453-4290.