Krista Dugosh, CPed’s business looks like an ordinary athletic shoe store.
She insists it is not, pointing to a big sign above the cash register.
“It is a starting point,” the sign says, “a place that converts human inertia into a force that spins the globe.”
Dugosh insists the sign is not just hype. “Our business model is fit,” said the ABC-certified pedorthist.
Dugosh owns a Fleet Feet Sports franchise store in historic Murfreesboro, Tenn. But comfort, not combat, is her mission.
Dugosh sells athletic footwear, over-the-counter orthoses, socks and other athletic apparel. Her store is in a busy strip shopping center at the edge of Murfreesboro, reputedly the fastest growing town in the Volunteer State.
“But our customers aren’t just runners,” explained Dugosh, an ex-marathoner, who still enjoys pounding the pavement in some of the shoes she sells. “It doesn’t matter if you are a runner or a walker or you work on your feet and need comfortable, supportive shoes. We will properly fit you and educate you about your shoes and provide you the right marriage between your feet and your shoes, and inserts if necessary.”
Her nuptials brought her to middle Tennessee, where she opened her store in January 2007. “I followed my husband’s corporate career,” she said. “I like the hometown feel of Murfreesboro and the people here are awesome.”
Based on comments on the store’s website, more than a few of her customers are happy with Dugosh and her 11-member staff. “I feel like I am shopping with a close friend when at Fleet Feet, I get honest options and knowledge about products,” one satisfied shopper wrote. “I don’t feel like they are trying to make a sale, I feel like they are making an investment in my well being.”
Images: Craig B. O&P Business News
Another said, “Your people are not just there trading time for dollars. They are very knowledgeable and helpful.” “Friendly atmosphere,” recorded another. “All are knowledgeable about the products and most have participated in running events so their advice is real.”
Indeed, all of her staffers are, or were, serious runners, like the boss.
But non-running customers receive the same close attention, according to the proprietor. Dugosh cited a worker from a local auto assembly plant whose job required him to walk the equivalent of 7 miles per shift. “It was great that we were able to fit him with the shoes he needed.”
Dugosh said a store that specializes in athletic shoes was a natural fit for her. So was becoming a certified pedorthist in 2009, she added. Dugosh took her pre-certification courses at the Robert M. Palmer Institute of Biomechanics in Elwood, Ind.
Meanwhile, she founded her business on fit. Fleet Feet calls it ‘Fitlosophy,’ a seven-step process that Dugosh said everybody who works for her applies to every customer.
“Step one is greeting and seating you and explaining what we call our ‘Personal FIT Process,” she said.
“In step two, we take time to ask you questions about your current activities. We want to know how often you run, how far, and if you have a goal in mind, like a marathon. We also talk about any current or past injuries you might have and discuss the footwear you are using in your activities.”
For step three, Dugosh or her staffers break out the Brannock devices and carefully measure both feet, non-weightbearing and weightbearing.
“We are not doctors and don’t pretend to be,” Dugosh said. “But we will also examine your feet for indications that will help us fit you properly and determine any special needs.”
Dugosh said if serious foot problems are detected, the customer is referred to the appropriate physician.
The fourth step is gait analysis. “We watch customers run or walk a short distance. This helps us understand the biomechanics of gait.”
Dugosh added, “We call step five ‘fitting and recommendations.’ Based on what we have observed, we will try to fit you in the shoes we think will work best for you.
“In step six, you tell us how the shoes feel. If you buy the shoes, we go to step seven in which we tell you how to properly adjust your new shoes, take care of them and get the maximum benefit from them.”
Dugosh said most people who come through her door are shoe shoppers. But she also sees referrals from local podiatrists. “They are great,” she added. “I have a good relationship with them.
“But some of them prescribe a specific shoe for their patients. I wish they would just prescribe the results they want in a shoe and leave the specific shoe type up to us.”
A growing number of Dugosh’s doctor referrals are diabetes patients. “If they or any other of our customers need custom orthotics we refer them to the appropriate facility.”
Dugosh is the only board-certified pedorthist at her facility. But she teaches pedorthics to her staff. “It’s important that they learn about biomechanics and the proper function of feet in shoes.”
Dugosh is often on the sales floor with her staff. “I don’t believe in staying locked up in my office,” she said. “I love it when I am with a customer and one of the staff pulls up a chair, sits down and watches me. But I also learn from my staff.”
She said most of her customers learn about her store from other customers, so few are surprised by the personal service they get despite shopping in an increasingly self-service retail world. “Word of mouth is the best advertising,” she said.
Dugosh called her enterprise “a small operation in a small community.” But she said the store gives her a big opportunity “to educate consumers about the importance of fitness and how shoes can help.”