Beware of "Our Top Spring Running Shoes" Surveys

Bobby Bowden, Famed Florida State football coach for over 30 years




Bowden was asked by a reporter about one of his linebackers. When describing that player, Bowden said “He doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘fear.’ In fact, I just saw his grades and he doesn’t know the meaning of a lot of words.” 

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"Our Top Spring Running Shoes"

NPR had an informative piece on rating agencies about a year ago.  One gent, very suspicious of one of the restaurant ratings that his local places had received from a well-known national agency decided to take things into his own hands.  He created a virtual restaurant in his own town house.  Really.  He, with enough time on his hands to make even the slackest triathlete jealous, made a website complete with ratings from fictitious diners ("I made it good, but no so good that it might throw someone off.  Even put in a couple stinkers for realism!") Then he created a composite menu from a number of nearby establishments. "The wine list was the most fun.  I went to the cheap place down the street and picked the ones on the bottom shelf."

After submitting this to the well-known rating agency (and changing the greeting on his voice mail to that of the restaurant), he got a single phone call from them with a few questions about various areas of the restaurant.  That was it.  No on site evaluation for cleanliness of the kitchen or restrooms, no verification of adherence to disability access codes, nada.  It didn't take long before he was informed he had earned the highest rating and would he be interested in being listed in their guide...for a fee.   

The reason I go into this is that national chains, magazines, etc. will be coming out with shoe ratings at some point.  These are very important to the manufacturers since they know you and I read the magazines, see these ratings and on some level keep them in the back our minds when it's time to replace our current dogs.  A lot of money is at stake here.

The best example I can currently think of is the Hoka One One, which probably paid a substantial amount to be named official shoe of Ironman North American Series*. While popular in Kona, they were not the most used brand worn by Iron athletes. Asics was.** Dave Jewel of LAVA magazine had an all-inclusive shoe count of every racer to hit Alii drive revealing Asics first overall, Hoka One One second.  I would bet this information was not lost on Hoka executives.  Asics was also the #1 shoe among age groupers.

I would ask you when looking at any product evaluation, shoes the example under consideration here, that you look for bias.  If you're at a store, what brand is being pushed and why?  Are there incentives that the average customer would be unaware?  If you're reading a trade magazine, are the shoes that advertise there seemingly always near the top recommended brands?  Is there bias in the testers?  When doing a wine tasting, the wines under evaluation can be put in unlabeled glasses.  Only the ones running the test know which wine is in which glass.  However, it's hard to remove the brand logo from running shoes.  That said, when experienced wine tasters knew which, or supposedly which glasses contained the more costly wines, there was a subtle bias toward these (supposedly) more costly samples.

You count on these shoes to make you your fastest, and perhaps more importantly protect you from injury, do your best to choose wisely.  
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I'll admit it. Sadly the owner of this vanity plate owner lives in my home town. He has friends in your town. Be careful out there.
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* Slowtwitch Dan Empfield, Slowtwitch, 4/2/2016 But does this new deal with Ironman make sense for Hoka? The official shoe designation was a disastrous hole down which K-Swiss dumped barrelfuls of money. 

** Competitor.com 10/11/16


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