Making a Difference – One Pair of Shoes at a Time

Tonight’s post is a bit inspired by this story about a man who weighed nearly 700 pounds and has now lost 425 pounds.

Incredible journeys to health, much like the one Ronnie embarked upon are something that I am privileged to witness and hear about on a semi regular basis.

I am in the business of selling shoes. I work for a small running store based in West Michigan which currently has 4 locations all within the state.

But we don’t just sell shoes, we go through a whole process of fitting – from analyzing gait to trying on many pairs of shoes, to finding the right socks, and tools for injury prevention. We analyze needs. We learn about our customers, especially those who return to us again and again.

I have been privy to some incredible life stories, not just from those I run with through the store, but from those I have fitted for shoes as well. Being in the business of health and fitness inspires people to share. And I can relate to so many of those stories.

I’ve told it before, but I want to start with a short version of my own.

I’m 5’2.5″ (yes, that half an inch is very important when you’re not much over 5 feet tall). At my heaviest I weighed 195 pounds. That’s a lot of weight for someone so small.


I believed I was healthy. I ate “healthy,” I had jobs where I was on my feet all day, so clearly I was in shape. I pictured myself like the other girls who were my age and looked much trimmer than I did. But when I looked in the mirror, that’s not what I saw.

In 2012 I decided to change that. I began running. I couldn’t even run a mile. I most definitely was not as svelte as a believed myself to be.

In the first year I lost a lot of weight, and found a passion for the sport. In subsequent years, I’ve gone up and down a bit, but it’s not just about weight any longer. Now it’s about health, it’s about staying fit, and about eating well.

1424346_10100494948102237_382486856_n (2011,2012,2013)11167813_10206337715062738_6412536274465280884_n (April 2015)

There’s no way I would have continued on without learning so much from Gazelle Sports. I’ve learned about what the correct shoes for me are, I’ve learned about gear, and electronics and socks and good form. And, and and…the list goes on.

And now I am one of those who gets to teach these things. Some people view what I do as just selling shoes, or clothing – “just retail.” But I believe that we are so much more.

A pair of shoes can change a life (just ask Cinderella). A pair of shoes can make running easier, or so much more difficult. An ear to listen as the shoes go on the feet, advice on how to get started or continue or vent athletic or injury frustrations to, true and honest encouragement – we try so hard to provide this for everyone.

I love seeing people who are just beginning – who are overweight, out of shape, unsure of where to begin – just as I was.

Janice* was one of those for me. She is just one of the stories that I am proud to be able to tell. Janice came in earlier this year and I could tell that she was very overwhelmed. I helped her find not one, but two pairs of shoes to get her on her way.
This is what was written in the e-mail from that evening, “I spoke with a gentleman on the phone yesterday who wanted to make sure we would have shoes to fit his sister’s size and weight (wide and 300 pounds).  He was going to get her a gift card to cover the total cost of any shoe she purchased.  I explained how we fit and that we would be able to find her shoes and/or have some brought in to get her the best fit.  He further shared that she was just out of the hospital from a broken ankle.  She had been very motivated to loose weight and get healthy before the break (she was down 30 pounds), and he wanted to make sure she was able to continue to her goal in comfort! Well she came in today with her gift card – looks like she is still motivated.”

Another Gazellian followed up with Janice later this year, and was given this: “First of all, she absolutely loves the shoes you helped her pick out.  She switches between the two pairs and wears them all day, everyday.  She is always telling people to come to Gazelle. She was so impressed by the time and care you put in to helping her find shoes. Janice admitted that she is very intimidated to go into shoe stores because of her weight. When she stepped into our store, she immediately felt welcome and at ease.  Janice thinks her brother should make this a birthday tradition!”

I don’t often get to hear results, so to be able to hear from her is incredible.

And there are so many more – each of my coworkers is equally as amazing and I know they touch lives daily. We are making a difference, one pair of shoes at a time. And I love it.

(* – Name has been changed to protect anonymity).


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