Shopping at a local running store can have many advantages from personalized service to free information about local events. Running store prices are usually a little more expensive than large discount stores, but there are advantages to talking with someone face to face who understands you as a runner.

Here are a few of the advantages your local running shop can provide. Feel free to leave comments with any other reasons to shop at a running store nearby.

Gait Analysis
There are so many shoes to choose from. How can one know which is right for their feet and the way they run? Visit a local running store and they can help you narrow your choices. Not all running stores do gait analysis, but many do. Some have treadmills with high speed cameras to analyze your foot strike on the belt. Others have pressure sensitive mats that you run across for computer aided analysis. Though they may not be as accurate, a store employee can often look at how you jog around the store and know what type of shoe you need without all the fancy equipment.

Gait analysis is usually free if you buy a pair of shoes at the store. Or, they may charge a nominal fee (around $20) for the service. You can probably get shoes on-line for 10% to 20% cheaper, the inclusion of a free gait analysis will offset the difference. Call the store before going in for a running gait analysis to see if you need an appointment, or to find out the best time to drop by. They will probably ask you to bring your current pair or running shoes so that they can evaluate the wear pattern that your running style causes. That is very helpful in getting a good recommendation for your next pair.

Running Shoe Choices
Running StoreOnce you have an analysis done of your running style, the store will recommend a certain type of shoe. There are three broad categories of shoes: stability, cushioned and motion control. There are variations of these for different purposes. The store's workers can recommend the broad category you need and show you various shoes that should work for you. Once you know the type of shoe you need, it is then a matter of choosing which ones fit the best and feel most comfortable.

Not all, but many running stores will allow you to bring a pair of shoes back within a certain time if they don't seem to be working well for you. However, they usually do a great job in helping you pick out the right shoe for your running style.

Running Clothes
Your local running store will carry a broad line of clothes for running. Most of the time, these will be the name brands that the professionals wear. If you don't mind paying full retail price for your gear, your local store will have many choices.

Experienced Employees
You will find that the workers in a running store are usually very passionate about running. The atmosphere in a running shop is electric. Store employees are as passionate about running as the religious people visiting your house on a Thursday evening. It is very common to find out that the workers are also professional athletes who spend all their time outside of the store either training or running races. This is also the reason many running stores don't open until noon on Saturday-it gives their workers a chance to get a long run done before the work day begins.

Upcoming Races
Unless there is a large race that is heavily advertised, you may have trouble getting information for an upcoming event. Even if the race is small, the organizers know that sharing their event information with the local running shops is the best way to attract runners. Your running store can help you find events that fit your budget for the weekends you have available to race.

If there is a large event coming up, then celebrity runners tend to do workshops at running stores as well as the expo the night before the race.

Don't forget to thank the running store's employees for sponsoring races. Besides promoting races, they are often some of the biggest sponsors of local events.

Group Training Runs
Not every specialty running store has group training runs, but many of them do. Even if it is not a training run organized by the store, they should have information about other groups that get together on a regular basis. My local running store has two runs each week that they organize, but they also advertise and promote other group runs on their website and in the store. Finding a group to run with each week can be a great motivator and help break up the monotony of the many hours on the road by yourself.

Recommend Health Care Professionals
One of the most frustrating things about being a runner is going to an overweight doctor who tells you that running is bad for your knees and that you should consider a different sport. A local running store can recommend doctors and other health care professionals who are sympathetic to runners and their specific needs. Whether you need a massage therapist, which some running stores have on staff, or a surgeon who can get you back on the road quickly, most running stores are aware of local health providers who they can recommend.

Running Accessories
While you might be able to get clothes for a much cheaper price in a regular discount store, many of the other running accessories that you might need will only be available at a specialty running store unless you purchase on-line. It is especially fun to go into you local store just to see what new gadget has come out. When you need a new stick of BodyGlide it is nice to know you can walk into a store and pick up a stick today instead of having to wait for it to come in the mail.

There are also a wide range of running magazines and books that are available. Some are nationally available titles, while others may just be from your local area. Through these local publications you can find new running routes in your area as well as get recommendations for races around town.

Most shops will have a good selection of nutritional products. The employees can teach you how and when to use the different products.

Clearance Sales
Because the clothing industry is constantly changing, it is often possible to pick up some good deals in your local running store. They have to make room for the new products coming out each year. The fact that they don't have a huge market of customers coming in, they often will discount the older products significantly to recuperate showroom floor space as quickly as possible.

While you can often get good deals from on-line sellers, being able to go into a local running store to handle the merchandise and try it on is a great reason to shop locally. Running shops have a community of like-minded runners who are constantly in and out of the store. Plus the personal attention and expertise are things you can't get when shopping through your web browser.

Even if you have no plans to buy anything, drop in to your local running store and introduce yourself. I feel certain you will be glad you did.