Up Close With Eric Johnson
If you know Eric Johnson, owner of Fleet Feet Springfield, then you know that he is very busy and full of life, so to catch up with him was a real challenge. Before we begin lets warm up with some quick EJ facts. Eric would rather run a one mile race over a beer mile or marathon distance, but maybe we could talk him into a taco mile, since that is his favorite food. What does he wash down a good taco with you might ask, a Smirnoff Ice, says Johnson. When it comes to desert after a great meal, he likes “all of them”. So slip on your Karhu Ikoni shoes (EJ’s personal pick) and get ready to take in this candid conversation with the intrepid Eric Johnson.
You’re known as the running guy around town. When did you start running and why?
I started running when I moved to Missouri in 1999 to meet people. Found my tribe in short order.
Before you started working in a running store and later owning the store, you had a job. Tell us something about that?
Before the running store, I worked in public health and parks. I was the guy who collected dead birds in southwest Missouri when west Nile virus was in the news.
Let’s talk shoes. Does the typical runner need more than one style of running shoe?
Depends upon how much a person is running and how injured they are. Someone running a couple miles a few times a week is fine with one shoe. Someone training for a half marathon or longer will benefit from two different shoes because the stress on the body is different with each shoe. This reduces injury risk to a pretty large degree, up to 39%!
Can you tell us why it is important to get a proper shoe fit.
We believe the shape of your foot should be one of the primary determinants of shoe fit. if you have a wide foot, a narrow shoe won't work, and vice versa. We use 3D scanning technology. Now we scan each person's foot with our Fit ID scanner and learn everything you ever wanted to know about your foot in just a few seconds. When there are fifty shoes on a shoe wall, knowing the exact size and shape of each foot allows us to narrow down and only try on the best matches. The scanner is also really helpful for determining the best running sock for each runner, and whether an insole might be helpful in customizing the fit of the shoe.
How often do I need to get new shoes and is that based on mileage, time, days of use or is this all just a ploy from shoe makers to get us to spend more cash?
The shoe companies typically say most shoes should last 300-500 miles but it really depends upon the person and the shoe. Some people are very hard on their shoes and some aren't. Some people also are very sensitive to a shoe breaking down and others aren't. I get about 200-250 miles on my shoes because I've got an extensive injury history, but I know a guy who used to get 1000+ miles on all of his shoes.
What is the biggest mistake that new runners make?
The biggest mistake new runners make is doing too much too soon. any time you go for a run, you're breaking down tissue (muscle, tendon, bone). your body recovers when you sleep. maintaining that balance is key. when we do too much - or skimp on recovery, such as sleep - our body can't repair the damage quickly enough and injury results. a good generic recommendation is to increase your mileage no more than 10% per week. I also think adding variety to your routine is really helpful. for example, run on roads and trails, do some longer and some shorter runs, run in two different shoes.
You have done some big races, of those events, what race sticks out in your mind as the coolest.
I'd say the Silver Rush 50 Mile run in Leadville Colorado was my most memorable. It was one of the most difficult 50's in the US, it started at 10,000 feet and went up to 13,000 feet four times, and I wasn't sure I could finish. Long races like that give you the highest highs and the lowest lows. I never cry in real life, but remember breaking out into tears twice - for no good reason. It's funny to look back on now.
So, what is a typical week of running like for you, and are you a morning runner or evening runner?
With a growing business and three young kids, I don't run or lift or do yoga as much as I'd like due to time. I've finally accepted that early mornings are required if I'm going to be consistent so 5:30AM is pretty standard. I almost never sacrifice sleep, though, as I get sick when I do because of some autoimmune problems. I've come to realize that strength and yoga are critical for me to stay healthy now that I'm past forty. So, I run thirty to forty miles per week, lift once or twice, and do yoga once or twice.
Tell us something that no one knows about you.
I really like Barry Manilo and know most of his songs by heart!
Interview by Joseph Thomas