Paradox of choice

business and consumers, business cheers and jeers

I’m not a crazy athlete, but I like working out at the gym and also dancing a few times a week.

Finding good dance shoes wasn’t so hard for me.  I got personal recommendations from some of my lindy hopping friends, and was also delighted that the friendly folks at dancestore.com were happy to offer personalized suggestions over the phone.  For the record (and now from personal experience), I recommend that all lindy hoppers get this dance sneaker; it makes turning and spinning a breeze.

But I’m having a much harder time finding good cross-training and running shoes.  I’ve had good luck with New Balance shoes in the past, but it’s hard to find a good selection of ‘em locally in my size, so I decided to go online.  Sure enough, via Amazon.com or Zappos and undoubtedly countless other sites, I have a choice of zillions of shoes.  And that would be okay if there was some help filtering… but there’s not! 😮

Yes, you can do a search and narrow down by technology, but you end up having to do sets of half a dozen clicks repeatedly to decipher the meaning of brandspeak features (NBZip, Abzorb, etc.), and then lots of clicking back and so on.

I want one of the following:
– A nice wizard that asks me what I want to do with the shoes (running, walking, activities that require lateral stability like kickboxing, etc.), lets me specify a price range, style type, etc., and then recommends a set of shoes for me.
– A comprehensive table (in HTML, Flash, PDF, I don’t care) that shows a list of shoes, approximate street prices, features, target activity, etc.

Because right now, let me tell you, I’m tempted to say $#!* it and just stick with my current trusty shoes and go do something more fun like, oh, floss my teeth or relabel my matchbook collection or lock myself in a closet with Vanna White night after night after night.  In other words, New Balance, NO SALE FOR YOU.

Major brands, listen up.  In this world of an increasingly crazy amount of choices, you need to do the following if you want to remain competitive:
– Make your content FINDABLE by people and search engines.
– Make it ACCESSIBLE so, for instance, I can look up stats on your shoes on my phone when I’m at the local sports store with too-busy or ignorant salesfolks.
– Make the info DIGESTIBLE so I can learn what I need to know and make informed decisions
– Make the damn thing EASY TO BUY, but I’m guessing you’ve heard that enough times already from other frustrated bloggers.
– Offer outstanding SUPPORT post-sale.
– Give me ONGOING INFO but only when and how I want it (customized e-mail newsletters that I can easily unsubscribe from, RSS feeds, etc.)

*  *  *

In the meantime, if anyone knows of a good athletic shoe guide or chart and such, let me know :-D.

Oh, and watch this video on The Paradox of Choice.  I had the pleasure of hearing this fellow at a Google TechTalk; Professor Schwartz is an engaging speaker and absolutely spot-on in his commentary.

(it’s even close captioned!)

4 comments… add one
  • Graham May 24, 2008

    I’d be leery of buying shoes online unless they’re the exact same brand/style/size as something I already have.

    If you can tear yourself away from the computer, go to Runner’s High in Menlo Park. They’ve got good folks there who know what they’re doing when it comes to athletic shoes. I got my running shoes (Brooks) from them.

  • Adam May 24, 2008

    Graham, that’s a great point.

    And amusingly, I just ran into my friend Aaron, an experienced runner, who told me about this amazing fellow at a shoe store in San Jose who spends a lot of time with customers analyzing their gait and their shoe needs and then expertly recommends the right shoes to try on.

    Needless to say, I’ve abandoned my ideas of going this alone (online) for now, and am eager to head off soon to meet The Shoe Master in San Jose :-D.

    Though admittedly, your shoe place sounds promising as well.  And thanks for the comment!

  • Elvia Sep 20, 2008

    that?s a great point my friend

  • domvodop Dec 11, 2008

    Is it really such a great problem to find shoes that you have to go to Amazon? As for me, I usually visit the nearest sport shop and that’s it!

What do you think?