Naperville shop leads Hinsdale native's book on running shoes
A new book about running shoes starts with the author's observations about the footwear of people jogging along Naperville's Riverwalk.
There are two women in ponytails, one wearing Brooks Ghosts, another ASICS GEL-Kayanos; there is an older man in a beat-up pair of blue New Balance trainers and a Cubs fan wearing Hoka Bondi 5s.
Shoes like these, designed for runners of all types, are the subject of the book "Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture & Cool of Running Shoes" by Hinsdale Central alum and running journalist Brian Metzler.
Metzler, 50, said he chose the riverfront path to set the scene for his book because it's located in a community he calls "the consummate place of recreational running."
Naperville factors heavily into the book's opening chapter, which weaves in stories from Kris Hartner's 19-year-old business, Naperville Running Company. Metzler called the small chain of stores in Naperville and Wheaton "one of the very best running shops in the country."
Metzler said he and Hartner have connected throughout their careers in the running industry, with Hartner saying the two have "shared nerd thoughts and shoe discussions over the years." So when the author was looking for a place to illustrate the ways specialty stores bring the culture of running to the masses, he chose Naperville Running Company.
The company, Metzler said, brings together the best of the classic mom and pop running stores, selling passion for the sport, with a sense of business savvy that has allowed it to adapt and survive in the era of online shopping.
"My take for running stores is it's more than a place to buy shoes. It's also a place to really feel and touch and immerse yourself in running culture," Metzler said. "You can come out having spent zero dollars and be motivated for health and fitness and your next activity."
In the preface to "Kicksology," Metzler tells of his early shoe shopping experiences at the Competitive Foot in Western Springs and the pairs that made him feel fast and helped turn him into a runner.
He ran throughout high school at Hinsdale Central, qualifying for state twice and setting 13 school records before he graduated in 1987, he said. And he made it onto the cross-country team as a walk-on athlete while he was studying for his journalism degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Metzler later went on to run marathons and ultramarathons and write -- about shoes and other running topics -- for "Runner's World," "Running Times," "Men's Health," and a magazine he founded, "Trail Runner."
"He's truly an expert in this realm," Hartner said. "He's truly of the culture. He gets it."
Metzler said he met with publisher Velo Press about his "Kicksology" idea two years ago and started writing it in early 2018.
"In theory, it's somewhat of a lifetime work," he said.
It follows other books he's written including "Natural Running," "Run Like a Champion," and "Running Colorado's Front Range."
"Kicksology" features essays about favorite shoes by professional runners Deena Kastor, Kara Goucher, Dave McGillivray, Karl "Speedgoat" Meltzer, Scott Jurek and Jenny Simpson.
Hartner said he's not selling the book in his stores -- he'll leave that to nearby Anderson's Bookshop, he said. But some of his employees have read it, one without even realizing their workplace was included in the text.
"I'm a fan of the book. It's very specific to our industry and the shoes that I like more than any other shoes," Hartner said. "So for me, it was a neat thing and quite an honor for him to feature our stores."