Creating Better Communities Through the Power of Running

A group of young runners cheer during Students Run Chicago practice

It is not enough to just exchange goods and services, to provide running gear and training for only those who can afford it. It is our responsibility to bring running to everyone we can. Put simply: running transforms lives.

“We’ve existed for over 40 years, and we’ve existed because we’ve woven ourselves into the fabric of the community,” says Fleet Feet CEO Joey Pointer. “And when you’re a part of a community, you want to leave it in a better place than you found it.”

So, it’s only natural that, as a running brand, it’s in our DNA to change lives, too. This year, we’re taking our commitment to transforming lives even further with our charitable arm, Do the Run Thing.

We get it, it may sound like we’re patting ourselves on the back here, and maybe we are. A little. But that’s because our stores, our customers, our communities and our vendors have done so much incredible work worth bragging about. And we’re downright proud of that.

Here, read a few stories and see for yourself:

Fleet Feet Roanoke: Project Forward

Several years ago, Robin Lewis, co-owner of Fleet Feet Roanoke, overheard a couple of high school students talking about flunking out of school because they felt like the lessons they could learn on the streets were more valuable than what they could learn in the classroom. “The conversation weighed heavily on me,” says Lewis. “I had to do something about it.”

So, she and her staff began fitting needy children for shoes and encouraged them to participate in after-school programs. By 2015, their efforts snowballed into Project Forward, a nonprofit that provides shoes for needy feet and offers exercise activities for those kids after every week.

Volunteers help fix a trail with Fleet Feet Columbus

Fleet Feet Columbus: Rocks and Roots Trail Runners Association

Preserve, Promote. Protect. These are the three words behind Fleet Feet Columbus’ trail-building and running nonprofit that aims to maintain, build and connect off-road trail systems all over Columbus, Ohio.

And access to trails is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s also about getting runners off the roads and educating them about sustainable trail usage practices, which, ultimately, develops land stewards who want to give back, too.

They also host several trail races throughout the year. And rising participation numbers are a positive sign their off-road efforts are working. “Shaking hands, fist bumping, hugging all the runners when they finish is all the evidence that we need to know we’re changing lives,” says Jeff Henderson of Fleet Feet Columbus.

Fleet Feet Orlando: GROW

A decade ago, the Fleet Feet Orlando received a $5,000 grant. They invested the funds into school programs already interested in launching their own after-school running programs.

“We began to see a change in the way our local schools took to the fitness movement,” says Eric Bartos, Fleet Feet Orlando owner.

The program expanded into GROW Central Florida, a grassroots organization with a mission to “make a positive difference in children's lives by increasing opportunities for healthy living.” Activities range from cross country running to family engagement and play space revitalization.

Fleet Feet Tucson: Community Kicks

Students celebrate as part of Fleet Feet Tucson's Community Kicks program

In 2014, Fleet Feet Tucson Owner, Anne Stancil, founded Community Kicks as a way to provide footwear to local community members in need.

In 2017, she connected with a foster home for abused young women who had recently developed a running group. Her team donated sports bras and Stancil personally fitted several of the women for shoes.

“They shared how much running helped them feel good about themselves, which translated into better performance at school and hope for their future,” says Stancil. “I realized that running and shoes are about so much more than fitness. They lift someone out of the darkest of circumstances, and Fleet Feet can have a small part in creating that for our community.”

By Ashley Arnold. Ashley has been running competitively since 2000. She went from winning the high school 300m hurdle state championship as a sophomore in 2002 to breaking the tape at the Leadville Trail 100 in 2013. Now, her full time role is managing content as the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Fleet Feet.

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