Shuropody (August 2011)


That was my first thought as I watched my golf ball fly towards the 200 yard marker at the driving range; the first successful launch from new Taylormade R9 5 wood. My previous attempts had travelled the kind of distance better measured in inches.

My second thought was “Ouch!”  My foot was hurting with the constant pain that I imagine would be the consequence of getting whacked on the heel with a sledgehammer.

The pain eased a little in the next few moments, and so with the mindlessness that would delight a regimental sergeant major but cause a physician untold despair, I carried on trying to get the long stick to propel the ball to the end of the driving range.

Two days later I was forced to accept I’d done something hurty to my foot; the pain was still present and I needed to do something about it.

Half an hour or so of Google-acquired knowledge provided a diagnosis.  I’d been wearing very unsupportive shoes at the driving range and with the forces involved in transferring my weight to my left side had damaged a tendon in my foot, quite probably the plantar fascia.

Once the cheery prospect that it should get better with time had been tempered by the mention that the time involved could be a year I started looking for ways to speed up the heeling process: the accessible ones of which were calf stretches and effective foot support.

At this stage my wife mentioned that she had recently visited a shoe shop where they had a special machine for evaluating your feet, and who could then recommend orthotics.

Unfortunately she couldn’t remember the name of the place.

And here is the first issue I have with the store, Shuropody.  Much as the name is quite clever and distinctive (they offer all sorts of chiropody services) it is possessed of the strangest property: it’s almost impossible to remember.

I know this because, despite having been through the trawl of trying to find a store based on my wife’s hazy recollection of its location, having found it and thought, “A ha, that’s what she meant by shoey-something, Shuropody”, and having bought from the store itself, I still couldn’t remember the name of the place when I sat down to write the article.

My Google searches were ‘Shoedopery’, ‘Shudopery’, ‘Shudopery Cambridge’ (you can tell I was convinced I was on the right lines, I wasn’t), ‘Shurody’ (to be fair Google may have suggested this one), and finally, but only because Google is clever like this and suggested it again, Shuropody.  Even now I have to look at the website to check I’ve got it right.

A store that people struggle to remember the name of, even allowing for Google’s skill at spotting what you might have meant, is making life quite hard for itself.

The store itself is not wildly different from any other specialist shoe shop.  The brands stocked mostly have ergonomic credentials (or at least are positioned to appear that way): MBT, FitFlops, 26 Bones, Heavenly Feet… you get the idea.  What is different is that at the back was a separate area where a wide range of chiropody services was available: as my own feet are so ticklish even I can’t touch them this part of their offer is outside my area of interest.

They also have a foot profiling machine: you stand on a glass platform whilst green light is shone onto your soles and reflected on a mirror to indicate where the pressure is when you stand.  This was my reason for visiting and I soon found myself explaining all about my saw heel and being scanned.  The foot profiling is free and there is no obligation to purchase shoes or orthotics from them.

The store is nicely laid out, the range of shoes isn’t overwhelming, and whilst the store was relatively small they had avoided letting it become cluttered with stock.

The assistants looked smart and, as fits the chiropody theme of the store, wore the sort of medical-style attire that a physiotherapist or nurse might wear.  This primed all the right associations of their expertise when it comes to feet.

Exactly how expert the two members of staff I met were, wasn’t entirely clear: they weren’t possessed with the sort of forceful paternalism that medical practitioners normally exhibit – you know the kind of thing, “Rest and pain killers will take care of it: come back and see me again in a month if you aren’t feeling better (or haven’t died yet).”  Instead they offered a fairly timid diagnosis that left me slightly unsure as to whether I was going beyond their expertise with my problem: I’m sure they’re great at bunions and that type of thing.

That said, I don’t like that default style of physicians that I mentioned, and I was sufficiently confident in their advice to buy the orthotics they recommended.  Subsequent comparison-shopping suggested these were made specifically for them but comparable products were available for approximately 20% less elsewhere.

That isn’t a criticism.  Shuropody deserve a price premium (indeed they need one) if they’re to have trained staff in their shops, and I valued the service sufficiently to feel that this was still good value.

What I really like about Shuropody is that they have put value into the retail experience.  At a time when supermarkets are turning pretty much every consumer category into a commodity, Shuropody provides a service worth traveling for and that pushes price down the hierarchy for other, more rewarding elements of the retail experience.  For this, and for my significantly improving foot, they are to be applauded.

Other smaller retailers should look at the thought that has gone into Shuropody and consider how that type of thinking might be applied to their own stores.

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