Business Beat: Shoe shopping at Universal Footwear

Jordan Bott of Revelstoke's Universal Footwear shares advice on buying shoes for hiking, running and more.

Jordan Bott is Universal Footwear's fitness and athletic guru.

Universal Footwear has been the go-to place for shoes in Revelstoke for more than 30 years. They stock everything from kids shoes to formal wear to rugged hiking boots.

Over the years the store has developed a sterling reputation for its customer service; they’ve been voted Best Customer Service in the last two Best of Revelstoke reader polls. It and owner Malcolm Bott have won numerous local business awards. They’re not just a local favourite, but also a stop for tourists. My mother, visiting from Montreal, walked out of the store with two new pairs of shoes after a visit last spring.

They carry shoes by Scarpa, Columbia, Keen, Skechers, Bogs, Crocs, New Balance, Salomon, Portofino, Red Wing, Nike, Vasque, Asics, Sorel, Timberland, Birkenstock, Blundstone, Converse and more.

I went in last week to talk Malcolm’s son Jordan — the shop’s heir apparent – for advice about purchasing hiking boots, running shoes, socks and more. While Malcolm is the owner, he said Jordan was the guru when it comes to fitness and athletics.

We started talking about hiking shoes. Do you need a rugged boot if you’re going to hit the trails, or will a lighter shoe do?

The answer is it depends on what kind of hiking you do. Bott said the first question he’ll ask people is if they’re going to be carrying a backpack and, if so, how heavy.

If you’re just doing easier day hikes in Mount Revelstoke National Park or Rogers Pass, a lighter hiking shoe will do, says Bott. If you’re lugging a heavy pack on a multi-day trip, a solid boot will help.

“Lots of people think they need a German-made mountaineering boot you can attach crampons too when really all they’re going to be doing is day hikes in Mount Revelstoke or at the Pass,” he says. “If you’re just carrying a light backpack, chances are you’ll be more comfortable in a good shoe.”

If you have ankle issues, something with a higher cut will be helpful. A hiking boot will be stiffer and provide more support, but they’ll also be heavier.

“People doing overnighters in Rogers Pass or the West Coast Trail, we recommend they have a good, sturdy boot and have it fitted properly,” he says.

Next, we went over to the running shoe section. Bott had different advice for new and experienced runners. If you’re new to the sport, he recommends a “neutral trail runner.”

One of the key elements is the drop — the difference in height between the heel and the toe. For a new runner, he advises getting something with a smaller drop. “I wouldn’t recommend something ultra-minimal,” he adds.

If you’ve been running for a while, he says to bring in your old shoes. He can tell by the sole how you run, and make a recommendation based on that. “If you’re an existing runner, the best thing to do is bring in your old shoes and be aware of how you run can affect the wear on your shoes and what that can tell you about your next pair of shoes,” he says.

One bit of advice that was new to me was to purchase a pair of sandals or flip-flops with good support to wear after you exercise. Bott says its not good to go straight from a long workout to walking around barefoot.

“The muscles of your feet are going to be tired and if you go out and walk around barefoot on your hardwood floor, the cumulative effect of that can cause some long-term issues,” he advises.

A good sandal will support your feet and they will feel better the next time you go out, he says.

Of course, Universal sells much more than just sports shoes. There’s a wide variety of kids, casual, and formal shoes; and socks. The one thing that applies to all shoes is to make sure they fit properly. That means there should be about a finger-width of space at the back when your toes are pushed against the front of the shoe.

“You should be able to kick stuff and not have your toes bash against the end,” he said.

Universal Footwear is located in the Alpine Village Mall off Victoria Road.