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The Heel Shoe Fitters
The Heel Shoe Fitters in Wisconsin.
Courtesy of The Heel Shoe Fitters

The retail landscape has changed dramatically, thanks to e-commerce and direct-to-consumer brand competition, supply chain and inventory issues, inflation, hiring challenges and today’s fickle consumer. “The entire shoe ecosystem used to be easier to navigate and flourish in,” said Jeffrey Seidman, owner of Ahh Comfort Shoes in Illinois.

But many independent stores have embraced the opportunities. “During COVID, we had no choice but to pivot to the web, and when we did, we were able to see big wins,” said Lester Wasserman, owner of Tip Top Shoes in New York.

And as consumer demand for athletic product has skyrocketed, comfort retailers have followed suit. Rick Ravel, owner of Karavel Shoes in Texas, said athletic now represents 40 percent of his business. Similarly, Stan’s Fit for Your Feet in Wisconsin transitioned two of its shops into specialty running stores this year, and Pennsylvania’s Shoe Fly Shoe Inc. is expanding its Appalachian Running Company athletic store concept.

As consumers rediscover the benefits of in-store shopping, FN highlights 10 independent comfort stores that are leading the way with high-level service and brand selection.

Ahh Comfort Shoes

Owner: Jeffrey Seidman
Locations: 1 (Arlington Heights, Ill.)
Website: Ahhcomfortshoes.com
Certified pedorthist: 1
Top brands: SAS, New Balance, Hoka, Naot, Finn, Dansko, Birkenstock, Oofos, Ecco, Taos
Biggest initiatives: “Now that we restored our inventory in the right shoes from the best brands for the first time in three years, it’s time to pour more energy into advertising our brand,” said Seidman. “We need to remind Chicagoland that we are the leaders in solution footwear and inserts. We will be doing more community outreach, poignant e-blasts, digital marketing and old-fashioned postcards, which, surprisingly, are still our most effective means of communicating sales to our current customers.”
Our selling points: “What sets us apart, ironically, is exactly the same important elements of great shoe stores across the country, including providing sizes and widths, carrying the best brands from all over the world, [having] a pedorthist dedicated to finding solutions to foot issues, providing a wide array of different inserts, compression wear and socks to fine-tune people’s support needs. We are fueled by the desire to be the best option for people who need fit, service and solutions.”

Chiappetta Shoes store Kenosha Wisconsin
Chiappetta Shoes in Kenosha, Wis.Courtesy of Chiappetta Shoes

Chiappetta Shoes

Owners: Fred and Lori Chiappetta
Founded: 1921
Locations: 1 (Kenosha, Wis.)
Website: Chiappettashoes.com
Certified pedorthists: 2
Top brands: Hoka, On, Taos, Clarks
Biggest initiatives: In February, Chiappetta Shoes moved into a new 10,000-square-foot location on 75th Street, featuring a window into its workshop and a custom chandelier made of shoe lasts. Its next focus in on staffing the bigger location.
Selling points: “Our old-school sit-and-fit service, pedorthists and now our state-of-the-art footwear shop,” said Austin Esser, head of content marketing. “We give our customers individual attention, listen to their needs and provide the best options to solve their foot problems. Our in-house pedorthic lab is rarely seen and is a staple of Chiappetta Shoes.”

Eneslow Shoes Orthotics store New York City
Eneslow Shoes & Orthotics in New York.George Chinsee for FN

Eneslow Shoes & Orthotics

Owner: Robert Schwartz
Founded: 1909
Locations: 2 (New York City; Little Neck, N.Y.)
Website: Eneslow.com
Certified pedorthists: 4
Top brands: New Balance, Aetrex, SAS, Christian Dietz, Hassia, Hartjes, Finn Comfort, Hoka
Biggest initiatives: As the executive director of the Pedorthic Footcare Association (PFA), Schwartz is leading a global initiative to acknowledge credentialed pedorthists, as they mark 50 years as recognized health-care professionals in 2024. And Eneslow is continuing to rebuild its referral network as New Yorkers slowly return to Manhattan.
Selling points: “Our skills and our people embrace our 114 years of helping New Yorkers,” said Schwartz.

The Heel Shoe Fitters
The Heel Shoe Fitters store in Green Bay, Wis.Courtesy of The Heel Shoe Fitters

The Heel Inc.

Owner: Troy Dempsey
Founded: 1970
Locations: The Heel Shoe Fitter: 1; The Heel Outlet Store: 1 (Green Bay, Wis.)
Website: Theheel.com
Certified pedorthists: 5
Top brands: Birkenstock, Oboz, Taos, Xelero, New Balance, Finn Comfort, Gabor, On
Selling points: “We have really focused on creating an experience from the moment the customer walks in the door,” said Dempsey. “We have a very generous space with 60,000 pairs of shoes from over 100 brands. And we also offer in-house cobbler services.”

Karavel Shoes store Austin Texas
Karavel Shoes in Austin, Texas.Courtesy of Karavel Shoes

Karavel Shoes

Owner: Rick Ravel
Founded: 1937
Locations: 1 (Austin, Texas)
Website: Karavelshoes.com
Certified pedorthists:
Top brands: New Balance, Hoka, Brooks, Ecco, Aetrex, Naot, Dansko, Taos, Stable Step, On, Pikolinos, Birkenstock, Finn Comfort, Mephisto, Feetures, Clarks
Biggest initiatives: In March, Karavel Shoes relocated to a larger location at 1011 W. Anderson Lane in Austin. It went from occupying 8,500 square feet to 24,000, which Ravel said has helped expand its internet business. “[We’re] trying to attract the 35- to 50-year-old consumer,” he said.
Selling points: “We sell service. The consumer can get footwear anywhere, but they cannot get the service we give them. We still measure every customer’s feet every time,” said Ravel.

Murray's Shoes store Littleton Colorado
Murray’s Shoes in Littleton, Colo.Courtesy of Murray's Shoes

Murray’s Shoes

Owners: Jim and Alicia Murray
Founded: 1875
Locations: 1 (Littleton, Colo.)
Website: Murraysshoes.com
Certified pedorthist: 1
Top brands: Dansko, New Balance, Vionic, Xelero, Taos
Biggest initiatives: The Murrays are focused on increasing their marketing and advertising to spread the word about its knowledgeable staff and brand selection. “We are also working with Soles4Souls to collect 25,000 pairs of shoes to donate and create opportunities for others in need,” they said.
Selling points: “Customer service. We strive to offer the friendliest service for the perfect fit. We take the time to individually help each customer.”

Shoe Fly store Harrisburg Pennsylvania
Shoe Fly in Harrisburg, Pa.Courtesy of Shoe Fly

Shoe Fly Shoe Inc.

Owner: Todd Lewis, president
Founded: 1993
Stores: 20
Website: Shoeflystores.com
Certified pedorthists: 11
Top brands: New Balance, Hoka, Brooks, Birkenstock, SAS, Dansko, Taos, Timberland Pro
Biggest initiatives: “Continuing to improve our customer service and shopping experience, and optimizing our marketing strategies to grow sales,” said Lewis. The company is also progressively remodeling and expanding its existing stores to provide a more modern shopping environment and attract new customers.
Selling points: “Our staff truly enjoys getting to know our customers on a personal level, listening to and understanding their needs and helping them find the best fit and solution. All of our stores utilize a sales process that incorporates digital foot scanning to find the best fit, comfort and experience for our customers. Many of our stores have C.Peds on staff who provide an additional level of service to our customers.”

Schuler Shoes store Maple Grove Minnesota
Schuler Shoes in Maple Grove, Minn.Courtesy of Schuler Shoes

Schuler Shoes

Owners: Michael Schuler, Scott Schuler, Jennifer (Schuler) Heaton
Founded: 1889
Locations: 9 (Wayzata, Maple Grove, Highland Park, St. Louis Park, Roseville, Woodbury, Bloomington, St. Cloud and Burnsville, Minn.)
Website: Schulershoes.com
Certified pedorthists: 8
Top brands: New Balance, Brooks, Hoka, Dansko, Haflinger, Ecco, Birkenstock, Taos, Keen, Merrell
Biggest initiatives: Schuler Shoes is preparing to open its 10th location this fall in Apple Valley, Minn. It also is strengthening internal operations by enhancing training processes and improving communications to teams in its various locations. Staff retention is a focus as well. “Hiring is still challenging, though it is getting more stable recently. We want to keep our awesome people and give them a great place to stick around,” said the Schulers.
Selling points: “We are committed to providing a welcoming environment every time you shop. We curate hundreds of brands and thousands of styles from around the world. And our fit experts take the time to help you find footwear that looks and feels great.”

Stan's Fit for Your Feet store Glendale Wisconsin
Stan’s Fit for Your Feet in Glendale, Wis.Courtesy of Stan's Fit for Your Feet

Stan’s Fit for Your Feet

Owners: Jim Sajdak and family (Andy Sajdak, David Sajdak, Megan Sajdak Holtan, Ben Sajdak)
Founded: 1950
Locations: Stan’s Fit for Your Feet: 3 (Brookfield, Greenfield and Glendale, Wis.) Waxberg’s Walk Shoppe: 1 (Niles, Ill.) Vionic: 1 (Milwaukee) Goodmiles Running Company: 2 (Greenfield and Brookfield, Wis.)
Websites: Stansfootwear.com; Waxbergs.com; Goodmilesrunning.com
Certified pedorthists: 6
Top brands: Dansko, Hoka, Vionic, New Balance, On, Brooks, Finn Comfort, Drew, Birkenstock
Biggest initiatives: After acquiring Waxberg’s Walk Shoppe last year and transitioning two New Balance stores into the new Goodmiles Running Company concept, the Sajdaks are working on store remodels, increased staffing and expansion. The retailer is also in the market for additional acquisitions.
Selling points: “Our stores embody quality customer service and education on foot health, while incorporating style,” said the Sajdaks. “We truly shop the world to bring in styles and brands for our stores and online.”

Tip Top Shoes store New York
Tip Top Shoes in New York.Courtesy of Tip Top Shoes

Tip Top Shoes

Owners: Lester Wasserman, Danny Wasserman and Margot Wasserman
Founded: 1940
Locations: 2 (New York City)
Website: Tiptopshoes.com
Certified pedorthists: 2
Top brands: On, Hoka, Birkenstock, Ugg, New Balance, Thierry Rabotin
Biggest initiatives: “In 2023, we are going to do a full renovation of our main store, Tip Top Shoes. Additionally, we will be furthering our reach on the internet site that has experienced massive growth over the past several years,” said Lester.
Selling points: “Our commitment to customer service is perhaps our greatest trait that sets us apart from the competition. Not only do we have the greatest staff in the world, but we also have the world’s greatest customers, and when you combine the two, that’s when the magic happens that we are known for.”

Stores were selected based on insights from FN editors and industry sources. Only stores with certified pedorthists were eligible.

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10 of the Best Independent Comfort Shoe Stores in the US
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