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New Balance helps buyers find perfect-fitting shoes

Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Manager Brad Loy is ready to help customers find the perfect-fitting shoe.
Manager Brad Loy is ready to help customers find the perfect-fitting shoe.

Hal Kearney usually notices what a foot needs long before one would realize. Oftentimes a customer just walking in the door will tell him what their foot needs before they even open their mouth. As the owner of New Balance Chattanooga, Kearney believes that the right-fitting shoe is part of basic health care, and he uses his experience to help customers understand the benefits.

As board-certified pedorthists, Kearney and his wife Angela train their staff to understand as much as possible about the fit of a shoe and the biomechanics of the body to find the best combination for the customer.

“The feet are the foundation of your body,” Kearney said. “To support your body for its entire life is asking a lot.”

A majority of his business is people just seeking comfort, and although New Balance helps many runners, tennis players and workout enthusiasts, Kearney said the medical side is always the most rewarding.

“Sometimes you can find a lot of comfort in getting the right-fitting shoe,” said Kearney, though he’s adamant that customers with medical problems still consult a physician. “It’s kind of a joy when you can help somebody.”

Customers may have heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, and a bunion or hammer toe.

“We’re able to fit just about every foot type there is,” Kearney said, adding that the right shoe may also aid the body’s knees, hips and back. A foot scanner inside the Gunbarrel Road store lends a hand to his staff, explaining in a visual way to customers what their body is doing and how the shoes can assist in providing the best supportive and cushion options.

“It just seems to help the customer understand exactly everything that’s happening,” Kearney said. He said parents buying shoes for kids could use a little foot science, too. Ninety percent of kids wear out their shoes before they outgrow them, so buying a shoe too big doesn’t add up, according to him. Years of too-big shoes may disturb the foot’s development, he said, and it definite

  • photo
    Jordan Patty uses the Aetrex foot scanner.

ly makes shoes wear out faster.

Kearney grew up 30 minutes from the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York and continues to support the U.S. military with donation programs at his store. He said New Balance, a military supplier, is the only athletic shoe manufacturer that continues to make running shoes in the United States.

“American-made shoes are really a big topic right now,” Kearney said. “A lot of people come in and say, ‘I want a shoe made in the USA.’”

He also donates shoes to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen year-round and will sponsor a shoe drive for Nashville-based Soles4Souls in November, with a 500- to 700-pair goal.

Kearney has been in the shoe industry more than 20 years — since high school — in every position, from stocking to owner. “I just got sucked in and haven’t been able to get out,” he laughed. “We’ve had a directive to help people.”

He and his wife opened New Balance Chattanooga in 2003, two years after opening their first store in Atlanta. Kearney said his customer service and “slow and steady” business model, free of binge sales or purchasing poor-performing styles, have kept the Chattanooga store growing every year since 2003.

The Kearneys hire college students studying business and take it seriously to teach them about buying and marketing, though Kearney said New Balance is probably not the end of the road for most of them. “It wasn’t my stopping point,” he said, “and once we find someone who we know will be here [for a long time] we try to help them.”

Chattanooga’s river and outdoor enthusiasm remind Kearney of where he grew up, he said. “We fell in love with Chattanooga years and years ago,” said Kearney. “I like the small town feel for a city that’s growing as fast as it is.”

Chattanooga’s river and outdoor enthusiasm remind Kearney of where he grew up, he said. “We fell in love with Chattanooga years and years ago,” said Kearney. “I like the small town feel for a city that’s growing as fast as it is.”


Through the end of the month, buy a yellow ribbon for $10 at New Balance Chattanooga to support the United Service Organizations Inc. and its support of U.S. troops overseas. Both Kearney and New Balance corporate offices will match each donation, totaling $30 for the USO per ribbon sold.

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