Adidas shoes: willful idiocy

Up until recently, my only knowledge or experience of Adidas was their association with Run-DMC, back in prehistoric times.  But a friend of mine got a job with them a couple of years ago, and he would lend me the employee discount card for the Adidas store.  So naturally I went to get some shoes.  I wear a 9.5E, probably the most common men’s shoe size in America.  I found that the large majority of Adidas shoes are not available in an E width—in fact most of them are only available in a narrower-than-average width, like typical European shoes.  You may say “well, they are a European brand after all”… but isn’t America a large enough customer base to warrant offering sizes that fit us?

It took me almost two hours, trying every non-cleated shoe in the store, to find a single pair of shoes that fit me—and that pair was a size 11!  They weren’t even long in the toe area either, they fit my 9.5E feet perfectly.  What the hell kind of shoe company makes a US 11 shoe that’s a perfect fit for a US 9.5 foot?  What’s even weirder is that the other size-11 shoes they had were too long in the toe, just as you’d expect.  But even they still felt too narrow.  I can even usually fit into a regular-width 9.5 shoe, it’s just not quite as comfy as the E width; however the 9.5’s at Adidas were far too narrow to even squeeze into at all.

I took home the one pair that fit me, pleased to have found a shoe that fit.  They were actually quite comfortable.  However, they had a keyhole-shaped hollow opening in the heels, supposedly for shock absorption, and this hollow space was exactly the right size and shape to pick up and hold several chunks of gravel, the sort of gravel you normally encounter while walking the dog or jogging.  The sole material would hold the gravel pieces wedged in tightly.  I’d pry it out with a stick, and within a dozen yards the heels would be full of gravel again.  This may come as a surprise, but gravel is not great for shock absorption!  It doesn’t feel good to walk with several pieces of gravel under each heel.

After putting up with this gravel idiocy for almost a year, I threw the shoes out, and went back to the Adidas store.  Surprise surprise, they didn’t have ANY shoes that fit!  Not a single shoe to fit the most common, normal men’s foot size in America.  The clerk told me this was something lots of male customers complained about, being unable to find Adidas shoes that fit.  He also said they were expecting a delivery of a wide-fit shoe (one model only) the following week; so I left, and came back a week later.  Sold out!  The one model of E-width shoe they received, sold out completely in just a few days—and they had no plans to re-order more.

Does that sound absurd and unbelievable?  It does to me, too, but it’s 100% true.  Adidas apparently is willing to ignore the complaints and obvious needs of one of the largest consumer bases on Earth, and also willing to ignore the sales reports showing an insistant and immediate movement of goods.  If there was some reason for this willful obstinacy, I’d be very interested to learn of it.  But it seems obvious to me that (a) Adidas should want the largest share of shoe sales in a giant consumer market like the USA, and (b) narrow feet may be common in Germany and Italy, but they are not the world standard, and certainly not in super-sized America.  Nike is more successful here than Adidas.  Nike has shoes that fit a wider range of feet.  Could it be any more clear?

The largest Adidas store in my town has closed down, due to lack of customers.  This store was sharp and modern-looking, and located on a prominent commercial intersection in a largely Black neighborhood—the ideal place to sell Adidas shoes.  They couldn’t even keep a store open there.  I’d like to see Adidas do well… but they are being willfully blind to some of their own self-defeating choices.  I’m certainly not going to suggest that you not buy their products—after all, if the shoe fits, wear it!  But I would hope that someone at the Adidas corporate headquarters sees this post and wakes the hell up.

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  1. DIego said,

    August 3, 2011 @ 2:49 am

    If you want a seriously comfortable, wide fit shoe with good shock absorbtion you can’t go wrong with skater shoes.they are like the aircraft carrier of shoes. sure they generally look a bit “hip” but i’ve seen some rather conservative ones as well. my favourites are the OSIRIS brand. designs are usually way over the top, and the shoes are a good 20-30 bucks more than competitors, but man are they the comfiest shoes I’ve ever had. they sell em at skateboarding/snowboarding stores, typically $150+, regardless of brand.

  2. Mikhail said,

    August 20, 2011 @ 3:50 am

    Hi Cyrus!
    I agree with you. I live in UK and encountered similar situations numerous times in completely different business areas.
    I think I have an answer to this(sort of). Problem is in management structure. Basically every shop have a manager and he don’t want to be fired – he want to earn more and more. He have some kind of targets I guess. So he pressing his department managers to boost sales. They pressing sales assistants to sell more. But what sales assistant can do really? Be nice to a customers and keep saying “Sorry – that’s the only sizes we do”
    Stuff dont’ have an input to design or manufacturing issues. Even if they had then there’s 2 problems: 1. They wouldn’t get any bonus for that, so they not motivated. 2. Can you imagine how many people work for let’s say Adidas across the world – probably millions! So if each one will submit some kind of improvements to the line… Well you’ll need big crew to sort all this “improvements”. I mean huge building hopping with people which just gonna check if there any good reason to change the production line of already worldwide famous brand. You’ll need crosscultural psycologists because germans(in this case) won’t get why in Australia they need extra large ’10 or super small ’11. Don’t forget this improvements been implied by “lowest” stuff members – they don’t have special (and sometimes any at all) education.
    Also you talking about difference in American and European sizes. But how about Asia, Africa? What if all of the countries need something special?
    But whole point of companies like Adidas or McDonalds is that Burger exactly the same in any country.) That what people want(ed) after all?
    So none will give a damn if some store got closed. They will better invest more money in the store which doing very good already. Why it’s collapsed? Shoe sizes, poor marketing, dangerous management, thieving? God knows! You will need to spend money on comission to find out. They don’t do that.
    By the way, what if fish beginning to rot from the head? What if “creative” crew is to blame or top managers? They don’t want that.)

    And after all store managers have other stuff to worry – delivery issues, stock-restock etc, merchandising, employees…
    And board of directors are looking at big figures only. Stock market.

    So it’s none’s fault!
    So if you dont’ like imported shoes… Well you’ll have to fish closer to the shore. Go NIke.) They should know better what average american is after.)
    It’s like in music business – if Rupert Neve Design doesn’t suit you, instead of sending him letter about faults or possible upgrades in his line just go API!

    I know it’ frustrating. It’s total disaster every time I go to buy new shoes. And I don’t have problems with just Adidas – it’s Vans, Converse, Puma – you name it!) Seems that there’s no standard size structure – just like in half-rack width units world.)
    The funny thing is that with all that inperfection we still spending money on products witch don’t suit us in some way or another!!!

    Confusion? Well if you want to look like DMC… Seems like you might have to suffer for you faith!)

  3. Cyrus said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 11:20 am

    Very thoughtful response, thanks!

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