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FIT DAD: Eric Flanders, 44

FAMILY: Wife—Robin, Annabelle—11, Hugh—8

OCCUPATION: Owner, Fleet Feet Sports Memphis and Fleet Feet Sports Collierville

When meeting with Eric Flanders, the first thing he said was, “Forget the interview, let’s talk about your shoes. How long have you had those?” The fitness fanatic and father has been the owner of Fleet Feet Sports in east Memphis since 2002, and has built his success upon paying attention to his customers’ needs. His same passion and enthusiasm he’s carried into fatherhood, showing his kids how to be fit and healthy.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO RUNNING? I started just before high school, over 30 years ago. All my friends were in sports and I just decided to give it a shot. My friend’s brother had lettered in cross country, and the town I lived in in Oklahoma, you had to be in sports. I’ve run distances from 5K’s to 50 miles, but these days I just run for fun, mostly. Besides running, my wife and I do core strength classes at the YMCA and yoga. Both are valuable outside of running.

HOW DO YOU INSPIRE YOUR KIDS? Robin and I run with my daughter and son; we do a lot of charity weekend 5Ks or the trails at Shelby Farms. Johnson Park in Collierville has the boardwalk through the woods and it’s beautiful. My daughter ran cross country at Hutchison last year. My son runs in addition to soccer and baseball.

HOW DID FLEET FEET BECOME YOUR FUTURE? I started working in the Memphis store my first year out of Rhodes College in 1994. That’s where I met my wife, Robin, who was a customer. After working a few years at the Fleet Feet in Chicago, we decided that we wanted to own our own store. We moved back to Memphis in 2002 and bought the store where I’d worked before. We recently expanded to a second store in Collierville, located at the corner of Poplar and Houston Levee.

“The first rule of buying shoes is that you can’t buy them by the color.”

WHAT MAKES FLEET FEET DIFFERENT? You can get many of our brands almost anywhere; but we carry widths, sizes, and some shoes you can’t find elsewhere. We also do a professional fitting, which most places won’t do. We joke and say that the first rule of buying shoes is that you can’t buy them by the color. They come with different levels of support meant to be paired with specific types of feet. It’s more than just your shoe size.

We do Monday night running groups at multiple distances for all skill levels. The route leaves the Memphis store and runs through Belle Meade neighborhood and Galloway golf course. It’s a fun, social thing. The groups do track work for speed on Thursdays at the St. Mary’s Episcopal School track. They are kind enough to let us use their track, which lies about a mile from the store.

ADVICE FOR NEW RUNNERS? Be patient with it. You may have to take time and ease into it. It’s just like anything: if you jump in too quickly, it may end quickly. If you take your time doing it, you will be more successful.

FAVORITE RUNNING GEAR? I run in lots of different stuff. Hokas are new brand with unique cushioning that I like, but I’ve always been a Nike fan. I joke, ‘Me likey Nike!’

By Robin Beaudoin. Photo by Sarah McAlexander

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