An innovative running shoe database aims to streamline the shopping process.
To say Jens Jakob Andersen is a shoe geek would be an understatement.
“I love running shoes. When I meet people, the first thing I check out is their shoes. I judge people based on their shoes, even though I know I shouldn’t.” Andersen laughs. “If I’m introduced to a friend’s friend and cannot see the person’s shoes, I will bend over, tighten my laces, or do anything needed to check out his or her shoes. I cannot get the full picture of a person without seeing their shoes.”
A former competitive cross-country runner turned statistics instructor, Andersen parlayed his love of running and shoes into a side gig by opening up his own run specialty shop. However, he soon became disillusioned by the sales process.
“I was bothered by how many brands are dictators who push only the most popular running shoes with the highest profit margins,” Andersen recalls. “I was also frustrated that my store did not give a full picture of the running shoe market. It was biased, as we—like most stores—cannot stock every brand and every model.”
It was also difficult for Andersen to give his customers purchasing advice, as most brands used the same generic, superlative-laden text to describe their shoes. Surely there was a better way to get individualized, unbiased advice on running shoes.
It was the combination of these experiences that led Andersen to develop RunRepeat, an online database of running shoes with a neutral, transparent and holistic approach. The database compiles 960 running shoes, 165,624 user reviews and 5193 expert reviews to assign each shoe a “Runscore” between 0 and 100.
“If you want an overview of what runners in general think, Google will give you answers across 100s of websites. At RunRepeat, we curate all that content for you,” Andersen explains. “For each shoe we spend 4-8 hours reading user and expert reviews, which we sum up in the good and the bad.”
To determine a shoe’s Runscore, the database utilizes both user contributions and expert reviews, with users’ opinions about a shoe weighting 67% and expert’s opinion weighting 33%. In addition to that, each expert review is categorized from level 1 to level 5, level 5 being a more experienced reviewer. The higher the level of expertise, the higher the weighting in the score of the overall expert rating.
This system allows users to bypass paid Google rankings by a shoe manufacturer or biased advice from a brand ambassador. One of the key RunRepeat elements Andersen takes pride in is a monitoring system that keeps brands from gaming the ranking system:
“People trust RunRepeat a lot when reading reviews or buying running shoes. It’s extremely important that no one is manipulating a product’s Runscore. Initially, we did actually experience that a few specific shoe brands had done well to manipulate the score. Their tactics varied. Since those two incidents, we’ve built a monitoring system to check for abuse.”
The site started as a free service for runners, a labor of love Andersen was willing to undertake. But after realizing how quickly he was blowing through his own savings, Andersen sought out ways to monetize the site without using advertisements from shoe manufacturers, which could imply impropriety or bias. Now, RunRepeat runs on commission from shoe sales through the site.
“We compile deals from more than 200 retailers to ensure you’re getting the best price,” says Andersen. “When you buy a pair, we get a small commission. It’s not much, but it does keep us floating.”
Since its launch in 2014, RunRepeat has grown from a one-man operation to a team of 15 employees. Their current focus is expanding their dataset with lab tests of shoes to determine criteria such as slip resistance, heel and forefoot cushioning, stiffness, stability, breathability and waterproofing.
“It’s a big investment, but also a big dream of mine. Buying running shoes should be backed by a combination of opinions and data, I think.”
There is a lot of work that goes into the RunRepeat database, Andersen admits, but also a lot of fun for a shoe geek like him.
“It might sound cliche, but the most rewarding part of this has been the journey. It’s absolutely amazing to receive emails on a daily basis from runners sharing how happy they are to use RunRepeat. We’re building something that does not exist elsewhere. It’s unique.”