When you walk into Elite Feet (an Overland Park specialty shoe shop located at 119th and Roe), keep in mind that the owners, Don and Leslie Nottberg, will probably be watching you. You see, before they can find the perfect shoe for you, they’ll need to take a good look at your feet and stride. However, in order for them to do a proper evaluation, of course, you need to first shed your current shoes—in many cases for good!
“We watch people walk in their stocking feet to see what their feet do,” Leslie Nottberg says.
She says her team is looking for the following foot facts:
- Are your arches high or flat?
- Are your ankles stable or wobbly?
- Are your feet different sizes? Are they narrow or wide?
“What we’re doing is determining what ‘car model’ best fits you and your needs.”
She explains, that some people benefit most from the “SUV of shoes” with top safety features and spacious seating. While others need the “compact car of shoes” with memory foam seats and high fuel efficiency. No matter which model of car—err shoe—you need, the Elite Feet team will find the best options for your foot’s features.
But it isn’t just about the way that you walk. There are many factors that will help you meet your match.
“We ask questions in regards to any current or past history of problems, pains or surgeries relating to not only your feet but also your knees, hips and lower back,” Nottberg says.
She says the most common medical issue they see walk into their store is Plantar Fasciitis—an inflammation of the foot that can cause arch and heel pain. This is why she and her team stress the importance of wearing a proper-fitting shoe or sandal, whether it’s for work, working out, standing in the kitchen or hanging out by the pool.
“We rely so much on our bodies and when our feet are in pain it’s likely that other parts of our body are in pain as well,” Nottberg says. “The discomfort, or instability, stemming from your base can actually spread throughout the body.”
Living healthier lives—and helping others do the same—was Leslie and Don’s main motivation for opening their first running store back in 1980. Don had gained 60 pounds after their first year of marriage and had started walking (and then running) to lose weight.
“He has always had very problematic feet and used orthotic inserts, but many stores back in 1976 lacked understanding,” Nottberg says. “Don decided to combine his passion for running with his career.”
And now the family-run business (Nottberg’s three daughters have all worked at the shop at some point and their middle Daughter, Gaelyn, joined the team full-time, after graduating from college) has become the community’s go-to stop for new shoes. The Nottbergs don’t take this responsibility lightly.
“We are not trying to sell the shoe of the week or the latest trend in fashion,” Nottberg says. “All of our shoe crew members are trained on how to identify a foot’s needs and know how our shoes are categorized in terms of support, shape and width to meet those needs.”
Nottberg says that every shoe on their shelves has been tried on by a team member and tested and discussed. She says as technology evolves in the realm of footwear, this testing phase is becoming more and more important to clients.
“People seem to like the idea that we ‘walk the walk’ by experiencing these changes ourselves and share our own thoughts in the hope that it can potentially help someone on their own unique path,” Nottberg says.
Through their non-profit organization Shoe Kansas City, the Nottbergs are also able to help many community members on their path through hard times. The shop collects gently used shoes, sandals and boots year-round. These collections are donated to charities in the Kansas City area so children, women and men can put shoes on their feet.
“We may be only one store, but we have a big footprint,” Nottberg says.
For more information about Elite Feet, visit their website, EliteFeetKC.com or drop in for a complimentary shoe fitting. And be prepared to compare—don’t forget to bring your current exercise and everyday shoes and socks.
“Your feet hold you up and support and allow you to move freely. Outfitting them with the right gear will benefit and improve what you do now, but also hopefully positively impact what you can do moving forward,” Nottberg says. “We know feet and shoes. It’s this combination that can lead to a more balanced you.”