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Home / Culture and Society / EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Jens Jakob Andersen, Founder of Sport Shoe Hub RunRepeat.com
Jens Jakob Andersen RunRepeat.com

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Jens Jakob Andersen, Founder of Sport Shoe Hub RunRepeat.com

RunRepeat.com is one of the world’s leading sports/running websites, a one-stop location for reviews and sales of running shoes and other athletic footwear. For those who aren’t familiar with it, would you give us a brief summary of what RunRepeat is all about? Is there something that sets it apart from other websites?

RunRepeat.com is a running shoe review aggregator, like IMDb but for running shoes. Recently, we have expanded to a few new sports shoe verticals as well.

The internet is floating with information – almost infinite information – which makes it hard to distinguish true knowledge from fake news or sponsored content. When data is “infinite,” an aggregator, or curator, will be useful to the end user. Like Google: With over 1.5 billion websites, not every user has a chance to know what URL to access to find answers to their queries. Google helps the user in that regard.

In recent years, such has also been the case for the running shoe industry. With thousands of running shoe models, thousands of “expert” reviews, and countless more consumer comments, a user might not know where to start. At RunRepeat.com we combine everything you need to know about a specific running shoe into one webpage which includes user ratings, all available colors, and all expert reviews – curated and ranked. We even spend around 10 hours on each running shoe, reading reviews around the internet to summarize what consumers and experts think.

Jens Jakob Andersen RunRepeat.com running shoes
Jens Jakob Andersen, founder of RunRepeat.com

If you read a review from one expert, then you get the opinion of one person. Most often, review scores range from 60 out of 100 to 100 out of 100, yet there’s a good chance that the one or two reviews you read don’t match the general opinion about the shoe. Also, you might go to Amazon.com, read a 1-star review, and see the purchaser complain of the product being narrow in the forefoot. But if only one person mentioned this concern while many others praised the shoe for its fit and comfort, then what is the truth? It’s easy to be misled. We do our best to neutrally and transparently help people buy the right pair of running shoes.

How and why did you decide to set up RunRepeat.com?

I used to own a running shoe store, and I was annoyed that 95% of my customers bought the same five pairs of running shoes even though those shoes were not necessarily the better ones for them.
We humans are influenced by marketing, and we buy what’s heavily promoted. That’s why Nike running shoes are so popular, and Saucony running shoes are less popular. Saucony receives better reviews, in general, but is less popular as a brand. There’s social status in wearing Nike. It’s fashion. I’m not against fashion per se, but when you want to buy a piece of technical equipment, fashion should not be the primary decider. Quality should be.

Other than that, I have always loved shoes. I judge people by their shoes. All the time. I look at shoes before faces. A shoe is so telling of a person (if you are okay with judging them, of course). I’m often wrong, but my general observations of footwear choice hold true.

Finally, I was not able to find an online source that listed all running shoes in one place. That’s exactly what RunRepeat.com is today.

I have always been somewhat tech-savvy, but one cannot be good at everything, so I decided to team up with a developer. He was located in Romania. Since then, the site has grown steadily, and today we are a 100% remote team working from 10 different countries, with four from the USA.

Everything starts small. RunRepeat.com certainly did. It was born out of an interest to solve a somewhat simple problem, but it turned out to be quite challenging.

What is the Corescore and how do you arrive at it?

With everything in life, you can have the short and the long answer. The short explanation is that the Corescore is a 0-100 score, where 100 is best, that tells the user how liked a running shoe is. It’s based on user ratings and expert reviews. It’s an overall score, and many people use it to filter out the worst-rated products. User votes count for 67% of the Corescore while expert reviews comprise 33%.

RunRepeat.com utilizes reviews by both everyday runners and expert running shoe reviewers. The latter are grouped into multiple levels. Why are the experts split into different levels?

If you buy a pair of running shoes, you want to know what the average user thinks of it. But you may also be curious as to what experts say. If you have only the opinion of the experts, then you’re surely not treated to the full picture, as experts might be too meticulous about small details the average runner doesn’t care about. It’s similar to film critics. One can’t say that experts or everyday filmgoers are better. A mix of both is preferable.

We divide experts into different levels of importance based simply on how many reviews he has done. Of course, an expert who has done just two reviews might be much more knowledgeable than one who has done 50. But we have found that in general, an expert who has more reviews has more experience, knowledge, and understanding of running shoes than one who’s just getting his or her feet wet.

If I recall right, you authored a study which found a lack of correlation between spending more money and getting a better running shoe. Could you explain and summarize this finding for us?

One day, I decided to crunch numbers. After weeks of work, I finished my piece to show that expensive running shoes do not get better reviews than more affordable ones. I love numbers. By looking at almost 135,000 reviews of about 400 running shoes, we found that shoes with high list-prices actually get lower ratings, in general.

Of course, the first counter would be that one expects more from expensive running shoes – which I agree with – but if a user ends up being less satisfied, then why spend more? Personally, I don’t care if I’m running in premium or value-for-money running shoes. While there will be a difference (besides the higher price tag), I don’t find any reason to always go with the premium models. The return on investment is diminishing.

The 10 most expensive shoes were rated 8.1% worse than the 10 most affordable ones, even though they had a price tag three times costlier.

It seems that advertising by running shoe companies for name recognition is a major factor. A few months back I was in a discount department store and observed parents, clearly not rolling in money, who were shopping for their daughter, who looked about seven or eight years old. At one point, I heard her scream: “Buy me the Nikes or don’t buy me anything!” What is your reaction to this?

My first reaction was to laugh.

A few times a year, I write down my thoughts on life. Randomly enough, one topic I covered in my recent writing was the concept of social status. An interesting exercise is to list the last 10 items that you purchased that you wholly or partially got for the heightening of social status. Try it and be honest with yourself.

If you buy a pair of branded shoes, you could argue that you bought it because you know it’s a good brand that delivers quality products. However, and most often, it also includes some sort of bias towards social status.

But is not life very much driven by social status? Humans are animals, and we live to spread the best possible genes. To spread great genes, you need a good partner. Would you, as an animal, engage with one who looked lousy, or would you go with the one who had high social status? Social status is not always the answer, but it’s a proxy for good genes.

And that’s where I’m perplexed. Should one ignore social status, or should one accept it and play the game? If one ignores it, isn’t that also part of the “social status game,” telling everyone else that you’re so confident that you already have good genes that you don’t need to show off material things? Personally, I rarely use branded clothes. I most often wear sandals and a plain t-shirt. I own one pair of running shoes, and that’s it.

We humans like to fit in. Wearing Nike allows us to be part of an elite group and that supposedly feels nice. I am perplexed.

What does the future hold for RunRepeat.com?

Just recently we launched a few new verticals: hiking footwear, training shoes, sneakers, basketball shoes, and football boots. We have more than enough work to grind through these categories. And to be the best on the internet, we have to be very thorough. For that reason, we will most probably not expand to other verticals any time soon.

What we will do is to keep the focus on helping people find the right running shoes or other sports shoes at the right price. Ten years ago, people asked for help to buy the right sports shoes, and they wanted the best price. Nothing has changed, and nothing will change, most probably. In 10 years, you will still want the best sports shoe, and you will still want to pay less. Yes, the platform or universe might evolve or change, but the concept will most likely be the same.

Learn more about RunRepeat.com at their website.

About Joseph Arellano

Joseph Arellano wrote music reviews in college for the campus newspaper and FM radio station. In recent years he has written book reviews for several publications including San Francisco Book Review, Sacramento Book Review, Portland Book Review and the Tulsa Book Review. He also maintains the Joseph's Reviews blog.For Blogcritics, Joseph writes articles about music, books, TV programs, running and walking shoes, and athletic gear. He believes that most problems can be solved through the purchase of a new pair of running shoes.

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