After multiple major switches in college, this marathoner decided to do work that she loved.
Stephanie Hoth, CPed, admits it took her a while to find her
Hoth manages the New Balance concept store on Clayton Road in St. Louis,
“Becoming a board-certified pedorthist was a lifelong dream —
no, not really,” she said with a big grin.
Hoth quickly added: “I love what I do. I love making people’s
feet feel better.”
Even so, Hoth started out studying electrical engineering at St. Louis
University. She switched to the University of Missouri-St. Louis and earned a
bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice. She also briefly
served in the Air Force.
Stephanie Hoth enjoys fitting and being on the sales floor.
Images: Craig B, O&P Business News
Hoth was a full-time college student when she hired in as a fitting
specialist at the New Balance store in Creve Coeur, a St. Louis suburb. She
worked her way up to assistant manager.
Hoth was manager of the Lake St. Louis-New Balance store before moving
on to her current post. All three stores are owned by Washington, Mo.-based
Randy Brown, CPed. Brown operates Brown’s Enterprises, a shoe store and
catalog business in Washington plus a half dozen New Balance concept stores in
St. Louis, Kansas City and Branson.
“He’s an amazing man with an incredibly kind heart,” Hoth
said of her boss.
Hoth earned board certification earlier this year after completing
pre-certification courses at the Robert M. Palmer Institute of Biomechanics in
She said her store, like all of Brown’s stores, does a good job of
bridging the gap between medical and retail pedorthics. “Patients who
physicians refer to us can have serious foot problems. They can get their shoes
and orthotics from us. There really doesn’t have to be a divide between
retail and medical pedorthics.”
Hoth said her mentors taught her that pedorthics is about fitting shoes,
not just selling shoes. “As a pedorthist, I really like being able to
develop relationships with my customers and patients. They are not just people
coming in getting a pair of shoes and leaving. Customer service is what we
pride ourselves on.”
But Hoth is hard pressed to come up with a customer profile. “I see
people who run marathons and half marathons. I see stay-at-home moms who want
comfortable shoes for running a million errands. I also see people who just
want to walk pain-free.”
Hoth is a marathoner herself. Her feet pound the pavement in New Balance
footwear, of course. “I’ve been a runner for most of my life. Our
customers who are runners like being able to talk to someone who is also an
experienced runner and who can relate to them.”
On the other hand, Hoth said most of her patients are middle-aged and
older. They suffer a variety of ailments, many of them related to diabetes.
Often, diabetes patients do not know that footwear can help stave off
amputation, she said.
“Sometimes, they are confused about their diagnosis and I want them
to have a thorough understanding about what’s going on and how we are
going to deal with it. “I make it known to them that their diabetes puts
them at a much greater risk for foot ailments. I tell them that hopefully, we
can avoid that if we take all the right precautions.”
Hoth said her running customers can relate to her because she is also a marathoner.
Those precautions include proper footwear working in tandem with proper
orthoses. Hoth dispenses over-the-counter orthoses which she can modify in a
small in-store lab.
She can also accommodate patients who need custom orthoses. She casts
them on the premises and sends the casts to the New Step Orthotics lab in
nearby Glen Carbon, Ill.
More on the floor
Hoth sees patients by appointments in a private fitting room next to her
office. But she is happy to help her staff when they get swamped with
“How often I am on the sales floor depends on how many appointments
I have. You can’t manage by sitting in the office. You manage by being out
on the sales floor with your staff.”
She added, “The best part of my day is meeting new people and
helping their feet feel better. I enjoy my job as store manager. But I love the
Yet she confesses that waiting on customers sometimes requires patience
and perseverance aplenty. Occasionally, Hoth said, customers will come in, get
measured and fitted, and then leave, intent on buying shoes online in the size
and style then need.
“I tell them, ‘Good, you can order them from us at
www.brownscatalog.com,’” she said. “I always keep a smile on my
Hoth remembered another balky customer. “He said, ‘Let’s
be honest, Stephanie. Can I get this kind of shoe at Wal-Mart?’”
Hoth smiled and replied, “‘Heck, no.’”
More commonly, she encounters customers who come in wearing shoes
obviously too small for their feet, yet want that size shoe.
“How do I get them in the right size?” Hoth asked, grinning
again. “I’m a persuasive son-of-a-gun.”
Her persuader is a shiny red, sliver and gray Brannock device, specially
made for fitting New Balance footwear. “I show them that they can’t
argue with the Brannock.”
When she returns from the stock room with the shoes, she turns the boxes
around so the customer cannot see the sizes marked on them.
“If I measure them an eight and try an eight on them and they ask
‘Is that a six?’ I dodge the question and ask, ‘How does it
feel?’ There is no way that an eight won’t feel better on their
When the customer acknowledges that the shoes feel good, Hoth reveals
the size. She said it is mostly women who resist going to a larger size.
“Women just don’t want to have bigger feet. But I ask them
‘Who’s looking at your feet anyway?’”