On December 5 at The Running Event, an industry-only trade show held in Austin, Sole Sports Running Zone was named as one of the top four running specialty store in the country in the 2013 Running Store of the Year competition.

Each year, Competitor magazine and Running Insight accept public nominations to determine the 50 Best Running Stores in America® of over 1,000 stores in operation throughout the country. Following the nomination round, each of the 50 stores are put through an evaluation process to determine which stores are worthy of top awards. Only four running specialty stores in the country receive top honors, and the overall winner is announced at The Running Event.

The three other finalists included Naperville Running Company in Illinois; Red Coyote Running and Fitness in Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Rush Running Company in Bentonville, Ark. Naperville Running Company was awarded 2013 Running Store of the Year, the second time the company has won.

Sole Sports passed the tests of secret shoppers, vendor credit ratings and its commitment and involvement in community events, sponsorship opportunities and local partnerships. Of over 1,000 running specialty stores in the nation, the top four recognition is a great honor to Co-owners Lance Muzslay and Karen Seymour.

“We are very honored and humbled that Sole Sports has won this award. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our local running community and an outstanding team that we are grateful to call our ‘Sole family,’” explained Muzslay.

Muzslay and Seymour own three Sole Sports locations. The Tempe location was first to open its doors in July 2007, followed by a store in Scottsdale in July 2010, and most recently a store in Glendale in November 2011.

Known for its high standards in customer service and product knowledge, Sole Sports employees focus on creating the most inviting and educational setting for all runners and walkers–those training for their first 5k, avid marathoners and everyone in between. All employees are thoroughly trained on how to fit customers for the proper shoe through a video gait analysis, and offer guidance and advice to customers’ product questions and training needs–services unparalleled to those of a non-specialty store.

In addition to running shoe, gear and apparel knowledge, each of the Sole Sports locations offers three group runs per week. Free to the public, runners have a safe and inviting meeting place to get to know and run with others. Sole Sports takes advantage of vendor partnerships to provide fun run events throughout the year, also open to the public, including this year’s Legacy of the Brooks Nightlife Runners, a night run down the Scottsdale Greenbelt with glow-in-the-dark Frisbee golf along the way; last year’s Pure Holiday Run and Party, featuring a double-decker English tour bus and Brooks giveaways; and Sole to Sole, a run from the Scottsdale location to the Tempe location with relay and beach cruiser options.

A member of Local First AZ, Sole Sports participates in Small Business Saturday and partners with many local businesses for group run events, including O.H.S.O. Eatery + nanoBrewery, The Cove Trattoria, Flanny’s Bar & Grill and Zipps Sports Grill.

Sole Sports provides regular clinics at all three locations, partnering with local trainers and physical therapists. They also sponsor a myriad of Valley-wide races, including the Women’s Running Series, Hot Chocolate 15k/5k and the PF Changs Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, among many other small race and charitable event partnerships.

In an effort to create a community relationship between running groups, gyms, high schools, military members, trainers and physical therapists around the Valley, Sole Sports offers many discounts for various affiliations and referrals as well as group shopping days.

Store hours at all three locations are 10 a.m. 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

To learn more about Sole Sports Running Zone visit SoleSportsRunning.com or Facebook.com/SoleSports.

To learn more about the 50 Best Running Stores in America® and the top four awards, visit Running.Competitor.com.