Best Running Store 2016 | Runner's Den | Goods & Services | Phoenix

Sure, running can be a low-maintenance sport, but any real enthusiast knows a good pair of shoes makes all the difference, and for that, you'll want to jog on over to Runner's Den. Since 1978, this north Phoenix boutique has been the go-to place for runners, racers, and athletes of all types who know you can't do much without the right equipment. The shop's knowledgeable staff will happily help you find the perfect pair of shoes for any type of training, plus all the additional swag you need to get yourself from point A to point B. From training essentials like hydration belts and the newest Garmin watch to race-day needs like gels, sweat-wicking shirts, and the perfect socks, Runner's Den has what you knew you needed and some stuff you probably didn't. Plus, the shop's a hub for the local running community, offering group runs, training groups, injury clinics, and even discounts for coaches.

Someone stole the front wheel off our Down Hill hardtail. So, it sat in the garage for a couple of years. By the time we got around to getting that wheel replaced, our poor old (new) bicycle needed a full service before it was going to be street-ready again. We took it straight to the Slippery Pig, a place we knew was home to expert riders and obsessively tidy mechanics that get all turned on by bikes. It's where we bought our last two bikes, and we remember how the salespeople there were more interested in fitting us with the right bike than they were with selling us more than we needed. Because these guys don't sell anything they wouldn't ride themselves, we knew we'd be getting top-of-the-line stuff: road, hybrid, fixie, mountain bikes, street bikes, racers, and bikes for kids, too. We knew we could always bring our bike back to be lovingly serviced by the same caring hands that sold it to us. With more than 15 years of matching bikes with riders both novice and expert, the guys at Slippery Pig get our vote.

People love their bikes in Tempe, and the Bike Saviours Co-op is a great example of this. Located across Roosevelt Street from Boulders on Broadway in Tempe, Bike Saviours is a public, nonprofit, volunteer-run bicycle education center available to teach cyclists and the community bike repair, maintenance, and safety. Backed with the tagline "We Save Your Bike," your confidence in these people should be soaring. The co-op offers services like Fix-Your-Bike, Build-a-Bike, volunteer training, and a Women's Workshop, and provides donated parts and tools, an array of repair manuals, periodicals, books, videos, and Park brand truing stands at 10 workstations. Use of the Bike Saviours shop will cost $4 an hour, capped at $12 a day, with options to work or trade for shop time as well. Bike Saviours also hosts special events, including Bike Parts Art Nights.

It must be disonancia cognitiva. Right around the time we quietly landed on our theme for this year's Best of Phoenix issue — Border Town — we began to notice that Changing Hands Bookstore was sponsoring Spanish-language events, including a story hour for kids. That's just how it seems to go with Changing Hands — it's like the staff can read our minds and know what we want, like a second indie bookstore in Phoenix, with a wonderful bar with killer coffee, a great wine and beer selection and good snacks, and expanded programming, including workshops. They even knew that in the middle of all the changes with the arrival of the Phoenix store, we didn't want a single thing about the Tempe location to change — and it hasn't, not to our eyes, anyway.

No matter what language you say it in, Changing Hands remains our city's bespectacled, nerdy-in-a-hip-way, always-generous BFF. Let's keep it that way. Buy local.

This tiny outpost on Mill Avenue is easy to miss, but it's also well worth a visit for any bibliophile. Just make sure you set aside a nice chunk of time, since it's all too easy to get lost among the store's somewhat messy stacks of previously loved reads. Old Town's appearance can be overwhelming, but perseverance pays off as you can find everything from affordable paperback copies of classics you've been meaning to revisit to hardback vintage editions that will leave the avid reader in your life swooning. The shop's hours are flexible — as in, you may find the owners have "gone reading" even during posted business hours — but that, along with the resident bookstore cat, only adds to the small-town charm of this book lover's paradise.

Some people have the Super Bowl. Others have Coachella. But for the literary junkies of the Southwest, there's the VNSA Book Sale. Short for Volunteer Nonprofit Service Association, the annual VNSA Book Sale is a treasure trove of gently used paperbacks, rare and unusual hardcovers, and the occasional audio-visual item, all organized neatly inside a warehouse at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. With only two days to shop and roughly a half-million books up for grabs, the February event sees its fair share of customers who not only camp out in line but carry their own suitcases for shopping. Better mark your calendar and set your alarm, because the book lovers who attend this sale mean business.

With comic book heroes headlining so many summer blockbusters, the market for superhero stories has never been bigger. But one of the best things about Ash Avenue Comics & Books in Tempe is that while the staff stocks and totally gets down on whatever Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and Deadpool are up to, their knowledge extends to a wide variety of comics outside of the Big Two publishers, from creator-owned independent books and science fiction to horror and autobiographical alt-comics. Community-minded, Ash Avenue also hosts readings like the Untidy Secrets storytelling series and monthly book-club readings, where books like Neil Gaiman's Sandman can be digested and discussed.

Mesa has blossomed into an arts destination these past few years, with music festivals and new venues popping up to complement the city's thriving art scene. And then there's Asylum Records, the best record store in the Valley. The store has a surprisingly well-stocked collection of classic rock records, and its metal collection is pretty terrific, too. Browse through the funk and soul records and you'll find the classics, from Funkadelic to Etta James. If the selection isn't enough for you, this is also the only record store in the Valley we know of that has a store cat welcoming visitors and bugging the friendly ones for head scratches.

Need that one Mötorhead live CD to complete your collection? Most likely, you can find it at Zia Records. There really isn't a better place to buy new and used CDs in town. Zia's selection is just that much bigger — there really is no competition or comparison. If you are looking for a hard-to-find CD, Zia is your best bet (unless, of course, you are hip to this little thing called the internet, which is probably just a flash in the pan, anyway). If the price is important to you, the bang for the buck at Zia is usually pretty great for the new and used CDs you must have before the medium completely goes away for good. Buy, sell, and trade CDs with the best in town at Zia.

Bizarre Guitar founder Bob Turner passed away last year, but it would seem his legacy is in good hands, as the shop has continued on, maintaining his high standards. Famously featured in a Miller Beer advertisement that ran during Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, Bizarre Guitar doesn't have that impersonal, warehouse-like feel that makes other places so nightmarish. Instead, the staff is attentive and quick to answer questions about the new and vintage guitars, amplifiers, pedals, and drums. The staff values connection, whether you're picking up a starter Squire or a deluxe Gibson ES 335; the company's Facebook page routinely features happy customers posing with their recent purchases, all smiling faces and gleaming six-strings.

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