It all started with the name Runners Service Lab. In 1980, the doors of our very first store opened in Beveren. So as the first running specialty store in Belgium, we were well ahead of today’s running hype.
Small running and electronics store
How a leap into the unknown changed the global running world
Jempi Wilssens, a sub-topper in Belgian athletics and electronic engineer by training, is the brains behind Runners’ lab. In 1980, he began selling running shoes and accessories in Beveren-Waas. As an electronics engineer, he combined that with electronics equipment. This combination proved to be a golden move.
As an athlete, Jempi was often held back by injuries. Driven by a desire to prevent injury to other athletes, Jempi boxed together a photocopier so he could determine foot types. He had runners running on a treadmill and used cameras to capture the athletes’ running patterns on camera. Not much later, he developed the first footscan® system that allowed him to image dynamic pressure points. That system was subsequently further professionalized and patented and is now used by various parties internationally as a measurement tool.
Several years and studies later, the first shoemaking equipment was purchased to make shoe adjustments and place corrective pieces in shoes, which was really necessary at that time in the absence of, for example, antipronation shoes. Not only athletes got to know us, but hospitals and universities from all over the world came knocking on our door.
So the starting shot of analyses and shoe adjustments was made from the beginning, and these were further developed over the years. That leads us to the technologies and analysis we can offer today in our stores and the Prolab.
The transfer from father to son
From timid athlete to confident businessman
In 2009, Jempi passed the baton to his then 28-year-old son Koen, who can also write a fine top sports story. Ever since he was three years old, he helped out in the store – starting as an innocent little helper, later as a consultant, now as the current CEO.
He clearly took the competitive nature from his elite sports career into his professional life. This undoubtedly helped lead to the success Runners’ lab enjoys today.
Moving to Zwijndrecht
The showpiece of Runners’ lab
Over the years, the popularity of running grew, and an entire shoe revolution took place. This trend cried out for an expansion of our offerings, and thus for larger premises. In 2011, the small store in Beveren moved to nearby Zwijndrecht.
Today, this store is the main branch of Runners’ lab, where you can also find the Prolab and our own workshop.
Runners’ lab Experience Center
A unique test center in the Antwerp store
In 2021, we opened the fifth store in our lineup, adding a unique concept: the test center. A large wall is filled with lots of test shoes that you can try out for yourself. Pick a pair and stretch your legs for a run in the beautiful Antwerp Rivierenhof, located right next to our store.
With this Runners’ lab Experience Center, we are going that extra mile to provide you with a unique running experience.