Ruttenberg grew up in South Africa, working in a men's clothing company during college. After graduating, he began importing Levi's jeans for resale to stores. He eventually expanded to traveling the world to buy clothing for resale and opened his own chain of menswear stores in South Africa, making him one of the country's richest entrepreneurs.
In 1976 he brought his family to the United States and, in 1977, opened his first store in Century Plaza. The name of this store has been reported as both Hang Ten Sports World (Goodman) and Two Feet Ahead (Wikipedia).
After his rent increased in 1986, Ruttenberg came up with the concept of opening a large, freestanding store. The result was the first Just For Feet store, which opened on the perimeter of the Riverchase Galleria in 1988. Just For Feet went public in 1994 and went on to become the second largest athletic footwear retailer in the world in the 1990s. In 1999, however, the company faced large scale criticism for an ad it ran during the Super Bowl. In August of that year, Ruttenberg stepped down as CEO. The company went on to be plagued by federal fraud investigations and shareholder lawsuits. Although other Just For Feet executives, including Ruttenberg's son, Don-Allen Ruttenberg, plead guilty to various charges, the senior Ruttenberg was never charged.
Ruttenberg was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2004. Despite two surgeries and several rounds of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, he died at home on December 23, 2005, in the company of family. He is interred at Elmwood Cemetery.
Ruttenberg was a member of Temple Beth-El.
- International Directory of Company Histories. (2006). The Gale Group. Accessed January 16, 2007. 
- Lainson, Suzanne. (n.d.) "Big Box Executives." Sports News You Can Use issue 30.
- Goodman, Sherri C. (December 28, 2005). "Harold Ruttenberg dies at 63." The Birmingham News.
- Just For Feet. (January 16, 2007).  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16:09, January 16, 2007.