Marketing

Why sales of running shoes are sprinting

More than half of purchasers aren’t using them for exercise, per Circana.
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Unless they’re catching a bus or being chased by a bear, most people who buy running shoes don’t ever, you know, run in them.

That’s according to new research from Circana, which found that only 43% of consumers who purchased running footwear used them for exercise of any sort. One in three (33%) reported using them for “casual or everyday use,” and another 7% for work.

Whether or not they’re crossing finish lines, though, Americans are buying more of them:

  • Running shoe sales increased 12% YoY in the 12 months that ended in April, totaling $1.7 billion, Circana found.
  • Over the past three years, running shoe sales have grown by $1.3 billion.

New Balance sheets: Modern Retail called 2023 “the year of the dad shoe,” citing the soaring sales and appeal of chunkier running-oriented brands like New Balance, Hoka, and Asics to old and young consumers alike.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal noted that Japanese mainstay Asics saw operating profit jump 53% in its most recent quarter, while revenue grew 14%.

“The comfort element has kind of become the fashion element,” Circana footwear analyst Beth Goldstein told Modern Retail in December. “It’s taking what you used to hope for when you put on a shoe but not be visible, and putting it on the outside of the shoe.”

It is, in other words, part of the broader shoe fashion paradox, when shoes that are comfortable but that have a clunky silhouette (see, if you can bear to look at them, Ugg, Crocs, and Birkenstock) become fashionable despite—or because of?—their goofball aesthetics.

“What is the deal with Hokas?” asked The Cut in April in an article where fashion editors test-drove several models and gave them glowing reviews. “They are one tiny step above nursing-home orthopedic shoes in terms of aesthetics, yet every influencer and stylish young person swears by them.”

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.