Despite what you may think, the market for running shoes is at a stand still. After a few years of major success, brands are seeing a flatline across their running shoe sales even with new models that promise higher quality and performance. But why? Matt Powell, sneaker guru for Forbes decided to delve into this problem and get to the root.
First off, this isn't a new trend. Back in 2006/07, the industry ran into a similar problem when many of their "top items" plateaued, leading to weak sale margins for roughly 18 months. The industry was able to break that cycle by introducing new technologies such as knitted footwear, that helped propel sales forward once again. We're sure that brands are working diligently to innovate, but they might not have to bank of this because the number of people running for fitness continues to rise year after year.
But what about those people who bought running shoes strictly for fashion reasons? At the end of the day, when people are in the market for a new running shoe, style trumps performance 9 times out of 10. Over the last few years, running shoes have crossed over into the daily wear category, thus increasing the consumer base. Nowadays, Powell believes the resurgence in basketball shoes as a fashion trend is contributing to the fall off, along with the growth of chukka lifestyle shoes for "casual running", which aren't carried in major retailers because they lack in performance aspects.
So are the juggernauts like Nike and adidas feeling the sales woe as well? According to Powell, now more then ever, people are experimenting with smaller known brands that have not yet brake into the mainstream. With brands like APL, Alta, and Skora doing interesting things with their running lines, avid runners are drawn to these less known models as they look to experiment with shoes out of their comfort zone.
Powell's conclusion is simple. All things are cyclical. Although the running shoe market might not be as strong as it once was, history tends to repeat itself which means sales will ultimately rebound. This drop off gives brands a major opportunity to think outside the box and push themselves harder then ever to come up the next big thing in running technology. It might have been a tough year, but when you examine things from every angle, it could be just what the industry needs to propel it to new heights.