Running shoe industry training and consulting service

Shifting dynamics of the running shoe industry

There is little doubt that the running shoe industry is experiencing a period of rapid evolution, change and challenge. For manufacturers, distributors and retailers things have just become a whole lot more complex. The perfect storm of the minimalism and barefoot trend combined with an increasingly knowledgeable consumer sourcing expert opinion, research and product online makes for an interesting shift in the dynamic between all industry players.

Is it all about extreme minimalist and barefoot shoes?

If you only read the mainstream newspapers you’d think that every second pair of running shoes being sold today would be a thinly cushioned foot-glove. Luckily reality is very different and increasingly large numbers of running consumers are dipping their toes into the natural running trend by starting out in a pair of lightweight trainers. This is the happy middle ground for most runners.

This lightweight trainer category is growing fast and represents a lower risk proposition for most runners that delivers many benefits associated with minimalist running. We see this category continuing to grow.

Zero drop, zero cushion is not the default destination. 8 – 4mm shoes of varying profiles and cushion are a likely end-point for many runners.

The role of technology and categorisation of runners under threat

Those of us who embraced running as teenagers in the 1980s and 90s remember the birth of an era very much focused around the technology in shoe being the major selling point. Shoes were going to protect, support, control and immobilize us with a variety of funky cushioning and support systems.

Shoe companies and distributors employed (and still do) technology representatives whose job it was to explain these innovations to retailers, who in turn, did their best to sell it to the consumer. It was an easy gig, backed as they were with massive marketing campaigns and endorsement deals, it was pretty hard for consumers to find any dissenting opinion.

With every respected running expert now sharing their ideas online, this situation has forever changed. One striking example has been the gradual erosion of the idea that the shape of a runner’s foot would influence their need or otherwise of technology to prevent pronation. Source:

Runners now looking for shoes that suit their purpose

Runners are increasingly aware of just how important running technique (form) is to avoiding injury and improving performance. Even recreational runners are asking the question: what can I do in this shoe rather than what the shoe can do for me. Form before footwear is becoming the mantra as runners recognise that there is only so much a shoe can do to help.

Rather than being threatened by this, retailers should seize the opportunity to increase their knowledge and potentially their sales. Multiple shoe purchases of different makes and models will become the norm.

Shoe fit by running technique

In specialty running stores customers will expect good advice on which shoes they should buy based on how they run today and where they want to go tomorrow. Shoes that facilitate, not force change are what’s needed to help the runner improve, but not break them in the process.

While the industry and many experts have been focused on shoes and the shape of runners’ feet, the recent science and our practical coaching experience suggest many running injuries (even those to the foot and lower leg) have their origin in poor alignment, stability and control of the thigh in relation to the hip joint. Top down, not bottom up is the future.

Comments are closed.