In the U.S., running shoe sales within the run specialty channel were up in the low single-digits year-to-date through July, after several years of decline, according to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service. Lately, I’m asked if this shift means that running shoes are once again a growth story. My short answer is, no; there’s more to it. Let’s dig a little deeper to understand why I see this as being the case.

Within the run specialty channel, there are really two brands that stand out: Hoka One One and On Running. Both are showing strong growth, and since these brands are almost exclusively available in run specialty they are boosting those results. When we take Hoka One One and On Running out of the numbers, the industry is trending down in the low single-digits – in line with the trend over the last few years.

Parallels can be drawn to the FiveFingers phenomenon we saw peak in 2010, where one brands’ sales masked an otherwise weak and declining business. And, like FiveFingers, we can expect that sometime soon both Hoka One One and On Running will expand their distribution to continue their strong growth. If properly managed, I believe the future for both brands is very bright.

Looking at the broader run specialty market, it’s a mixed bag in terms of performance among the top 10 brands. Brooks holds the number one spot in terms of market share in specialty running footwear, though its sales were down year-to-date through July. New Balance, ranked second, picked up some of that business and is trending up nicely. Hoka One One held the number three spot and its sales grew year-to-date. The next three brands based on market share—Saucony, ASICS, and Nike—all experienced sales declines. On Running ranked number seven in share—followed by Mizuno and Altra—all of whom posted increases, while Adidas sales declined.

Another brand that the market should keep an eye on is Oofos. They are trending nicely in run specialty, and in my opinion could be the next big comfort brand.

Run specialty represents less than 15% of the U.S. performance running shoe business. When we look at performance running shoe sales trends within the broader commercial market*, we see an overall decline in the mid-singles. Market share leader Nike was down about 10% through July, despite new technology releases. Apparel sales within run specialty are another indicator that the channel’s performance is soft, with sales down in the mid singles.

We are firmly in an athleisure lifestyle cycle. Despite the recent results for the run specialty channel, there is no sign that the performance category is making a comeback any time soon; however, there is always room for innovative brands in this space to shine.

Source: The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service/ Dollar Sales/ January-July 2019
*Channels include Athletic Specialty/Sporting Goods, Premium and Mid-Tier Department Stores, and Shoe Chains.