We all know about the running shoe boom. More people are running, trying to stay healthy while also remaining socially distant. Sales of running shoes are up compared to a year ago. I’m firmly convinced we’ll see running shoes return as streetwear, something we have not seen in over eight years.

But there is a related trend that no one is talking about that has incremental sales potential: walking for fitness.

Anecdotally the lanes and trails near my house have more people using them than ever before. But most of those on the trails are walking, not running.

A survey done by the CivicScience Trend Tracker indicates that 10% of the U.S. population intend to run more in 2021 than they did in 2020. But a whopping 48% said they would walk/hike more in 2021.

In Q4’20, sales of walking footwear grew in the low single digits while total athletic shoes sales declined in the low single digits*. During this period, sales of women’s walking shoes were nearly double men’s sales.

The industry’s approach to walking has been to sell a person who wants to walk for fitness a pair of running shoes. After all, the anatomical motion of both is similar. In fact, 12% of consumers who bought running shoes for exercise said they intended to use them for walking.

But what if a smart brand and some smart retailers got behind the idea to build and market a great walking shoe? To me this is an opportunity to grab some additional sales from a new consumer trend. Perhaps an entirely new category emerges.

Brands and retailers who claim to be committed to the women’s business could further cement those relationships with a credible walking shoe.

Sometimes, opportunities sneak up on us. Walking just might be one of them.


*The NPD Group, Retail Tracking Service