Running Industry Trends

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Running Industry Trends (General)

Some trends around clothing and shoes in the running industry in the United States include the introduction of eco-friendly shoes, newly manufactured products for safety, and customized running gear for a personalized experience.

#1. Running Brands are Currently Manufacturing 'Eco-friendly' Shoes

  • The impact that running brands are leaving on the environment is becoming a popular topic. Many companies in the running industry have changed their approach to sustainability; rather than the usual improved production and disposal processes, brands are introducing footwear that is eco-friendly to the market.
  • According to APLF, the key trend that is currently dominating discussions among running brands is the use of recycled materials in the manufacturing process. Companies are making adjustments in the production of footwear and consider how to sell and reuse waste rather than discarding.
  • According to Tim Brown, the co-founder of Allbirds, more than 20 billion pairs of athletic shoes are manufactured every year, which results in the emission of over 700 million metric tons of CO2. As such, changing the ways of manufacturing running shoes could help improve the state of the environment.
  • In the running industry, the synthetic rubber and plastics used to manufacture footwear are made of petroleum, which causes pollution upon disposal. Because of this, many running brands are embracing sustainable sourcing and recycling to improve their ecological footprint.
  • Adidas is at the forefront of embracing sustainable manufacturing. The brand’s UtlraBOOST Parley and UltraBOOST X running shoes are created using 95% Parley Ocean Plastic Prieknit upper, a knit fabric made from recycled fibers sourced from fishing nets and marine plastic debris.
  • Apart from being functioning and stylish, every pair of UltraBOOST shoes saves 11 plastic bottles from being disposed of in the oceans.
  • Cotopaxi, an upcoming running brand, also uses remnant materials from its products to create day bags and backpacks. The company also allocates 2% of its revenue to help address poverty.

#2. Safety Products

  • More running brands are introducing gears that feature reflective properties to enhance safety for consumers. Since many athletes are currently engaging in late-night runs or during winter when darkness descends, brands have recently begun introducing gears and accessories that enhance safety.
  • Nike, for instance, is currently manufacturing reflective, winter running jackets that are made of weather-resistant fabric to protect runners from cold and enable them to stand out from the crowd. The company considered this trend because of the rising need for runners to continue with their routine even during the period when there is no daylight.
  • To enhance the safety of runners, 2XU Reflect offers innovative aluminum-coated glass beads. They also have Safety Skin Reflective Skin Spread, applied directly to the skin, making it a low cost and portable option for runners.
  • Body Glide, just like Safety Skin, enables runners to swipe reflective stripes onto their skin. When headlights hit the coating, the wears light up with a strong glow for visibility.

#3. Customized Running Gear

  • Personalized shoes is one of the current biggest trends in the running industry, thanks to the new technologies. Well-capitalized global brands such as Nike, Adidas, Puma, Under Armour, and Asics are currently investing in 3-D printing technology, which allows for rapid prototyping and production of signature pieces for athletes.
  • Through 3-D printing, brands are increasingly producing truly personalized shoes, particularly for the midsole.
  • Brooks Running, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, is currently making high-tech running shoes using signature technologies such as Guide Rails, the DNA Midsole, and 3-D printed engineered structures. Recently, the company began offering personalized performance shoes in the US by using the customers’ biomechanics.
  • This trend is purposely aimed at enhancing runners’ comfort and flexibility in their wears while also personalizing the experience of the user.

Research Strategy:

In order to identify some current trends around clothing and shoes in the running industry in the US, we began by researching credible market research reports such as Market and Market Research, PR Newswire, Globe Newswire, and other similar sites addressing machine tools and industry trends. We found two reports from the APLF and Triathlete website that listed top trends in the current running industry in the US. We selected three trends that relate to clothing and shoes. The first trend was mentioned multiple times in the reports found, while the second and third trends have several case studies highlighting the significant considerations by different brands. We further included different case studies that helped in illustrating individual trends in the context of the US industry.

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Running Industry Trends (Marketing)

In the running industry, current marketing trends through which brands are trying to connect with consumers include wearable tech and smart clothing with advanced technology, ethical consumption and sustainable products, following the female consumer, and educating consumers in the retail space.



  • Companies are increasingly incorporating advanced technology into their wearable accessories products, such as self-lacing shoes and intelligent footwear soles.
  • For example, Nike introduced the HyperAdapt, a self-lacing smart shoe that uses advanced technology to adjust to the wearer's foot in real time. In its marketing material, Nike states: "Welcome to the future of footwear."
  • At a recent ISPO event, DIGITSOLE introduced "the first intelligent multisport insoles for running and cycling." To be released to consumers in September 2019, marketing material from the company claims that the data these insoles collect "help[s] you improve your performance, better manage your fatigue and detect the risk of injury!"
  • An additional example comes from Under Armour, which has recently introduced a clothing line that uses advanced fabric to "turn athletes’ body heat into energy that resupplies their muscles."
  • One potential factor in driving this trend is an alliance between technology advances in electronics and textiles with the needs of high-performance athletes.


  • As one expert explains, sports marketing is "increasingly about giving customers the feeling that they are doing something good."
  • Sustainable products include items such as "outdoor jackets or sports shoes made from recycled plastic."
  • For example, Adidas recently introduced the FutureCraft Loop, which is "the first 100-percent recyclable running shoe."
  • Another example of this trend comes from Reebok, which "launched a buy-one-give-one program" in tandem with the current back-to-school season. This program will provide as many as 5,000 pairs of shoes to low-income-school-children.
  • This trend appears to be following overall increases in companies' attention to sustainability issues and the ethics of over-consumption.



  • According to an analysis by SGB Media, successful retail outlets are capitalizing on the opportunity for stores to become community spaces where runners can both purchase products and receive authoritative information. For example, one industry expert suggests placing "trainers or specialists on staff in a store" to provide tips on running form and efficiency.
  • An analysis from Sports Insight argues that with the turn to education in retail, brands should "ensure that products have sufficient information on their packaging" and also consider incorporating in-store training for consumers.
  • One factor that appears to be driving this trend is the sheer amount of information that consumers are now exposed to online and in social media.


  • According to a 2017 survey from Runner's USA, the two top motivations to start running are "for exercise" and "weight concerns."
  • According to some experts, increases in the incidence of running injuries may be driving some individuals over 45-years-old out of the sport.
  • According to a 2019 market forecast from IBISWorld, increases in athletic shoe sales are likely to be driven by growth in disposable income and concern for overall health.
  • A 2019 forecast from Mordor Intelligence notes that growth drivers for the Running Apparel industry include: advances in smart technology, eco-friendly products, and "massive growth in the participation of women."


To determine current marketing trends in the running industry, we searched for information from running industry associations, such as Running USA and ISPO, running and sport industry magazines, such as Runner's World, and marketing/advertising magazines such as Adweek. We were also able to gleam some additional insight from market industry reports, such as the report cited from IBISWorld, but the bulk of this information is only available through purchase of the full reports. We identified the four trends outlined in this brief by conducting a broad analysis of common elements contained in these sources. Once credibility of these trends was sufficiently established, we took a deeper dive into the data in order to flush out the findings with greater detail.

Did this report spark your curiosity?


From Part 02
  • "In the future, there are no laces.""
  • "‘Tis the (other) season for giving. As families head to the stores to stock up on BTS gear, brands and retailers are encouraging them to consider the less fortunate."
  • "The [heat] activation—which Under Armour created with Giant Spoon—runs today and tomorrow in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood and is inspired by Under Armour’s Rush Performance Lab, where the brand’s top athletes go to train and test the latest equipment."
  • "The beauty of running is that it’s a sport that can be selectively engaged in to meet others and create lasting bonds, to independently release stress, and to achieve personal goals."
  • "The cornerstone of Move Mountains is a series of short films of women who are pushing boundaries, including North Face athletes, alpinist Hilaree Nelson, climbing phenoms Ashima Shiraishi and Margo Hayes, and ultrarunner and activist Fernanda Maciel, narrated by fellow role models who admire them."
  • "In the long term, hardly any company can avoid the issue of sustainability and the associated responsibility."