Running Insight 8.15.19

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AUGUST 15, 2019


North Carolina has become one of the centers of the running business in America.


Major Shoe Brands Are Hitting the Trails ... Page 12 Hoka One One Takes Flight ... Page 18 The Running Event Registration Is Now Open ... Page 22 Photo: Recover Brands


Running’s ‘other’ U.S epicenter is home to some of the key players in the business. / By Daniel P. Smith


Speedway, effectively NASCAR’s version of Class A ball. When the crow f lies two miles on Hickory’s southern edge, she passes a pair of familiar names in the running industry: Feetures, one of the run specialty channel’s most popular sock brands, and OS1st, a rising compression brand. “And until Implus bought Balega, its U.S. headquarters wasn’t but 500 yards away from ours,” OS1st president Josh Higgins says. So as unassuming as Hickory, NC, might seem, the town packs some punch. It also perfectly characterizes North Carolina’s evolving ties to the running specialty world.

RUNNING INSIGHT ® is a registered trademark of Diversified Communications. © 2019 all rights reserved. Running Insight is published twice each month, is edited for owners and top executives at running specialty stores and available only via email.The opinions by authors and contributors to Running Insight are not necessarily those of the editors or publishers. Articles appearing in Running Insight may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the publisher. Divesified Communications, 121 Free St, Portland, ME 04101; (207) 842-5500.


While Portland, OR, home to athletic behemoths Nike and Adidas, and Boston, which houses the likes of New Balance, Saucony and Reebok, grab much of the fanfare, don’t sleep on North Carolina as one of the nation’s key run specialty epicenters. A Rich Environment

In addition to Hickory’s standouts, North Carolina also hosts prominent channel players like Implus, which oversees brands such as Balega, TriggerPoint and FuelBelt as well as Farm to Feet, Lock Laces, CEP’s U.S. headquarters and Thorlo, the “OG” performance sock company. There are


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On the cover: Recover Brands

n the foothills of North Carolina, the western part of the Atlantic state that is (quite literally) pointing westward to rest of the U.S. mainland, sits a charming, 149-year-old town with a noble motto: “Life. Well Crafted.” A rather unassuming enclave of some 40,000 residents, nothing about Hickory, NC, is particularly flashy. Union Square, the town’s central business district, features places like the Olde Hickory Tap Room, Taste Full Beans and the Crescent Moon Café. The city hosts a Class A baseball team with a Class A baseball team name – the Crawdads – as well as Hickory Motor


The State of Running (continued)

Hugh Gaither (center) began his career in the sewing business more than 40 years ago before launching Feetures in 2002. He is now joined by his sons, John (left) and Joe (right). Hickory-based OS1st features three generations in the textile business with (left to right) Dave Higgins, Josh Higgins and David Higgins.


also intriguing niche players like Charlotte-based operations Rockin’ Green, a laundry detergent brand, and Recover Brands, a company that makes, among other apparel products, race T-shirts out of discarded water bottles and cotton. Beyond running brands, a few prominent business-to-business (B2B) standouts also call North Carolina home, including Unifi, one of the world’s biggest yarn suppliers and an innovative force that develops performance apparel alongside major run specialty players, and Hickory Brands, one of the globe’s largest shoelace manufacturers and a seasoned partner to mainstream players like New Balance. “There are a few folks who play an active role on the B2B side and the finished products you see at running stores,” points out Feetures VP–marketing Joe Gaither. It shouldn’t be terribly surprising given North Carolina’s appealing business environment – the Tar Heel State recently ranked 12th in the Tax Foundation’s 2019 rankings of state business tax climates – and, above all, its deep roots in the textile business. At one time, North Carolina housed many of the nation’s largest hosiery mills. As production moved offshore, some mills closed; others, however, reinvented themselves, upping their technology to produce technical textiles, explains Bert Pictor, executive VP and general manager for independent retail at Implus. What tech is to Silicon Valley, textiles remain to North Carolina, which also houses the Wilson College of Textiles at NC State University, the world’s top-ranked textiles institution.

“Even if the manufacturing has headed elsewhere, the infrastructure remains,” says Gaither, whose family has been involved in knitting for over a century. “There’s institutional knowledge here you can’t just get anywhere.” Adds OS1st’s Higgins, the former president of Hickory Brands whose father, David Higgins, once guided Thorlo: “We’ve all got textiles in our DNA.” Rather universally, this heavy concentration of like-minded businesses and run specialtyfocused operations is viewed as an undeniable positive. It attracts talent and promotes idea exchange. It inspires sound operations and challenges the imagination. “Healthy competition makes us all stretch a little,” Pictor says. Beyond the Brands

But North Carolina’s ascendant profile as a running hub runs deeper than its textile backgrounds, brand players and B2B partners. North Carolina boasts a robust running retail presence. Fleet Feet’s corporate headquarters sits in Carrboro, while three retail outfits – Bull City Running Co. in Durham and Charlottebased Run For Your Life and Charlotte Running Co. – recently captured Best Running Stores in America nods. Only five other states had at least three honorees on the annual list celebrating the nation’s premier running shops. With favorable running conditions for year-round running, a rapidly growing trail system, distinct terrain options and swelling population figures, particularly among the fitnessoriented Millennial set, running retailers have been able to tap © 2019 Diversified Communications


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The State of Running (continued)

Based in Durham, Implus has close to one million-square feet of warehousing distributing Balega, TriggerPoint, Sof Sole, Spenco, RockTape and other fitness brands.

into a growing consumer base. North Carolina’s running scene is vibrant, diverse and growing,” says Kim Chapman, who opened Durham’s Bull City Running Co. in 2008. And the state’s run shops have been able to leverage their close geographical ties to some notable channel players to fuel their respective operations. Helen Taylor, marketing director for Run For Your Life, which has three retail locations in Charlotte, says representatives from Feetures, OS1st and Implus’

various brands enter her doors regularly to host tech sessions for staff or partake in promotional events. “We enjoy rather regular interaction with these brands because they are so close to us,” Taylor says. “That creates friendships and a relationship that is more genuine than simply transactional.” Higgins, meanwhile, visits Fleet Feet’s corporate headquarters once every six weeks and pops into Charlotte area stores, in particular, about six times each year.

“A lot of us are connecting face-to-face often, discussing ideas and reflecting on ways to better the channel,” Higgins says. Chapman confesses she didn’t fully understand the value of these vendor relationships upon opening Bull City Running Co. 11 years ago. Today, however, she calls the regular opportunity to interact with brand leaders and exchange ideas “a wonderful asset.” While North Carolina might never carry the cachet of Portland or Boston, it’s role in the run

specialty landscape remains vibrant and growing. And with its various ties to the textile industry, established retail players and growing running populace, many see added opportunity for growth. To that point, OS1st is preparing to double its footprint in Hickory to 40,000-square feet while Feetures has partnered with a facility in High Point to knit its socks. “The runway’s certainly there for North Carolina to house more run specialty players,” Higgins says. “After all, there’s a lot to like here.” n

Alongside Bull City Running Co. and the Charlotte Running Co., Run For Your Life was one of three North Carolina-based running retailers to appear on the most recent Best Running Stores in America award list. Run For Your Life has three locations in Charlotte.


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The State of Running (continued)

AT HOME IN THE TAR HEEL STATE North Carolina companies run the gamut from large corporations to family-run businesses and innovative start-ups. Here’s a rundown on some of the best from The State of Running.



Balega’s Ultralight No Show sock is made in North Carolina. Balega is owned by Implus, which was founded in 1988 and employs 600.

Sof Sole full-length plantar fascia men’s insole. Sof Sole is one of Implus’ original brands that helped launch the company.


Elite Light Cushion No Show Tab sock. Based in North Carolina since 2002, the family-owned business employs 32.


CEP Compression Socks 3.0 provide medi true compression a more natural fitting toe box. CEP was founded 2007 in Germany and opened its U.S. HQ in NC in 2009.


Lock Laces elastic laces are designed to improve comfort and fit. It is based in Chapel Hill for the past six years and has a team of seven employees.


OS1st BR4-Bunion Relief Sock in black. The company has been in North Carolina for five years and has 20 employees.



© 2019 Diversified Communications

The State of Running (continued)



Experia Fierce made from Hydrophobic polyester. Thorlo was founded in 1953 and employs 250.


Recover Brands was founded in 2010 and specializes in manufacturing apparel and accessories out of 100 percent recycled materials, specifically postconsumer plastic and upcycled cotton.


Peak MaeTrX RedHeat – Warm Level made by Indera Mills Company, which is a fourth generation family-owned company in business for 105 years. Indera employs between 50-60 people depending on seasonality of its warehouse staff.


Women’s-specific CoolMeshll Tab available in multiple colors and leg lengths. Wrightenberry Mills makes Wrightsock and has been in NC since its inception in 1948. The company is third generation family owned and operated in Burlington, NC, and employs 50.


Salming Greyhound running shoe. Salming is a Swedish company that opened its North American headquarters is in Cary, NC, in 2014 and employs 15 locally.


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uran Duran, Bloom County, Max Headroom, Alf, I Want My MTV, Sting, Maniac, Alan orrisette, Cabbage Patch Kids, Dungeons and Dragons, Madonna, Growing Pains, Ba TheEMBRACE Future, Culture Club, Cheers, PacMan, Atari, Ghostbusters, Video Killed the Rad THE PRESSURE tar, Bob Ross, Roger Rabbit, BetaMax Movies, Who Shot JR, Sally Ride, Down And Ou n Beverly Hills, CNN, Rubik's Cube, The Brat Pack, Fraggle Rock, Whitney Houston eese's Pieces, Top Gun, Air Jordans, Live Aid, Flock Of Seagulls, Jane Fonda Workou uke and Laura, Cats, Moonlighting, K.I.T.T., My Little Pony, Macintosh, Tear Down Thi Wall, Purple Rain, Golden Girls, Thriller, Raiders of the Lost Ark, New Coke, Game Boy otloose, Knight Rider, Floppy Disks, Dynasty, Weird Al, VCRs, Dr. Ruth, The Jefferson asters of the Universe, The Big Chill, Duran Duran, Boom Boxes, Gremlins, Where’s T eef, Barney Miller, Cyndi Lauper, Cell Phones, The Goonies, McNuggets, Donkey Kon ette Davis Eyes, Police Academy, Baby Jessica, A-Ha, Smurfs, Trivial Pursuit, Hand THE CEP 80’S COMPRESSION SOCKS. crossINTRODUCING America, Gnarly, Microsoft Windows, DeLorean, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles $1.25 Gas, The BACK California Of The Jedi, THEN Emoticons, Pee-Wee Herman TOGrapes, THE Return FUTURE AND SOME. Adidas, Megatron, Care Bears, E.T., The Internet, Scrunchies, Bosom Buddies, Mill Vanilli, The Miracle On Ice, Cable TV, Pretty In Pink, Superbowl Shuffle, Walkman, ou’ve Got Mail, Bill And Ted, Like A Virgin, Compact Disks, The Mullet, Video Arcade -Man, Doogie Howser, Nightline, Margret Thatcher, Swatch Watches, Billie Jean, Je eans, The BeDazzler, 867-5309, Thirtysomething, Debbie Gibson, The Police, Ordinar lashdance, 21 Jump Street, Run DMC, Late Night With David Letterman, Square Pegs ag Me With A Spoon, Charles And Di, Bodacious, Nintendo, Red Dragon, Ronald Reag Wall Street, The Facts of Life, Slimer, The Huxtables, Motown’s 25th Anniver Les Miz uper Mario Brothers, Valley Girl, Cumputer Modems, The Dukes Of Hazzard, The Wal im And Tammy Faye, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Bloom County, The Sweathogs, Lee acocca, Dangermouse, Mets Win The World Series, Punky Brewster, Parachute Pants ee-Jays, Rock Me Amadeus, Goodbye, Farewell and Amen, Falcon Crest, Break Danc Epcot, Platoon, MacGyver, Vanessa WIlliams, Taxi, Bladerunner, We Are The World She-Hulk, The Wonder Years, Billy Idol, Splash, Inspector Gadget, Dirty Dancing, St sewhere, Must-See TV, Pictionary, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Hulk Hogan, Bo Kno Murder She Wrote, Rain Man, Totally Awesome, Pat Benetar, Walk Like An Egyption, Eighties stripes combined with advanced CEP compression. More oxygen to your muscles. Better energy, endurance, recovery. Embrace the Eighties. Embrace the pressure.


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Blazing New Trails Why running shoe brands are getting into hiking — and why retailers might follow. / By Daniel P. Smith


n Okemos, MI, not necessarily a topof-mind U.S. hiking destination, John Benedict and his crew at Playmakers have sold a lot of 3.5-pound hiking boots over the years. And Benedict, whose store picked up another Best Running Stores in America nod earlier this year, knows that’s far from the bread and butter of his running specialty peers. “We have a broader perspective of run,” Benedict says of Playmakers, a 38-yearold store with an outdoor orientation that includes casual sandals, locally woven mittens and Patagonia fleeces. But a funny thing’s afoot and it’s heightening Benedict’s usual optimism. As the lines between hiking and running blur and consumers clamor for lighter, more flexible footwear options, running brands such as On, Altra and inov-8 have pushed their way into the hiking category with novel product offerings that inject running sensibilities into the traditional hiking boot look. With models such as the On Cloudrock Waterproof, Altra Lone Peak Mid and Hoka One One Toa in stock, Benedict says Playmakers stands increasingly well positioned to offer compelling solutions to hikers craving lighter, faster boots as well as runners interested in day hikes, fast hikes or simply a running oriented-type boot that can provide traction and protection from the elements, particularly during the winter months. “Being in the hiking business has been solid business for us and no doubt an opportunity for us to sell more to our existing customers,” Benedict says. Embracing the Trails

Altra’s roots are planted firmly in running. Somewhere along the way, though, hikers embraced the Lone Peak, Altra’s original trail shoe, as their fast and light trail shoe for tackling the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and other prominent U.S. hiking grounds. 12

Characteristic of running shoe sensibilities coming to the hiking category, the Altra Lone Peak Mid has gained a loyal following among regular hikers craving lighter, more flexible footwear.

That reality encouraged Altra to expand its Lone Peak family, adding more ankle protection and water defense to its running shoe heritage to help people go light and fast on the trails. The Lone Peak Mid emerged a popular option in Grassroots Outdoor Alliance-type stores as well as technical

outdoor specialty doors, both of which have arguably done a better job catering to trail runners than their running specialty peers. “For us, it was natural extension from trail running to hiking,” Altra co-founder Brian Beckstead says. European brands inov-8 and On are both

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Blazing New Trails (continued)

Named in honor of Utah’s rugged Tushar mountain and designed for “serious mountain business,” the Altra Tushar features a full PU midsole as well as an aggressive rubber outsole. The Tushar will drop in Spring 2020.

Merrell is using Gore-Tex Invisible Fit in two of the trail runners it launched in early 2019 — the Antora and the Nova (pictured).

With a Speedboard supporting both stability and forward motion, On’s Cloudrock Waterproof is a speed-hiking shoe built to deliver traction, pace and protection in tough terrain.

The Roclite 370 from inov-8 features a graphene-enhanced rubber outsole to deliver a tough grip over any trail and mountain terrain.


attacking the hiking market in earnest as well, each propelled by an inherent passion for the trails. Last month, On, a brand that has gained a rather robust U.S. following in recent years with its distinctive-looking performance running shoes, entered the hiking category with the Cloudrock Waterproof. “Being in Switzerland, where people are serious about hiking, we spend a lot of time climbing mountains, so hiking was a natural progression for us,” On co-founder and head of global sales Caspar Coppetti says. “We’re not like a running company going into outdoors, but more like a Swiss company making product for our playground.” The $230 Cloudrock, which launched in some 1000 doors globally July 18, features a Speedboard engineered for forward movement and uneven terrain as well as On’s Cloud cushioning for long-distance comfort. According to Coppetti, the Cloudrock reflects surging consumer interest in lighter, faster footwear for the mountain, while On’s Cloud technology and fashionable aesthetic brings a contemporary spin to a category long mired in the traditional. “Traditional hiking product is way too heavy, way too clunky, so we’ve taken what we’ve learned about creating lightweight, comfortable footwear and packed it into a serious hiking boot,” Coppetti says of the Cloudrock. Led by its Roclite franchise, a collection of distinct footwear models ranging from more traditional trail running shoes to hiking boots, U.K.-based inov-8 continues building footwear designed for the trails, including the pioneering addition

of graphene – a Nobel Prizewinning material 200 times stronger than steel – into its outsoles. “Our Roclite franchise crosses over from trail running to all things trail, including fast hiking, and we’ve been able to build these lightweight products without compromising grip, support and protection,” inov-8 U.S. sales and marketing director Al St. Jean says. An Retail Opportunity?

The move toward lighter and more flexible product, which aligns well with today’s broader consumer expectations for footwear, would seem to bode well for running stores looking to capitalize on a demographic both Coppetti and Beckstead call “underserved.” “Though running specialty is addressing the trail market, they can do more and embracing some hiking can be a natural fit,” Beckstead says, adding that run shops can leverage their technical expertise to capture the hiking crowd much as they have done successfully with walkers. “There’s potential here to make the same inroads. By sprinkling in two or three hiking SKUs, run shops can capture a new audience.” Coppet ti sha res si m i la r sentiments. “A lot of run specialty stores already have a strong following of people who want to be active and they’re looking for specialists with sit-and-fit expertise,” he says. “It’s a smart move for run stores to expand on that by moving into outdoors, especially if they’re in a more affluent area where people travel more or are looking for more targeted solutions.” © 2018 Diversified Communications

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Blazing New Trails (continued) To that point, Beckstead says the Altra Lone Peak Mid is “cranking” in downtown Manhattan among adventure travelers as well as those traversing local trails. “There’s a bigger group of people that run specialty can serve,” he contends. Promising as it might seem to dabble in the hiking boot category, running retailers acknowledge the risk of even a modest investment, especially with so much else pulling at them. Though operating “a more trail-or iented store,” K im Chapman of Bull City Running

Co. in Durham, NC, does not carry any hiking footwear. “We do special orders occasionally, but being a smaller shop we have to be very strategic about what we bring in,” says Chapman, adding that an REI located down the road informs her thinking as well. Still, Chapman says she will continue to monitor the market, especially given continued innovation from the brand side and accelerating consumer interest in hiking. According to the Outdoor Foundation’s 2018 Outdoor Participation Report, hi k ing became the four th

most-popular outdoor activity in the U.S. behind running, fishing and biking, growing nearly 50 percent in the last decade. “The big thing for us is that it needs to make sense from a financial perspective as well as a consumer demand perspective,” Chapman says. For his part, Benedict is already sold on the opportunity, even more so given the product pipeline now available. He’s optimistic that running stores can enter the hiking category with a degree of purpose and confidence that might have proven elusive years ago.

“If you’re already carrying a brand that has these boots, then it’s pretty easy to sample it,” he says. “Add three SKUs and see how it goes.” That’s surely a plan the manufacturers who have carefully designed this footwear hope running retailers adopt. “Running specialty is getting more keen on who the next customer is and I truly believe that includes products to fit day hikers and fast hikers,” inov-8’s St. Jean says. “If you look at the sales possibilities, then there’s an opportunity here for almost all run specialty stores.” n

Gore-Tex Continues Product Evolution With Invisible Fit Gore-TexX Surround, a novel offering that increases breatha b i l i t y u n d e r fo ot and resides in product from outdoor brands such as Ecco and Lowa, as well as Gore-Flex, technology used by mainstream brands like Brooks and Saucony to increase underfoot flexibility. Two years ago, however, W.L. Gore & With Invisible Fit, W.L. Gore & Associates incorpoAssociates, the Gorerates its protective qualities directly into a shoe’s Tex parent company, material packaging. revealed Invisible Fit, a breakthrough product WITH THE CONTINUED merging of outdoor and athletic, delivering the fundamental Goreone of the outdoor industry’s Tex benefits of waterproof and most prominent players has breathability without sacrificing responded in earnest. Gore-Tex, fit, comfort and weight. “We wanted something that the biggest name in waterproof gear, has unveiled various would feel and act like a regular offerings over recent years to shoe,” says Kirk Christensen, complement its well-established senior product specialist for GTX flagship product. footwear. “We didn’t want GoreThere is, for instance, Tex to get in the way.” 16

Instead of the traditional GoreTex construction – adding the waterproof booty as a separate insert to the shoe – Invisible Fit integrates seamlessly into a shoe’s material packaging and is bonded to the footwear upper. This construction minimizes challenges around fit, flexibility and weight that have long plagued the traditional GoreTex product, which, though celebrated for its functional qualities, was often viewed as stiff and bulky in comparison to traditional athletic footwear. “Invisible Fit is about integrating Gore-Tex differently to meet consumers’ high expectations and to avoid distractions from a fit perspective,” Christensen says, adding that Invisible Fit also offers improved dry-up time and reduced water pickup compared to the flagship Gore-Tex product. Invisible Fit continues weaving into outdoor athletic footwear and is present in models such as the New Balance 880 GTX,

the Salomon Sense Ride GTX and the Merrell Nova Gore-Tex. Merrell senior product management director Shaun Bohnsack says Merrell has found big improvements with the Invisible Fit construction, calling it Merrell’s “best waterproofing” and one “specifically engineered for trail running products.” “Invisible Fit trail runners are more flexible, have less material so they have a better fit, breathe better and dry out faster when they get wet,” Bohnsack says. Christensen says any brand working with Gore-Tex has either already introduced Invisible Fit or is actively working to bring the innovation into its lineup. “When brands like Merrell, Nike and inov-8 go outdoors, they’re going quick and fast, so we have to go with them,” Christensen says. “With Invisible Fit, we’re giving the best of both worlds that didn’t exist before: the fit you’d expect with the protection only Gore-Tex can give you.” n

© 2019 Diversified Communications

Hoka Takes Flight Hoka One One’s Lee Cox dishes on his fast-rising brand’s place in the run market. / By Daniel P. Smith


oka One One is no longer the new darling on the run specialty block. The California-based brand best known for its oversized midsoles has firmly established itself as a major player in the running world. According to NPD Group analyst Matt Powell, Hoka trails only Brooks and New Balance in run specialty market share, a rather remarkable turn for a brand that wasn’t even in 100 running shops a decade ago. With signature models like the Bondi, Clifton, Arahi and Gaviota moving in run specialty stores, sleeker designs and compelling go-to-market offerings around new products like the Carbon X, which dropped in May alongside Jim Walmsley’s 50-mile world record in the shoe, Hoka continues generating buzz in the marketplace. Running Insight sat down with Hoka VP–global marketing and sales Lee Cox to discuss the current state of the fast-charging brand and where it’s headed. When Cox, who had previously worked at New Balance and Reebok, left inov-8 in 2015 to join Hoka, the two companies were virtually the same size. While inov-8 was capitalizing on the minimalist movement, Hoka presented big-soled footwear one prominent consumer magazine had labeled “The Clown Shoe That’s Changing Minimalist Running.” Clown shoe or not, Hoka’s star only brightened. “To think back, it’s crazy the momentum that Hoka is on.” As an outsider looking at Hoka, Cox admits he wondered how an upstart brand with such an against-the-grain offering was generating so much buzz. In his first months at Hoka, however, it became clear: genuine consumer advocacy. “It wasn’t overly marketed. Consumers that I was speaking to were either 100 percent all in or zero percent — and a high percentage were all in. There’s a genuine advocacy for the product that’s life changing for people and that’s something you can’t just contrive.” 18

With shoes like its Rincon, Hoka One One strives to be an inclusive running brand.

In its most recent fiscal year, which ended in March, Hoka’s revenues jumped 45 percent. That follows a 47 percent increase from the previous year. “None of the growth rate is false. We’re earning it. It’s through sell-through. It’s through consumer demand.” What’s Hoka’s secret sauce? “This is a pretty simple industry that we all work in, though we can make it really difficult for ourselves. We have a basic formula [at Hoka] and it’s three things: One, listen and lead the consumer; two, build great product; and three, drive demand.” Cox describes Hoka as “consumer obsessed” and wholly disinterested in chasing trends. “Think back to the founders. If they had chased trends, Hoka would have been classified as a minimal brand because everyone was out there building barefoot shoes. The consumers spoke and said, ‘That’s not what I want. I want a product

that feels good and can allow me to run further distances or just give me comfort throughout the day.’ If your business is based off solution-based business practices, you can bet that you’re going to have a reliable business every year. That’s our fundamental belief.” Other industry players have entered the maximalism game, including Brooks and Asics. Cox says it’s great. “Every brand has to find what works and what the opportunities are for them.” Though, it’s worth nothing, Cox shoots down the “maximalist” or “oversized” label often applied to Hoka. “Contrary to popular belief, Hoka’s not an oversized brand. Hoka is a solution-based brand. Whether that solution is a 35-millimeter heel stack height shoe or a three-millimeter stack height shoe, we’re out solving problems.” Hoka largely eschews touting the technology in its performance running

© 2019 Diversified Communications

Hoka One One Takes Flight (continued) shoes. Rather, it champions the benefits of its footwear, such as premium shock absorption and supporting a runner’s natural gait. “Technology only matters if there’s really a benefit. A lot of brands, and I was guilty of this in my past, are just focused on the features of products and the fact is, it’s the benefits. At the end of the day, the consumer doesn’t really care what technology’s in the shoe. They care about what it’s going to do for them.” Which isn’t to suggest Hoka is light on notable technology. The brand will communicate its innovative developments, but it will do so on its terms. Take the Carbon X, a fast shoe with a carbon fiber plate. When Hoka

went to market with the Carbon X, it didn’t lead with that hot technology, but rather Walmsley’s record-breaking attempt on May 4. “We launched [the Carbon X] in a way that is true to how we communicate through story sharing.” According to Cox, the Carbon X underscores Hoka’s aim to democratize innovation. “We feel like the Carbon X is the best of its kind for allowing every consumer, regardless of speed and ability, to feel fast. Now, we chose to do that through a pretty extreme event, the 100-kilometer and 50-mile world record, but Carbon X is the most inclusive shoe of its kind. There are other brands out there doing carbonplated shoes, but it’s for a very

Lee Cox with his wife, Elise, and baby Norah.


limited consumer base. Carbon X is very accessible. Innovation isn’t just for the elite. Innovation for everyone.” Hoka’s inclusive ethos also extends to recent special edition partnerships with the likes of Engineered Garments and Outdoor Voices. “One of the things we take very seriously at Hoka is that we are inclusive brand and that’s a challenging statement to make at times because it’s a premium brand. But we feel like our product and our brand is a solution for anyone. Hoka’s not just a running brand. Hoka is a performance footwear brand. So, whether you’re a runner or an outdoor enthusiast or a fitness enthusiast, we feel like we have product solutions for you.” Cox acknowledges that such collaborations, while seeming out of the norm, also help put new eyeballs on Hoka. “We feel like our brand is very attractive to those sneakerheads that believe in authentic storytelling, those who want a performance product, but also want something fashionable to wear. We don’t shy away from our earning with those types of companies or brands that bring new consumers to the brand. You never know who you might inspire or who you may empower to get out and move.” Ditto for Hoka’s two-year partnership with the Life Time Fitness chain of health clubs as well as sponsorships of events like the Dallas Marathon and the Long Island Mile. Alongside its performance running footwear, Hoka has expanded into other categories, including hiking, sandals and casual footwear. Embracing those opportunities, Cox notes, doesn’t mean Hoka’s eyes will

“None of the growth rate is false. We’re earning it. It’s through sell-through. It’s through consumer demand.” LEE COX, HOKA ONE ONE

veer from running. “It complements. [Outdoors] and run are very much aligned.” Hoka doesn’t think of its business in terms of channels. Rather, it’s about fueling an ecosystem rooted in premium service, not price. “We think about the business in high-premium access points … and that is predominantly through specialty. But specialty means a lot of different things. To us, specialty is any store that can provide a high level of service. Whether that’s running, outdoor or premium sit-and-fit, we’re interested in that type of distribution.” Cox says run specialty has been and will remain a key space for Hoka. “There’s still plenty of room to grow in our core distribution. There’s no appetite to go and try to be a brand that we’re not in some other traditional form of distribution. It goes back to the core belief of fueling an ecosystem and not looking at our business through channels of distribution.” And running retailers, he assures, can expect more of the same. “Taking care of strategy. Being clean in distribution. You won’t see promotional activities from Hoka to the degree that you see from some of our peers. Driving consumer demand and wanting people to come in and ask for the brand. Not trying to force the brand to grow faster than it really can. We’re sticking to the same strategy and there’s a lot of opportunity to grow with exactly what we’re doing.” n © 2019 Diversified Communications

Turn to page 24 for COMPLETE INFORMATION To register:

The Running Event Registration Is OPEN!!! New format and exciting programs added to North America’s largest running specialty trade show.


egistration is now open for The Running Event (TRE), the premier trade show in the running specialty industry produced by Diversified Communications. TRE 2019 is set for December 3-5, 2019, in Austin, TX, and will provide attendees with opportunities to share best practices, discover ways to engage customers and explore the latest products. The Running Event is North America’s largest running specialty trade show, hosting 260 exhibitors and more than 2500 attendees. The newly adjusted three-day event is comprised of breakout conference sessions for both retailers and race directors, two days of exhibitions, demos and more. The 2019 show will also debut new opportunities to learn and share ideas.

• New Product Showcase: Set up on the trade show floor, attendees can scope out what’s new and vote on their favorite product. One winner will be announced at the Industry Awards Party and will be gifted $1000 to the charity of their choice. • The Big Pitch: Attending retailers have a chance to win up to $5000 for presenting a winning idea to some of the best in the running business. The challenge: develop and share a campaign that would attract younger customers to their stores. The Big Pitch is a Shark Tank-like competition presented by Brooks and sponsored by Balega, BodyGlide and Amphipod. The Big Pitch is open to stores with sales of less than $1.5 million annually. • Training Camp at TRE: An area on

the trade show floor will be dedicated to bite-sized learning opportunities and product demos. Wednesday will be all about the Wide World of Run and Thursday will focus on all things trail running. “We listened to the feedback from our exhibitors and retailers and we’ve made some significant changes this year — we are excited to add more peer-to-peer networking time, more interactive learning and a diverse education program,” says Christina Henderson, TRE event manager. “It is our mission to improve and curate The Running Event to be much more than just another trade show, but rather a platform to share best practices and learn new techniques that can benefit everyone in the running industry today and in years to come.” n


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© 2019 Diversified Communications

To register:

How to Register for TRE 2019 A host of registration packages is offered to fit everyone’s needs at The Running Event.


etailers can sign up for a variety of packages ranging from a trade show only badge for $75 to an all-access badge that includes

admission to the trade show, all conference sessions and social events and the new Best Running Stores Summit, which will take place Tuesday morning, December 3, and be

led by Parker Karnan of Karnan Associates. The early bird rate for that package is $795. Here is the full line-up of registration options. n

All Access Retailer Package

Trade Show Badge

• Best Running Stores Summit (Tuesday morning, Pre-Conference) • All Tuesday Conference Sessions, including Keynote. • The Big Pitch presented by Brooks, BodyGlide, Amphipod and Balega. • Full trade show access. • All Training Camp at TRE Presentations. • Opening Night Reception presented by Balega and Implus Brands. • Industry Awards Party on Thursday, December 5. The early bird rate, in effect until October 4, is $795. Buddy Passes are available for this package at $100 discount per pass.

All Trade Show hours on Wednesday and Thursday, December 4 and 5. • All Training Camp at TRE Presentations.

Retailer Package • All Tuesday Conference Sessions, including Keynote. • The Big Pitch presented by Brooks, BodyGlide, Amphipod and Balega. • Full trade show access. • All Training Camp at TRE Presentations. • Opening Night Reception presented by Balega and Implus Brands. The early bird rate, in effect until October 4, is $650. Buddy Passes are available for this package at $300 discount per pass.

Race Director Admission Package The Running Event is also offering special registration options for race directors. • All Wednesday Race Director Conference Sessions. • All Thursday Trade Show hours. • All Training Camp at TRE Presentations on Thursday. • The BibRave 100 Awards Lunch on Wednesday, December 4. The early bird rate for race directors, in effect until October 4, is $200.

Industry Professional Packages Industry Professional Passes for non-exhibiting manufacturers and others allied to the field such as suppliers and financial analysts. • All Trade Show hours on Wednesday and Thursday, December 4 and 5. • All Training Camp at TRE Presentations.

Information on all registration packages can be found at


© 2019 Diversified Communications

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running shorts Amphipod Unveils Run Safety Campaign for Fall 2019, Introduces Optic Beam Rechargeable Vest


mphipod is providing a complimentary package of 75 new turnkey assets and marketing templates for specialty run stores to easily promote the importance of run visibility to their customers as part of its 2019 Run Safety campaign. The campaign centers on the concept that enhancing a runner’s ability to be visible and seen in low light conditions requires a multi-pronged approach utilizing wearable reflectivity-enhancing components combined with flashing LED elements positioned visibly, and 360 degrees around the body. “Most runners either don’t realize that they can’t be seen, or think they’ll be weighed down,” says Keith Willows, Amphipod’s 26

head of engineering. “We’ve successfully addressed the challenge of developing ergonomic, comfortable and ultra-lightweight visibility gear specifically designed for runners.” Amphipod has more than 30 core visibility products in its Viz 360° Product Collection. As part of the campaign, Amphipod is providing complimentary “Run Visible. Run Safe.” kits supporting the store’s ability to promote the message and itself as the local go-to source to find specialty-exclusive visibility gear. “We’ve seen that stores that actively promote run visibility see the return,” says Linda Glassel, VP of Marketing. The Kit, free for the asking, provides a

range of curated campaign assets, including imagery, social media content, email marketing templates, staff education materials, merchandising tools and complimentary wearable reflectors for customers or store staff members. Kit materials allow stores to use social media, email marketing, signage and in-store events to emphasize the importance of wearing visibility enhancing gear for running safety in fall and winter while highlighting their store as the go-to destination for the kind of exclusive specialty running gear their customers can’t find elsewhere. Leading the VIZ 360º Product Collection is the new Xinglet Optic Beam USB Rechargeable Vest. Weighing less than three ounces, this visibility-enhancing flashing reflective USB rechargeable vest with optic light tube design integrates both the key elements of enhancing visibility with 360º LED illumination and front and rear reflective booster zones. In addition, it features a quick zip-on design, is fully adjustable for the perfect fit, has a simple push button activation, and lasts up to 5 hours flashing on one charge. The VIZ 360º Product Collection also features a full series of rechargeable lighted essentials, Xinglet Series reflective vests, visibility-enhanced storage for phones, LED integrated phone belts, reflective phone arm bands, and Amphipod’s signature series of Vizlet magnetic wearable flashing LED Reflectors. The VIZ 360º Collection is shipping now in preparation for the “Run Visible. Run Safe.” campaign that kicks off September 1. For more information on Amphipod’s Viz 360° Product Collection or to request the Run Visible. Run Safe. Campaign:

© 2019 Diversified Communications

running shorts Sof Sole Develops New Packaging, Develops Full-Length Plantar Fascia Insole


of Sole this week introduced its Full-Length Plantar Fascia Insole to provide support to the plantar fascia, which connects the heel to the toe and can cause pain if inflamed. Part of Sof Sole’s Support Series, the new full length design targets problem areas such as the heel and arch to provide comfort and stability. Designed to fit any shoe type, the new FullLength Plantar Fascia insole works to keep the foot supported for long periods of time. The insole’s Plantar Relief Bridge provides sturdy support to painful arches, while the comfortable gel heel with stabilizing heel cup offers motion control and added stability. The insole is treated with Silvadur, which inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria, while the moisture wicking top cloth helps

keep feet cooler and drier. Available in men’s sizes 7-13 and women’s sizes 5-11, the new Full-Length Plantar Fascia insole retails for $24.99. Sof Sole also recently unveiled new packaging across its entire insole product line, making it easier to identify product features and benefits. Insoles are categorized into three series: Comfort (for Enhanced Pressure Relief), Perform (Engineered for Athletic Performance), and Support (Designed for Increased Stability). The new top cover designs and streamlined pattern updates make these functional attributes in each Series easier to identify. In addition to the top covers, new, uniform box designs with the actual product image on the front, increased font size, and gender icons also

TRE Names Gray Event Director

Beginning this week and throughout the next six weeks, Brooks is encouraging runners to celebrate their running achievements and share how they’re choosing to reward themselves. Brooks will post a challenge every Monday on @BrooksRunning Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook channels, prompting runners to join in and beat their personal records. Runners who share their records and celebrations using the hashtag #brooksbestfestsweeps will be entered for the chance to win a Limited-Edition Ghost 12. Winners will be chosen and notified weekly. Alongside the six weekly challenges, Brooks is also offering tips and tricks to keep runners motivated towards completing these goals. Best Fest will kick off with its first challenge: running one song further, accompanied by a motivational Spotify playlist. “At Brooks, we believe a run can transform a day. We are launching ‘Best Fest’ to cultivate that transformative

To support the future grow th of The Running Event, Diversified Communications ha s appointed corporate marketing and strategic development veteran Anne Gray as event director of TRE. With a background in outdoor retail and direct marketing at L.L. Bean, including a strong focus in new store design, merchandising, advertising and events, the appointment of Gray brings a wealth of experience in marketing, event planning, logistics and project management to The Running Event’s future success. Gray has been tasked with overseeing new opportunities for TRE, Best Running Stores and Running Insight and to maximize growth for years to come.

Brooks Launches ‘Best Fest’ Brooks Running has opened its “Best Fest,” a six-week challenge to help runners identify and beat personal records. 28

make it easy for customers to understand the product benefits and determine which insole they need. For a video explaining the benefits of the new insole: watch?v=4jpNM_ylLTo&feature=youtube

feeling and encourage anyone to get out there and put one foot in front of the other,” says Brooks SVP, CMO Melanie Allen. “Every runner can be a recordbreaker, and every runner deserves recognition for breaking their records. We want to help runners recognize they are best For more Best Fest information:

Fleet Feet To Open Atlanta Store Fleet Feet this week announced the planned opening of a new store in Peachtree City, GA, later this year. John Raveling, the operating partner of Fleet Feet’s Decatur, GA, store, will oversee operations of the store, which will feature 1400-square feet of retail space and will open within The Avenue Peachtree City retail center at 230 City Circle. Brent Huntley, a running industry professional who currently works at the Decatur location, will manage the Peachtree City location.

© 2019 Diversified Communications

The WIDE WORLD of RUN Interested in Exhibiting?

The Running Event is the intersection of all key players in the run industry.

Contact Us! Christina Henderson (214) 263-4706

DECEMBER 3–5, 2019 • AUSTIN, TEXAS Produced by

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