Running Insight 9.1.2022

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THE NEWSMAGAZINE FOR RUNNING SPECIALTY RETAILERS / RUNNINGINSIGHT.COM THE NEWSMAGAZINE FOR RUNNING SPECIALTY RETAILERS / RUNNINGINSIGHT.COM

MARCH 16, 2020 SEPTEMBER 1, 2022

L I A TR

G N I Z BLA Runners are making the trail part of their journey and retailers are going along for the run.

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The Trail Issue

ALONG THE TRAIL Consumer purchasing trends are impacting trail running sales in 2022. By Dirk Sorenson, Executive Director, Sports Industry Analyst, The NPD Group

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n 2022, U.S consumers are embracing the emergence from a pandemic-oriented lifestyle rooted in home-based activities to a social one that includes trips to the gym, playing fields and fitness studios. With runners once again able to participate in races, run on gym treadmills and exercise in a wider range of locations, purchasing shifts are happening in the running footwear market. One impact has been a change in running and purchasing habits involving trail running. Boiling it down, the trail running category lost market share to road running in the 12 months ending June 2022, according to retail sales data from The NPD Group. Part of this shift could be attributed to the trend Cover photo by Victor Martinez, courtesy of Runners for Public Lands. Story on page 24. Photo this page: inov-8

RUNNING INSIGHT ® is a registered trademark of Diversified Communications. © 2022 all rights reserved. Running Insight is published monthly, 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.

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Along the Trail (continued) of consumers who previously purchased trail running shoes for walking or hiking at the height of the pandemic doing so to a lesser extent this year now that additional fitness options are available. Trail Running Stays Strong This spending shift, however, does not diminish trail running’s importance to the long-term health and growth of the running footwear market. In the 12 months ending June 2022, t rail r unning shoes accounted for $453 million in revenue, or 12 percent share of the overall $3.9 billion performance running shoe category, which is down slightly from the year before but still elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels. Ma rket size aside, t ra i l running shoes have a different appeal than road running products, attracting a larger consu mer base to engage with the running industry. Understanding the unique characteristics of the trail running consumer provides the industry with critical insights to generate growth for the category. Behind the Numbers To put actual sales figures behind these statements, 11 million U.S. consumers purchased trail running shoes in the 12 months ending June 2 0 22, a c c o r d i ng t o N PD Checkout data, which is down three percent from the prior year. Among other insights from NPD: • Interestingly, consumers shop in-store more frequently for trail running than for road running shoes. Retailers should consider that trail running 6

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m ight elicit slightly more floor traffic than other running footwear, which can steer important choices concerning merchandising and shelving shoe models. • Reviewing the demographics for trail versus road running footwear, 55 percent of purchasers are women for both shoe categories, but age is a point of distinction. Consumers aged 45 and older account for 60 percent of trail running footwear purchases, which is about nine points higher than road running shoe buyers. • Because trail running shoe buyers tend to be a bit older, on average, than overall running shoe buyers, retailers and manufacturers might want to lean in on the needs of aging athletes. Add-on categories such as insoles, mobility tools and injury prevention devices all appeal to older athletes. Knowing that the trail running consumer skews older also has implications for in-store apparel assortments. • Another point of distinction is that overall shopping basket size is 15 percent smaller when trail running shoes are purchased than when purchasing road running shoes. Both retailers and manufacturers should carefully consider what related products to sell as lower-cost add-ons for their trail running consumers. As I recently walked through retail store aisles, I noticed that the trail runner product assortment includes well-paired items like hydration packs, gaiters and higher quality apparel. This technical assortment may need to be shifted to include other, more valuebased products.

• In terms of market basket composition, other unrelated shoe types are the items most likely to be purchased at the same time as trail running shoes. This finding suggests that the buyer is taking advantage of a single trip to purchase not just for themselves, but also for other family members and friends. • Beyond footwear, socks and shorts are the categories most likely to be purchased. The likelihood of multiple shoe purchases along with add-on apparel items guides retailers to a viable opportunity for cross-category marketing and promotional campaigns. A Retailing Shakeup For the running footwear market and most other industries, a return to pre-pandemic behaviors is shifting sales across categories, but mounting economic pressures are also shaking up retailing in 2022. The retail landscape is particularly challenged this year because average selling prices are increasing and potentially suppressing unit sales. However, a deeper understa nding of the consumer profile – from demographics to shopping behaviors – provides a powerful set of fact-based observations to effectively manage these pressures and begin executing on new sales and marketing strategies almost immediately. Such insights become even more powerful when coupled with other point-of-sale data assets, leading to more effective promotions, better selling strategies and overall improvements in sales performance at run specialty retail. n

In the 12 months ending June 2022, trail running shoes accounted for $453 million in revenue, or 12 percent share of the overall $3.9 billion performance running shoe category, which is down slightly from the year before but still elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels.

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The Trail Issue

BLAZING TRAILS In emphasizing trail over road running, three U.S. run shops buck the norm. / By Daniel P. Smith

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un specialty stores are niche enough in the American retail landscape. But trail runningfocused specialty shops slice that niche even further. Despite that reality, Seattle-based Seven Hills Running Shop, the San Francisco Running Company and the soon-to-open Trailhead Running Supply in Flower Mound, TX, embrace an unapologetic, unabashed focus on trail running above all else. SEVEN HILLS RUNNING SHOP EST. 2012 The decade prior to opening Seven Hills, Phil Kochik worked at other run specialty shops in Seattle, including the trail-oriented Seattle Running Company (SRC). When SRC ceased operations in 2010, however, Kochik spent the next two years readying plans to open his own trail-focused running store. To be fair, Kochik held reservations about leading with trail, which was a growing, albeit still-slim activity with a fraction of the product offerings available on the road side. “I was nervous,” Kochik confesses. “Were there enough customers? Was there even enough product?” An ambitious Kochik plowed ahead anyway, confident that trail running participation would climb and brands would respond with deeper product assortments. To the latter point, he was intrigued by an advance look at trail footwear from Pearl Izumi about a year before he committed to opening Seven Hills. “That let me know exciting product was coming,” he says. In Seven Hills’ rookie year, Kochik settled into a 70/30 split between trail and 8

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Phil Kochik opened Seven Hills Running Shop in 2012 with a trail running focus and the Seattle-based specialty store continues to lead with trail running footwear and gear a decade later.

road footwear on his shoe wall. A decade later, it remains much the same, though his inventory has swelled thanks to the ascension of trail-first brands like Hoka, Altra and inov-8. Kochik was early to the party carrying all three brands. “We lucked out because trail product and the store grew together,” says Kochik, whose store celebrates its 10th anniversary next month. Today, Seven Hills features about three dozen trail running models for each gender, many in multiple colors, alongside a diverse collection of hydration vests, trail-oriented

apparel, socks and accessories. Though Seven Hills serves locals looking for their “regular running shoes,” Kochik says trail runners visit the store from upwards of two hours away to see product firsthand and make in-store purchases. “I want people to be amazed by all we have, and they are,” Kochik says. “I think the trail runner is definitely more enthusiastic about gear and more willing to experiment, including buying multiple pairs of shoes each year.” In addition to the trail-oriented products that fill his shop, Kochik also packs Seven

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Blazing Trails (continued) Hills’ Instagram page with trail running content, including sideby-side comparisons of trail running shoes past and present to feed his insight-hungry clientele. “I wanted to be different than the others and it’s worked for us,” says Kochik, who considers a defined niche more important than ever given brands’ increasing prioritization of direct-to-consumer sales. “If you stand pat with the old standbys, you’ll just be outdone by the Internet.”

Trail running is front and center at the San Francisco Running Company, which features a room loaded with various hydration solutions as well as a shoe wall stocked with trail running models.

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SAN FRANCISCO RUNNING COMPANY EST. 2013 The San Francisco Running Company’s nine-year-old flagship store in Mill Valley, CA, leaves no doubt about its passion for trail running. Between walls adorned with trail running photos and a smattering of trail race trophies and paraphernalia, SFRC general manager Mecque Tucker calls the store “a shrine to trail running in Marin County and northern California.” SFRC’s trail focus fits in Mill Valley, a town nestled in the heart of the Marin Headlands. Despite being less than a dozen miles from downtown San Francisco, local runners seek out trail shoes more than road shoes. Yet more, Mill Valley’s trail running roots run deep. The city, in fact, hosts the 7.4-mile Dipsea Race, the nation’s oldest trail race, which celebrated its 111th running last June. “We lead with trail because of our location and fully acknowledge this concept would struggle to work as well in the city,” says SFRC owner Ted Knudsen, who purchased the business from founder Brett Rivers in 2019 and “tried not to screw up the © 2022 Diversified Communications


Trailhead Running Supply has not opened its doors north of Dallas just yet, but the specialty shop aims to embolden the growth of the trail running community in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex when it opens in the coming weeks.

foundation [Rivers] laid.” SFRC has made itself the destination shop for the area’s many trail runners as well as trail running enthusiasts who visit the San Francisco market. Both the Mill Valley store and its six-year-old sibling outpost in San Anselmo feature similar product inventory — about a 70/30 trail/road split on the shoe wall alongside ever-popular SFRC-branded apparel and trailoriented product like trekking poles and hydration bottles and vests. “We don’t have a hydration section. We have a hydration room,” Knudsen says. At SFRC, a top-down love for trail running flows from Knudsen to Tucker to the 10-member staff, all of whom a re a r med wit h i n for med insights on product, training and trail running routes they enthusiastically share with customers. SFRC’s Saturday morning trail runs, meanwhile, consistently attract 40-60 runners to its Mill 11

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Valley storefront and SFRC is actively aiming to expand the area’s trail race scene, both looking to develop its own races while also sponsoring events such as the inaugural Salomon WMN Trail Half Marathon on September 24. Other store efforts, such as shoe recycling with the MORE Foundation, nutrition package recycling with TerraCycle and maintaining the Dipsea Stairs, the nearly 700-step climb out of Mill Valley, further resonate with the trail crowd and demonstrate SFRC’s commitment to putting action behind its mission. “We exist to serve the trail community and that’s what we’ll continue to do,” Knudsen says. TRAILHEAD RUNNING SUPPLY • EST. 2022 Inspired by the inclusive and swelling Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) trail running community, Drew Flowers, Todd Hawkins and Darren Beck are

looking to inject added trail running energy into the Metroplex with Trailhead Running Supply, their upstart retail store located just north of Dallas. “People are drawn to trail running for community and inclusiveness, the sense of adventure it brings and being outdoors, and that’s what we are looking to celebrate at Trailhead,” Flowers says. Trailhead will open this fall in a 1600-square-foot storefront about 400 meters from the North Shore Trail, a popular 23-mile trail running route alongside Lake Grapevine in north Texas. Flowers, who has both worked as a running store sales associate and managed an REI, says the store is planning a 70/30 split between trail and road footwear, though he admits the market will likely dictate how that ratio evolves. “There will be a lot to learn and evaluate here,” he says, adding that the store will also stock trail-oriented products

such as handhelds, hydration packs, hats, gaiters and buffs. “Trail runners, specifically, are gearheads and the traditional running stores don’t carry this broad of an assortment, which we hope gives us an edge in taking away the pain points and making trail running more accessible.” Though Flowers acknowledges the risk of opening a trail-focused running store these days and says he received some sideways looks from vendors when introducing Trailhead at The Running Event last year, he believes the DFW area can support a retail operation like Trailhead, especially if the store is successful at “building the community” the way it hopes and plans through runs, in-store programing and events. “Trail running gives stores an opportunity to connect with people in a different way, even a more genuine way, because the sport is so amazingly inclusive, and we’re certainly betting on that,” Flowers says. Trailhead’s founding trio also anticipates the continued growth of trail running around the DFW Metroplex. When Flowers started running with his Tuesday night trail running group about three years ago, he says a good night would bring “a handful of runners.” Now, the group is 20-30 strong every Tuesday night. One local race director, meanwhile, has plans for 14 North Texas trail races on his 2023 calendar to further stimulate demand. “People continue discovering what the DFW trails are like and that only increases our optimism for what Trailhead can become,” Flowers says. n © 2022 Diversified Communications


The Trail Issue

PAVING THE WAY

Footwear brands are bringing road-to-trail offerings to market and retailers are getting on board. / By Daniel P. Smith

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With the MT-4, Topo Athletic continues serving up a performance running shoe built to function as beautifully on the road as it does on the trail.

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ore than two years ago, with the COVID-19 pandemic raging and escapism, particularly to the trails, becoming a national trend, Altra began a new footwear project under the working name “Green Mountain.” The idea, according to Altra senior product line manager Alex Lind, was to create a new type of performance running shoe and to fill white space in Altra’s existing product lineup. While the Denver-based brand offered standout trail footwear and an ever-swelling collection of road options, Altra possessed no model blending the familiar, responsive ride of a road shoe with the grittier elements of a trail shoe. “This was an experience missing in our line and a missed opportunity to bring new consumers into our brand,” Lind says. The recently released Outroad represents Altra’s “Green Mountain” end game. As intended, the Outroad straddles two worlds. It embraces the feel of a road shoe – accomplished with a decoupled outsole creating a more flexible ride and minimal TPU overlays on the upper for a sleeker, lighter feel – with the protective elements typical of its trail running shoes, such as a MaxTrac outsole and a multidirectional lug pattern. With 3mm outsole lugs, the Outroad delivers more aggressive grip than a road shoe yet represents a step back from the 4.5mm lugs found on Altra’s trail darling, the Lone Peak. “Where the Lone Peak is the mountaintop, the Outroad is the foothills,” Lind says. Altra’s Outroad is among a growing number of running shoes thoughtfully

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Paving the Way (continued) and quite intentionally designed to shift the dialogue from a trail shoe that can “exist” on the road to a true hybrid model that delivers on pavement as well as the trail — and is then explicitly marketed as such.

Footwear brands are churning out performance running shoe models designed to take runners from their front door to the trail. Earlier this year, Altra debuted the Outroad (top) and inov-8 introduced the Parkclaw G 280 (middle). Reebok, meanwhile, recently unveiled the Floatride Energy 4 Adventure.

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An Emerging Category This past spring, inov-8, the offroad and mountain brand headquartered in the U.K., unveiled the Parkclaw G 280. Mashing up road and trail elements, the Parkclaw mixes inov-8’s bouncy, energy-returning G-FLY foam midsole and Boomerang footbed with a toe bumper, breathable zones on the upper and loads of “little cleats” – 98 to be exact – to provide a comfortable, stable ride on road or trail. “You can have cushioning and grip at the same time. These features aren’t mutually exclusive,” inov-8 footwear product manager Bodil Oudshoorn says. A rou nd t he sa me t i me, another European brand with a mountain mentality, Scarpa, expanded its running lineup with the debut of the Golden Gate ATR. Scarpa’s most cushioned running shoe to date and deliberately built to perform on a wide variety of terrain, the Golden Gate ATR uses medium and low densities of EVA in strategically placed locations to provide cushioning and high energy return, while a streamlined, seamless upper gives a road-like feel and a Super Gum rubber outsole provides traction and grip. (Of note, the 84-yearold Italian brand is dropping a Gore-Tex version of the Golden Gate ATR this fall to further expand the model’s reach.) Even before the pandemic sent people to the trails in droves,

however, footwear brands were beginning to lay claim to an intriguing market opportunity. In mid-2020, for example, Saucony released the first version of its Canyon TR, a shoe the brand billed as “road to trail and back again.” The current Canyon TR 2 features springy PWRRUN cushioning alongside low-profile lugs for road-to-trail transition and a sleek engineered mesh upper reinforced with a flexible 3D-printed film for added protection and durability. Reebok, Topo Run Ahead Re ebok, mea nwh i le, debuted the Floatride Energy 4 Adventure last month. The fourth iteration of its outdoor-inspired road-to-trail performance running shoe, the latest Adventure features a redesigned rubber outsole inspired by gravel bike tires. “Larger, aggressive lugs on the perimeter of the outsole provide added traction in loose terrain while the tight lug pattern in the center section offers a smooth ride on pavement and hardpacked trails,” Reebok beamed upon introducing the Floatride Energy 4 Adventure. Likewise, Topo Athletic entered the crossover category years ago with its MT franchise. Now in its fourth edition, Topo’s MT-4 promises “a comfortable, flexible and versatile ride” for runners heading straight from their “doorstep to the trailhead.” To accomplish that, Topo forgoes the traditional rock plate to create a flexible, soft underfoot feel, leans into an open, breathable mesh on the upper and utilizes Vibram XS Trek EVO on the outsole for traction and durability across varied terrain. The road “feel” is important, © 2022 Diversified Communications


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Paving the Way (continued)

Eager to create a versatile performance running shoe that would woo more runners to the trail, Scarpa launched its road-to-trail model, the Golden Gate ATR, earlier this year.

Topo product manager Russ St eve n s s ays, g ive n h ow many individuals come to the trails from the road. A recent International Trail Running Association survey of 9514 trail runners found that two out of every three first ran on the road. “We saw a certain segment of runners looking for product that would be familiar to them, especially as they moved from the road and embraced the trails more and more,” Stevens says of the MT franchise. Welcome the Urban Trail Runner Brands’ rationale for developing road-to-trail footwear ranges from the pragmatic to the opportunistic. The continued growth of trail running domestically and globally has certainly emerged as one driving factor. Trail running 16

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participation was climbing yearover-year before the pandemic, often at a double-digit clip, while events like Park Run in the U.K., organized and free 5K races traversing different terrain, surged in popularity. And the momentum hasn’t slowed, hinting at even more development to come in the trail category. According to data from AllTrails, trail running activity in the U.S. increased 57 percent in the first half of 2022 compared to 2021. “There’s a melting pot of people wanting to exercise outdoors who are also interested in a different running experience and that has sparked a need for different kinds of products,” inov-8 trail and hike marketing manager Ali Wilkinson says. This, of course, includes the growth of the so-called “urban trail runner.” In the U.S., more

than 80 percent of the population lives in metropolitan areas, many of which do not offer immediate access to magnificent, technical trails. In Chicago and Houston, two metros no one would necessarily associate with grand off-road adventures, trail running recordings on AllTrails jumped 81 and 79 percent in the first six months of 2022 compared to the same period the previous year. With urban consumers, in particular, a road-to-trail footwear option has definite appeal as an accessible, versatile option for a regular routine that includes groomed paths or foothills. In fact, Stevens says Topo’s MT-4 has proven particularly successful in these markets. “It’s a product story that resonates with that customer since they’re not getting out on super serious terrain,” Stevens says. Road-to-trail footwear also makes an appealing economic case, too, as a more versatile performance running shoe brings added value to a consumer’s purchasing decision. That reality, many brand reps note, cannot be overlooked as inflation rises and fears of an economic downturn hover above. “People always appreciate versatility and the benefits versatility brings,” Wilkinson says. The Marketing Angle After creating thoughtful road-to-trail footwear, brands have turned to directly marketing the footwear as such. Topo, for example, bills the MT-4 as a road-to-trail option to leave no one guessing. “Runners could, of course, use a trail shoe on the road, but it is not optimized for that experience,” Stevens says. “By

calling the MT-4 out explicitly as a road-to-trail shoe, we’re able to explain why we developed it the way we did.” Similarly, Wilkinson calls inov-8’s decision to market the Parkclaw as a road-to-trail option a “tactical” move for a brand most associated with serious trails. “It was important for us to have a call out so we could open up the brand to a broader set of runners and reach individuals beyond our core consumer,” Wilkinson says. Ditto for Scarpa in unveiling the Golden Gate ATR earlier this year. “This is all about inclusion and trying to bring more people into trail running, which is why we’ve been so intentional and specific [in marketing the Golden Gate ATR as a roadto-trail shoe],” Scarpa North Amer ican VP–sales Ma rk Mathews says. As interest in trail running climbs and new consumers break away from conventional trail shoes, the road-to-trail footwear category represents an enticing and likely-to-grow niche in the marketplace. In fact, that’s why Stevens says Topo is doubling down on shoes like the MT-4 that make a comfortable transition from pavement to trail. In the coming months, Topo will introduce the Ultraventure 3. A more cushioned option for mild-to-moderate terrain, the Ultraventure 3 is visibly characterized by more segmented lugs and reduced lug heights on the outsole to better blend road and trail functionality. “We see this category as one that will continue to grow because people want to get outdoors,” Stevens says. n © 2022 Diversified Communications


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The Trail Issue

(T)rail Connection Retailers have an opportunity to grow with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. / By Daniel P. Smith

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rom coast to coast and sea to shining sea, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is on a singleminded mission to make multi-use trails a vibrant slice of the American landscape — and it’s inviting the nation’s run shops to join the movement. “People value trails in their community, even more so after the pandemic, and our goal is trails connecting everyone, everywhere,” says Brandi Horton, the RTC’s VP–communications. “Whether it’s promoting trail use or advocating for trail connectivity, there’s no question the run community can be a powerful force in this effort and benefit from more convenient and accessible trails in their local community.” Railbanking Explained As U.S. railroad corridors across the U.S. plunged into misuse and faced potential development in the 1970s, citizen advocacy began sprouting around preserving the corridors for some worthwhile purpose. With a 1983 amendment to the National Trails System Act, something called “railbanking” became the go-to antidote. With railbanking, railroad companies voluntarily handed over rail corridors to trail agencies with the agreement that railroads could resume control of the corridors should rail service resume. Railbanking sparked a surge in trail development efforts and the RTC emerged in 1986 to bring coordination and efficiency to such projects. Today, RTC remains one of the nation’s foremost champions of trail use and development with a focus on trail advocacy, protection and promotion as well as building model trail projects like its flagship effort, the Great American Rail-Trail. Launched in 2019, the Great American 18

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Rail-Trail aims to create a cross-country multi-use trail that is fully traversable by bike or foot and separated from vehicle traffic. At present, the project is more than 50 percent complete and includes 10 segments of at least 100 miles. The designed route spans more than 3700 miles from Washington State to Washington, D.C. and connects some 150 existing rail-trails, greenways and other multi-use paths. “Trails serve as an invitation to the outdoors and also build community in unique ways by connecting businesses, neighborhoods and people,” Horton reminds. A Call to Running Stores Run specialty shops can play a valuable role in promoting and preserving multi-use trails, which can, of course, help fulfill business objectives. A more sizable, diverse collection of individuals hitting the trails, after all, opens the door to increased store traffic and sales. At the most basic level, Horton says run shops can make sure customers know these local spots exist by posting trail maps in the store, sharing maps or photos on digital channels and promoting TrailLink as a discovery tool.

“For people who run, walk or hike, bringing awareness to multi-use trails can get them out of traffic and quickly into nature,” Horton says. “Access to the outdoors that is safe and close to home is fundamental to our well-being and critically important.” On the programming side, running stores might host workshops on trail etiquette, identifying key rules of the trail such as standing to the side when stopped or announcing oneself when passing, or organize trail cleanup events or fun runs on the trails. Run shops might also team with local trail advocacy partners such as cycling clubs or transportation organizations to promote increased trail building, connectivity and access. “For progress to happen, you need funding and political will,” Horton says, noting that trails are important for recreation, but also economic development, tourism and the environment since viable multi-use trails offer an alternative to automobile travel. “Where legislators and leaders have seen the impact of the trails, they are continuing to invest and the benefits of the trails are being captured more and more.” n

© 2022 Diversified Communications



The Trail Issue

Cross-Country Trek Michael Wardian provides insight into America’s trails following his run across America. / By Cregg Weinmann

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f you want an informed opinion on the state of trail running in America, you go to someone who has spent a lot of time on them. That would be Michael Wardian, who has garnered a well-earned following for his long distance running accomplishments. Two items that stand out are the completion of all six World Marathon Majors in a single year, along with the World Marathon Challenge of seven marathons on seven continents in seven days — where he averaged two hours, 45 minutes for the seven races. Appa rently that challenge wasn’t enough, so this spring Wardian decided he would do a cross-country run — literally running clear across the country. His home is near the eastern end of U.S. Route 50, so tracing along this route, from San Francisco, CA, to Rehoboth Beach, DE, gave the effort a name: the Running Home Project. A good part of the logistics of an undertaking like this is to make sure he was supplied with the necessities, especially water, and his goal for the run was a successful fundraising effort on behalf of World Vision USA to provide safe drinking water projects to communities in need. Running Insight caught up with Wardien on a rare day off of the trail and road to gather some insight into running across the country. Running Insight: Your “little” trek across the USA was the ultimate trail run. How did you find the experience? MRW: I loved the experience, it was everything I hoped it would be and a dream come true. Few people know America’s trails and roads like Michael Wardian.

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© 2022 Diversified Communications


What motivated you to run across the country? It was to fulfill a dream, but also to raise money for charity. The goal was to raise $100,000 for clean water projects for World Vision USA and so far we have raised over $115,000 and changed over 2200 people’s lives. So cool. Which trail systems along your route impressed you? I was really impressed with the Katy Trail in Missouri. It was beautiful, shaded and flat, all of which were appreciated. Of course, I loved the W&OD Trail in the Washington, DC area — that is one of my favorites and I live on it. Your posts from the trail and road showed some impressive trail terrain. What were your favorites? I loved a lot of the route that was on Route 50. Colorado and the mountains of California were spectacular, too, as was running through Virginia and Delaware. I love those states. What are your favorite trail running experiences? I have enjoyed a lot of time on trails and some of my favorites are the Na Pali Coast Trail in Kauai, the Israel National Trail in Israel, the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in France, all the trails in Shenandoah National Park and the Billy Goat and Potomac Heritage trails in Washington, DC area.

What are your essential trail gear items? I think great trails shoes are really helpful and also a hydration vest, I used Hoka for shoes and Nathan for hydration. Do your observations in trail performance find their way into trail running products? I definitely make suggestions and sometimes companies will incorporate them. How do you help make it happen with brands and product designers/developers? I try to work with brands to provide feedback and guidance as to what works for me and what I think could be tweaked. Do you connect with local running stores in various places? I definitely love to see and run with local running stores, I work with so many, but my local ones are Potomac River Running and Pacers Running. Who are your trail go-to retailers in your area? You know, for trail extras. MRW: I usually go to REI as I like them, I am a member and they have great selection Anything else you’d like to add? I just want to thank everyone for their interest and support and I will see you out there. n

Wardian’s cross-country run took him from California to Delaware.

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The Trail Issue

Trail Habits ITRA global survey finds trail runners are unique … but we already knew that.

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fter two disrupted years, life is getting back to normal and trail running events have restarted in most countries. As a non-profit association representing trail running worldwide, it is one of the goals of the International Trail Running Association (ITRA) to provide its community with relevant information about hitting the trail. To that end, ITRA recently released a worldwide survey that gathered information on trail runners’ behavior and habits while training and racing. Here are some of the highlights gathered from responses from more than 9500 trail runners in 104 countries. (Interestingly, respondents were 82 percent men and only 18 percent women.)

almost 60 percent of trail runners using a Garmin watch.

• Road running appears to be the gateway to running of most trail runners. However, a significant proportion (20 percent) started directly on the trails. The majority began trail running between 26 and 45 years old.

• Trail runners don’t just hit the trails. Almost 24 percent also mountain bike, with popular “other sports” including swimming, road biking and weight lifting.

• Popular shoe brands run the gamut, with Salomon leading the way, followed closely by Hoka. Bunched in the middle of the trail shoe pack are La Sportiva, ASICS, Saucony, Nike, Brooks, New Balance and inov-8. • Salomon also takes the lead in apparel. Suunto and Garmin are the top choices for smartwatches, with Garmin registering a clear lead with 22

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• Motivation for trail running is mostly to “keep in shape physically” (69 percent), followed by “discover new places” and “feel in harmony with nature.” • Trail runners on average go through two pairs of shoes a year.

• They look for specific gear and the majority invest between $200–$600 a year on trail running equipment.

• Trail runners like to go it alone. More than two-thirds say they don’t have or need a coach.

• Most trail runners run either once (31 percent) or twice (29 percent) a week. Less than one percent run on the trail every day. • When they do run they most frequently devote four-to-six hours a week to trail running

• Injuries are part of the challenge of trail running, with 62 percent indicating that have been injured as a result of their training. The most frequent injuries are, of course, sprained ankles, broken bones and muscular tears. • Not sure why this question was asked, but apparently trail runners like to get their rest. Almost half (44 percent) say they get seven hours of sleep each night; another 25 percent get six hours of shuteye and 22 percent stay in bed for up to eight hours. • More than one-third of trail runners (39 percent) run in four-to-six races a year. Another 31 percent run one-to-three races a year. Only seven percent take part in more than 12 races a year.

• The favorite distances for a trail race are marathons, half-marathons and 12 Ks. Three percent like those 100 milers! • Trail runners aren’t afraid to spend on race registrations. Most spend between $100-$200 a year just on fees, followed by those who spend $200-$300. Four percent actually spend more than $1000 a year.

© 2022 Diversified Communications


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The Trail Issue

Back ATRA ATRA’s goal is to promote the sport of trail running — and run retailers can easily join the effort.

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very year the American Trail Running Association (ATRA), which was founded in 1996, introduces a theme, most often reflecting the culture of its sport or a timely topic. This year’s theme – Trail Running is for Every Body – brings the 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, based in Colorado Springs, CO, closer to its mission to represent and promote trail running, mountain running and ultra trail running. This mission is realized through resources, education, partnerships, support and guidance on its website at www.trailrunner. com, through its social media channels – @atratrailrunner – and from an ATRA team that includes board members and consultants. Running Insight caught up with Nancy Hobbs, ATRA founder and executive director, for a deeper dive into the association’s focus and its goals in 2022 and beyond. Running Insight: So what is your definition of a “trail runner?” Nancy Hobbs: I like to think of trail running in terms of playfulness, challenge, exploration and mindfulness, all of which are realized through participation in this welcoming and inviting activity. Trail runners are those who seek off-road adventure, away from pavement, incorporating single track, switchbacks, rocks, grass, roots and other natural obstacles as they recreate over a variety of terrain. Elevation changes are inherent in the sport, but not mandatory. Has the association’s role changed much in the two-plus years of the pandemic? Like many other organizations and companies, we did realize a bit of a pivot. We spent more time and resources on our 24

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ATRA’s Nancy Hobbs is looking to expand the reach of trail running races and events and retail presence.

website and educational materials, including articles and videos offering advice, tips and techniques. And has that evolved over the past few months? Whereas the majority of traffic on our website was our calendar, now there was a

shift to articles and resources. We featured a list of podcasts, coaches and camps, trail maintenance opportunities, sustainability suggestions to name a few. We also conducted our 25th anniversary virtual challenge providing community through weekly trail teasers – a total of 17 – to keep our audience engaged during the pandemic.

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Back ATRA (continued) Hopefully some of these ways to engage community will continue well past the pandemic. How have ultra and trail running evolved – and grown – in the past few years? No question the sport has grown. There has been an increase in events – both inperson and virtual races, camps, and non-competitive group runs or get togethers – brand awareness and media coverage, all which fuel participation and interest. Livestreaming has increased the fan base and provided another entryway into the sport. How about as far as footwear, apparel and other gear? There are now more gender-specific products in the marketplace, from hydration vests to apparel. The needs of the entire community are being addressed from trail running poles to nutrition for the long run and everything in between. Any other initiatives? There has been a focus on DEI, land use and trail maintenance as well as a deeper dive into the ethos of the sport and multi-user interactions on the trail. Trails are Common Ground is a nationwide campaign that was launched under the leadership of David Wiens to bring various user groups together to create a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for anyone who steps, rides or rolls onto any trail, anywhere. What is ATRA’s focus these days? Throughout ATRA’s tenure the focus has always remained true to its mission. Our community continues to be “trail 26

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curious” and is hungry for content, resources and advice. ATRA provides this through our quarterly newsletter, e-newsletters, social media, videos and more. ATRA welcomes article submissions and stories to share whether from races, individuals, organizations or brands. Is there a highlight of the trail running season? Highlights are typically realized in events and there are numerous events, from the historic – think Western States 100, Pikes Peak Marathon, and Dipsea – to the international stage like UTMB, and the Trail and Mountain Running World Championships. The US Trail Running Conference, which ATRA serves as a partner organization, will celebrate its 10th year in October.

Individuals, groups, brands, companies, race directors, r u n sp e c ia lt y st or e s a nd organizations. What is the benefit for run specialty retailers and vendors to put more emphasis in both products and events for trail runners? The first step is to create a welcoming environment to create and build community and trust — and community translates to traffic in the store and sales. It can be a weekly run featuring some aspect of trail running technique – uphill running, navigating gnarly terrain, downhill running – a monthly movie night introducing a cool outdoor video, or sharing new technology for the trails.

How about highlights for trail runners themselves? Beyond events, highlights for individuals may include the first time they spot a particular wildflower on a trail, or notice a doe and her fawn grazing in the distance. I’d like to think that each time someone steps on a trail they find a special moment, or create a special memory.

Trail runners are open to these efforts? Trail runners are like sponges, absorbing information constantly. How to run faster, smarter, with purpose. Where to find the hidden trail gems to explore. Meeting other likeminded friends to train with. The number one thing is to create a safe space to invite conversation and then welcome and embrace curiosity and provide tips, techniques and sage advice.

Well put. So, who is your target member? Quite simply, anyone who resonates wit h ou r spor t.

How – and why – should retailers get involved with ATRA? ATRA can provide content and advice. We also conduct

annual surveys to keep informed of trends and demographics in our sport. We have a website with a wealth of information that is easy to share. ATRA conducted a “Spotlight on Specialty” series of articles presented by our partner in Saucony (https://trailrunner. com/trail-news/category/spotlight-on-specialty/). This was one way to share stories of what run specialty were doing in the trail space to grow community. If a retailer is interested in being featured, contact ATRA to share your story. Finally, what do you see as the near-term future of trail running and how can ATRA and run retailers make that happen? Many of the areas we talked about already can add to the upward trajectory of our sport in terms of awareness and growth. With that growth comes challenges. Near term we should all make a commitment to respect, preserve and protect trails and share the ethos of trail running within and beyond our community. I hope that we can all encourage a continued dialogue on what we as trail runners and lovers of the trails can do to insure the continuation of responsible trail use for Every Body. n For more on ATRA’s 2022 theme – Trail Running is for Every Body – check out https:// trailrunner.com/trail-news/ trail-running-is-for-everybody-our-theme-for-2022/

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The Trail Issue

From the Dirt Up Why partnering with Runners for Public Lands is making sense for the running community.

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t more than 60 million and counting, recreational trail runners might be the fastest growing group of activists our country has ever seen. As more runners hit the dirt, their organic love of the trails is quickly sparking into a larger movement of protecting where they play — whether it’s their local turf or the wider global playing field and its incumbent issues of climate change, public lands, equitable access to nature and product sustainability. The overarching message trail runners are sending to manufacturers, retailers and brands today is that if commitment to the planet isn’t part of the purchase price, then they will buy from corporations who are working harder to make a difference. Who Is RPL? Runners for Public Lands (RPL) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization located in Ventura, CA. Since 2019, this grassroots organization has been quietly leveraging the power of local running communities to promote advocacy on environmental issues, build diversity and inclusion and connect runners with brands and organizations who align and advance the mission of protecting the environment and ensuring the trails are open and available to anyone who wants to set one foot in front of the other. In the past year, RPL has launched its first toolkit, identified strategic plans to accomplish environmental goals and hosted local Southern California events that solidified its presence as an organization dedicated to positive environmental change and social justice through milestones, including: • Joined Ventura’s Westside Clean Air Coalition to stop poorly planned, toxic soil removal and the expansion of a dangerous compression station across the street from 28

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RPL’s goal is to provide the trails and spaces for anyone who wants to put one foot in front of the other.

a local elementary school and after-school club. • Hosted Patagonia “Run To” Film Screening: “Corriendo para salvar una Cuenca (Run to Save a Watershed)”

featuring Patagonia trail runner and activist, Felipe Cancino. • Named beneficiary for 2021 Women Run the Vote, presented by Oiselle and Run for All Women; the 900-plus mile relay

© 2022 Diversified Communications


event focused on the relationship between environmental justice and indigenous sovereignty. • Released a Statement in Support of Transgender Youth in conjunction with the Running Diversity Industry Coalition • Established Student Runners for Public Lands, a pilot youth club that builds inclusive youthrunning communities dedicated to protecting the environment. • Named beneficiary for Tra il Ru n n er M aga zi n e’s #MatchTheirMiles 2021 Earth Day event. • Established RPL’s National Advisory Council, led by Zoë Rom, the first female Editor-inChief of Trail Runner Magazine. Future, short-term goals for this young organization include educating runners on environmental issues, creating new programs and initiatives that will diversify the trail running community, expanding RPL’s geographic footprint throughout the United States and partnering with organizations whose values align with the RPL mission of social justice and environmental stewardship. Longer-term goals include scaling to a nationally recognized entity in order to do the most good for the greatest amount of people and public spaces — while retaining an organic, grassroots enrollment. Building Brand Trust RPL recognized early on that monthly and weekly running groups don’t only increase awareness of the need for environmental stewardship. They also boost a sense of belonging, which carries over to any brand willing to extend itself as an essential part of the experience. Community trail running 29

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Environmental stewardship is a key component of the Runners for Public Lands mission.

events inspire participants with opportunities to explore and celebrate naturally beautiful landscapes. With the support provided in these events, runners can also venture into amazing places and purchase equipment needed to experience these places on their own — and leave with an even greater sense of urgency to protect the planet’s sacred resources. Corporations and organizations who partner with RPL become part of this circle of belonging and, in turn, can capitalize on unique opportunities to build brand loyalty among their target demographics. Today’s trail runners consider a variety of factors when making running-related purchases that go beyond function and quality. They also want to know that their spending is aligned with their personal beliefs and that the corporations and retailers they purchase from share a sense

of stewardship for the lands that make their sport possible. “ROI is a really good metric for success within a business landscape, but not all investments should be held to this metric,” says Jess Rogers Bloom, president of RPL’s board of directors and global product lead of the Trail Running and Hike Categories at Patagonia. “If a brand is solely interested in what they can get monetarily from a partnership, then it’s most likely not the right relationship,” Bloom adds. “Investing in RPL means investing in our vision of creating more inclusive running communities and a dedication to protecting the environment, building community and opening equitable access to nature.“ Social and environmental justice have been key brand differentiators for many years and have built allegiance with consumers in both the running and outdoor industries. By fostering

relationships with running communities, manufacturers and retailers can better understand differing land, social and climate priorities of these groups and engage at a whole new level. Running is a spor t that requires very little gear. When it comes to runners choosing a brand, they are more likely to consider where products are made, how their buying dollars protect public lands and the impact of their purchase on the environment. Gaining From An RPL Partnership For a young organization, RPL already has a very organized corporate membership focused on tiers of protection of the environment and corresponding benefits for partners. “Corporations and retailers who partner with us can expect a mutually beneficial relationship,” explains John Meadows, a member of the RPL board

© 2022 Diversified Communications


From The Dirt Up (continued) RPL goes far beyond these deliverables and enables brands to provide hard evidence that they are making an impact in the global community, including implementing Terracycle at races, planning trail clean-ups and expanding beyond grassroots efforts to organically grow into a regional and national presence able to take on even greater challenges.

Trail runners consider their time on the dirt as a gift and will support likeminded companies and retailers that have a legitimate environmental ethos.

and manager–North American marketplace for Hoka. “As we continue to grow and prioritize pillars within our mission, we challenge our community to think differently while supporting them with programs like the Race Director Resource Hub, Everyone Runs Fund, Environmental Toolkit and other resources. “In turn, we rely on the action of our partners to promote our programs and advocacy across their platforms and support the development of new initiatives,” Meadows adds. “We all need each other to make a larger impact on our world.” Through its Brand Coalition and Corporate Membership 30

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Program, RPL makes it easy for sponsors to get started with a robust set of resources, including: • Exclusive opportunities to sponsor RPL programs, such as the Race Director Resource Hub. • Use of RPL logo digitally, at events and through brand collaborations. • Features in RPL’s rapidly growing monthly RPL newsletter and opportunities to further engage with its running communities. • Exclusive sponsorship/partnership of events, such as the highly attended Environmental Sustainability Panel Discussion at the Leadville 100. However, partnership with

Making An Impact These are precisely the kind of initiatives today’s consumers are seeking. In establishing a company as an advocate for meaningful change, going beyond ROI to the greater intangibles of consumer trust, brand loyalty and welcome conversations with customers willing to listen to messaging throughout their lifetimes. This cannot be measured in graphs and surveys. “As runners, we move slower, we are human powered, and therefore often have time to notice the little things on the trail, spend more time taking in the beauty around us and use our runs to reflect on our days, the news and how we feel,” says Kathleen Baker, RPL’s managing director. “Sustainability can come in the form of trail maintenance, where and how our clothes are made, protecting the public lands we run on and fighting for voices that have been marginalized. Regardless, it is now a part of many runners’ decision-making and a priority in how we as consumers invest as well as what we expect from the brands that we engage with.” Putting RPL To Work Many companies invest significant time and research dollars in order to establish themselves

as a responsible corporate entity by making claims and initiating efforts close to the hearts of their biggest buyers. Working in tandem with a non-profit such as Runners for Public Lands not only eliminates that internal burden for a company, it also welds a brand or retailer to an aspirational ethos that enables buyers to think of themselves as beyond the subculture of consumption. Partnership with RPL eliminates this element of proof because RPL is agile enough to show consumers how and where their dollars make a difference — from its diverse representation on its board and National Advisory Committee, low overhead and women-led status to its supportive approach integrating belonging, natural history and environmental stewardship into trail running events. Most trail runners consider their time on the dirt a gift and they cherish the land they run on that makes that possible much more than the gear they wear to make it happen. Today’s consumers know they can spend their money on many companies that claim to be part of the sustainability movement. However, Millennial and Gen Z consumers are far more savvy and will dig deep to discover what these “green” claims actually mean. For brands that want to go beyond selling and truly capture the hearts of their consumers, partnerships with nonprofits like RPL not only increase loyalty, but can build lifetime relationships within fresh demographics who care about climate change, sexism, racism, homophobia and human wellness as much as they do for their own personal comfort. n

© 2022 Diversified Communications


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The Trail Issue

Inov-8 Dresses Up Footwear brand expands into its first hiking clothing line to complement its trail running offerings.

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lready a well-respected footwear brand for trail and off-road running, inov-8 has taken the next step and recently launched its first hiking clothing range, designed for faster, lighter outdoor adventure. The brand from the English Lake District is well known for its award-winning hike and running footwear and now the apparel expansion includes a full clothing collection called Venturelite. “We’ve seen the continued growth in popularity of faster-paced hiking and want to give these outdoor lovers the same speedy-feel that trail runners enjoy from their clothing but with the necessary hiking twists,” explains Helen Stuart, inov-8’s head of clothing and equipment. “We’ve kept all the garments super-lightweight by removing unnecessary features and instead sharply focused on the things which hikers really need to safely go faster on trails and chase down mountain summits.” With a carefully designed ergonomic fit that works with the body’s natural movements when hiking, the range includes comfortable mid-layers, hoodies, tees, trousers and shorts. A three-layer waterproof jacket boasting high levels of breathability will launch in time for winter. Stuart, whose team also launched the brand’s first gym clothing range earlier this year, adds: “The hike collection has been designed with layering in mind, with each style working in sync with the other. This mirrors our trail running range, but with the overall feel being less athletic and more relaxed. “And while it is all light and fast, no compromise has been made on protection or durability either, with each garment designed for multi-day use and materials 32

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inov-8 made the move to trail and run apparel to complement its position in performance trail footwear.

carefully chosen to enhance a longer lifespan.” The collection was researched and designed in the Lake District, taking two years from original concept to launch. Across both inov-8’s hike and run clothing ranges there are 36 styles, of which two-thirds contain recycled yarn content. All the recycled yarns are certified by the

Global Recycled Standard, which verifies recycled content and ensures responsible production. All main fabrics also carry the Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex guaranteeing the absence of substances that are harmful or may present a risk to health. Packaging comes in the form of new polybags featuring biodegradable organic technology. n

© 2022 Diversified Communications


The Trail Issue

Naked Running The time was right for Naked Sports to expand from hydration into trail footwear with the T/r Trail Race.

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xpanding from its successful niche in hydration products was a natural for Naked Sports Innovation — it was just a matter of when the time was right. That time is now and, according to co-president and co-founder Lindsay Dakota, designing shoes is something Naked has thought about for several years. “As with the innovation of our other products we were waiting for the right time to create the shoe we wanted and continued along the same narrative as our hydration products.” Dakota says. “That is, to not only create something that hadn’t been done, but to also create a new level of performance.” The result is the Naked T/r Trail Race, featuring laceless technology, a carbon fiber midsole plate, Linerloc non-slip insoles, Vibram outsoles and a knit cuff for ankle security. Naked teamed with performance footwear designer Danny Dance to create what it calls “the most advanced trail racing shoe ever.” MSRP is $289.99. “We wanted a shoe that met the demands of the most difficult conditions encountered by athletes and runners,” explains Dakota, adding that they wanted a shoe that, once on, made runners forget they were wearing a shoe — not in a barefoot way, but in a way the made them trust the shoe was going to perform intuitively. Another goal was to make a shoe where runners didn’t have to stop and re-tie them or be in danger of getting in the way of terrain, catching on roots or snagging on sharp rocks. The interesting angle is that Naked 33

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designers turned to soccer shoe design for inspiration, since soccer player footwork and athleticism is unparalleled. They also knew that the design and construction couldn’t follow the same path as typical trail running shoes. The Naked T/r ultimately performs as “a finely tuned race day weapon for both amateur and occasional trail runners who will benefit from knowing they have on the same shoes as elite trail runners.” The marketing of the new shoe will align with the same message as all other products

by Naked, points out Dakota. “We design extremely innovative products that solve many issues that most have not addressed yet and we provide gear that allows you to get outdoors and not have to think about your gear,” he says. “We feel the market currently is the perfect time for Naked to launch shoes,” he says, adding that “anytime is a good time for us because what we create is new and does not follow the same path as other brand’s offerings.” He stresses that the time felt right for Naked to expand into trail footwear because, in his words, “with the dearth of innovation in the trail segment, Naked is poised to continue leading by innovation.” Of course, the marriage of idea with material and construction has to be right, he adds. “Now is that time and the shoe now becomes an integral segment of the whole Naked story.” Naked will continue a similar distribution strategy as its existing hydration product lines, with the footwear being a part of its wholesale and global distribution platform as well as the direct relationship with its select specialty retail partners. Headed into 2023 Naked plans to continue building out its product lines by sharing the ideas of its premium lines with newly expanded product. Hydration will continue to be the core category, while footwear will expand and go into other disciplines. Apparel is also on the drawing board. “Beyond that we have several amazing initiatives we will continue to explore in both performance and lifestyle,” Dakota promises. n

© 2022 Diversified Communications


The Trail Issue

Shoe Show

Running Insight editors pick some of the hottest shoes for the trail for 2022-23.

Altra Mont Blanc Boa The new Mont Blanc Boa is engineered with a combination of Altra’s Balanced Cushioning platform and Footshape Toe Box, a plush midsole foam Ego Max, the Boa Fit System and a Vibram LiteBase outsole. The result is a micro-adjustable, breathable and traction-ready shoe, prepared to go on allday trail excursions. MSRP: $210

p kee r o t e esh on fib m t b r igh ca twe bitex h g r a li Ca ng, res a 200 i n $ io atu e ush lso fe SRP: dg c E m a hin foa ge d. M orp N PB in Ed or war d f U En ph n y PWRR Endor nners o c u r u Sa e with re, the ropel d istu p a M mo ps hel out that te pla 34

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he the er, tion. T z t l le Me rac at” ore t midso with o g ed d m ew rip Spe ght an to a n egag $145 “ l M 5 ar e ei P: oat lete K less w ter du ibram MSR g d h at il. th igh hV ee Sp Hoka ck wi nce l py wit se so a u a o r k Ho ed fo 5 is b half-o r grip on lo e t p m a N edgoa n is a ill sup ed gri g t i c e s s n p t e a S , ye enh st d late pound g for u com tion L c a Tr

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Nike ZoomX Zegama The ZoomX Zegama offers grip and stability, so runners can keep climbing and reach greater personal heights. Whether it’s a challenging, rocky landscape going uphill or a steep, slick decline, the ZoomX Zegama allows runners to run the terrain comfortably. MSRP: $160

Brooks Caldera 6 From the Fall 2022 collection, the Caldera 6 features nitrogen-infused Dan Loft v3, originally introduced in Aurora-BL, for the brand’s softest cushioning yet. Additionally, the Caldera 6 has raised midsole foam walls and wider base, allowing the foot to feel secure within the shoe in a saddle-like fashion. MSRP: $150

Adidas Soulstride Ultra Soulstride Ultra launches in 2023 featuring new technology from Adidas Terrex. Designed to maximize comfort over longer distances, this shoe introduces Light Boost, featuring a 32 percent weight reduction and four percent more energy return compared to the original Boost. In addition to new midsole tech the Soulstride is wrapped with Continental rubber for durable traction in any condition. MSRP: $190

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Dynafit Ultra 50 The Ultra 50 is Dynafit’s solution to long runs on mixed alpine terrain that doesn’t sacrifice utility for comfort. This lightweight 290g shoe is designed with cushioning that promotes blood circulation and combats fatigue for long runs and wet conditions. The 8mm drop height and Heel Preloader keeps runners’ feet protected through mixed terrain. MSRP: $129.95

ASICS Novablast 3 TR The Novablast 3 TR features a more aggressive outsole trail than ASICS’ performance running model, the Novablast 3. This trail shoe features features a full FF Blast+ midsole and an upper made with 75 percent recycled PET. MSRP: $145 .

Merrell MTL Long Sky 2 A heavy-duty, yet light trail running shoe, the MTL Long Sky 2 features a Vibram Megagrip outsole to keep feet firmly planted in terrain and with quick-dry fabric for water evacuation. Designed to blend the lightweight performance of track shoes and the durability of hiking boots, the MTL Long Sky 2 gives trail runners an abrasion resistant, antibacterial, breathable and adaptable solution. MSRP: $140.

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Xelero Steadfast Trail Xelero’s first trail shoe, the Steadfast Trail is equipped with a waterproof seamed sealed upper, two control plates to offload bottom pressure and aggressive lug bottom for traction. MSRP: $234.99

Under Armour HOVR Ridge The HOVR Ridge Trail running shoes have a reinforced upper optimized for lightweight, rugged protection and 3D overlays for extra lockdown and security. The Ortholite sockliner uses recycled material repurposed for comfort and resiliency and a full-length Vibram outsole with a traction lug design for grip and durability. MSRP: $140

Reebok Floatride Energy 4 Adventure The Floatride Energy 4 Adventure is made with a redesigned rubber outsole inspired by gravel bike tires. Larger, aggressive lugs on the perimeter of the outsole provide added traction in loose terrain, while the tight lug pattern in the center section offers a smooth ride on pavement and hardpacked trails. MSRP: $120

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inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 Flyspeed, the brand’s first nitrogen-infused midsole foam, debuts on the TrailFly Ultra G 280 launching in October. The shoe weighs 280g and has graphene-enhanced rubber, using this strong material to deliver a tough grip. MSRP: $185

Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro A new plated trail shoe, the Pulsar Trail Pro is lightweight and made with the brand’s softest cushion yet. With a TPU plate tucked inside a springy midsole, this shoe provides propulsion at toe-off for a smooth ride. MSRP: $160

La Sportiva Cyklon Cross GTX The Cyklon Cross GTX is designed to tackle technical terrain and snowy trails and is fully waterproof. Featuring a Gore-Tex membrane, vegan materials and an abrasion-resistant gaiter, the shoe keeps feet warm, while the Boa fit system allows for quick adjustments and the Frixion XF 2.0 outsole offers grip on all types of terrain. MSRP: $229

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VJ Shoes XTRM2 The XTRM2 is made for rocky and technical trails, with aggressive lugs and a 100 percent butyl rubber outsole combo grips dirt, mud and rocks. The upper is made of a durable, light and breathable Schoeller Keprotec material and the soft heel technology reduces pressure from the heel bone and Achilles tendon. MSRP: $170 Altra Olympus 5 Created to perform in both wet and dry conditions with a Vibram Megagrip outsole and a collar design to lock in runners’ feet for added comfort, the Olympus 5 also features an engineered mesh upper. MSRP: $180 Topo Pursuit Pursuit delivers Topo’s first cushioned, zero-drop trail runner, with a durable and grippy ride. The tightly woven mesh upper provides breathability with overlays placed in high-abrasion areas. The zero-drop, 28mm platform offers a neutral alignment, promoting a midfoot strike and natural stride with ample cushioning. MSRP: $140

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Tecnica Sulfur New for Spring 2023, the Sulfur is a high-performance approach shoe designed to assure a grippy, stable foundation for safely navigating steep, rocky terrain. While its technical features read like a must-have checklist for an AMGA guide, the fit and comfort of the Sulfur cater to those who also value versatility for a trail-to-town lifestyle.The Sulfur is a properly cushioned, stable approach shoe with an out-of-the-box fit. MSRP: $190

Hoka Mafate Speed 4 The Mafate Speed 4 is back and lighter than ever, with updated cushion and traction. Key updates include a more breathable, lightweight upper and an updated two-part midsole that pairs Hoka’s lightest, most responsive foam underfoot with a firm, responsive layer of rubberized EVA foam underneath. Finally, the new outsole features 5mm Vibram Megagrip with Litebase construction and Traction Lug. MSRP: $185

Scarpa Spin Planet The Spin Planet is a highly cushioned trail shoe that offers a comfortable ride with stability and precision. The upper, midsole and outsole all feature recycled content, along with the breathable upper that is made with 100 percent recycled content, the midsole with 45 percent recycled content and the PRESA outsole with 30 percent recycled rubber. The flared heel on the midsole creates a wider landing platform for serious stability. MSRP: $159

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Asolo Tahoe GTX The Tahoe GTX has a Sigma Grip sticky rubber outsole with a defined heel that provides enhanced braking potential. The Gore-Tex liner makes the shoe waterproof and breathable, allowing for more miles of wear. MSRP: $190

Ryka Kenai Mid-Top Designed for a woman’s unique foot shape, the Kenai Mid-Top hiking shoe features Re-Zorb Lite for lightweight impact protection and shock absorption and a TreadTech lug sole for increased traction. It is built with a narrower heel, roomier toe and softer foot cushioning. MSRP: $170

Lowa Axos GTX Lo A hybrid urban-trail shoe, the Axos GTX Lo is constructed with seamless welded PU/synthetic uppers, is 100 percent vegan and features a waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex lining to protect feet from the elements. MSRP: $230

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SOCKS 2022

Best Sock Forward Higher price point running socks present both a challenge and opportunity for retailers. / By Trish Carlton

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veryone in run specialty retail knows that running shoes always take precedence when selecting the right gear for a long stride, but there’s one not-so-secret ingredient that can take that run to the next level — and the retail sale to a higher level as well. Yes, the often overlooked but always important running sock is making its case as being just as important to a runner as the shoe and other essentials. Choosing just the right sock can make all the difference between a good run and a bad one. These socks not only look good, but they prevent blisters, control moisture and cushion the feet. Today’s high-tech socks are certainly worth the investment for runners; however, this season socks might mean high price tags for anyone shopping for new gear. “Customers are still purchasing socks, but the retail cost is soaring. We have had several customers express sticker shock in our shop,” says Dustin Pearce, owner of Run Hub Northwest, Eugene, OR. “Nearly $20 for one pair of socks is more than many can justify when they can buy a six-pack at a box store for that price, even if the quality is inferior.” This is challenging for any run specialty retailer hoping to sell more advanced socks at these higher price tags to existing runners who know and understand the benefits are worth the cost. What becomes even more challenging, however, is selling them to new runners, most of whom do not understand the importance yet of spending a few extra bucks to get the right socks on their feet. “I find that most new runners are not thinking about socks,” says Jimmy Wiggins, 42

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managing partner of Varsity Sports, New Orleans, LA. “That is why emphasizing the importance of the socks as well as letting the customers use try-on socks while going through the shoe fitting process is very important to including socks in the sale. “Running socks are getting harder to sell as add-ons with the rising prices getting closer to $20 per pair,” he adds. “The newer runners may buy the cheaper multi-pack socks and then upgrade later to the higher price single-pack socks.” Start Simple, Then Expand Starting simple when it comes to sock selection seems to be the trend for new runners, but once they see the difference today’s high-tech socks can make, they become more likely to upgrade to the next level. “Yes, some get the tech in socks and jump on board,” says Alexis Kinney, accessory buyer for Up and Running, Dayton, OH, pointing out that most will buy the multipack first so they can acquaint themselves with technology. “Then they upgrade to the fancier socks as they progress in the sport,” she says.

Though socks are becoming a more expensive and therefore more demanding to sell as an add-on, they remain a reliable piece of a store’s product mix since runners will inevitably always need them. “Socks are great because they’re applicable to everyone. Everyone needs and appreciates good socks for running, walking, at work or for casual wear,” says Nate Wallack, manager of Runner’s Den, Phoenix, AZ. “And sure, they’re an add-on sale, but it’s always an easy and organic conversation because the majority of the options out there really are great and salespeople won’t feel as though they’re being pushy when they mention them to a customer. They’re easy to talk about because every salesperson has their own preferences.” Kinney agrees that socks are applicable to everyone and points out that they offer the additional bonus of improving a customer’s in-store shopping experience. “And you can’t beat the margins,” Kinney adds, pointing out that socks are an easy way to improve a customer’s experience whether they are running or not. “A good pair of socks makes a good pair of shoes great — and for most people that is brand new information.” Taking Over From Cotton Just because newer runners are less likely to purchase the top tier socks right away doesn’t mean that they aren’t aware of what they can offer their feet. Many retailers are aware that these customers have done their homework on some level and find it important to help them understand all of their options. “Whether our customers who are newer

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runners are aware they shouldn’t be wearing cotton or not, the socks in the store always seem to pique their interest,” says Wallack. “Sometimes they will have already read on a blog or seen on a YouTube channel that socks are important. Other newer runners are sometimes amused by the idea that something as simple as socks makes a difference and they start curiosity shopping. In either case most newer runners do end up purchasing socks.” The biggest concern for runners buying new shoes is the same concern they have when buying new socks — Will these help with blister prevention? For retailers this is one of the main selling points when discussing the unique features of the hightech socks. “Customers’ main concern with socks is reducing blisters, so we begin with talking about socks being the one of the best way to reduce blisters,” says Wiggins, who explains to customers that the quality running socks they carry are not cotton, that these wick away the moisture better than the cotton socks. “Cotton socks also do not retain their shape and stretch out, needing to be replaced more often,” he adds. “The running socks we carry hold their shape and last much longer, with some offering a lifetime guarantee,” Comparing the moisturewicking qualities of high-tech socks to standard cotton socks is certainly the easiest and most effective way to convince both new and experienced runners that upgrading their sock selection is worth it, especially given the higher price tag. “Priority number one for customers is preventing blisters,” echoes Wallack. “I assure 43

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them that any sock we sell will accomplish that and mention how the rest is subjective.” His sock-selling style is simple: “Socks are a simple item in the store and I try to let them stay that way. How high of a sock do they want? Thick/thin? I tell customers they should try a single pair, or maybe a three pack, and their feet will convince them of how much better they are than the cotton ones in the drawer at home.” The Sock Display on Display When it comes to product placement, socks are traditionally featured next to footwear on the floor display, since it makes the most sense for the buyer’s journey. This is also the easiest way for retailers to suggest compatible socks for a shoe. Although they are regarded as an add-on sale, retailers also feel that it’s important to recognize socks as a separate category from sneakers. “We previously had socks merchandised with the footwear, but currently have them with our impulse buy area near the check-out counter,” says Pearce. “Regardless of where displayed, we view socks as their own category.” And just li ke any other apparel category, socks have popular go-to name brands. “Currently we sell socks from Feetures, Balega, Sock Guy and

some three packs from Saucony, with Feetures by far our biggest offering,” says Wallac, who explains that like many other items in the store its sock selection is cyclical by nature. “We have sold Feetures the longest and as a result they have the biggest following among our customers,” he explains. “We’ve brought in more SKUs over the years and that following has grown. Balega makes a broad range of great socks as well and they could very well have been our best selling brand if not for Feetures’ longevity in our store. Sock Guy is relatively new to us and is in our store on a trial basis. They’re a great price and I like the personality they bring to the sales floor.” Similar to Wallack, Wiggins also attributes the longevity of specific sock brands in his store to their lasting popularity among his customer base. “We sell Feetures, Balega, Swiftwick, Injinji, Sky and Saucony multi-packs,” says Wiggins. “There are a lot of brands out there and they all feel great, but these are the brands that we have had in our store for a while. Other sock brands would have to offer something new and different to be added to our store,” Though certain brands have accumulated a fan base over the years, retailers also say the seed product that sock vendors send

to them helps maintain brand loyalty. Yet this year retailers have found that vendors are sending less samples that they can push in their stores, which adds to the difficulty of selling socks in the higher price range. “Over the last several years we’ve seen significantly less seed product for staff and nearly zero try-on socks for our customers,” says Wallack. “The vast majority of brands are making high-quality socks and the ones that sell are the ones that have already found their way onto a runner or walker’s feet. “It’s not enough to make a good sock,” he continues. “If I were one of these brands I would be aggressively seeding salespeople with a variety of different models and let them take it from there.” With added costs and less tryons, Wiggins and Pearce also feel that sending more sample pairs in addition to creating socks at a lower price point would help them sell more socks from the vendors they do carry. “Right now the challenge is the price increases,” says Wiggins. “In the past, the try-on socks and employee seeding have had the biggest impact on sock sales.” Pearce, however, is looking for more affordable socks to sell in a challenging economic environment. “Sock brands need to make models in the $12-$15 price point again,” he says. “Customers are just having a hard time justifying one pair at nearly $20. Perhaps, offer twoto-three pair packs, as Brooks does, with a lower price point per sock. In addition to actively offering seed pairs for staff at least once per year, because they are your best ambassadors.” n © 2022 Diversified Communications


SOCKS 2022

BALEGA The Limited Edition Enduro Grit & Grace performance sock is Balega’s newest and most charitable sock. For every sock purchased, $1 is donated to Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, the leading national science-based and advocacy organization working to eliminate toxic chemicals and other environmental exposures linked to breast cancer. This performance sock features an inspirational message and unisex sizing so runners can show their support. MSRP: $16 Advice for retailers from Matt Hubbell, Product Line Manager. “It’s all about introducing the sock during the fit process. Performance socks have a high-quality fit and feel you have to experience to understand. Once the right sock is selected based on the customer’s needs and preferences, have them try it on one foot with their selected shoes. They will instantly feel the difference between a high-quality performance sock versus what they are currently

BOLDFOOT Boldfoot’s Wingman in Sky Blue and Royal Hermes Wing Pattern is 100 percent American-made, grown and sewn. Made of 77 percent polypropylene, 17 percent nylon, three percent elastic and three percent spandex. MSRP: $16.99 Advice for retailers from Josh Law, President. “Use real-life usage as a selling point. For example, when anyone asks me about our athletic socks I tell them that I have worn them during a 100-mile trail race, a 100K trail and multiple 50Ks. I think that helps them understand the durability and comfort of the socks.”

CEP COMPRESSION CEP’s Infrared Recovery Compression Socks integrate both Smart Infrared and microvascular circulation to shorten recovery time and ensure runners’ legs feel rejuvenated quicker than ever. This sock features a slim profile and variety of colors, with Lyocell fibers for moisture management, breathability and comfort throughout the lower leg. The micro minerals embedded in the yarn work like a mirror and reflect the transmitted body heat radiation waves back on the skin surface to keep the body temperature constant and improve blood circulation. MSRP: $49.95 Advice for retailers from Robyn Goby, Regional Sales Manager. “Recommend sock fitting as part of your shoe fitting process every single time. Before the customer tries on their first pair of shoes, they should be set with socks. Whether you’re pulling socks off the wall or using try-ons from a bin, make sure they understand the benefits of the sock and how it ties into the fit of their new shoe.”

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SOCKS 2022

DARN TOUGH Darn Tough’s No Show Tab Ultra-Lightweight Running Sock is its most minimal running sock and is ultra-lightweight with Merino wool for blister protection and sweat-wicking power. MSRP: $18 Advice for retailers from Tressa Kreis, National Sales Manager. “Quality, quality, quality. Runners don’t want to spend money on a sock that will only last six months — they want something they can rely on for years. Education around Merino wool will steer them in the right direction. They want socks that hold up to the test of many miles and if the socks do start to wear through, they want a guarantee that they can exchange them for a new pair.”

DEFINITE ARTICLES The Definite ankle sock performs whether running trails or cruising through a 100 miler with premium cushioned support. As “the planet’s first biodegradable performance sock,” runners get all the performance without the waste. MSRP: $14.95 Advice for retailers from Aaron Sanandres, CEO. “Performance first. No one sock fits all feet or runs. Encourage runners to pick the sock that best suits their running adventure. Socks can make or break a person’s run and retailers can help by making a variety of performance socks available to share and test out before committing to a brand. Lead by example. Most runners have no idea their performance socks contain plastic that takes centuries to biodegrade. No way should our socks outlast us. From our soles on up, what we wear matters — for our performance and our planet. Run retailers can play a leading role in building awareness.”

DRYMAX Drymax Running Lite Mesh is made from plush terry loop bottom and venting make this a Goldilocks “just right” choice for a run. Made in the USA. MSRP: $13.50 Advice for retailers from Bob MacGillivray, Executive Vice President. “Customers trust your expertise, they are in your store to buy from you. So reward them with a long-lasting technical item that improves their running experience and keeps them coming back.”

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SOCKS 2022

INJINJI Injinji’s Run Lightweight No-Show Wool brings the power of Merino to runners who prefer a lower profile silhouette. Featuring reinforced toes with additional nylon, this lightweight, breathable toe sock offers a mesh top to increase comfort and provide optimal temperature regulation during runs. MSRP: $18 Advice for retailers from Jason Battenfield, CEO . “Feature a sock of the month, or a fun sock wall feature that highlights the importance of a good performance run sock.”

LASSO Lasso Performance Compression crew socks provide patented Kinesio-style compression and support to arches, feet and ankles to improve musculoskeletal alignment and joint stability. MSRP: $30 Advice for retailers from Scott Sorensen, Chief Marketing Officer. “The sock is arguably the next most important purchase after the shoe. The shoe provides basic comfort while the sock provides foot and ankle support. All of your weight, all the impact and all of the stress is placed on the feet, ankles and legs while running and the right sock is critical for both performance and recovery. The right compression can help improve blood circulation that helps performance and speeds up recovery.”

LE BENT The Ultra Light Mini Trail Sock from Le Bent is a low-profile, ultralight outdoor trail sock with minimal cushioning to keep feet cool in warm environments and during high intensity workouts. MSRP: $20 Advice for retailers from Anthony Symonds, Founder. “Your running footwear is only as good as the socks within them. An ill-fitting, slipping or blister-inducing sock will ruin a run quicker than just about anything. It follows that anyone selling shoes should, by extension, be selling the right socks to compliment the shoe. At the try-on stage, couple a new shoe with a new pair of socks and see the sparks fly. Once it’s felt, there’s no going back, you’ve got loyal feet for life.”

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SOCKS 2022

LIGHTFEET Lightfeet Evolution socks are designed by Australian podiatrists with protection and comfort in mind. Evolution features FormFit technology to contour to left and right while keeping feet cool, dry and fresh with Coolmax and X-Static yarns. Lightfeet Evolution is coming soon to America. MSRP: AUD$34.95, USD TBD Advice for retailers from Jake Bevis, Brand Development Manager. “Lightfeet Evolution is more than just a sock. Evolution represents performance, quality and pride. We are so proud that we are able to deliver an Australian-made product that outshines, outperforms and outsells the largest brands in this category in Australia.”

OS1ST The Active Comfort Sock offers room in the toe box for proper toe splay, helping runners distribute body weight throughout the foot, reduce point pressure and improve alignment. The sock is available in no-show with a double-tab for high-collar shoes, quarter crew and crew. It is constructed with bamboo charcoal cushion, targeted zones of light compression, Skin Thin cooling panels, anatomical fit and 360 degrees of blister protection. MSRP: $14.99 Advice for retailers from Josh Higgins, President. “The key to selling more socks is to make a personalized sock recommendation during the fit process to either enhance the performance of their new shoe or double-down on the solution it offers. That requires having the right mix of condition-specific and performance-based solutions on the sock wall and the brand support to keep staff up to date. The sock recommendation should be just as intentional as the shoes you pull from the back.”

SHOWERS PASS Showers Pass Crosspoint waterproof socks feature a three-layer, 3D-molded design. Crosspoint socks are fully waterproof thanks to three layers — a wear-resistant knit exterior that feels like a regular sock, a waterproof breathable Artex membrane and the natural moisture-wicking antibacterial properties of Merino wool in the inner sock. MSRP: $42 Advice for retailers from Jeremy Rider, National Sales Manager. “As simple as it sounds, telling customers about them, and more specifically, telling customers about the experience they provide. All products are at their core solutions to problems. A retailer who understands what problems a product solves or what experience it provides can identify customers who might experience the problem and bring the product/solution to their attention with a level of trust and authenticity that is challenging to replicate through digital and print media.”

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SOCKS 2022

SMARTWOOL Smartwool’s Targeted Cushion Low Ankle Socks are durable and comfortable and provide the extra cushion for runners who prefer it. On top of offering reduced slippage, they are performance-oriented and breathable, made with ZQ-certified Merino wool, so they’re odor-resistant. MSRP: $19 Advice for retailers from Jody Carlson, Director of Sales . “Runners are in search of two things — improved performance and user experience. Retail staff must understand that both of these extend beyond shoe selection. Socks are the connection between a runner’s foot and shoe — serving critical roles of moisture management, friction reduction and cushion that every runner needs. Socks should be part of the shoe fit/user experience equation. Improving sock sales is like improving distance or pace — the only way to improve is to measure.”

SOCK GUY Sock Guy’s Grin socks were designed to make runners smile with a grinning pup. This sweet dog face and sunny blue are meant to be a reminder to smile no matter what the day hands out. These socks will also keep feet comfortable and dry. MSRP: $11.95 Advice for retailers from Michael Foley, President. “Go beyond black and white. It’s been a tough couple of years and you’ve already got a ton of black and white socks, so it’s time to make things more fun for your customers with unique performance socks that show personality and style. You’ve got the basics covered, now sell some fun.”

SWIFTWICK Swiftwick Flite XT Trail features AnkleLock technology that supports ankles during quick movements on uneven and varying terrains, while GripDry Fiber in the heel and forefoot keeps feet from sliding in shoes. Comes in a two-inch and five-inch cuff. MSRP: $23.99–$26.99 Advice for retailers from Jason Barlow, Account Representative, Run. “Train your staff to be comfortable pulling try-on socks with every fit.”

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SOCKS 2022

WRIGHTSOCK Wrightsock’s Run Luxe sock is a cushioned sock made from post-consumer recycled plastics — each pair is made from approximately two plastic bottles. They feature an anatomical heel, cushion dense padding and a ventilated mesh top for added breathability. MSRP: $15. Advice for retailers from Russ Coillot, Director of Sales and Marketing. “Make your sock business important. Talk about it often with your team. Make sure your team is wearing the sock brands you carry. If they are not, reach out to your vendors for seed product. Measure your team’s performance, share their numbers with them. Make sure your team understands how important adding a couple of pairs of socks to each purchase can be to the success of your business.”

ZENSAH Zensah’s PF Ease Sock provides runners with relief from plantar fasciitis and foot pain. With features such as targeted compression zones, performance material and seamless construction, this plantar fasciitis sock provides relief with compression zones around the arch and Achilles to lift and support the plantar fascia. This no-show plantar fasciitis sock design has performance tabs ensuring easy wearing and no slippage down into the shoe. MSRP: $20 Advice for retailers from Sarah Humphries, Marketing Director. “Creating targeted, quality products that serve a specific purpose for our customer is half of the battle. The other half is telling the story of that product and how it will provide benefits to runners.”

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running shorts The State of Apparel & Footwear Shopping in 2022 Revealed in New Survey (84 percent) and overall quality of the product (76 percent). • Apparel and footwear shoppers also seek out specific information when deciding whether or not to make a purchase., including price (84 percent), ratings and reviews (78 percent) and imagery provided by people who have previously purchased the product (56 percent).

A RECENTLY RELEASED STUDY called “The State of Apparel & Footwear Shopping in 2022,” based on survey responses from 11,862 beauty, clothing and footwear shoppers across the United States, provides an interesting glimpse inside the minds of today’s consumers and gives run specialty retailers some insight into what to expect when these shoppers walk into their stores. Among the key findings. Online Apparel and Footwear Shopping Continues to Grow • 89 percent spend more than $101 online on apparel and footwear each year, with 67

Brooks Launches ‘It’s Your Run’ Campaign Brooks last month launched a new global brand campaign, “It’s Your Run,” as a celebration of the creative ways all types of runners get to their personal finish lines. It’s Your Run is billed as a celebration of runners of all types finding their best run (in whatever creative ways they want) and to own it with pride. The campaign features seven video spots, with VO from actor David

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percent of all clothing spend and 74 percent of all footwear spend occurring online. • Just over half (51 percent) indicate they spend more money on apparel products online than they did pre-COVID. • The most common places for consumers to start the apparel purchase journey online include retailer sites (35 percent), brand sites (33 percent) and Amazon. Consumers Weigh Many Factors When Purchasing Apparel and Footwear • The top factors apparel shoppers pay attention to are fit/sizing (89 percent), comfort

Ratings and Reviews are Essential to Apparel Shoppers • 99 percent of consumers read ratings and reviews when shopping for clothing online. • 98 percent read reviews when shopping for footwear at least occasionally. • Apparel and footwear shoppers pay particular attention to the opinions on specific details relevant to the product (72 percent), average star rating (70 percent), review volume (65 percent) and review recency (56 percent). Clothing and Footwear Shoppers Alike Seek Out User-Generated Visual Content • 96 percent of consumers seek out photos and videos from other consumers when shopping for clothing online. • 95 percent of online footwear shoppers seek out user-generated photos and videos at least occasionally.

Harbour, who has been vocal about his connection to running for its mental and physical benefits. With 8.6 million runners added to the brand since 2020, and with global participation in running expected to grow, Brooks is looking to reach the next generation of people who run and inspire them with creative ways to conquer their run and support their run with solutions to stay the course. https://youtu.be/zTf9LssaL1A.

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Congratulations to the

2022 Best Running Stores! 1ST PLACE SPORTS / A RUNNER’S MIND / A SNAIL’S PACE / BULL CITY RUNNING COMPANY / CHARLOTTE RUNNING COMPANY / CHARM CITY RUN / CONFLUENCE RUNNING / DICK POND ATHLETICS / FLEET FEET CHICAGO / FLEET FEET DAVENPORT / FLEET FEET FORT WAYNE / FLEET FEET HARTFORD / FLEET FEET LEXINGTON / FLEET FEET LOUISVILLE / FLEET FEET MONTCLAIR / FLEET FEET NASHVILLE / FLEET FEET PNW / FLEET FEET RICHMOND / FLEET FEET ROCHESTER / FLEET FEET WEST READING / FOOTZONE / GAZELLE SPORTS / GEORGIA GAME CHANGERS RUNNING COMPANY / GET FIT / HOWE2RUN / IRUN TEXAS / KELLEY’S PACE / LUCKY ROAD / MILL CITY RUNNING / NAPERVILLE RUNNING / PACERS RUNNING / PALMETTO RUNNING COMPANY / PHILADELPHIA RUNNER / PLAYMAKERS / POINT 2 RUNNING COMPANY / POTOMAC RIVER RUNNING / PRO BIKE + RUN / RED COYOTE RUNNING AND FITNESS / RIDGEFIELD RUNNING COMPANY / RUN HUB NORTHWEST / RUNNER’S EDGE MT / RUNNER’S EDGE NY / RUNNERS FORUM / RUNNING COMPANY OF HADDONFIELD / RUNNING ETC / RUNNING LAB / RUNNING NICHE / RUNNING SOLES / RUNNING ZONE / RUNWELL / RUSH RUNNING / SALT LAKE RUNNING COMPANY / SHU’S IDAHO RUNNING COMPANY / SKINNY RAVEN SPORTS / ST PETE RUNNING COMPANY / TERRA RUNNING / THE RUNNING WELL STORE / TORTOISE & HARE SPORTS / ULTRA RUNNING COMPANY / UP AND RUNNING IN DAYTON / XTRA MILE RUNNING

Learn More: therunningevent.com/brs-2022-awards/

Find out who is Store of The Year at the 2022 Best Running Stores Reception taking place December 1 at The Running Event. Tickets are available for purchase when registering for #TRE22. Produced by


running shorts Low Impact Alliance Goes Online To Facilitate Communication LIVEs on the online forum. Access exclusive content only available to Forum members. • Speak Up … Engage with major running brands and industry leaders about the changes members want to see in the industry. • Get Inspired … See what others are doing in their community and create a game plan. • Be a Part of Something Big … Witness firsthand the power an individual’s voice has in pressuring big companies to make big moves in sustainability and environmental responsibility.

LOOKING TO EXPAND ITS reach and facilitate communication among both existing and potential members, the Low Impact Alliance (LIA) this week is launching its Online Forum. According to Christian Fyfe, co-owner of Palmetto Running Company and the organizer of LIA, “run specialty is craving an online community for likeminded and eco-conscious runners, retailers and brands to support each other on our path to making the running industry more sustainable and environmentally responsible.” The online forum is a place for any member of the running community to engage, support, inspire and get educated in ways to promote sustainability in their community and beyond. Among the benefits and aim of the Forum:

• Make New Friends … Connect with like-minded runners and find members in the area. • Learn … Members can be the first to hear about upcoming events, webinars and

Forum landing page: https://low-impact-alliance.mn.co/

Take The Lead Event Is Shaping Up For September 25-27 in Seattle Take the Lead, described as “the first women/femme of color-led retreat that centers the experience of women/ femme of color who work in the running industry,” is set for September 25–27 in Seattle, WA, at Brooks Running headquarters. The goal is for women/ femme of color in the running industry to to build community, address barriers and create avenues for change. Take The Lead is created by Martha Garcia, former Hoka director of global brand creative and communications, and Alison Désir, advocate and founder of Harlem Run and Run 4 all women. With the help of the Running Industry Diversity Coalition (RIDC), one of the things that will be addressed at the

Take the Lead event is the lack of employment data, specifically on race/ ethnicity diversity in the running industry. Only several of the most prominent running companies in the world are transparent in data — Brooks, Nike, and Deckers. Of those, none have aggregated data specific race/ethnicity and none of them have C-suite teams or boards that are close to reflecting the fact that 40 percent of people in the U.S. identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigienous, People of Color).

The event has support from notable industry players such as Strava, Oiselle, On Running and several others that are sponsoring and/or sending participants from their teams. Following the late September event, RIDC will be reporting the findings and developments, along with any pertinent programming or buy-in from the largest running brands in the world. For more: ht tps://raceroster.com/ events/2022/62141/take-the-lead-retreat

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Discussion topics: https://low-impact-alliance.mn.co/topics

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UQ DATAPOINTS

Inventory Breakdown PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL SALES AND TOTAL ON-HAND UNITS BY BRAND

Brooks Hoka One One New Balance

STORY LINE:

On

• Half of run specialty footwear sales came from Brooks and Hoka.

Saucony

• Recovery and sandals brands OOFOS and Birkenstock rank in the top 12 (above some running shoe brands)!

Asics Oofos Altra

• Several brands in yellow are over-indexing, with a higher percentage of sales than inventory.

Mizuno Nike Birkenstock Diadora

0% LEGEND

5%

10%

Percent of Total Sales

15%

20%

25%

30%

Percent of Total On-Hand

FOOTNOTES: The percentage of sales is from May 1 to August 13, 2022. The percentage of on-hand inventory snapshot was taken on August 13, 2022. Data was compiled from 67 retailers representing 186 locations.

Get Industry benchmarks in your inbox every Monday.

WEEKLY SNAPSHOTS A New RIA Member benefit Upperquadrant.com/RiA

BY UPPER QUADRANT IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE RUNNING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION DataPoints is produced by Upper Quadrant Upper Quadrant assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in this content. The information contained this infographic is provided on “as is” basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness, or timeliness.


ONE MORE THING

A Love Letter To The Ugliest Trail Shoe Ever … I Miss You. / By Tom Griffen

I

n 2004 I was a high school special education teacher. Every day posed an unpredictable challenge with kids’ behavior, their parents’ behavior (which was often worse) and the bureaucracy of a convoluted educational system. It all took a toll on me. One morning I was out for an early run and passed a shop I’d never visited before. A small store dedicated to running! For the rest of my workout I wondered about what it would be like to work in a running store: I’d get to hang out with fellow runners, geek out on shoes, compare PRs and maybe even get a fat discount on the kicks that took regular chunks out of my bleak teacher’s salary. When I got home I sent the owner a message. A few months later I’d lock up my classroom, trade my tie for a technical tee and sit on a fit stool across from countless customers who regularly mispronounced the word plantar fasciitis. I was in heaven. Back in those days I was more into hiking than running. Once, on a long single track through a dreamy portion of tall woods I sped up my ambling pace to a slow jog. The pack rattled on my back as the trees whizzed by faster than ever. “Dang,” I thought. “Running on a trail is amazing! I wonder if it’s a thing.” Trail Running Is Indeed A Thing During my next shift at the shop, I shared my experience with coworkers. “Doggone right it’s a thing,” another staffer said. He and I quickly became trail running buddies. After a few months of super early mornings, starry miles, dim headlamps and way too many spiderwebs, I came into work one day to find a new shoe on the wall. A chicken fat yellow eyesore with a blood red logo and dark splotches. The shoe was like all my students at the time in that it demanded attention and caused everyone around it to shake their heads a little bit. 54

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That nasty mustard shoe became the talk of the shop. It proudly glowed among its footwear peers and no matter where it sat on the wall it inevitably became a conversation piece. “What’s that one?” customers would ask, cringing. “That’s a new trail shoe,” we’d say. They’d scratch their heads. “Wait. Should I have a different shoe for when I run trails?” they’d ask. And the banter would continue about why a trail shoe is a great solution. Loving a Shoe Wasn’t long before those yellow shoes became the trail staple. Seemed that everyone had a pair. Eventually I, too, rocked this terrifically unsightly model as I cranked out longer, faster and more comfortable trail miles. Still, I hated that I loved this hideous shoe. When version 2 came out, I snagged my size 12s straight from the vendor’s shipping box and brought it to the register for my discount. Soon I had a backup pair — and before long a backup to the backup. This trail shoe became part of my identity. I proudly wore it as an all day, every day shoe and wouldn’t even consider other options. A s t i m e w e n t b y, m y attachment deepened. Every ultramarathon I’ve ever run was completed with a version of this shoe on my feet, including a couple sub-24 hundred milers. Of course the model changed a little bit with each iteration — and thankfully the spongy funky lemon profile gave way to far hipper designs. The model was my go-to for more than a decade. In 2018, as I began my walk 55

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across America at the Santa Monica pier, version 13 shod my feet. I assumed it would be my accompanying footwear for the 3000 miles between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. I even had a few pairs on deck back home for friends to mail me when I’d worn another pair ragged. I had run, but never walked marathon distances on hard top with these favorite shoes, let alone done it daily for months on end. And when my feet started throbbing after the first 300 miles, I didn’t even consider the possibility of changing styles. I charged ahead in pain and figured I just needed to get used to the new conditions. But things only got worse and it wasn’t until a friend recommended a completely new shoe (Gasp! A road shoe!) that I started to feel better. My pain dissipated and for the rest of my journey I stayed true to this new model that made me feel like I was walking on a marshmallow. Cheating On An Old Friend Yet as I sauntered in utter comfort, I felt unfaithful. And when the sixth pair of my cheater shoes concluded my transcontinental journey, I still pined for my old shoe friend. It’s funny how an inanimate thing can become such a living part of our persona. For many years, that first trail shoe defined me. These days, when I cross paths with runner people from my past they often ask if I’m still a loyalist. When I tell them I’m not, I feel a little pang in my heart. I then secretly promise myself I’ll grab a pair of the newest version on my next shoe-buying trip. But so far my promises have all been empty and I still am without

my once-favorite shoe. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t recognize it if I saw one. As humans, evolution and growth is inevitable. And with this growth, we have to endure loss. Yeah, I know trail shoes are just shoes. And being sentimental about a certain model is plain silly. But there’s no denying I am still a little bit in love. I can’t shake the impact of my old, unsightly friend. Probably never will. And funny, what once caused embarrassment and

self-consciousness now fills me with nostalgia. How I wish I could, just one last time, put on a fresh pair of those sunny golden dreamboats from back in the day. n In case you are curious: T h e ye l l ow m o n s te r s the author refers to in the stor y were Brooks Cascadia (in photo above) and the one s that he replaced them with were the Hoka Bondi (page 54).

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