Anatomy of Running, Part 2: The Economy

By Sarah Tuff Dunn June 11, 2015
Editor’s note:  This is Part 2 of a three-part series
Part 1: Participation      Part 3: Innovation

 

This morning, like many women in the U.S., I went for a run, but I didn’t just throw on a pair of sneakers and head out the door. I carefully dressed in my Patagonia sports bra, 2XU sleeveless top, GoLite sweatshirt, 2XU compression capris, 2XU elite performance socks, and bright-blue Brooks racer shoes. The total cost of my outfit hovered around $300. Every few weeks, I also spend $85 on a sports massage, and a sizable sum for gym access to treadmills. Then there’s the $9.95 Spotify subscription, and the new iPhone, all of which accessorize my daily running habits.

And I’m not alone. The economy of running has stepped out of the shoebox and now encompasses an entire lifestyle—a “complete experience,” explains Henry Guzman, co-owner of and buyer for Flatirons Running, Inc. in Boulder, Colorado. “Runners want the whole package and don’t mind paying for it.”

“Runners want the whole package and don’t mind paying for it.” —Henry Guzman, co-owner of and buyer for Flatirons Running, Inc.

Run Like A Girl

I’m also part of the demographic that is driving the sport today, says Guzman, who says women between the ages of 35 and 60 have more influence on the market than any other group. According to OIA ConsumerVue, 35 percent of female U.S. outdoor consumers participate in running/jogging, which is one of the top traditional outdoor activities among women. “That’s the reason you see colors in the market,” Guzman says, “and specific shoes being built,” just for women. Take a look at Nike, for example, which, in April 2015, launched its largest ad campaign to date called #betterforit aimed at supporting women and their athletic lives.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=zzbjEMaDjrk

Then there’s Hoka One One. If you haven’t heard of the brand, read more here. The long story short is that the company, which sprang from trail running in the French Alps, makes shoes with über-thick soles. The brand has found a home in the shoe closets and hearts of thousands of elite and recreational trail runners and triathletes, not to mention track stars and masters racers. The love for the luxurious ride and high-rise looks of Hoka shoes has reshuffled the way retailers are stocking their shelves.

“The biggest trend is max cushioning, and probably will be until the end of 2016,” says Guzman, adding that Hoka and other companies are more focused than ever on “engineering shoes that are functionally sound and cushioned.”

The company might as well be called Hoka Won Won. “Hoka is driving the market right now,” says Guzman, “and everyone is trying to catch up.”

Race To The Top Bank

Meanwhile, everyone’s also trying to catch up with the rest of the pack in trail races, which have taken off in the past few years—another driver of the running economy. “In just five years, the number of estimated finishers in nontraditional events has grown from low six figures in 2009 to a staggering 4 million in 2013,” according to Running USA’s “2014 State of the Sport.” That’s nearly a fourtyfold increase, according to the report.

The total number of trail runners in 2013 reached more than 6 million, representing a 13 percent increase over 2012, according to Outdoor Industry Foundation’s “2014 Outdoor Participation Report.” That means dollars and cents not only for retail stores, but also for race organizers as trail runners pony up whatever it takes to run in the wild.

That means dollars and cents not only for retail stores, but also for race organizers as trail runners pony up whatever it takes to run in the wild.

“Trail runners are going back to what they knew kept them healthy— so, old school,” says Guzman. “And they’re looking for footwear to accommodate that. The only thing that’s really changed in trail is that most trail races are being sold out because of the newfound enthusiasm in the sport.”

And you can’t put a price on enthusiasm—or can you?


For more information on the state of the sport of running, and data to drive your retail decisions, view Outdoor Foundation’s “2014 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report” and OIA ConsumerVue.