By Mathias Eichler
While on social media it might look like everyone’s wearing HOKA’s these days, toeing the line at a trail race still shows a very different picture. I’ve always been fascinated how diverse the gear, and especially the shoe selection still is among trail runners of all shapes and sizes.
Today’s announcement by Jason Schlarb is just the latest in a string of new to the scene shoes makers pushing into the trail space with new gear, marketed by pro athletes and often sold at an eye-popping price previously not seen in trail running shops.
Here’s the current rundown of athletes running (literally) on new shoe sponsors:
Did I miss anyone?
I have been fascinated, and a bit worried about that development.
Getting new brands established in our sport is a very good thing. New companies means new cash for athletes, new stories told from different perspectives, and new possibilities for better gear (innovation!)
Established brands2 seem to struggle with innovation on top of their customer’s expectation.
The marketing around these new shoes relies heavily on athlete/influencer social media promotions. This to me seems to be a clear acknowledgment how effective this type of marketing in our sport is, and probably also how reasonably inexpensive. Vying for prominent shelf space will require a more longterm effort. And sponsoring events might also be more of a longterm deal/has lower ROI?
The prices of these shoes – and the limited availability – are currently distorting the market. At twice the price of shoes previously worn by top athletes it creates a huge price ceiling. If these new companies are even a slight bit successful in changing the customer expectations we can expect price increases among our current shoe providers and thus making our sport unnecessarily more expensive. And this is more than just the inflation everyone talks about, this is turning an accessible sport into a luxury sport. If an athlete won races in $200 shoes the $375 shoe doesn’t make the difference.