Walk This Way
Walking is a Go-To Work Out for All Ages. Brands are Showcasing Shoes that Keep Pace with Today’s Wellness Lifestyle.
Since the onset of the pandemic, walking during free/leisure time has become the most important outdoor activity for consumers. With the world opening up, it looks to continue. In our most recent Trend Insight survey, 96 percent of respondents who are active and walk for fitness told us they consider walking to be a vital part of their daily fitness routine. And nearly 65 percent said they walk for fitness five or more times per week. People are walking for longer amounts of time, too. Recent data from Polar Electro, a marketer of wearable sports and heart rate technology, shows on average, across all age groups, walk duration lasting over an hour (and burning about 360 calories per session). “Walking is a modern activity format for all ages with a low starting threshold,” states
Dr. Raija Laukkanen, director of science collaborations at Polar Electro. It makes business sense that footwear brands are targeting walkers of all ages and often adjusting their design to accommodate. Here’s what execs are saying.
A Demographic Shift
What changes are you seeing in the traditional walking demographic?
“Walking footwear was once a niche market. Today, walking is a universal activity for all ages. We’re seeing more younger consumers looking for convenient and comfortable footwear as they transition from the gym or yoga studio to home or work or school.” – Kathy Kartalis, SVP of global product, Skechers
“The audience for walking as a category has definitely broadened. In some cases out of necessity, more and more people have discovered the outdoors as a gym, a quiet retreat, and a place to socialize. Walking is the perfect activity for people of any age, in any location, at any fitness level.” – Tiss Dahan, VP of marketing, Dansko
“Our demographics within the walking category are expanding to incorporate a much wider variety of age ranges. As Boomers age, medical professionals are encouraging patients to incorporate walking into their daily routine now more than ever. Even an extra 10-15 minutes a day makes an impact upon one’s overall fitness and well-being.” – Frank Cammarata, CEO & founder, The Enjoiya Group
“Over the past two years we have witnessed an expanded interest in walking as an easily accessible form of exercise and as one that provides a positive mental break and opportunity for fresh air. With holistic health and wellness becoming more of a focal point for a wider population, it’s only natural that this easily adopted form of exercise has become more mainstream.” – Darren Brown, Head of marketing, OOFOS
“The treadmill has become more popular for the younger generation as of late, specifically the ‘12-3-30’ workout which went viral on TikTok. You set your treadmill to an incline of 12 and a speed of 3mph for 30 minutes for vigorous activity.” – Dan Werremeyer, President, Instride Shoes (Xelero)
“People recently began walking to stay mentally and physically fit. This has only gained momentum as the stigma for walking has given way to a newfound respect for its value as an easy, everyday activity.” – Kelly Dumpson, Head of wholesale, SAS
“First, walking is being embraced by a younger demographic than the mall walkers of the 1990s. Also, while international travel has been stymied over the past twenty months, we are starting to see more walkers pushing the travel button again and getting back out there.” – Rusty Hall, President, Mephisto
“Health and wellness continue to be ‘on trend.’ As a result, more people are looking to walking shoes that provide superior cushioning and support as they are spending more time on the move.” – Matt Dieckhaus, VP of sales and marketing, Latitudes (mōshn)
“While we have known that walking is America’s number one exercise sport in recent history, there was a lot of data during the lockdown that showed that number had increased dramatically. I believe that walking for exercise will maintain its popularity, as it is low impact on the body and the wallet.” – Megan Gold, Design director, Alegria
“We have been seeing a shift in purchases towards a younger walking demographic. Our core demographic is the age group 55 to 65 but we have experienced a pivot towards the lower end of the scale.” – Carolin Gey, Managing partner, Kybun USA & CEO of Joya Shoes USA
“More people have discovered the outdoors for the first time. The new genre of outdoorists are younger with more families out there as well.” – Erik Burbank, VP, KEEN Effect
“We’re seeing increases in walking participation across all [demographics], with a particular spike amongst younger consumers. Because of its simplicity and accessibility, walking has been a great outlet for wellness, and it’s likely its popularity as a great fitness activity is here to stay!” – Chris Cohen, VP U.S. Marketplace, HOKA
“Many new customers begin their fitness journey as walkers, which can be more accessible compared to running or hiking. While some may move to running, run/walk or hiking, we’ve seen that many stick with fitness walking due to its health benefits, accessibility, and reduced stress on the body.” – Russ Stevens, Product manager, Topo Athletic
Skechers/Men's Go Walk Workout Walker – Outpace
Available in styles for men and women, this lace-up features a carbon-infused design in an engineered athletic mesh and synthetic upper with a removable podiatrist-certified Skechers Arch Fit insole that helps mold to your foot to reduce shock and increase weight dispersion. MSRP $130.
Designed for those looking to recharge, the OOcandoo is built on a single-piece OOfoam foundation featuring the brand’s patented footbed design. The footbed cradles and supports arches. OOcandoo brings active recovery to any adventure. MSRP $99.95.
The newest performance walking shoe in Dansko’s lineup is built on the same platform as the Pace, launched in 2021. The Penni has a bungee lacing solution with an easy adjusting toggle closure. A removable footbed has Dansko Natural Arch Plus technology with a supportive arch cookie and cushioning for added support. MSRP $140.
Spring ’22 is perfect for pastels with the custard Leap featuring Dynamic Motion Technology, which has stability in the heel, along with enhanced toe spring to move the wearer forward. PURGrip tread offers traction and the SmartKnit upper is stain and water-resistant, as well as machine washable. MSRP $170.
Finn Comfort/Women’s Piccadilly
The Piccadilly is designed with a premium nubuck leather upper and a traditional lace-up vamp. A removable footbed is crafted from suede leather, jute, and cork. A men’s version comes in tan. MSRP $405.
Xelero’s rocker Swiss-Technology makes walking easier and off loads bottom pressures. The style has a full-grain leather upper with seamless lining and dual-density contoured polyurethane footbed. Available in multiple widths. MSRP $169.99.
The shiny Gwenn is a Mobils by Mephisto style, meaning that it is built on a wider base with an expanded toe area, as well as 360 degree padding for comfort. The flexible shoe has rigidity throughout the arch and heel area to support a woman’s foot. MSRP $379.
Design & Marketing Trends
What impact has a shift in demographics had in designing and marketing for the walking category?
“Our core design strategies have stayed consistent. We strive to deliver the most supportive and durable walking product to the market. We have focused on core materials and colorations... and energetic/emotional colors, that appeal to a variety of consumers.” – Sal Agati, SVP of global design and sourcing, Dansko
“We have been targeting the walking market for the past four years, so for us this has not been a new focus, but the increased popularity of walking has certainly added excitement to the category.” – Megan Gold, Design director, Alegria
“We market to both men and women. Our newest campaigns drive home the idea that walking can be a satisfying workout for anyone in those situations where you can’t get to the gym or you don’t have time for a class or access to equipment.” – Kathy Kartalis, SVP of global product, Skechers
“We have incorporated design from the athletic world, like more color and material variations to emphasize various components, for example, contrasts between the midsole and outsole. On the functional side, we have increased the density of the midsole, adding more shock absorbency. We have also raised the heel collar, added more padding to the topline and increased the toe spring to encourage forward momentum.” – Justin Orrell-Jones, President, Finn Comfort USA
“We are focused on people that are constantly on the move. Our shoes have stability, support and an enhanced toe spring that naturally moves the wearer forward, making walking easier and more enjoyable.” – Matt Dieckhaus, VP of sales and marketing, Latitudes (mōshn)
“Comfort, style and versatility still continue to be paramount. The combination of visual appeal, fit and supreme cushioning are the key. Wide widths have increased in demand by over 25% in the last two years, so we are growing that business as well.” – Frank Cammarata, CEO & founder, The Enjoiya Group
“We are looking much more at social marketing than ever before, as well as looking to the suburbs and resort areas of the country to focus our marketing.” – Rusty Hall, President, Mephisto
“With the growth of wellness, people are taking up walking (or potentially exercise in general) for the first time. Their bodies will need to adapt to the new stress and stimulus being put on it. Improvement comes as much from how someone recovers from their workout as it does from the workout itself, so no matter what level or experience a walker may have.” – Darren Brown, Head of marketing, OOFOS
“It’s recommended that people recovering from an injury or an ailment ease into exercising. Walking can be the best place to start. When marketing, we emphasize recovery benefits and how they improve the walking experience for anyone.” – Dan Werremeyer, President, Instride Shoes (Xelero)
“With more people turning to walking as a means of maintaining health and fitness, there is enormous opportunity for our brand— and for [retailers] looking to broaden their reach and consumer base.” – Chris Cohen, VP, U.S. Marketplace, HOKA
“While still making product for the traditional walking customer, we have begun to design and market our walking product with a broader, more diverse, and younger audience in mind. We’ve seen success pulling from the design of our performance running line to introduce walking products that are attractive, lightweight, and, most importantly, comfortable.” – Russ Stevens, Product manager, Topo Athletic
“Design is essential. We always strive to offer fresh new colors, patterns, and styles that our customers can enjoy for years to come. Our customer is intelligent and has refined taste.” – Kelly Dumpson, Head of wholesale, SAS
“This shift in the demographic has a huge impact on marketing. We market the walking category mostly via email. Studies show that Baby Boomers trust email the most because they perceive it as very personal.” – Carolin Gey, Managing partner, Kybun USA & CEO of Joya Shoes USA
“Geox has always been synonymous with innovation and well-being, and these are two of the brand’s values that constantly drive the research in our R&D department. The idea of walking comfortably has been very central in our design process.” – Mario Moretti Polegato, Founder, Geox
The Propet One walking shoe, available in men’s and women’s styles, features a double depth footbed with OrthoLite X25. Offered in four widths for men and five widths for women. MSRP $109.95.
This do-it-all option is a good fit for a walk, run, training session or boot camp class. Tempo includes a breathable mesh with lightweight TPU material to keep feet comfortable. A Meramax outsole cushions feet mile after mile. MSRP $199.
Alegria/Women’s Rok N Roll Rotation
A Dream Fit upper with mesh lining completes this athletic-inspired slip-on. The shoe features a Rok N Roll outsole that creates a gentle heel-to-toe rolling motion that gently moves weight across the foot. Double pull straps make for an easy on/off experience. MSRP $149.95.
Geox/Women’s Spherica ABX
Geox boasts that Spherica is its best technology, appreciated by walkers of all ages. This shoe’s sustainable upper is made of a felt that contains yarn derived from the recycling of plastic bottles. “This creates the perfect combination of respect for the environment and unsurpassed comfort thanks to the waterproof and breathable soles equipped with Geox special cushioning system,” says Mario Moretti Polegato, founder, Geox. MSRP $190.
Enjoiya/Women’s Val Venosta
Fall ’22 walking styles from the brand will feature ultra-light and sleek designs, engineered with plush padded insoles. The sporty-chic Val Venosta has a performance EXTRALIGHT outsole and incorporates vegetable tanned leather in its upper. MSRP $129.95.
The elastic, springy sole of this Kybun shoe promotes the coordination and strengthening of feet and the entire body. Its simple and understated design crosses from exercise to lifestyle. Kybun shoes can be a preventative measure in avoiding muscular weakness and joint complaints. MSRP $409.
Joya/Women’s Sydney II
Joya shoes mimic dynamic walking, supporting the natural movement pattern, allowing for optimal pressure distribution while walking. An elastic Emotion sole provides relief to muscles and is suitable for extended periods of usage. MSRP $239.95.