The findings from a recent study by Rockport and First Insight, surveyed more than 1,700 adults about their walking habits as offices reopen. “We were really pleased to see that 60% of professionals still plan to take one to three walk breaks per week,” said Lisa Laich, chief marketing officer at The Rockport Group. “That number was higher than I would have expected.”
In the ultracompetitive athletic industry, there are a few categories that are underdeveloped. But experts say performance walking is one of them.
“It’s an untapped market,” said Matt Powell, senior sports industry advisor at The NPD Group, which recorded a 34% spike in walking shoe sales in 2021 versus 2020, on top of a 10% gain the previous year. “If someone came out and said, ‘This is the greatest walking shoe ever made and here’s why,’ I think we could get another shoe in the consumer’s closet.”
Like many outdoor fitness activities, walking participation boomed in the pandemic, as Americans took to sidewalks and trails as an escape from their homes and to stay active while gyms were closed.
According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, roughly 115.8 million Americans (age 6 and older) walked for fitness at least once in 2021. “By comparison, running and jogging hover around 50 million,” said SFIA President and CEO Tom Cove. “And the largest team sport is basketball, with 27.1 million.”
Now, as daily life returns to a more normal routine, the looming question is: Will walkers keep lacing up?
Cove predicts that participation growth will begin to dip, but not by much, for several contributing reasons. Foremost, he explained, walking is still easily accessible, affordable, and can be done with friends or individually. “Also, one of the issues that people kind of sleep on is the digital connection,” Cove added. “The ability to listen to a podcast when you walk is massive to people, and the ability to track your steps for health or for a competition. Those trends in society are very walking-friendly.”
First Insight was also mentioned in Footwear News' exclusive report Women in Power: Making Her Story.