While sneaker sales have trended upward across the board, notching single-digit increases in the year so far, times are tough for performance shoes. According to Forbes‘ Sneakernomics column, there is not a single performance shoe category experiencing growth at the moment. This makes sense because retro-inspired lifestyle silhouettes—like Stan Smiths, for example—are currently experiencing a Fashion Moment, suggesting that aesthetic and style has eclipsed performance when it comes down to the consumer’s decision-making process. A general trend toward minimalism, coupled with the humiliation of being roasted (or even worse, What-Are-Those’d) for one’s shoe choice has many turning away from high-tech sneakers altogether: lifestyle runners make up for around 30% of total running shoes sales so far this year, marking a 10% increase over last year’s figures. Similar numbers echo across the board in all major performance shoe categories. One notable exception might just be the success of adidas’ Boost technology, but this might be the exception rather than the rule; most of adidas’ best-selling kicks, like the aforementioned Stan Smith, all foreground lifestyle and fashion over technical specs.
This shift in focus may present an opportunity for shoe companies, according to Forbes, but only if the sportswear companies don’t shy away from the fashion set. This would appear to be another point for adidas, whose myriad collaborations with designers like Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Pharrell Williams and — yes — Kanye West, mark a company-wide embrace of the streetwear set. Nike’s recent announcement of a collaboration with Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing is only further evidence of this shift. Conversely, this news could potentially result in fashion brands with no past experience in the sneaker game trying their hand at sporty silhouettes in order to seize upon current trends.
Either way, it appears that for the time being, the future of sneakers may be one of form (and fashion) over function.
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