Athletics, Athleisure and Aesthetics
Having been a casual runner for the past few years, I recently decided to up my game. For me, that meant running my first marathon and hopefully living to tell the tale. For my feet, that meant a serious footwear upgrade. I had long favoured the Nike Free running shoe in the colour black as my running shoe of choice; my main motivation being that they’re pretty sleek, meaning I could get away with wearing them as an everyday fashion shoe. But sadly, a quick visit to my local running shop taught me that my trusty Nikes just weren’t up for the job of marathon training.
And so I ended up leaving with a far more sensible and substantial pair of Mizunos, which also happened to be clunky, and a particularly garish shade of blue. Whilst these shoes are far better suited to my training, and I’ve grown to love them, they often leave me feeling like a Powerpuff-esque cartoon superhero- the aesthetic is way off. Whilst I’ll happily wear them to a training session with my athletics club, I would really rather not be caught wearing them in public.
The athleisure market is a fast-growing one, with a predicted value of £8 billion by 2019 in the UK alone. It’s even reached high-fashion, with Prada’s Summer 2017 show featuring an athletic, outdoorsy theme, and trainers becoming a Fashion Week staple, both on the catwalk and off. Despite the fashion industry embracing sports-chic, it’s frustratingly difficult to find a truly functional running shoe that can hold its own in the style stakes. With a specialist and highly personal product like a running shoe, you have to get it exactly right, or you risk an injury that can put you out of the game for months- it’s a case of you get what you’re given. The issue is that it seems that major running brands, armed with that expertise, don’t feel the need to compete on aesthetics, or perhaps that they just don’t get it quite right.
I can only hope that this overlapping of fashion and fitness will signal a new gap in the market for functional footwear- it’s time to give the consumer what they want!