CivicScience | What’s Running Got to Do With it?

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What’s Running Got to Do With it?

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The Gist: 67% of U.S. adults own running shoes–but aren’t necessarily born to run.


I’m no expert on running shoes or running, but I do love to run for exercise. With athleisure still simmering as a trend, we wondered how many people who own running shoes actually run or want to run.

We found a bigger story beyond that about comfort, with 40% of U.S. adults indicating comfort is the key reason they own running shoes. Only 11% of U.S. adults identify as a runner, 4% having an intent to run.

Excluding the people who don’t own running shoes at all, and combining the 11% who identify as a runner and the 4% who have intent to run, to one combined answer, here’s what we’ve got:

That’s right: 66% of running shoe owners say the main reason they own their pair is for comfort.

Let’s get the other stuff out of the way, about runners/intent to run:

  • Men are more likely to be runners than women;
  • 35-54 year-olds are more likely to already run;
  • 18-34 year-olds are more likely to want to start running;

Now let’s focus on the comfort-seekers, and we’ll go ahead and say it: they resemble market mavens. Our comparative data found that those who own running shoes for comfort and comfort alone are more likely than the general population to be:

  • Active Snapchat + Twitter users;
  • 34-54 years of age;
  • Owners of wearable fitness trackers;
  • Online bankers and video streamers;
  • Product reviewers and online researchers pre-purchase;
  • Influenced by social media;
  • Fans of music and entertainment TV;
  • Owners (or wanna-be owners) of virtual reality devices.

I could go on. These comfort-seekers are tech-savvy individuals, adopt new products before others, and want to spread the word about said products. But let me tell you, almost half of them aren’t keen on exercise, rarely or never partaking:

We also found it interesting that of the runners, or those who intend to run, only 58% say they do so several times a week, showing to us that running shoe brands should make shoes accessible for even the occasional runner, but over anything else, brands should focus on the occasional runner who mainly seeks shoes to wear everywhere. 

Speaking of brands, we wondered how this fared with Nike shoe favorability:

You’ll notice that people who mainly wear running shoes for comfort and looks are way more favorable to Nike than those who actually do run. This is not surprising considering Nike’s approach to design for comfort, and appeal to ‘sneakerheads’. It’s also funny that those the most favorable to Nike out of this comparison are the wanna-be runners.

Lastly, sometimes our data tells an interesting story out of nowhere, and this is one of those instances; we found that those who intend to run…love Little Caesars.

I’ll just leave that there for you.

But what is our closing sentiment? Runners, like, capital R runners, are rare among the general population. Household name athletic shoe brands like Nike should be taking note that people who wear their shoes are driven by comfort over anything else.

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