The 5 Biggest Athletic Market Stories of 2019

The athletic market continued to move the needle within the footwear industry in 2019. Headlines were dominated by smaller brands fighting for a seat at the table, thought leaders addressing industry-wide issues and big names in the market pushing high-fashion labels to the side to take over New York Fashion Week.

Below, read about the five biggest stories of 2019 from the athletic market.

Agents of Change

Megan RapinoeUS Women's National Team v Trinidad & Tobago, WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, USA - 10 Oct 2018Cary, N.C. - Wednesday October 10, 2018: The women's national teams of the United States (USA) and Trinidad & Tobago (TNT) play in a 2018 CONCACAF Women?s Championship game at Sahlen?s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Megan Rapinoe.
CREDIT: Brad Smith/Shutterstock

As employees called out the top athletic brands over racial inequities, thought leaders including Kerby Jean-Raymond, Pensole Footwear Design Academy founder D’Wayne Edwards and others advocated for industry-wide change. Jean-Raymond and Edwards were tapped by Reebok and Foot Locker, respectively, to foster diverse talent within the companies. Also, athletes such as soccer star Megan Rapinoe and Olympic runner Alysia Montaño fought for equal pay and fair maternity policies.

Make Room

Hoka One One Rincon
Hoka One One’s Rincon sneakers in action.
CREDIT: Hoka One One

Athletic heavyweights Nike and Adidas maintained their market leads, but smaller brands mounted serious challenges. Puma earned the respect of the lifestyle and performance crowds, and Hoka One One and On gave runners everything they were looking for.


Reebok Forever Floatride Grow
Reebok Forever Floatride Grow.
CREDIT: Reebok

Sustainability was a hot industry-wide topic, and athletic brands embarked on eco-friendly missions. Notably, Reebok revealed its fall ’20 Forever Floatride Grow running sneaker made with natural materials, and casual sneaker firm Allbirds launched synthetic material and chemical-free, weather-resistant styles.

All Terrain

Outdoor Streetwear Fashion Trend
Menswear gets adventurous with rugged, utilitarian ready-to-wear.
CREDIT: Andrew Morales

Hikers and trail runners aren’t required for walking the city streets, but that didn’t stop fashion customers from wearing them regularly in 2019. Rugged looks from brands including Salomon, The North Face and Columbia owned street style.

The Takeover

Ronnie Fieg NYWF Kith Air
Ronnie Fieg during his Kith Air NYFW presentation.
CREDIT: WWD/Shutterstock

Historically, New York Fashion Week has been a platform for luxury labels. But that is no longer the case since Ronnie Fieg with Kith Air and Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss undoubtedly provided the biggest moments. A month after NYFW, Dick’s Sporting Goods entered the fashion conversation with its debut runway show starring soccer star Carli Lloyd and baseball great Alex Rodriguez.

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