As running takes off, New Balance is launching a new program to empower women in the sport.
The Boston-based shoemaker today launched “The Stolen Starts,” an initiative meant to inspire a global community of female runners. As part of the program, New Balance has partnered with 11 female athletes from across the world to help empower and elevate the voices of women in the sport. This collective of athletes includes women from Germany, South Korea and more and will offer insight for product development and marketing and will help lead New Balance programs such as races and the ESPNW Summit.
“New Balance wants to continue this stance that we’ve taken on empowering and elevating the voices of women,” said New Balance global running energy lead and professional runner Samia Akbar, who is heading up the program. “Being able to have and create this community in the midst of a global pandemic, where women were really hit hard in so many different ways, makes it a really special inaugural year to kick off this collective.”
Running and walking, especially among women, has taken off during the pandemic. As such, performance-focused brands with distinct women’s offerings have seen strong results in sales. Hoka One One, Brooks and Skechers have all seen positive gains in their women’s businesses.
New Balance’s latest initiative builds upon an existing rich history in the running category. The company signed middle distance Olympian runner Jenny Barringer in 2010, which helped the brand expand its influence and reach among female runners. New Balance has also worked with runners Brenda Martinez, Emma Coburn and Sarah Brown and has supported athletic as well as social impact events. Today, New Balance is known for its running footwear technology such as Fresh Foam and FuelCell.
The name, The Stolen Starts, serves as a nod to the inequalities for women in running, from a lack of sponsorship opportunities to exclusion from certain races.
“We haven’t had the same opportunities in the sport and have had to essentially just kind of push our way in and create our own amount of progress for full participation and acknowledgment in running,” said Akbar, who ran for Reebok for seven years before joining New Balance.
In addition to utilizing their insights internally, New Balance will also support the 11 ambassadors in their own personal projects, such as campaigns for social justice, mental health and the environment.
For example, London-based runner and body positivity advocate Shareefa Radford said she was inspired to join The Stolen Starts to show that fitness doesn’t need to be attached to a specific body type. New Zealand runner Symone Tafuna’l wanted to be able to represent her Pacific community from New Zealand and use her platform to spread awareness about mental health.
New Balance plans to release a docuseries about the initiative that will highlight each athlete’s story and the issue or cause that is close to their hearts.
“I believe it’s important to continue to push representation of women of color and ultimate respect for female athletes,” said Tammy Salazar-Andurand, an NYC-based runner and Stolen Starts participant. “I believe with The Stolen Starts, it also shows that running can be way more meaningful with using it as a vehicle for pushing this change.”