Wellness and footwear are indeed intimately intertwined — just ask Rykä, the women’s athletic footwear brand that conveys a message of well-being through its products and branding by providing resources beyond fitness for its shoppers. Rykä was a sponsor at the FN + Beauty Inc. Wellness Forum, held last week on July 28.
“At Rykä, we believe that wellness is more than just physical fitness. It also encompasses emotional, social and career health, including full-time moms,” Katie Moore, senior director of design at Rykä, told FN.
“Through strong and energetic imagery, we strive to evoke an empowered and supportive mindset, which is so essential to wellness. Our products are designed to support her physically throughout her journey with our signature, research driven ‘Made for Women’ fit. Because when she’s wearing our shoes, we want her to feel like anything is possible.”
Rykä said that shoppers’ newfound need for wellness impacted sales for the decidedly outdoorsy consumer. “Categories like walking and trail in footwear have become more important as women find more ways to be active. Not only to look better, but feel better mentally, reconnecting with nature or even themselves.”
And Moore said that specifically, its Devotion Plus 2 and Sky Walk Trail “were built to help with just that. Wellness has also been synonymous with self-care, no matter how that looks to the modern woman: HITT training, dance, running, yoga or walking. It’s important that the industry listens to how she’s thinking about wellness and meet that need.”
Rykä’s approach to wellness is multifaceted, and the brand strives to provide it from all angles. Moore told FN, “Wellness and footwear are both about the physical and emotional. In shoes with a just-right fit, we move our bodies a little better, get through our day a little easier and are able to express ourselves — all critical to overall wellness.”
“All Rykä shoes are designed with wellness in mind. Our consumer prioritizes a holistic approach to health and well-being. At Rykä, from our proprietary Made for Women fit to our constant comfort and performance innovation — our goal is to support her in any way she moves.”
The brand explained that COVID-19 uncovered the opportunity for Rykä to communicate differently with its customers and help them both mentally and physically during an incredibly challenging time. “COVID-19 impacted our social media messaging significantly. With the pandemic, we shifted our conversation from group exercise and [in-person] group camaraderie to the idea of being stronger together, even when we’re apart — playing on both physical and mental strength.”
Moore said that through its Fit Pro Brand Ambassadors, Rykä provided at-home exercise ideas, with minimal equipment. And when the importance of mental well-being came to the forefront, the brand pivoted once again to provide resources for its employees and customers. “[We encouraged] our Rykä Tribe to stay connected at a time that could feel so isolating. Zoom call happy hours, friendly home fitness app competitions, and simply going outside for a walk became imperative to our overall wellness. We were also proud to use our platform and voice to lend support to frontline workers via a large free shoe giveaway targeted to nurses.”
On the trend front, unsurprisingly — and particularly post-COVID-19 — comfort prevails. “Comfort is a must-have and by far the No. 1 attribute she looks for, but beyond that, the aesthetic of the shoe is a definite second. Comfort or style should not be a choice,” Moore said.
“By taking cues from fashion brands and runway trends over the past few years, prints like tie-dye and animal have been successful in more athletic styles — most notably, our Dynamic Pro training shoe. Playful, feminine colors have also been a way she’s been able to express herself.”
Rykä emphasized that knowing its customer and staying abreast of changes in lifestyles and cultural norms will help determine the role wellness will play in footwear moving forward. Moore told FN, “Understanding the consumer and how our industry can anticipate her ever-changing needs is critical. Keeping our finger on the pulse of not only the fashion trends, but also society shifts is important.
“Wellness is not a trend, but a shift becoming a part of her lifestyle. Understanding how she is thinking about what wellness means to her determines how footwear categories will shift.”