Olympic track-and-field star Allyson Felix has been advocating for pregnant women and mothers since 2019, when she made her public split from Nike over its unfair policies regarding pregnant athletes.
Now, Felix is again offering support for expectant moms by introducing the footwear industry’s first Maternity Returns Policy at her Saysh sneaker brand.
Saysh’s Maternity Returns Policy allows customers who have purchased a pair of Saysh sneakers — either from the brand or through a wholesale partner — to exchange the shoes for a new pair in a different size should their foot size change while pregnant. It will operate on the honor system, with “no strings attached,” according to the brand. To receive the new pair, customers simply email their request to Saysh.
“A huge turning point in my life was becoming a mother — it opened my eyes to so much,” said Felix, whose daughter, Camryn, was born in 2018. “As a runner, I have to pay attention to every little change in my body, and I went through a lot of change during pregnancy. I didn’t even realize that my feet could grow that much. I was tired of begging brands to meet me where I was, as both an athlete and a mother, and I was tired of sacrificing comfort and style. So I decided to make my own rules. At Saysh, we hope this policy sets an expectation that women should never have to sacrifice being a mother for anything.”
The program — which the brand unapologetically calls an “intentionally sexist returns policy” — was developed by two leaders from the Saysh team, adviser Tiffany Beers and head of product Lauren Phillips, who also were instrumental in helping the award-winning brand develop its Saysh One lifestyle sneaker that launched in June 2021.
“I’m a mother myself, so I have experienced first-hand how many sacrifices we have to make,” said Phillips. “At Saysh, we don’t want our customers to make those sacrifices, especially when it comes to their footwear. Tiffany and I were inspired by Allyson’s own pregnancy story and wanted to create an offer that set a precedent, just as Allyson has on and off the track. We hope Saysh can continue to be the catalyst behind this larger movement.”
The most decorated woman in Olympic track-and-field history, Felix sparked widespread public conversations in 2019, when she penned an emotional op-ed in The New York Times explaining why she left longtime sponsor Nike the prior year, over reduced pay during and after pregnancy. While she was willing to accept the pay decrease, Felix said in the article she was not OK with the “enduring status around maternity.”
That passionate stance has led Felix to champion mothers in numerous ways, including testifying before Congress about Black maternal mortality and meeting recently with Vice President Kamala Harris at The White House as part of the Maternal Health Day of Action.
At Saysh, she also has been able to rewrite some of the rules of the male-dominated athletic footwear world. And though Felix announced last week she plans to retire from competition at the end of the 2022 season, she is making a lasting impact on the sports industry through her advocacy.
Nike has since revised its policy toward pregnant athletes to ensure fair pay. On the product side, the Swoosh and other brands have also launched apparel collections aimed at this segment of the women’s market. And next month, women’s sneaker brand Ryka will debut the first line of performance shoes for active moms-to-be.