An uptick in outdoor pursuits, an early spring and supply chain issues are impacting inventory levels, forcing some athletes to look beyond their usual sneakers – or wait weeks for their preferred style or brand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

An uptick in outdoor pursuits, an early spring and supply chain issues are impacting inventory levels, forcing some athletes to look beyond their usual sneakers – or wait weeks for their preferred style or brand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Runners face shoe shortage due to surging demand, COVID-related supply issues

Exercise-starved Canadians heading outside have been plagued by a new pandemic-related supply crunch

Running shoes are the latest product to be plagued by a pandemic-related supply crunch as exercise-starved Canadians head outside in droves.

An uptick in outdoor pursuits, an early spring and supply chain issues are impacting inventory levels, forcing some athletes to look beyond their usual sneakers – or wait weeks for their preferred style or brand.

Industry experts say one of the biggest hurdles is a transportation slowdown, with a shortage of shipping containers causing delays with some overseas shipments.

“It’s what I call a get-what-you-can-when-you-can situation,” says Ben Nelson, shoe buyer for The Runners Shop in Toronto.

“We’ve seen a dramatic uptick in our business … and there’s less availability than there’s often been.”

His tip for runners is to “stop worrying about colour and stop worrying about brands. It’s about what feels good on your feet.”

Such advice can be hard to follow for some runners, who tend to be notoriously “linear” shoppers, says Luke MacDonald, co-owner of Aerobics First in Halifax.

“They want the same shoe over and over and over,” he says. “But because of some of these supply issues we’ve been able to expand their horizons and fit them for a different shoe that feels great.”

Supply problems started with a brief interruption in the production of running shoes last year as factories shut down at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While manufacturing was back up and running quickly, a shortfall of some raw materials has caused some delays or shortages for specific shoes models.

The situation is a familiar one to cyclists, who have been facing product shortages since last spring when initial lockdown measures resulted in a rush on bikes.

Cyclists eager to get their bike prepped for the season are looking at delays of one year for a 12-speed chain, five hundred days for a new saddle and up to a two year wait until certain bike models come back in stock.

“I did have one product cancelled because they couldn’t produce a specific rubber compound that went on the bottom of one of the shoes,” Nelson says. “That happened in January this year so there have obviously been some material problems.”

Yet the most pressing supply chain snag now appears to be with transportation amid a shipping container shortage.

“The biggest problem right now is some of the container and port issues,” says Jason Stanton, owner of The Running Room.

“There are some shortages of containers but some of our suppliers airfreighted products when they saw this coming.”

Despite the challenges, he says The Running Room’s stores across the country remain in a “really good inventory position.”

Still, a boost in outdoor walking and running as many gyms remain shuttered or restricted during the public health crisis has sent demand for running shoes soaring.

Martin Lacroix, store manager at La Foulee Sportive in Gatineau, Que., says there’s been an increase in people walking and running outside since the onset of the pandemic. Coupled with an early spring, he says it’s been a challenge keeping up with demand.

Meanwhile, most stores order running shoes six months to a year in advance – what’s called future bookings – so a sudden spike in demand can also leave retailers trying to reorder more shoes midseason.

“Sometimes we know in advance there’s going to be a problem with a particular model so we’ll say, ‘OK, what’s the closest model in another brand that’s currently in stock? Let’s buy that,” says MacDonald with Aerobics First.

“We’re playing this huge chess game … and telling runners, ‘This is your stop-gap shoe for now.’”

Stanton, from The Running Room, says a silver lining that has emerged during the pandemic is the growth in people walking and running.

“We have a lot of people coming in and saying, ‘Hey, I usually go to the gym. But I want to try running outside,’” Stanton says, comparing the pandemic running boom to an uptick in running in the 1990s when marathons and half-marathons gained in popularity.

“We’re feeling like we’re in that time again.”

Meanwhile, Nelson with The Runners Shop urged shoppers not to get discouraged if their favourite shoe is out of stock in their size.

He says running shoe store fitters can help find a good alternative, whether they want “a lot of ground feel or to be on big squishy pillows.”

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
211 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

Currently, there are 875 active cases of the virus in the region

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. As of April 19, more than 230,000 doses have been administered across the Interior Health region. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
More than 230K doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered across Interior Health

A total of 220,216 first doses and 13,775 second doses have been given to residents across the B.C. Interior

Staff and residents from RMV show their appreciation for the volunteers who enrich their lives. From left to right: Shelley Moulton, Darlene Hutchinson, Betty Schanni, Mark Hudock, Victor Myette, Elinor Siska, Melissa Roger, Anita Braconnier. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
‘We can’t wait for you to come back’: Rocky Mountain Village residents show appreciation for volunteers

Volunteers can’t make in-person visits, but that hasn’t stopped them staying in touch

Members of the community garden hosted their first seed swap and fundraiser at the Greenwood Mall in Sparwood on Monday. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Sparwood Community Garden hosts first seed swap

Work on the garden at Engelmann Spruce Drive will begin soon

Crews and volunteers responded to a four-hectare wildfire on the lower half of the Aqam community lands near Cranbrook on Friday afternoon. Trevor Crawley photo.
Wildfire season gets early start in the East Kootenay

Fire crews, volunteers respond to two local wildfires, while prescribed burns turn weekend skies smoky

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

Kimberley's Steve Tersmette has published Waterfall Hikes In Southern British Columbia, documenting 100 of the areas waterfalls.
Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Most Read