Running has experienced a resurgence during the COVID-19 pandemic. With many new runners heading outdoors and hitting the streets, there has been an increase in demand for high performance running shoes. While athletic footwear sales took a hit in 2020, the running shoe market has seen a spike. Technology focused on comfort performed especially well for running shoes in 2020, and appears to be trending in a positive direction moving forward.
“We know that many people have turned to running in the wake of this pandemic, both for its health benefits and for the chance to exercise outside in fresh air,” says David Allemann, co-founder of the Swiss-based On, in a Forbes article. “We’re a brand that benefits a lot from word-of-mouth and a strong cult following. We think this has contributed significantly to these new runners discovering On.”
On, the fastest-growing running brand in the world, saw its sales double from the beginning of 2020 to the end of the year, experiencing a 200 percent uptick in its ecommerce sales along the way. Part of the reason for On’s success is the company’s ability to adapt to the new reality and create experiences for consumers, along with technologies.
Before seven million runners in over 50 countries started using On’s running shoes, the radical idea of soft landings followed by explosive take-offs, or as On calls it: ‘running on clouds,’ was born in the Swiss Alps.
After retiring from professional competition, Olivier Bernhard, a three-time world duathlon champion and multiple Ironman winner, devoted himself to finding a running shoe that would give him the perfect sensation. On his journey, he crossed paths with an engineer from Switzerland who had an idea for a new type of running shoe. Dozens of prototypes were developed, but the core concept always revolved around a cushioned landing and firm takeoff. It’s this original concept that inspired Bernhard’s friends Caspar Coppetti and David Allemann to get involved, as well.
Together, the three friends set out on a mission to change the world of running. They formally established On in Zürich in January 2010, and one month later On prototypes won the ISPO BrandNew Award, which is one of the most prestigious prizes for innovation in sport. Test runners even spoke of ‘running on clouds.’
In May of 2011, The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich published a study that found that test runners wearing On running shoes ran at significantly lower pulse rates and lower blood lactate levels. Then in February 2015, On Cloud, the world’s lightest fully cushioned running shoe, which was launched in February 2014, won the ISPO Gold Award for the Best Performance Shoe 2015/16. In November 2019, tennis legend Roger Federer joined On as a co-entrepreneur. Today, On running shoes are available at over 6,500 retail stores in over 50 countries.
On recently launched its first global flagship store in New York City, which opened on December 16, 2020. On NYC is designed to create an enriching customer experience, taking shoppers on a personalized journey through On’s philosophy and collection.
“This year more than ever,” says Allemann in a Forbes article, “people have found solace and joy in running. That’s why, in many ways, there has never been a better time for us to open our first global flagship store in a city that we’re confident will remain the shopping capital of the world.”
The On NYC global flagship store will feature special technology to help runners find the perfect shoes for them instantly. The hidden-gait cycle analysis technology helps runners find the right shoes for their unique running styles, compares key run attributes with a database of more than 52,000 runs and every shoe On makes, and combines with a custom-built invisible foot scanner to find the perfect size for every runner, accurate to within 1.25 millimeters.
“With design and technology at the forefront, On NYC will empower shoppers to engage with our products in an entirely new way,” says Allemann.
In time, the goal is for On NYC to become a seasonal hub for the running community, serving as a place where runners and athletes of all backgrounds can safely come together and see the latest products from the brand.