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

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

Dr. Katherine Oldfield is a naturopathic physician, mother, and active member of the Nelson-West Kootenay chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Photo: Submitted
COLUMN: Restore our Earth, restore our health

Katherine Oldfield writes about the priorities we need to have ahead of Earth Day

Air Canada will not be resuming flight to Castlegar anytime soon. Photo: Betsy Kline
Service to West Kootenay Regional Airport not included in Air Canada deal announcement

Air Canada will not be resuming flights to Castlegar at this time

While pharmacies across B.C. are using AstraZeneca for public immunizations for people 40 years of age and older, there is no availability currently in the Kootenays. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
No AstraZeneca vaccine availability in Kootenay pharmacies, says Interior Health

Vaccine has been opened up at pharmacies in other areas of the province to people 40 years of age and older

Idle Eyes, Tad Campbell (middle). Photo: Idle Eyes Facebook page
Idle Eyes frontman, Trail native, sentenced to house arrest

Campbell avoided jail time at the Feb. 5 sentencing in the Vancouver courthouse.

Four homes in Johnson Flats were at serious risk of falling into a neighbourhood section of the Kettle River, according to capital project manager Justin Dinsdale. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks shields riverside homes against erosion

Crews have built a modified dike along a section of the Kettle River in Johnson Flats

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Using panels kept cold by water circulating within them, B.C. researchers compared thermal comfort in 60 of the world’s most populous cities, including Toronto. (Lea Ruefenacht)
B.C. researchers use air conditioning to combat spread of COVID particles

Dr. Adam Rysanek and his team have proven a new worthwhile system – a mixture of cooling panels and natural ventilation

Police road checks are coming for people travelling between regions while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. clarifies COVID-19 travel restrictions, Lower Mainland a single zone

Vehicle checks on highways, at ferry terminals to start Friday

Canadian driver Paul Tracy pulls out of the pits during the morning session at the Molson Indy in Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, July 26, 2003 (CP/Richard Lam)
Vancouver is considering hosting a Formula E race using electric cars

The race would be part of a three-day event focused on climate and sustainability

Most Read