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

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
67 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty people in the region are hospitalized with the virus, 11 of whom are intensive care

WildSafeBC reports that they've received numerous calls regarding coyotes attacking cats in Kimberley. Photo courtesy of WildSafeBC
WildSafeBC reports multiple coyote attacks on cats in Kimberley

WildSafeBC Kimberley-Cranbrook is urging extra caution after reportedly receiving multiple calls regarding… Continue reading

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. Photo courtesy Conservative Party of Canada.
Kootenay-Columbia MP pans federal budget

Conservative Rob Morrison says budget doesn’t have a plan for long-term spending priorities

Kimberley Mayor Don McMormick. Bulletin file
City of Kimberley will comply with all Provincial Health Orders: Mayor

McCormick wishes there would be a widened focus on getting vaccines in arms rather than restrictions

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The IIO is investigating after a police dog bit a man during a traffic stop near Ladysmith on April 17, 2021. (Black Press Media stock photo)
Man arrested in incident at Canada-U.S. border near Roosville

A man who crossed the border illegally was apprehended by U.S. officials

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Most Read