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

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

Mabel Todd, 83, of the Nak’azdli First Nation, leads a group of family members and advocates of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls as they walk along the so-called Highway of Tears in Moricetown, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Province, feds fund full cell service along ‘Highway of Tears’ following years of advocacy

A ‘critical milestone in helping prevent future tragedies’ after at least 10 Indigenous women murdered, missing along the route

Erin O’Toole, Conservative Party of Canada leader, answered questions during a Terrace District Chamber of Commerce event on April 6, 2021. (Screenshot/Terrace District Chamber of Commerce Facebook)
Erin O’Toole discusses Terrace issues during virtual event

Federal Conservative leader answered questions during a Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce event

Tree; Burns Lake library. (Laura Blackwell photo/Lakes District News)
Dragon Tree christened

The Burns Lake Public Library contest for dragon and tree names has… Continue reading

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Most Read