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Walking shoes

The OX Trail is an example of Hi-Tec's continued development into cross-over urban and outdoor footwear. It has been developed for walking enthusiasts. The ladies' model is pictured here.

Q2 2018

Did Ramaphoria boost walking shoe sales?

Our new president’s habit of taking early morning constitutional walks attracted the nation’s interest earlier in the year. Did this translate into walking footwear sales or haven’t retailers noticed a difference? asks CARIN HARDISTY

One great thing about walking as a fitness activity is that anyone can do it: go for a walk in the park, walk with the dog, with friends … yes there are serious walking athletes (it’s even an Olympic sport), but even the average Joe Soap can easily start walking at his own pace right this instant, no matter his fitness level.

This is perhaps one of the contributing factors surrounding the excitement earlier this year when it became clear that our President, Cyril Ramaphosa, is an avid walker — the President does things that the rest of us can also do! And then he invites Joe Soap to do it with him too … what a wonderful PR opportunity for walking.

Did this all result in an increased demand for footwear to walk in?

“I think so!” says Riaan Boshoff of Topsports.

Yvette Jackson of the Village Vibe Surfstore agrees. There has especially been a bigger demand for light hiking boots and entry-level running shoes since Pres. Ramaphosa’s walking became news, she noticed

There has been an increase in demand for good quality walking shoes, agrees Gavin le Roux of Trappers in Worcester and Somerset West, but he doesn’t think it’s directly due to the President’s influence. Instead, he attributes this rise to the growing interest in devices that measure steps, as well as medical scheme incentives.

“In both of my stores there is a large walking for health community. The Somerset Mall store serves many customers looking for comfortable shoes to walk on the newly completed Strand Promenade and hiking type boots for the beautiful Helderberg nature reserve and surrounding mountain trails.”

On the other side of the walking spectrum, his stores are also regular destinations for people who want footwear that will keep them comfortable on the famous pilgrimage trail, Camino de Santiago, in Spain or France.

There are retailers who disagree with them that there is a renewed interest in walking, though. For example, a retailer says he doesn’t think the “President’s early morning perambulations have interested the general populace in Pietermaritzburg yet”.

Another anonymous respondent adds that the stores in his goup haven’t seen any growth in walking, trail or road running footwear sales since news of Pres. Ramaphosa’s walks started making headlines.

What do people buy?

Most retail respondents who stock walking-specific shoes report that there has been a growing demand for shoes specifically designed for walking. Entry level running shoes (or cross trainers) are also popular choices.

Judging by retailers’ responses, consumers are, however, buying a wide range of footwear to go walking in: from casual walking footwear, trail and road running shoes, to sneakers.

Sneakers might do for promenade-type walking, but when your customer wants to go walking in the outdoors, where the terrain is less even, he needs a pair of shoes that is specifically designed for this purpose, they caution.

There has been an increase in demand from walkers for off-road natural movement footwear designed for trails, says Stuart Hutcheson of Moove Claremont. Footwear that offers natural movement and have thin, flexible, puncture resistant, outer soles are the most popular items in his store. Other popular features include lightweight and flexible footwear that have wide toe boxes.

Comfort is a major consideration in footwear, says Shuaib Smith of Cape Union Mart. “Many customers are purchasing footwear for multiple purposes such as walking the dogs, commuting every day and even in the office. These type of activities also require extended periods of time on the feet and the footwear needs to prevent uncomfortable situations such as swelling, over-heating, dropped arches, and general foot fatigue.”

Therefore, when designing their K-Way shoes, one of the key considerations is always comfort.

The age of the customer also makes a difference in what they want. “Older people, especially, want cushioning and comfort in their shoes,” explains Jackson. Comfortable, moulded footwear sells well among her customers who buy footwear for walking in.

Entry level running shoes is the most popular shoe amongst his walking customers, adds Boshoff.

His customers prefer a technical trail running brand, because it is “not only a comfortable, well supported shoe for walking, but also extremely fashionable as it has a very wide range of colours and styles,” says Le Roux.

Not only is colour fashionable, but it is also practical.

“It seems that white is very close to being out,” adds Cobus Visagie of Dirt Road Traders. “Most of my customers want a dark shoe for dirt purposes.”

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