2012 State of the Sport Part II: Running Industry Report

Running USA
July 15, 2012

National surveys show record levels of general running participation; running shoes and apparel sales also increase; running apps add to the runner’s experience; charity running helping to fuel Second Running Boom


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – (July 15, 2012) – A review of the surveys and reports on the Running Industry 2011 reinforce the Second Running Boom record road race numbers that Running USA has reported over the past decade-plus. The tables and summaries below reveal that Americans are running in record numbers, buying more running shoes and apparel despite the sluggish economy, using technology and apps to enhance their runs and raising money for charity via road races also in record amounts.


According to the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), running/jogging continues to show strong and consistent growth annually as running total participation (ran at least 6+ days/yr) was up almost 9% overall in the last year. The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) survey indicates similar growth for the general running population (see Table 1).



Table 1: U.S. Running Participation Numbers 2011






Total Participants ('10 - '11 +/-)

SGMA Total Runners

Run/Jog at least once

50,061,000 (+7.3%)

SGMA Core Participants

Run/Jog 50+ days/yr

28,651,000 (+7.7%)

SGMA Frequent Runners

Run/Jog 100+ days/yr

19,008,000 (+9.3%)




SGMA Total Trail Runners

Run on Trails at least once

5,373,000 (+7.8%)




NSGA (1) All Runners

Run/Jog 6+ days/yr

38,675,000 (+8.9%)

NSGA (1) Frequent Runners

Run/Jog 110+ days/yr

 9,170,000 (+24.6%)

NSGA (1) MALE Runners

Run/Jog 6+ days/yr

19,691,000 (+5.5%)

NSGA (1) FEMALE Runners

Run/Jog 6+ days/yr

18,984,000 (+12.6%)



Running Shoes and Apparel Also Up

The National Sporting Goods Association’s (NSGA – 2) “Sporting Goods Market in 2012” reports that running/jogging shoe sales totaled $2.46 billion (a record high) in 2011, up 6% in total dollars from the previous year ($2.32 billion in 2010). Sales are projected to grow an additional 6% to approximately $2.61 billion in 2012. See Table 2 below for historical sales figures and distribution channels.

The NSGA (2) also reports that running/jogging apparel purchases totaled $985 million in 2011. Apparel in this category is expected to grow an additional 5% by 2012.



 Table 2: Jogging & Running Footwear Sales in U.S. (NSGA - 2)











Running Shoe Units 

 29.41 million

 39.76 million

 37.16 million

 38.02 million

Running Shoe Dollars

 1.47 billion

 2.36 billion

 2.32 billion

 2.46 billion






Sales Channels - % of Units





General Sporting Goods





Specialty Athletic Footwear





Discount Stores










Department Stores





Family Footwear





Factory Outlet





Specialty Sport Shops





Mail Order











Running with Technology

As new technology continues to emerge, the days of just lacing up your shoes and going for a run are a scene from the distant past for many runners. The running industry has transformed itself into a profitable and technologically advanced sport with many innovative products available to enhance the training and racing experience.


With the tap of a button on either a GPS running watch or a smart phone application, an individual has access to all sorts of metrics including distance, speed, pace, heart rate, route, elevation, calories and cadence, to name a few. In addition, one can track workouts, map routes, access a training program, monitor performance, receive training advice from a virtual coach, social network, participate in online fitness forums and even use a stride-per-minute (SPM) rate to find a song which corresponds with beats-per-minute. Even while tracking all of the above, the user can still receive phone calls and text messages as well as listen to music.


“Running apps are not only fun, but many of them are in stride with what research tells us about adhering to our training plans and finding motivation when the road gets rough,” states Jeffrey Brown, psychologist for the Boston Marathon medical team and co-author of The Winner’s Brain.


But others disagree. When technology causes an obsession with training metrics, running becomes performance oriented rather than running for pure enjoyment or stress relief, making the outlet that many use running for, a stressor in and of itself.


Olympian, author and speaker Jeff Galloway states, “One of the greatest benefits of running is the development of intuitive monitoring of the many processes inside; pacing, possible over-exertion, when to push, when not to push. If we rely too much on technology to tell us what to do, we lose these instincts.”


ABI Research provides in-depth analysis and quantitative forecasting of trends in global connectivity and other emerging technologies. Senior analyst Patrick Connolly says, “The GPS watch market has yet to hit the mainstream, with form factor, pricing and awareness remaining major barriers to uptake. TomTom and Nike are the forerunners of a wave of new design, marketing and retail channels that will help to bring these devices to a wide public and generate significant revenues.”


On the mobile front with smart phone apps such as Nike+ and Runkeeper, ABI Research believes that this is only the tip of the iceberg, with downloads set to increases more than tenfold by 2016.


Recently, Garmin Ltd. released its financial summary for the 2011 fiscal year. The fitness segment showed revenue increased 24% to $298 million, but fell short of higher expectations when Garmin was unable to ship the Forerunner® 910XT in time for the holiday season. Garmin expects 20–25% growth in 2012.


Impact of Charity Running

Running and Charity are almost becoming so synonymous that you almost cannot mention one without the other. More and more events are aligning themselves with charities, runners are sporting team jerseys to support the cause, and social networking is providing the “buzz” to spread the word. While the exact number of charity runners in the United States is not available, there is no doubt that the part of the increase in road race entrants over the past decade has been driven by charitable running. For many runners, who weren’t selected by a race lottery, they are finding a way into a race by partnering with a charity.


The Boston Marathon, for example, limits the number of charity runners that they allow on the course, which account for about 20% of entrants who are not required to meet any qualifying times, but need a proper training program for admission. While the storied marathon has a huge demand of runners wanting an entry, they continue to limit charitable runners each year and protect the event from becoming a “fun run”.


There is no doubt that charitable running has had a huge impact on the sport. The Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council released its annual study on charitable dollars and the top seven programs listed raised more than $1 billion in 2011, and these were just in run/walk events alone (see Table 3 below).


Table 3: Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council’s Top Seven Programs by Total Revenue in 2011



Relay for Life (American Cancer Society)

$415.0 million


Race for the Cure (Susan G. Komen for the Cure)

$131.3 million


March for Babies (March of Dimes)

$105.0 million


Heart Walk (American Heart Association)

 $99.1 million


Team in Training (Leukemia & Lymphoma Society)

 $87.5 million


Walk to Cure Diabetes (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation)

 $85.7 million


Susan G. Komen 3-Day (Susan G. Komen for the Cure)

 $84.4 million




Upcoming Running USA State of the Sport reports will feature gender and age group demographics, event finisher totals by distance and the largest races nationwide for 2011.



ABI Research. (2011, March). Mobile Apps, Watches and Apparel Will Spur Outdoor, Sports, and Fitness GPS to $2b in 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.abiresearch.com/press/3633-Mobile+Apps,+Watches+and+Apparel+Will+Spur+Outdoor,+Sports+and+Fitness+GPS+to+$2bn+in+2016


Garmin Reports Fourth Quarter Results Highlighting EPS Growth and Revenue Growth in All Segments. (2012, February). Directions Magazine, Retrieved from: http://www.directionsmag.com/pressreleases/garmin-reports-fourth-quarter-results-highlighting-eps-growth-and-revenue-g/234132


NSGA.  National Sporting Goods Association. (1) = NSGA Sports Participation in 2011, Series I, II, State-by-State, (2) = NSGA Sporting Goods Market in 2012, based on retail sales in the U.S. projected from consumer surveys of national households. To obtain information on any of the NSGA products and services, email: info@nsga.org, phone (847) 296-6742 or go to www.nsga.org.


Running USA. Running USA advances the growth and success of the running industry in America. State of the Sport reports, comprehensive running data and lists of the largest races from past years can be found on RunningUSA.org in the “Statistics” section. For other questions about running trends and demographics, contact: Rich Harshbarger, rich@runningusa.org, or Jason Jacobsen, jason@runningusa.org


Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council. The Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council is the focal point of research in the burgeoning field of athletic event fundraising. Each year the council publishes the Run Walk Ride 30 which is a list of the top 30 programs ranked on revenue and other key metrics. For more information visit www.runwalkride.com or contact info@runwalkride.com


Robbins, L. (2010, October). Running for Charity Fuels a Boom in Marathoning. NYTimes.com, Retrieved from: marathon.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/21/running-for-charity-fuels-a-boom-in-marathoning/


SGMA. Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. 2012 SGMA Sports & Fitness Participation Topline Report, based on participation numbers in the U.S. projected from online interviews of a nationwide sample. To obtain information on any of the SGMA products or services, email: info@sgma.com, phone (301) 495-6322, or go to www.sgma.com


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