Birkenstock Wants to Target Runners and Position Its Footbed as a ‘Recovery’ Shoe Option

Birkenstock may be a fashion sandal brand, but the company is trying to win over a new subset of consumers as well: runners.

The German sandal company on Thursday laid out a plan to position its footwear as an ideal recovery option for runners after their workouts.

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In a call with analysts discussing the company’s 2023 results, Birkenstock’s president of Americas David Kahan said the brand had progressed in expanding its distribution “so that the benefits of our footbed make it front and center in running specialty shops.”

This new initiative, Kahan explained, is mean to educate sports-oriented consumers on the benefits of Birkenstock’s footbed “whereby this consumer can benefit from Birkenstock as a recovery item as part of their athletic lifestyle.”

Using the marketing slogan of “Run, Birkenstock, repeat,” the sandal company is looking to capitalize on the lucrative running market, which has led to massive gains for brands like On, Hoka and Brooks in recent years.

“This helps us ensure the benefit of our footbed leads a growing revenue base to complement purchases made by some who may buy for fashion-led reasons,” Kahan said.

He noted that Birkenstock is being strategic when it comes to expanding into doors where there is notable white space and is looking to “ensure scarcity across all retail partners.” He added that Birkenstock sought out strategic “land grabs” of white space in the footwear market during the difficult macroeconomic situation in Q4, which helped it see strong sell-through and inventories at retail during the quarter.

While inflation has challenged the U.S. consumer lately, Kahan said Birkenstock has benefitted to a shift from “general shopping to real intentional purchasing, where people are searching out those products, brands, experiences they really want.”

“We are one of the few real key intentional purchases that people are searching for,” Kahan said. The goal is to navigate this consistent demand with a thoughtful approach to expansion and growth without flooding the market with too much product.

“We’re expanding but with extreme discipline,” Kahan said.

In addition to being strategic about its wholesale distribution strategy, Birkenstock also wants to increase its direct-to-consumer penetration, where it sees the most profit per pair sold. In fiscal year 2023, DTC revenues grew by 24 percent, which outperformed wholesale.

“Based on the incredible momentum we’ve had in direct-to-consumer, we’re fluid,” Kahan said. “Even in the middle of a quarter, in the middle of a month, we’re able to steer available product wherever we think that the highest return and the most benefit will be.”

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