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Footwear Leaders Align Against Systemic Racism in Running

Top leaders within the footwear industry have formed a new, national coalition of running brands, running retailers and runners representing Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), dedicated to ending systemic racism that exists within the running industry and community.

The Running Industry Diversity Coalition (RIDC) is led by co-chairs Alison Mariella Désir, founder of Harlem Run, a collective of runners passionate about running and community, and the community/charity organization Run 4 All Women, and Chris Lampen-Crowell, co-owner of Michigan-based running retailer Gazelle Sports.

Leadership committee partners include John Benedict, co-owner at Playmakers Athletic Footwear and Apparel and board president of the Running Industry Association; Martha Garcia, director of global brand creative and communications at Hoka One One; Robyn Goby, vice president of development at Fleet Feet; Verna Volker, founder of Native Women Running, a community that features and encourages Indigenous women runners; Shannon Woods, senior manager of diversity, equity and inclusion at Brooks Running; and Teresa Baker, co-founder and advisor of the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge.

Grants from Brooks Running and Hoka One One are funding the establishment of the coalition.

In a joint statement, Brooks CEO Jim Weber and Hoka One One President Wendy Yang said, “Brooks and HOKA are brands comprised of people who love running. We are committed to continuing the work of representing our sport—and all runners—in authentic ways, and to making the joy of movement accessible to everyone. We are proud of the work RIDC has committed to doing and look forward to seeing progress made within the industry and sport we all love so much.”

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While the coalition notes that running has been characterized as accessible and offering an opportunity to gain fitness and self-worth wherever the journey begins, it said that in practice this has not been the case for all participants in the community.

“I have been in the running industry for eight years and I have always known there are not a lot of people who look like me, and the sport is not as inclusive as people claim it to be,” Désir said. “This is an opportunity to help folks in power change the systems that make it that way—to finally open up running.”

As a working group, the RIDC seeks to challenge the current status while amplifying the inclusion, access and roles of BIPOC in the running industry. The coalition is united by the belief that running, walking, and fitness support a healthy culture and should be accessible for everyone—regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexuality, immigration status, socioeconomic status and ability.

“My naïve bias allowed me to promote an openness to running stores and the running industry that was not the truth for BIPOC runners. With the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I feel a deep responsibility to listen, learn and educate myself and transform my business to become anti-racist,” said Lampen-Crowell. “There is white privilege, white power and systemic racism in almost all industries, and the running industry is no different. I envision working collaboratively to do the hard work to remove our racial bias, become diverse, and eliminate systemic racism. I am optimistic that the running industry and running communities will take this work to heart and make a real impact.”

The formation of the coalition comes one month after The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) announced the creation of a separately run Black advisory board, which will lead CFDA’s efforts in creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable fashion industry in an effort to create pathways for Black designers and industry professionals to excel.

RDIC sets nine-goal commitment to inclusion

Collectively, and as individuals, RIDC partners are committing to a series of nine goals. The first goal starts with conversation, and the ability to create opportunities for discussion that listen to marginalized people in the industry to better understand their experiences.

The coalition wants to uncover and name the systems of racism within footwear and running businesses, the running community and the culture of running, all while ramping up representation initiatives. To do its part, RIDC will increase authentic representation in stories, images, marketing, athletes, ambassadors and product wear-test/feedback, and promote partnerships between the running industry and BIPOC running organizations.

Additionally, the coalition is committing to ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) education and anti-racist training, with a particular focus on anti-blackness within the industry. The group will promote and acknowledge the Indigenous lands whenever and wherever races occur.

As part of the commitment, RIDC says it aims to hire, support and develop marginalized people in all positions from internships to leadership roles. The group also says it wants to support diversity in the ownership of running businesses and events by creating pathways to make this possible, ultimately increasing diversity within the leadership structure of running brands and other companies servicing runners.

RIDC also is establishing goals to decrease real barriers and racist structures to running for people of color, and aims to be take more accountability in meeting people where they are, and engaging in dialogue with those who regularly interrogate their process and progress.

The final goal is to provide a platform to share best practices, measurements and critical resources to all in the running community.

The coalition is seeking participation from across the running community, including retailers, brands, national organizations, events, clubs, nonprofits and local businesses. Partners are asked to commit to a series of actions, including participating in training and education, increasing diversity in their business, and improving the authentic representation of Black, Indigenous and people of color in branding and communications.