Casual Runners Are Racing Away From Nike and Toward Competitors — Here's Why CEO John Donahoe admitted the company is "struggling to connect with everyday runners."

By Amanda Breen

Key Takeaways

  • Nike's dip in popularity among casual runners could be due, in part, to the direct selling strategy it rolled out in 2017.
  • The company is also grappling with a talent exodus, which began with a 1,400-person layoff several years ago.

Some of the highest-paid athletes in the world sport Nike sneakers thanks to the brand's extensive endorsement commitments.

That includes professional runners: On Sunday, 23-year-old Kelvin Kiptum ran the Chicago Marathon in a pair of unreleased Nike Alphafly 3 sneakers — and set a men's world record at two hours and 35 seconds.

But casual runners are racing the other way — and toward the company's competitors — for several reasons, OregonLive/The Oregonian reported.

Related: 4 Branding Lessons From Nike's Colin Kaepernick Ad | Entrepreneur

CEO John Donahoe admitted the company is "struggling to connect with everyday runners" on a September earnings call, and analysts told the outlet it could be tied to Nike's emphasis on direct sales and a talent exodus.

Nike's "Consumer Direct Offense" strategy, announced in June 2017, paid off big time — in the beginning. Within a couple of years, the company's stock climbed more than 73% with $10.7 billion in quarterly revenue, Footwear News reported.

But Nike's absence in many brick-and-mortar stores is a problem now.

"In running specialty, Nike's not the boss," Sean Rivers, owner of the Portland running retailer Foot Traffic, which has a Nike account but no longer sells the brand, told OregonLive/The Oregonian. "Brooks and Hoka are running the show."

Nike also cut 2% of its workforce — roughly 1,400 jobs across the globe — as it ramped up its direct selling, CNN Business reported, and laid off 700 workers, including those with decades of experience, in 2020, per OregonLive/The Oregonian.

Related: Toxic Culture for Women at Nike Revealed | Entrepreneur

Nike Inc is up more than 14% year over year. The company reported 10% growth for the year in June but no longer publicly reports sales for its running division, a $4 billion wholesale business as of 2021, per the outlet.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a features writer at She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Business News

Can't Find a Place on Airbnb? The New 'Black Market' Has You Covered.

Tightening regulations on short-term rentals in NYC has led to a shadow market for Airbnb alternatives.

Growing a Business

More Than 90% of Startups Don't Make It. This CEO Reveals What It Takes to Not Only Survive — But Thrive.

Learn what it takes to grow a company while also scaling as a leader.

Starting a Business

How Business Community Is Making CEO Life Less Ghastly

People are starting to notice that if you want to get the best out of entrepreneurs, you have to support them. But how?


5 Scrappy Ways to Create Quick Marketing Wins

Marketers are under pressure to create both short-term and long-term successes. Here's how you can create quick wins easily alongside your bigger strategy.

Business News

A Woman Is Suing a Popular Salad Chain After Allegedly Finding a 'Chopped' Human Finger in Her Bowl

The incident allegedly occurred at a Chop't location in Mount Kisco, New York, on April 7, 2023.

Business News

Mac Without Cheese? Kraft's Newest Product Is Going Vegan

Kraft is releasing a plant-based version of its iconic Mac & Cheese called "NotMac&Cheese."