Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the US Footwear Online Retailing market, including the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Football is twice as popular as any other spectator sport in the UK, with 42% of all online adults following it during the COVID-19 pandemic despite an initial three-month suspension of competition and matches being played behind closed doors ever since. Empty stadiums and changes to broadcast agreements have cost Premier League and English Football League (EFL) clubs around £1.7bn already and ended a period of sustained market growth that saw combined revenues grow by 50% over the five seasons to 2018-19.

The two main threats to the market’s full recovery are that the softening of the media rights market seen before the pandemic is amplified by its impact on broadcasting businesses and that younger fans in particular have less money to spend on watching football (in stadiums, pubs or via pay-TV subscriptions) if the COVID recession is prolonged.

However, anticipated post-pandemic desire to socialise with family and friends outside the home also creates an opportunity for football clubs to attract new spectators by positioning themselves as safe places for larger groups to meet, have fun and make new memories together.

The total footwear category (not specific to online sales) had experienced yearover-year growth since 2015, until the pandemic reversed that pattern. In 2020, footwear sales reached their lowest point in five years, declining more than 12%. The combined health and economic crises left consumers with few needs to get dressed up (and ultimately buy new shoes) and caused many to scale back or halt spending on nonessential purchases, including clothing and footwear. Online, sales were a different story; in fact, the combined online sales of clothing, footwear and accessories grew nearly 30% in 2020. Because many retailers were closed for part of the year and/or faced limited in-store capabilities when they reopened, when consumers did shop, many did so online.

Read on to discover more details or take a look at all of our Clothing market research.

Quickly understand

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and the online footwear market
  • Category performance in light of the pandemic and what will drive future growth
  • Interest in sneakers, subculture and circular retail continue to drive the category
  • How social media plays a key role in consumers’ online footwear purchase journey
  • Online footwear retailers future.
  • Footwear retail trends.

Covered in this report

Brands: Dr Martens, Birkenstock, Allbirds, Nike, Dior, eBay, Poshmark, ThredUp, Gucci, Zappos, Toms, Rothy’s, Birdies, Soludos, M. Gemi.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Alexis DeSalva Kahler, a leading analyst in the Retail sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Despite declines experienced in the total footwear market because of the pandemic, the category will rebound quickly, especially online. Consumers who shifted their shopping online during the pandemic will stay, for the convenience as well as out of enjoyment. Looking ahead, brands and retailers can embrace culture, sustainability and technology to keep consumers engaged in the online footwear experience. Opportunities to collect footwear (either tangibly or virtually), resale and secondhand shopping options, and the ability to shop through social media will continue to drive the market.

Alexis DeSalva Kahler
Senior Analyst, Retail and eCommerce

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • Key issues covered in this Report
    • Definition
    • COVID-19: US context
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • After declines in 2020, the footwear market will rebound quickly
      • Figure 1: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of Footwear, at current prices, 2015-25
      • Figure 2: Total US sales and forecast of footwear, at current prices, 2015-25
    • Impact of COVID-19 on online footwear retailing
      • Figure 3: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on online footwear retailing, April 2021
    • Opportunities and challenges
    • Offer circular shopping options to keep consumers engaged, regardless of their budget or interests
    • Flexible try-on policies will break down the barriers of buying without seeing
    • Rethinking shipping will meet consumers’ evolving expectations
  3. The Market – Key Takeaways

    • Footwear declines will quickly rebound
    • Culture, sustainability and technology will keep consumers engaged
  4. Market Size and Forecast

    • The pandemic caused declines, but the category will quickly rebound
      • Figure 4: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of Footwear, at current prices, 2015-25
      • Figure 5: Total US sales and forecast of footwear, at current prices, 2015-25
      • Figure 6: Disposable personal income change from previous period, January 2020-December 2020 (prepared on March 24, 2021)
    • Impact of COVID-19 on online footwear retailing
    • Learnings from the last recession
  5. Market Factors

    • Unemployment and low confidence challenge the market, but circular retail provides growth opportunities
      • Figure 7: Consumer confidence and unemployment, 2000- January 2021
    • Interest in sneaker culture keeps younger generations engaged
    • Technology will make the online footwear experience seamless and entertaining
    • Sustainability will become a bigger priority for footwear consumers
  6. Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

    • Subculture and partnerships drive consumers’ interest
    • Technology can make online shopping easier and more interactive
  7. Competitive Strategies

    • Brands embrace footwear’s subculture
      • Figure 8: Dr Martens x Hello Kitty, 60 years of dedicated fans, March 2021; Supreme/Nike Goadome launch, January 2021
    • Partnerships drive exclusivity and create hype
      • Figure 9: Birkenstock1774 X MAFCSM collaboration, March 2021
    • Sustainability gets prioritized
      • Figure 10: Allbirds announces plant leather, February 2021
  8. Market Opportunities

    • Implement tech-centric product discovery
    • Circular retail unlocks value for brands and consumers
      • Figure 11: StockX seller-targeted content, February 2021
    • Gaming and social platforms can foster online communities
    • Appeal to collectors with sneaker NFTs
      • Figure 12: Business of Fashion post – Gucci NFT sneakers, March 2021
  9. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • The market is growing more casual
    • Online shopping isn’t just tactical; it’s enjoyable
    • Footwear fans are actively engaged, often on social media
    • Product inconsistency prevents purchases, and flexibility unlocks purchases
    • Brand discovery happens through ads and social networks
  10. Items Purchased

    • Casual styles are the footwear of choice
      • Figure 13: Items purchased, January 2021
    • Women’s browsing prompts multiple purchases
      • Figure 14: Items purchased – by gender and age, January 2021
    • Efficiency drives parents to shop online
      • Figure 15: Items purchased – by parental status, January 2021
    • Hispanic consumers are active online footwear shoppers
      • Figure 16: Items purchased, by race and Hispanic origin, January 2021
  11. Retailers Shopped and Shopping Method

    • Amazon reigns, but brand and department stores remain competitive online
      • Figure 17: Retailers shopped, January 2021
      • Figure 18: Nike Run Club Global Community Challenge, July 2020
    • Younger adults are comfortable shopping on apps and social media
      • Figure 19: Shopping method – by gender and age, January 2021
    • Conscious consumerism motivates young adults to shop secondhand
      • Figure 20: Retailers shopped – by generation, January 2021
  12. Reasons for Buying Online

    • Online shopping has become a source of enjoyment for many
      • Figure 21: Reasons for buying online, January 2021
    • Older shoppers want to avoid stores
      • : Figure 22: Fleet Feet virtual fit finder, May 2020
    • Men view shopping online as more efficient
      • Figure 23: Reasons for buying online – by gender, January 2021
  13. Shopping Behaviors

    • Women browse for fun, not just for need
      • Figure 24: Shopping behaviors – by age and gender, January 2021
    • Men see greater value in collaborations and collecting
      • Figure 25: Shopping behaviors – by gender, January 2021
      • Figure 26: LeBron James pre- and post-game outfits, February-March 2021
    • Younger generations shop with intent to sell
      • Figure 27: Shopping behaviors – by generation, January 2021
  14. Social Media Shopping Behaviors

    • Social media engages consumers before and after purchase
      • Figure 28: Social media shopping behaviors – NET, January 202
    • Majority of shoppers are already purchasing through social, but men show higher interest
      • Figure 29: Social media shopping behaviors – by gender, January 2021
  15. Attitudes toward Shopping for Footwear Online

    • Free shipping is an expectation for most
      • Figure 30: Attitudes toward shopping for footwear online, January 2021
    • Consumers are subscribing to sneaker culture
      • Figure 31: Attitudes toward shopping for footwear online – by gender and age, January 2021
      • Figure 32: Attitudes toward shopping for footwear online – by race and Hispanic origin, January 2021
    • Most shoppers are willing to explore brands, but young adults appreciate an extra chance to save
      • Figure 33: Attitudes toward shopping for footwear online – by gender and age, January 2021
  16. Barriers to Buying Online

    • Fit inconsistencies prevent purchases, even among frequent shoppers
      • Figure 34: Barriers to buying online, January 2021
      • Figure 35: Barriers to buying online – by gender and age, January 2021
      • Figure 36: Barriers to buying online – by race and Hispanic origin, January 2021
      • Figure 37: Consignment Brooklyn Instagram live sale, February 2021
    • Points of friction prevent purchases across all ages
      • Figure 38: Barriers to buying online – by age, January 2021
  17. Motivations to Shop Online

    • Consumers see value in flexibility and savings
      • Figure 39: Motivations to shop online, January 2021
    • Unique products will entice young men to shop
      • Figure 40: Motivations to buy online – by gender and age, January 2021
    • Younger generations seek emerging payment and discovery options
      • Figure 41: Larroude scannable QR codes, December 2020
      • Figure 42: Motivations to buy online – by generation, January 2021
  18. Online Footwear Brands: Awareness and Discovery

    • Awareness is growing
      • Figure 43: Online footwear brand awareness, January 2021
    • Parents are active online shoppers
      • Figure 44: Online brand awareness – by parental status, January 2021
    • Discovery happens online and through peer network
      • Figure 45: Online brand discovery – NET, January 2021
    • Men and women turn to different resources
      • Figure 46: Online brand discovery – NET – by gender, January 2021
  19. Online Sneaker Brands: Awareness and Discovery

    • The online sneaker community is exclusive
      • Figure 47: Online sneaker brand awareness, January 2021
      • Figure 48: Online sneaker brand awareness, by gender and age, January 2021
      • Figure 49: Online sneaker brand awareness – by race and Hispanic origin, January 2021
    • Social media plays a bigger role in the sneaker market
      • Figure 50: Online sneaker brand discovery – NET, January 2021
  20. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Sales data
    • Forecast
    • Consumer survey data
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms
  21. Appendix – The Market

      • Figure 51: Total US online sales of clothing, clothing accessories and footwear, at current prices, 2015-20
  22. Appendix – The Consumer

      • Figure 52: Attitudes toward shopping for footwear online, January 2021

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