It's been a pretty big month for women in professional sports. The U.S. women's soccer team took home the World Cup and tennis player Serena Williams won her sixth Wimbledon singles title. And yet, despite all the strides made by women in sports, there's a very notable lack of sneakers aimed at women.
According to Fashionista, The Brooklyn Museum opened its new "The Rise of Sneaker Culture" exhibit with a panel dubbed "Sole Sister Revolution." The conversation featured a roster of New York City's preeminent female sneakerheads (artist/illustrator Sophia Chang, Rime NYC owner Susan Boyle, designer April Walker, and YouTube's Sole De Vida) and focused on the sneaker industry's overall ignorance when it comes to female consumers and designers. While athletes like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and of course, Michael Jordan have flourishing lines of sneakers, they're not offered in women's sizes without (usually negative) adjustments to the design.
"There is so much cool stuff for guys and it doesn’t come in our size. Or if it does, they’ll take something out and tweak it a little different, use cheaper material, or change the silhouette. They’re not thinking about us, who we are, and I think that’s one of the biggest problems we have," said Susan Boyle, owner of Brooklyn-based sneaker boutique Rime, during the panel.
While other celebrities like Rita Ora and Rihanna have been teaming up with brands like Adidas and Puma, there's a, perhaps not-so-surprising, lack of sneakers coming from female athletes that have the same support and quality as their male counterparts.
Serena Williams' NikeCourt Flare shoe, for example, takes design elements from Kobe's and other non-tennis players. Fashionista also notes that basketball player Maya Moore hasn't released a sneaker despite having a partnership with Jordan Brand since 2011.
Sneakers have become significantly more commonplace among women and fashion aficionados over the past few years. With everyone from Kendall and Kylie wearing their new Yeezys to Rihanna sporting a pair of sneakers on a night out, sneaker fans and sports fans are no longer mutually exclusive. For that reason, it's surprising that companies haven't caught up with the trend. When a new pair of sneakers are released, they're aimed at men, despite women wanting to wear them, too. And not everyone is lucky enough to fit into a men's size, so most are left to cop the women's version of the shoe—usually a femmed-out, lesser sneaker—or crossing their fingers that it's released in a Boys' size. Just because women want to wear sneakers, doesn't mean they want them in pink. Instead of altering the designs, companies could (and should), be expanding the size range for their products.
While the problem with female sneakers isn't one that will be solved overnight, the speakers at the panel said these Fortune 500 companies need more women involved to spearhead the change, and we couldn't agree more.