The Reebok EasyTone model

The Reebok EasyTone model

The emergence of toning footwear will continue to be a driver of growth in the US athletic footwear sector, latest reseach suggests.

According to the Buckingham Research Group, toning shoes like Skechers' Shape Ups and Reebok's EasyTone line are flying off the shelves.

"The toning category is by far the best selling segment in athletic and perhaps the area in all of footwear with the most buzz," the equity research group says.

"Reebok's EasyTone product is selling out as soon as retailers are opening the boxes, according to store managers with whom we discussed the trend."

Research firm The NPD Group reported earlier this month that sales of toning shoes into retailers jumped to $145m in 2009.

Latest findings by Buckingham, from the WSA shoe show in Las Vegas and FFANY show in New York, suggest an consequent influx of brands into the category, including Avia, Brown Shoe Company and possibly New Balance.

"We see this category as a material driver throughout 2010, at a minimum," the researcher adds.

Buckingham also reports strong sell-throughs of boots, but warns that few retailers have the inventory to sipport robust sales growth of this category of the footwear market.

However, it adds that overall footwear inventories are in "good shape" and that this, twinned with rational promotional spend, was enabling decent margin performance.