Sales of athletic footwear increased 6% during Black Friday week against the same period last year, driven by demand for women's cross training and running shoes, according to new research. 

This growth rose by an even more impressive 18% compared to the same period three years ago, the Weekly Retail Tracking Service from The NPD Group showed. 

Between January and November, women's cross-training and running shoes posted double-digit sales growth of 31% and 14% in dollar terms respectively, compared to the prior year.

For men, basketball and classics each posted 15% sales growth, while sales of cross-training and running shoes were up 6% and 8% respectively.

"In the last few years footwear has become a more popular holiday gift and this year the category jumped to the number five spot on consumers' shopping list," said NPD Group chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen.

"This is great news for the industry and especially the athletic footwear market, which is helping to drive the momentum with the must-have item, lightweight running shoes."