Customer satisfaction with athletic footwear and apparel manufacturers, including Skechers and Levi Strauss, remains high, new research suggests.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), athletic shoes were the only non-durables category to see an improvement in customer satisfaction this year, up 1.3% to a score of 81.

Smaller brands including Skechers and New Balance were top of the category - climbing 4% to 83.

Adidas rose 4% to 80 after a drop last year, but this may have been because it lost its most dissatisfied customers. Its Reebok line of toning shoes was not well received, and according to customers, quality and durability fell short.

Nike slipped 3% to 78, although it gained market share, since it was more difficult to appeal to the broader and more diverse customer base.

"While it is not certain that customer satisfaction on the average is up because Adidas has lost dissatisfied customers and that Nike's ACSI is down because it has an influx of new customers to serve, it is a phenomenon that we have seen in the past," said ACSI founder and chairman Claes Fornell.

"In the extreme, if a company got rid of all but one of its customers and served that customer really well, it would have a high customer satisfaction score but no market. That is, one should always check if defecting customers might be a reason for rising averages in customer satisfaction."

After two years of price-driven declines, customer satisfaction with apparel stabilised at 79 this year. 

Levi Strauss came up on top with a score of 82, followed by VF Corporation and basic apparel maker Hanesbrands at 81, which fell 1% and rose 3% respectively.

Jones Group, which came top last year, fell to 80. Price markdowns were not enough to offset lower quality, according to customers. The aggregate of smaller companies, including store brands, trailed the rest of the industry at 78.