8 Running Trend Predictions For 2024

What to look forward to in training, racing, recovering, and gearing up this year, according to coaches and industry experts.


If we’ve learned anything about this sport, it’s that, even with preparation and a clearly marked course, you never know where a run will take you. Yet, we still dare to make predictions about the running year ahead, mostly because thinking about the future can be fun and inspiring and help us feel prepared for whatever we might encounter. Plus, it gives us a chance to pick the brains of some of the running community’s most well-respected coaches and fitness industry experts.

So, here’s what we predict as the eight biggest running trends in 2024.

1. AI (and Not Just for Training)
Even if you’re still tracking your runs with a spiral notebook and No. 2 pencil, you won’t be able to avoid running-related AI in 2024. “There will be more use of artificial intelligence to help runners design programs and decide how to navigate the world of running,” predicts Noam Tamir CEO and owner of TS Fitness.

The most obvious entry point is wearables. For decades, we’ve been using watches and trackers to capture and analyse our health and performance metrics, so asking your Polar watch or the Garmin Coach to programme the training for your next 10K isn’t much of a reach. Even those who prefer to go bare-wristed may find that tools like ChatGPT and Bard are handy when it comes to researching local races, collecting gear reviews, or finding new running communities.

Running coaches (the human kind) will also lean on AI to help automate the more routine and time-intensive aspects of their services, potentially allowing them to scale their offerings and work with more runners. This could be in the form of answering questions or adjusting training plans.

2. Running for Connection
Despite everything that AI might offer the sport, we’re likely to see a bit of backlash against technology in the running community. Rather than perceiving their training as a set of metrics or a means to a PB, more people may begin to treat running as an opportunity to ground into their humanity and connect with something bigger than themselves.

“Nature, outdoors, and social fitness. Group workouts, hiking, run groups, sunshine — it’s all good for us but hard to monetise, so it’s not pushed by the industry,” says Anthony Vennare, founder of Fitt Insider. “As people become disillusioned with too much tech and data in their regular lives, they will seek out less [online] connectivity in their health routines and default to IRL social experiences and adventures.”

In other words, this may be the year you join (or start!) a running group. “We’ve seen it happen already in big cities,” Jessie Zapotechne, a coach with Adidas Runners and the founder of Girls Run NYC. “There is more and more interest in creating spaces for groups of people around a common interest, a small neighbourhood, or a social cause. People are organising themselves and just running.”

3. Easy Running
“More people are starting to buy into slow running or zone 2 training,” says Dr Todd Buckingham, triathlete, coach, and professor of movement science. He expects that some runners will nerd out on the science of how low-intensity training increases mitochondria and capillary production, while others will simply notice that they’re able to recover more fully when their easy runs are actually easy.

Beyond personal gains, easy running will inevitably impact the sport of running by lowering the barrier of entry and welcoming athletes of all abilities and levels of experience. “[The slow running movement] will make running more accessible and acceptable for people who want to enter races,” Tamir says. “It’s no longer about setting a PB but running with a community and for health.”

4. The Democratisation of Super Shoes
When the first few models launched, carbon-plated, ultra-cushioned “super shoes” were marketed to a relatively narrow segment of runners. The price point was well above that of the average running shoe, and many experts advised consumers not to bother investing in a pair unless they ran a kilometre in at least under 4 mins/km, as the speed-enhancing technology wouldn’t deliver at a slower pace. In other words, super shoes were for already fast runners who wanted to be faster (and only those who were willing to pay for it).

However, newer research suggests that recreational runners who stick to slower paces may gain physiological and biomechanical benefits from wearing super shoes. And while more brands launched these high-tech shoes last year, those features are becoming more available across shoe types.

“Now, we’re starting to see some of that top-end tech trickle down into ‘daily trainer’ versions,” says Morgan Petruny, Runner’s World test editor. “While these shoes are still not cheap — they’re more affordable than many super shoes. Plus, because these models are designed for daily training and not just race day, they have improved durability.”

The new trainers we’ll see this year might not be quite as fast as race shoes, she adds, but they’re still so fun, last for more kilometres, and make you feel good when you finish a run.

5. Gym Memberships for Recovery
Historically gym-averse runners may find themselves shelling out membership fees to gyms in the new year, but not necessarily for the treadmills and free weights. “Gyms are adding recovery programming, such as massage guns, cold therapy, infra-red saunas, and pressure cuffs for the legs, which can be used by runners,” says Pete McCall, author of Ageless Intensity: High-Intensity Workouts to Slow the Aging Process. “Runners may join a gym not for the exercise but for the recovery options that are available.”

After all, the recovery boom is still having a moment. “We have seen a big rise in recovery methods, such as ice baths, red light therapy, and massage guns,” Tamir says. And, as with super shoes, with more brands entering the marketplace, runners will have a wider array of products (at multiple price points) to choose from.

6. Shorter-Distance Racing
Despite what your Instagram feed might suggest, not every runner wants to run Comrades or Two Oceans. “The vast majority of runners, especially people who report that they jog or run casually, are not in that niche group,” says Zapotechne. “I think we will see more of an emphasis on coaching advice and topics that are important for beginners and people going after shorter distances, like 5-15K.” So keep an eye on the calendar for races like the Absa Run Your City series.

Also, Zapotechne reminds us, shorter distances will get plenty of hype thanks to the coverage of the 2024 Summer Olympics. “I think there will be a heightened emphasis and interest in track and field and those athletes who have been gaining larger followings through social media.”

7. Travel To Race
For many runners the strategy of using events as an excuse to travel is growing steadily. Whether it’s a niche event in KZN or a trail run in Mpumalanga, many runners are looking at the schedule of events for the year and planning holidays around them. Many South Africans travel to compete in international marathons and that trend is also likely to continue in 2024.

Even locally, there are so many races being held in remote areas that are ideal for weekend away. Think of events like the popular KZN Oxpecker Trail Run which is an ideal travel venue for both KZN and Gauteng athletes.

8. Runners in Non-Running Clothes
We love our technical gear, but sweat-wicking fabric won’t be the focus of 2024 running fashion. “On the world’s stage, we are seeing the importance of the ‘alk-in’ trackside looks for athletes, as popularised by Noah Lyles,” the Olympic and World Championship medalist who’s been encouraging track and field athletes to ditch their pre-race sweatpants for red carpet-worthy looks, says Zapotechne.

The fashion show element will likely capture the attention of new fans who come for clothes and stay for the competition. The trend may even influence how recreational runners dress. “Many brands that are fashion forward are adding in performance pieces and vice-versa,” Zapotechne says. “Think about how certain running pieces have become fashion staples and also how certain fashion brands have created running apparel.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a more inclusive 2024 may encourage new runners to forgo the expense of a high-performance running wardrobe and embrace a spirit of “come as you are,” Zapotechne speculates. “With all the new and young faces coming into the sport, we will see people running in non-running apparel like basic cotton tees,” she says.

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