Under Armour hires running industry vet

A runner makes her way through the Baltimore Inner Harbor on an autumn day.  (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

A runner makes her way through the Baltimore Inner Harbor on an autumn day. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Under Armour’s new VP for running footwear has more than a few miles in the industry.

Fritz Taylor will be the new leader for developing and merchandising running shoes at Baltimore-based Under Armour. He has previously led the running divisions at both Mizuno and Brooks. Before that, he worked in the running division at Nike.

According to Running USA’s annual State of the Sport Report, all three of those companies rank in the top six most popular shoe brands among 30,000 runners surveyed.

Nike had the top market share for running shoes in 2013, according to retail analyst Matt Powell, yanking 59 percent of sales, and Brooks was in third, at 5.6 percent.

Mizuno was not far ahead of Under Armour, taking 2.8 percent of the running shoe dollars in 2013, versus 2.33 for the Baltimore athletic outfitter that entered the running shoe industry in 2009.

Mizuno has said in the past that its focus was on quality and innovation rather than market share.

In a 2011 interview with Run Blog Run, Fritz said that Mizuno’s charge — creating general interest in its running products that were already credible in the specialty running crowd — was a better problem to solve than the alternative.

Now he will tackle the alternative challenge — taking a brand that is popular in the mainstream and building credibility among performance runners.

Under Armour recently launched its Speedform Apollo running shoe on Feb. 28, which CEO and founder Kevin Plank played up as possibly the brand’s “next defining product.”

Under Armour also made its first acquisition in December, buying MapMyFitness. That brand, with its MapMyRun app and website, is already popular among the performance running crowd.

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