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Emerging Run Brands: Performance Meets Trendwear


Published May 1, 2024


With the sport of running gaining considerable traction as the science behind metabolic health goes mainstream, technical running apparel has become a staple in everyday wear. With buzzwords like athleisure and activewear getting thrown around haphazardly, we break down the concept of a capsule wardrobe to set the record straight. We also brought in Backcountry partner and running aficionado Rio Lakeshore, who’s helped identify brands that offer a fresh perspective on running footwear and apparel.

What’s A Capsule Wardrobe?


Inspired by the minimalist lifestyle movement, a capsule wardrobe simplifies what you wear by using versatile apparel pieces to cover more ground. Think about your favorite pair of blue jeans—you can rock them at the office, out for a burger, and straight to your friend’s birthday party without a hitch.

This has many benefits, including less time spent shopping and more efficient use of space for clothing storage. The use of capsule wardrobes is popular in urban environments where living space is limited and commercial shopping areas are overwhelming and busy. It also lessens an individual’s carbon footprint since they are purchasing fewer apparel items throughout the year.

We worked with Backcountry partner and runner Rio Lakeshore to develop four mini capsules. Keep reading for our interview with Rio and a highlight of some of his favorite brands, or jump straight to his running capsules.

  • Warmup & Recover
  • Trail Dancer
  • Jet Set
  • Daybreak Divergence


Rio’s Warmup & Recover Capsule

Effortless Comfort Meets Unrestricted Mobility

Benefits Of Functional Running Apparel


Technical running apparel and footwear fits especially well within capsule wardrobes because their functional design makes them exceedingly versatile. Running shoes built to last for hundreds of miles perform just as well for marathon training as they do for exploring a vast new city on foot. Windbreakers, shorts, and leggings offer many similar crossover benefits, plus brands are putting more and more emphasis on urban-meets-outdoors styling every season that works well in casual settings. Not only are brands making apparel and footwear pieces that are appealing from a stylistic perspective, but the consumer is actively searching for running-inspired pieces to complement their outfit. Why compromise function for style? Why buy another outfit just for being active? You no longer have to.


Rio’s Trail Dancer Capsule

Modern Innovation, Off-Road Capable

Rio’s Go-To Running Playlist


Music and running go hand-in-hand for Rio—so much so that he refers to running as trail dancing. These are a few tracks that he relies on to get moving and get his jam on.

Emerging Running Brands


While the established giants in the running industry like Nike and Adidas make incredible products, we wanted to highlight a few emerging brands that are leading the charge in innovation. The larger brands in the space have had their foot in the fashion game for some time, but these newer brands are integrating this strategy in the conception stage. From Ciele’s signature hats to our in-house Backcountry running apparel, each of the brands below offer their own unique flavor within the running and training space.

Known for their Japanese-engineered running eyewear, District Vision’s eye for style, supplemented by their diligence for function, make them an emerging leader in the heavily contested eyewear industry. While eyewear is the brand’s forte, their running apparel is also gaining traction in the space thanks to simple styling that complements any outfit.

As one of the core running brands that we offer, Ciele Athletics certainly carries the torch when it comes to running-specific hats and caps. Just about any popular running destination will have someone sporting a Ciele cap, but be sure to keep an eye out for their colorful apparel options as well!

With the vast mountains of Norway as their testing grounds, Nnormal certainly knows a thing or two about making rugged running footwear. With their roots in trail running, this is one of our go-to brands for getting off the beaten path. We also appreciate that sustainability is one of the brand’s core values, and they’re always striving to develop sustainable materials.

Known for their reputation as a no-nonsense trail running brand, Norda makes shoes for one purpose—to outperform the competition. Their footwear line is very straight forward; the models simply have numbers for names, with the 001 being the most popular model. Despite their performance-oriented approach, we happen to think the shoes look pretty dang stylish, too.

Often reputed as the go-to footwear brand for trail running races, HOKA makes heavily cushioned footwear to go the distance every time. Their shoe line is truly comprehensive with something for everyone—they even have boots and sandals that fit into our capsule wardrobes quite nicely.

Although we may be biased, we firmly believe that Backcountry running gear and apparel leads the industry in terms of technology, performance, and modern styling. We’re always adding new and exciting pieces to our line, like the newly released Wasatch Adventure Hydration Bra for trail running. Backcountry’s running apparel selection covers everything from road to trail running and even fitness—plus it's all built to last a lifetime.


Rio’s Jet Set Capsule

Who Says Style Can’t Be Cozy?

Shop Emerging Running Brands

Q+A With Backcountry Partner Rio Lakeshore


Rio Lakeshore is a Backcountry Partner, running aficionado, and he has a signature style when it comes to apparel thanks to his extensive experience as an activewear model. Rio has joined us on a handful of photoshoots lately, and we even had him on the Backcountry Podcast recently, check out his episode if you haven’t yet!


Rio sat down with our Stylist and in-house guru for trending active apparel, Georgina Pena, to dig into the running apparel scene.

Backcountry: Do you feel like emerging running brands make it easier to utilize activewear in your everyday capsule?

Rio: Absolutely! Emerging running brands offer a greater opportunity to explore the freedom of expression. They provide a wider range of options that align with individual styles, so you don’t have to manipulate the clothing to fit personal preferences.

Backcountry: How are brands adapting to popular trends within the running community that demand versatile, functional running apparel?

Rio: I believe that the running community is driving and influencing popular trends, rather than the other way around. Activewear has successfully integrated with non-active, fashion-forward styles, making it more adaptable and appealing to a broader audience. This shift in perspective highlights the running community's ability to set the tone for fashion trends and embrace a more versatile and inclusive approach to activewear.

Backcountry: How do you think the influence of running extends beyond functionality and impacts individuals' fashion choices in their daily lives?

Rio: You can blend just any piece of running attire with your personal style effortlessly. Recently, I came across a photo of a certain red-carpet actress rocking a pair of District Vision sunglasses, complemented by slacks and a button-down shirt. This serves as a perfect example of how running accessories can seamlessly merge with fashion-forward outfits, allowing individuals to express their unique style while embracing the functionality of running gear.

Backcountry: What factors influence your decision when choosing your running shoes and apparel?

Rio: I like my shoes to be subtle and light in colorway (think earthy tones). I also prefer a higher stack and durable construction since long-lasting performance is a must for me.


When it comes to running shorts, I specifically look for a good pair of 3-inch shorts in black. Living in Southern California, the weather is usually warm and pleasant, so I don't feel the need to wear a shirt while running.


As for socks, I'm flexible and open-minded. I enjoy experimenting with different colors and patterns, as they can add a fun and vibrant element to my running attire. High socks (no ankle socks for me).

Backcountry: Many runners seem to struggle with the balance between functional and stylish apparel (I know I do). How do you strike that balance with your own running wardrobe?

Rio: Crop that shirt, wear some jewelry, and some District Vision sunnies, and you’re good.

Backcountry: Have you ever used your choice of running gear as a form of self-expression or to express self-identity? Do you think this is happening to others within the community?

Rio: Yes, I'm a ’90s kid and pull a lot from that era.

Backcountry: Do you associate any specific memories or milestones in your running journey with particular items of clothing or shoes?

Rio: Tube socks are an indelible piece in many of my running milestones!

Backcountry: We love to see you rocking some Backcountry branded running apparel. What styles are working best for your wardrobe?

Backcountry: What’s your favorite way to treat yourself after a big run?

Rio: Cerveza, sparkling water, still water, electrolytes, and any food in sight.

Backcountry: It's fascinating how certain items can become almost like a trusted companion on the road. Do you have any stories or experiences where your choice of running gear made a significant impact on your performance or mindset during a run?

Rio: I’ve been known to use a pair of sunglasses as a security blanket when facing a pain cave in numerous occasions.


Rio’s Daybreak Divergence Capsule

Weather Protection Means You Never Miss A Run

Choosing Running Apparel & Footwear At Backcountry


We hope this overview of emerging running brands and interview with Rio give you a better insight into the running community and trending apparel. The wonderful thing about running styles and trends is that it’s totally up to you to decide how you want to express yourself. If you have the opportunity to stop by one of our stores, you can get in-person advice from one of our Gearhead® Experts. Otherwise, our Gearheads are here to help you find the perfect shoe over online chat or phone call!

Kendall Zylstra has been a member of the Backcountry Herd since 2018. He’s a die-hard mountain biker, fitness enthusiast, and powder skier—you can probably find him somewhere in the Wasatch mountains during his free time.