Inclusivity in the Running Industry: Take the Lead 2023

Posted in: Company News
Group photo of attendees at the Take the Lead retreat

Recently, two members of the Superfeet team attended the Women of Color Take the Lead retreat in Chicago. Co-founded by Alison Mariella Désir and Martha M. Garcia in 2022, Take the Lead is the first-ever running-industry retreat centering the experience of women and femme of color with the mission to validate, support, and lead the change they want to see in the running industry. 

Superfeet VP of Marketing Linda Balfour and Social Media Specialist Heather Saldivar both attended Take the Lead 2023. We asked them to share a bit about their experience and the important role events like this can play for the running industry as a whole. Here's what they had to say.

Heather Saldivar, Verna Volker, Linda Balfour at the Take the Lead 2023 retreat Heather Saldivar, Verna Volker, Linda Balfour at the Take the Lead 2023 retreat

Pictured from left: Heather Sadivar, Superfeet Social Media Specialist, Verna Volker (@hozhorunner4) Founder of @native_women_running, and Linda Balfour, Superfeet VP of Marketing. Photo by Emily Ling (@emerald_emiree)

Why was it important for Superfeet to take part in Take the Lead?

Heather: It shows that Superfeet supports and invests in employees. That Superfeet is not just a company that talks about change, but one that is actively working to make it happen. As a brand we are honest about the fact that we aren’t perfect, but we are going to show up, share, connect and grow. It reiterates that small steps create big changes. Superfeet was also one of the sponsors for Take the Lead this year, which makes me even prouder to be a part of the team.

Linda: It is important for Superfeet to be an ally for growing an inclusive community. For us that means constantly learning, funding important work, listening, participating, and implementing what we learn in our daily business practices. By sponsoring Take the Lead we were able to connect with other women of color in the running industry, to learn about their experiences, and how to create space for increased diversity in the running industry by embracing our differences. 

What were your takeaways from this retreat?

Heather:  Ah, so many feels from TTL, where to even begin? The retreat was a powerful reminder to be true to yourself, use your voice, and take up space. The joy and vulnerability shared  was unlike anything I've ever experienced before. I'm so grateful to each person who shared their story, as it gave me the opportunity to grow, learn, and connect with inspiring women of color.

Take the Lead was a safe space where I could be myself and share my thoughts and feelings without judgment. I felt empowered by the other women and their stories, and I left feeling more confident. 

Linda: Personally, TTL helped show me how much I don’t know or understand about the unseen frameworks we are asked to fit into everyday. Through my experience at the retreat, I was able to put context to some of my experiences and step more fully into myself while broadening the way I understand diversity. 

TTL modeled what a safe space looks like where people bring the best of their professional experiences without the need to mirror the cultural behaviors of others to be listened to and trusted. The stories people shared helped me understand how asking people to show up in a certain way, detracts from them being able to use their skills at 100%. 

At Superfeet, we make efforts to be a safe, inclusive space. I’m inspired to see how we can push those efforts even further. Imagine a world where all the energy we put on “fitting in” could be put into our work and play, wouldn’t we be so much happier and productive? 

What was your most memorable moment?

Heather: It’s hard to choose just one, every session, every speaker was truly incredible.

The session on “Finding Your Alignment” moderated by Alison Mariella Désir and featuring panelists Ruba Sbeah, Verna Volker, and Kaitlin Rodriguez really resonated with me. It was a great reminder to make space for mindfulness, create healthy routines and the importance of boundaries. I appreciated their vulnerability, strength and words of wisdom.

Powerful women sharing their stories and showing up unapologetically is a powerful thing. When women show up unapologetically, they are showing the world that they are not afraid to be themselves. Everyone has a story. Be curious. Ask questions. Get to know them.

“Your work is to discover who you are and then with all your heart give your light to the world.”  –Jennifer Williamson

Linda:  TTL left me with an incredible feeling of connection and support. Almost every moment presented something meaningful and memorable. As cliche as it sounds, we laughed, we cried and I learned so much about what bravery in leadership looks like. I can’t pick a single moment as most memorable, but I do want to share my gratitude to the women who imagined TTL into reality, put the work into making it an incredible experience, and to all the people who participated, to the speakers who inspired and brands who stepped up to make it possible. 

Any other thoughts you’d like to add?

Heather: To all running brands: we need you to be here next year, and the year after, and the year after that. Together, we can make the running industry a better place. We can make it more inclusive, more welcoming, and more supportive. We can make it a place where everyone can feel like they belong.

Linda: It is impressive to see how so many people in the running industry have embraced the concept of inclusion, and we still have a long way to go. Thank you to the people, brands and organizations who create safe spaces for us to learn and improve. 

For more about Take the Lead, visit

August 30, 2023