Atreyu discontinues its unique subscription service just as On Running begins one

By: Brian Metzler

Recently, intrepid start-up brand Atreyu Running announced the discontinuation of its Base Model subscription service in favor of a single-purchase program beginning on September 1.

Atreyu launched in 2019 and began selling shoes through both a subscription service ($55, with delivery of a new pair every one to three months) and a single-purchase availability ($75). It was a novel approach that gave Atreyu plenty of buzz when it launched, but it apparently wasn’t sustainable.

In a video it shared with its followers, the brand said the frequency of the subscription service led to production restraints, wasteful inventory management and limited availability of popular colorways. The brand also started to develop shoes that it kept outside of the subscription service, including The Artist ($100), a thickly cushioned racing shoe with a carbon-fiber plate, and a yet-to-be-announced trail running shoe. It’s now offering The Artist for a second time after delivering the first production series in March.

The change in delivery tactics coincides with the late September launch of its new Base Model v2, a shoe with a super-critical EVA midsole. It will look almost identical to the original Base Model that it launched last year, but almost everything about it will be an upgrade. That shoe, which is lighter, cushier and also more durable than the original Base Model, will have a retail price of $85, but it will be offered at a 25 percent discount for its original subscribers for the next year.

Atreyu founder Michael Krajicek said he originally believed the Atreyu subscription service would be a successful business model for the company, but, he says, it turns out a lot of the company’s supply chain assumptions and theories on backstock could be solved simply by not reserving shoes for later use.

“We know that several of you are passionate about this program, and we want to acknowledge that,” Krajicek said. “But trust us, we know this is the right call and can’t wait to bring you on the next chapter in our journey. No doubt we gave it every last effort to see if we could turn this model into magic, but perhaps it is the resonating value of simplicity that can always guide us home in every complex situation. We’re looking forward to unfolding the next iteration of the brand as we move into this single-purchase model, which we believe will unlock so many doors with design and opportunity.”

Just as Atreyu is discontinuing its subscription service, On Running is beginning one. Last spring, it announced its forthcoming fully recyclable, zero-waste Cyclon shoe will be available this fall only via a subscription service for $29.99 per month. A one-time payment grants subscribers access to the Cyclon service and serves as a first monthly payment. But it's only offered on a first-come, first-served basis to the initial 5,000 subscribers.

The speedy 7 oz. Cyclon is a white, dye-free shoe made from Castor beans. It has a one-piece engineered mesh upper and an extreme rocker silhouette with Speedboard that promotes forward propulsion. The company has said that subscribers can return their Cyclon shoes when they reach the end of their useful life — which it estimates to be about 600 km or 375 miles — for a brand new pair.

It sounds like a very inexpensive program, but it depends on frequency of usage. For example, if a subscriber is logging 375 miles per month in the Cyclon, it means they’ll be paying $30 a month for that shoe and getting a new pair every month. But if it takes two or three months to reach that worn-out volume of miles, in essence a customer will be paying double ($60) or triple ($90) per pair.