Allyson Felix is taking big steps for women in the male-dominated world of athletic wear. The 35-year-old star sprinter is racing in this year’s Olympics as a mother. Felix has won more medals in Track and Field than any other female Olympian and broke the record for most medals in the World Athletic Championship only 10 months after giving birth.
In a New York Times piece, Felix described how she “felt pressure to return to form as soon as possible after the birth of [her] daughter in November 2018, even though [she] ultimately had to undergo an emergency C-section at 32 weeks because of severe preeclampsia that threatened the lives of [herself] and [her] baby.”
Pregnancy can threaten an athlete’s career. Not just because of the difficulty to physically perform and heal after enduring a pregnancy, but because of the harmful stigmas tied to pregnancy. Nike, which Felix was partnered with, planned to cut Felix’s earnings by 70% after her maternity. Felix wrote that she “asked Nike to contractually guarantee that I wouldn’t be punished if I didn’t perform at my best in the months surrounding childbirth.”
Nike declined. Felix and the company were at a standstill. Felix described that the company told her to stay in her place: “I was told to know my place. That runners should just run, that it’s just business.”
Felix decided to stand up for herself and mothers everywhere and cut ties with Nike. She even broke a nondisclosure agreement when she shared her story. Felix began a partnership with Athleta to focus more on uplifting women through athletic wear, or specifically, mothers.
This year, since Athleta doesn’t make sneakers, Felix will be wearing shoes that she designed by herself, for her new brand, Saych, which aims to provide an alternative to popular male-dominated athletic wear. The brand’s first shoe will be released for $150 this September.
In and outside of the clothing industry, Felix has committed to creating a world that is safer for female athletes. With Athleta, she launched a grant program that would help traveling athletes find childcare while they are competing.