The U.S. footwear industry suffered sharp sales declines in 2020 due to lifestyle changes and shifts in consumer behavior due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but trends are expected to stabilize and recover through 2021, according to NPD’s Future of Footwear report.

The fashion category, which has been hit the hardest by the pandemic, is expected to benefit from a return to the office and store re-openings but the focus will remain on casual and comfort-oriented styles, according to the market research group.

The pandemic has amplified the importance of casual and comfort, “as the blending of work-from-home and remote learning has led consumers to favor comfort to wear any time of the day,” said Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories analyst at NPD.

In the U.S., the women’s slippers category is likely to be a hot item during the holiday season, which traditionally runs from late November to early January, and will remain strong in 2021, even outperforming 2020 sales, NPD estimates.

After declines during the last two years, performance footwear is expected to see growth in 2021, a lift that will be driven by road running shoes, it added.

NPD expects U.S. footwear sales to decline in the mid-single digits during the fourth quarter 2020, marking a significant improvement from year-to-date trends.

NPD’s Retail Tracking Service showed that cold weather boots and hiking shoes began selling notably well, with respective sales up 49 percent and 24 percent year-on-year, in the August and September period.