Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014, SNEWS is previewing some of the top trends and new products you’ll see at the trade show and All Mountain Demo in Salt Lake City, Jan. 21-25. You can access all these articles and more in our digital edition of the O.R. Daily Day 0.
Last year’s warm and dry winter followed by a wet a cool spring threw footwear sales for a spin. And just when it seemed that minimalist was in, consumers turned around and demanded sturdier and longer-lasting shoes.
Such is the life in the chaotic footwear market, where brands seem to be coming back to the middle of the road.
“We see a continued desire for more versatile winter footwear that is lighter in weight and can be used for a broad range of activities,” said Mark Pikart, product manager for Patagonia Footwear. This remains true across running, hiking and lifestyle categories.
As consumers race to the middle, minimalist sales have take a hit, hurting the boarder category. Specialty outdoor retail footwear sales dropped 7.4 percent in units and 6.1 percent in dollars year-to-date through September 2013, according to Leisure Trends figures.
The unreliable weather and crash in minimalist sales has led to more innovation, said Jeff Dill, director of Keen’s trailhead outdoor footwear business.
“It’s lent excitement and reinvigoration to the market,” Dill said. “There’s been a transition period the last couple of quarters … people are getting away from just one big trend.”
Dill said for fall ’14 Keen offerings are “four-season footwear.”
While minimalism has waned, the running category from which it came has not. The number of trail runners continues to rise — up 8 percent from 2011 to 2012 — according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
“Trail running is continuing to grow and we really see that multiplying into 2014,” said Kira Harrison, footwear merchandising associate at Brooks Running.
But trail running has changed: It’s becoming an urban experience with city dwellers hitting the dirt trails rather than just technical mountain trails. Folks want something that transitions from the road to the dirt.
The minimalist movement has left its footprint on footwear, however, including roomier toe boxes and lighter weight shoes with alternatives in drop.
“There’s more of an awareness around shape, fit and feel,” said Tony Post, CEO and founder of Topo Athletic. Because of minimalism, consumers are looking for a sock-like fit and products that easily can move between the trail and the road.
In the realm of hiking boots, customers aren’t looking to return super-heavy, ultra-pimped-out footwear — they still want lighter weights, but not at the cost of durability and protection. They’re looking for boots that will last nurmerous seasons.
Like its urban apparel brethren, fashionable shoes are slimming down with more stylish, less bulky designs that keep feet warm and dry.
While many winter styles come in high options in fashion-focused footwear, the heights are dropping, said Marion Minary, product line manager at Sorel. In terms of styles, military, knit and leather continue to be strong.
“We see a lot of ankle booties,” Minary said. “This is something that started a few years ago in Europe and we’re starting to see it coming to the U.S.”
>> Salomon’s S-Lab Fellcross 3 (MSRP $170) has a completely welded upper to make the shoe lighter with mapped protective zones without sacrificing breathability and drainage. An internal fit sleeve allows for seamless comfort.
>> Topo Athletic has ditched its split-toe design for fall ’14, such as in its Mountain Trainer (MSRP $100), the company’s first trail-specific shoe. The lightweight, 8-ounce shoe is perfect for light-and-fast pursuits in non-inclement weather. It has a roomy toe box that allows the toes to splay and spread.
>> La Sportiva has runners or snowshoers covered with its Crossover 2.0 GTX (MSRP N/A) with extended Gore-Tex comfort lining, four-way stretch breathable gaiter to move moisture and keep debris out. Its outsole includes the Frixion AT rubber and Impact Brake System V-Groove.
>> Brooks launches it Pure Grit 3 (MSRP $120) with aggressive lugs and a plate in the forefoot to improve the shoe’s torsional rigidity. The rubber comes up over the toe and the lateral side for added protection against rocks.
>> Columbia’s new multisport shoe, the Peakfreak Excrsn OutDry (MSRP $110), can cross categories as a light hiker or trail runner for men. It has the company’s OutDry waterproof upper and comes in a low style that still offers stability and grip.
>> Salewa continues to focus on technical hiking with an upgrade of the fast-and-light Firetail GTX Mid (MSRP $189) on which it’s partnered with Vibram and Gore-Tex. It’s comes with a silverized lining to combat stink, EVA injected molding and a new EXO skeleton power netting PU laminate on the upper that’s pressure molded, eliminating stitching and glue.
>> Keen’s Durand (MSRP $180) offers a different story in hiking footwear. The midsole is direct- attached polyurethane, which is heavier than the usual EVA foam, but more durable and getting lighter. It’s all attached to a waterproof, Italian nubuck leather and breathable mesh upper in Portland for a domestic finish. Look for it in a low, mid and high.
>> Patagonia Footwear brings functional winter performance in its Activist Puff High Waterproof boot (MSRP $175). There’s less bulk in the classic hiking-boot-inspired sole, and a removable liner doubles as a slipper.
>> Oliberté’s men’s Danano (MSRP $165) is a hiking boot-style, rugged casual piece that has African stitch-down construction, an African leather upper, 100 percent goat skin lining and jagged wedge outsole made from natural rubber.
>> Sorel’s Joan of Arctic (MSRP $195) has that military inspiration with rugged hardwear details and Russian sweater patterns.