Gear trends: 2015/16 Winter trail running footwear

Cushy comfort: Shoes with softer, lighter midsoles, plus deep lugs allow runners to attack gnarly trails with confidence. See what's ahead for retail.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 20 – 24. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

With new technologies, smart shoe construction, multi-directional lugs and top-notch fit, running shoe brands are helping consumers tackle wet, snowy, muddy and icy terrain.

“The biggest trends we’re seeing are a continuation of increased emphasis on a runner’s experience,” said Kira Harrison, footwear merchandising associate for Brooks Running. “With every technical addition, we’re asking: ‘How do runners want to experience their runs?’ For example, do they want a soft and plush experience, or a fast, energizing, and responsive experience?” With more than 46.2 million pairs of running shoes sold in 2013 (up nearly 4 percent from 44.6 million pairs sold the previous year), according to Running USA, consumers have a lot of options to choose from.

In order to provide a truly personalized ride, running companies are engineering their new fall and winter 2015 and 2016 offerings to better form every foot. For example, Brooks’ (#36197) uses a method called “zonal capture” in its new Glycerin 13 (MSRP $150). The upper is 3D printed onto the shoe in designated areas, which harnesses it closer to the foot. The Glycerin 13 also features a new dynamic arch saddle, which offers users a more dynamic fit that can accommodate various foot types. Brooks’ updated Ghost 8 (MSRP $120), features engineered mesh — a single piece that alternates between an open weave with stretch and breathability and a tight weave with stability. Also see the Ghost’s full-length, segmented crash pad that provides excellent cushion and smooth heel-to-toe transition.

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We can’t talk about running shoe trends without examining the whiplash transition from minimalism to maximalist running. “Some people tried the barefoot minimal trend and found that it wasn’t for them,” Harrison said. “But a lot of people enjoyed that lightness.” The new cushioned running shoes exhibiting at Winter Market attempt to maintain that light weight while offering a soft, plush experience.

Hoka (#37078), a leader in oversized running shoes, brings the Speedgoat (MSRP $130), a hardworking, cushy shoe that is inspired by ultrarunner Karl Meltzer. Built to tackle technical terrain, this 5mm-drop shoe weights in at just 9.7 ounces. A supportive no-sew upper and reinforced toecap protects the foot, and paired with Vibram’s 4mm-lug rubber outsole, the Speedgoat is a stable, beast of a trail running shoe that gives soft support. Some customers will appreciate that the Speedgoat blends the upper portion of thick midsole with the mesh upper, tempering Hoka’s often-described “clown-shoe” look.

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“We’ve definitely been watching the rise of the ‘maximal’ movement,” said Kristina Owen, product category associate for Salomon (#36129), which is launching several cushioned shoes at the show, including the Sense Propulse (MSRP $150).

“We see these as both a primary shoe for those who have a harder foot strike, and a quiver addition as a forgiving shoe for everyone else,” Owen said. Salomon’s new S-Lab Wings Soft Ground (MSRP $180) not only upgrades with additional cushioning for long-distance running, but also with technologies optimized for soft, muddy conditions — especially for technical downhill racing. This means bigger lugs for an aggressive grip, and a tight, hydrophobic upper weave to expel grit and pebbles. A locked-in foothold makes for confident and fast feet.

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Longtime running shoe manufacturer New Balance modernizes with the Fresh Foam Hierro (MSRP $115). Designed to offer users a stable, cushioned ride in a smaller package, this trail running shoe employs a blend of super soft foam and a full-length, EVA strobel board to encourage natural underfoot geometries and stability. Helly Hansen’s new Rohkun (MSRP $120) for trail running pairs improved fit with strategically placed cushioning under the heel and forefoot to reduce strike load.

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Targeting the winter season without over-doing a shoe, Merrell introduces the All Out Terra Trail and All Out Terra Ice Trail — both slimmer trail running shoes with sturdy underfoot padding that protects feet from trail villains like rock, roots, and debris. Deep, diamond-patterned lugs enhance traction, and the Terra Ice even contains tungsten spikes to grip slippery surfaces. Likewise, with hexagonal lugs and a nod to the rock climber’s beta of “trust your feet,” Brooks’ PureGrit 4 (MSRP $120) updates with a superlight, flexible upper and sticky outsole for confident traction on sketchy trails.

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Working off summer’s hottest trend in footwear — breathability — Columbia’s Ventrailia (MSRP $115) caters to outdoor jacks-of-all-trades who pairs trail running with multi-activity pursuits. OutDry technology provides waterproof/breathable protection from the outside (preventing the exterior from absorbing moisture), while mid-sole ports (similar, yet different, from what we saw with Gore-Tex Surround technology this summer) shed excess foot moisture from below.

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--Jenna Blumenfeld

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