Gear trends: Winter hiking footwear for 2014/15

Thinking outside the season: Inconsistent weather drives versatility for winter boots.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 21 – 25. 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.

While the snow and cold finally returned to much of the country in late 2013, the previous two weak winters left their mark on outdoor footwear and consumer demand.

“People aren’t as willing to commit to something as specialized as a pack boot, because it doesn’t get used as much — for winter hiking, people like to cross over the seasons a bit more,” said Matt Chmielarczyk, manager of Mountain Chalet in Colorado Springs, Colo.

For 2014/15, retailers at Winter Market are seeing all-purpose designs and lightweight, durable boots looking to bridge the seasons across fall, winter and spring.

Aiming to create crossover, Hi-Tec Sports launches its Cool Season line, providing year-round, multi-season footwear that includes the men’s Valkerie Lite 200 i WP (MSRP $120) with lightweight performance fabric uppers, 200-gram Thinsulate, lining, Ortholite insoles, water repellency and wraparound rubber rand.

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“It’s versatile and not just to be used in snow,” said Simon Bonham, USA CEO at Hi-Tec. “We’re trying to create a product that will help [consumers] for five months and not just five weeks.”

Columbia Sportswear’s Peakfreak XCRSN XCL OutDry (MSRP $110) looks to cross activities — from light hiking to trail running — along with seasons by incorporating improved EVA-blend cushioning, a lightweight midsole and waterproof/breathable OutDry.

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Weaving minimalism into durability, The North Face presents the Ultra Extreme (MSRP $170) with PU-coated leather and ballistic nylon uppers, Gore-Tex with Duratherm insulation and Vibram Icetrek outsole.

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“This active insulation package relates to the broader trend of deseasonalizing,” said The North Face product manager, Adam Garrett. “Cold reflects away from the bottom, and within the boot, heat reflects back to you, so once you’re moving it will get warm,” he said.

With speedy ascents in mind, Merrell spotlights lightweight, close-to-ground design in the Verterra line (MSRPs $110-$150), offering a low-ankle mesh sport model as well as low- or mid-height waterproof/breathable pairs. Oboz Footwear debuts the men’s Traverse Low BDry (MSRP $145), a waterproof/breathable, low-cut multi-sport hiker with aggressive lug outsoles. Salomon alters the collar to prevent hot spots and increase comfort of the speedy, waterproof/breathable XA Pro Mid GTX (MSRP $170).

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While minimalism brought many lighter-weight synthetics to the hiking shoe and boot market, retailers also will see brands sticking with leather to maintain protection and style. Wolverine introduces the Alert (MSRP $150), with a combination of waterproof leather and a membrane for breathability for its all-season approach. Vasque Outdoor Footwear brings the Ericksson GTX, with a leather-rubber rand upper and Vibram Summit outsole (MSRP $220). Adidas Outdoor debuts the Brushwood Mid Leather (MSRP $115) and Brushwood Leather (MSRP $95), the Terrex Conrax CP PrimaLoft (MSRP $225) updated with Continental rubber outsoles and the Terrex Fastshell Mid (MSRP $135), featuring a new lightweight thermo-efficient softshell upper that sandwiches a 100-gram Primaloft layer.

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Several designs blend form with function for lifestyle crossover. With the Tumalo (MSRP $150), Bogsdebuts its first-ever hiker, featuring hand-lasted rubber and nubuck leather for waterproofness and anti-odor protection. Salomon goes for a traditional hiker look in the men’s Eskape Mid LTR GTX and the more feminine Ellipse Mid LTR GTX (MSRPs $140), with mid-heights and Gore-Tex waterproof bootie protection.

Committed to traditional style and rugged play, Lowa increased the insulation — by layering Primaloft with a Gore-Tex Partelana fleece lining — and extended the shaft length in the Yukon Ice GTX and Yukon Ice GTX Hi (MSRPs $270/$295) for winter trekking.

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Focusing on technical snowshoeing and winter hiking, Salewa offers the mid-height Firetail Evo Mid GTX (MSRP $189) with a new Vibram Scrambler aggressive tread outsole, and introduces the Snow Trainer Insulated (MSRP $249), which uses the new Vibram Ice-Friction, a high-abrasion-resistant rubber outsole inlaid with high-tech fabric for increased grip.

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Last but not least, be sure to check out Keen Footwear’s Durand Low and Mid WP (MSRPs $160/$180), which blaze their own path with different materials and a hometown story. The midsole is a direct attached polyurethane, which, while heavier than the usual EVA foam, is more durable. The midsole is made in Portland, Ore., where Keen’s factory then attaches it to the waterproof, Italian nubuck leather and breathable mesh uppers for a domestic finish.

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--Morgan Tilton

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