Outdoor Retailer Summer Market '05 Trends: Water shoes/Sandals

As reported in the summer 2005 issue of the GearTrends® Outdoor magazine, footwear manufacturers are jumping into the water shoe market with both feet. At this year's Summer Market we saw plenty of new shoes that blur the lines between footwear made for paddling, hiking, adventure racing and just kicking around in warm climates.

The SNEWS® team of editors powered by caffeine, chocolate and beer (not necessarily in that order), ducked and weaved around the trade show floor over the course of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to ensure we could bring you the most comprehensive take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations in stories that will run until we pass out. No, each report is not complete and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned when it should have been. We're only covering product that stood out to us, so if you're not mentioned, we were either too hyped up on caffeine to see you, we didn't think your product stood out sufficiently, or we were just plain clueless -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on trends and new products for cool new water shoes and sandals:

As reported in the summer 2005 issue of the GearTrends® Outdoor magazine (click here to read), footwear manufacturers are jumping into the water shoe market with both feet. At this year's Summer Market we saw plenty of new shoes that blur the lines between footwear made for paddling, hiking, adventure racing and just kicking around in warm climates.  

Mion made its debut at the Summer Market demo day, and a steady stream of people flowed through the booth to check out the company's new sandal and Flood Tide shoe. We heard several people comment on how the shoes were impressively lightweight, though some were curious about the durability of the spongy fingers of material that wrap the foot. Granted, this weakness may be more a matter of perception than reality, but we'll have to give the shoes a spin before making any judgments. In any case, retailers we spoke with at the demo said they were willing to give the line a shot, and one even said he planned to replace his offering of Crocs with Mion footwear, because retailers in his area were selling Crocs at deep discounts.

adidas has taken the mesh/water shoe concept and applied it to a few new products. It took the successful Hellbender and created a Hellbender sandal, which sports an impressive new drainage system. Also new to the mix is the Waterra ST, a great example of how companies are blending sandal and athletic shoe construction. It has a closed-in, mesh heel area and toe box, while the sides are open, save for fingers of synthetic material wrapping the foot. It has some rugged trail runner features, such as a light, compression-molded midsole that has a plate to protect the bottom of the foot. On a different note, the adidas folks said that the Daroga mesh shoe (in stylish colors like "university red" and "neon lime) look just may have some mainstream fashion appeal.  

The North Face worked off the design of its Sieve water shoe from 2005 and created the new Philter. It has a redesigned HydroTrak outsole that is tackier for better grip. Plus, the Philter should drain even better due to new drainage ports in the outsole and a removable, on-piece insole that shouldn't absorb much water.

Hey, do we see a fight brewing? Teva reports that its Ricochet shoe has now evolved into the….Philter! (Attention, please: Will Teva and The North Face please report to the ring.) The two shoes actually only resemble each other in name. Teva's Philter is a beefier-looking shoe with details that help position it for the adventure racing market. For example, it has a substantial, aggressive outsole (of Spider Rubber) and a neoprene collar at the heel to keep out dirt. This shoe, as well as Teva's Guide series of sandals, now utilizes an advanced monofilament webbing that resists water and shouldn't stretch like traditional webbing. Another cool detail is the quick-release buckle on the new Guide '06 sandal.

Keen's roots may be in watery pursuits, but the company is now moving more toward dry land. After noticing that people were running in its Boulder and Taos shoes, it decided to create the Ochoco, a traditional trail running shoe. The sophisticated design includes elements to dissipate shock, control over-pronation and stabilize the foot from heel-strike to "toe-off." You'll probably first notice that it has open mesh on only half of the forefoot. Keen placed the mesh where the foot expels the greatest heat, covering the rest of the shoe with fabric to keep out debris. Also, there's an asymmetric lacing system, which encourages a person's toes to splay to control pronation. Keen also introduced two land/water hybrids, the Selway and Humbolt, which offer a level of support found in a running shoe.

Merrell said that the Ultra-Sport water shoe, introduced in '05, proved to be popular -- so much so that the company will offer it in eight colors in '06. Also notable is the new Skelly sandal. It has an Omni-Fit lacing system -- a feature borrowed from Merrell's trail and multi-sport shoes. Hey, just more evidence that companies are smearing that line between shoes and sandals.

A Few New Sandals
The consumer world is still flipping over flip-flops and sandals, so we weren't surprised to see that companies were expanding their offerings. Montrail's Maui and Molokai sandals include styles for men and women and include the company's CTX thermo-moldable footbed material. For women, there's a new flip-flop line, dubbed Molokini. The company really cranked up the style meter, offering these in tasty colors such as strawberry, pale lime and blue mint. For more active pursuits like river running, the new Kailua has a higher-density mid-sole for support, an adjustable heel strap and the CTX footbed. Here's an interesting note: While footwear technology typically trickles down from shoes to sandals, Montrail has gone in the opposite direction. This year, its CTX technology, first developed in sandals, has been added to rock climbing shoes like the Wasabi.

Looking for a slightly fancier sandal for your customers? Check out Chaco's new ZX/1 and ZX/2, which have thin double straps, creating a sort of basket weave design. A definite eye-catcher. Both have Chaco's pull-through strap system for customized fit, and the ZX/2 has straps for the big toe. Chaco's performance sandals have been pretty hefty in the past, but it has reduced weight by using lighter polyurethane in the soles of the ZX sandals, as well as the Z/1 and Z/2 models. Another item we were particularly drawn to is the new Leather Flip, which has buttery soft leather and a well-crafted footbed that appears to offer good support.