If you were a footwear buyer at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market last week, you were surrounded.
Twenty-five footwear brands are debuting more than 50 new styles at Summer Market incorporating Gore-Tex’s new Surround technology, aiming to boost breathability in both casual and performance waterproof footwear.
Gore-Tex protection in shoes has always been waterproof-breathable — so no change there — but a major barrier to that breathability has been at the sole, where a solid layer of rubber underneath the foot blocks a large portion of moisture from escaping. No doubt, you’ve heard your customers complain about sweaty feet when wearing waterproof shoes in the summer.
Gore-Tex began launching its solution a year ago in casual outdoor footwear — exclusively in North America with Salewa — by extending that waterproof layer beneath the foot in conjunction netted vents in the sole to allow for breathability. That’s one place retailers saw Surround at the show — breathable soles in casual footwear.
But that solution presented a challenge for more performance-oriented outdoor footwear, Gore Product Specialist Marc Peikert said, because “you don’t want holes in the soles of your mountaineering boots.”
So the minds at Gore had to go about it another way, and their second avenue for Surround launched at Summer Market. The solution for performance footwear starts with the same 360-degree booty of Gore-Tex waterproof-breathable protection, but in this case, adds a thin sponge-like layer beneath, which acts like a pumping mechanism to expel moisture out lower side vents in the shoe before it gets trapped by the sole.
“This extra layer is key,” Peikert said, noting that so far the durable, quarter-inch polyester tier has held up in both laboratory and real-world testing.
It’s also important to note that the inner sole inserts of the shoe need to be breathable (typically perforated) in order for the process to work. So most current after-market inserts don’t yet mingle well with Surround.
“We haven’t seen any after-market soles adapt yet, but we’re pretty sure we will,” Peikert said.