Outdoor lifestyle footwear is getting an extra dose of sophistication for 2015 — while keeping up with technical developments.
Stylish and lightweight warm-weather shoes on the show floor offer anti-fatigue features, breathability and underfoot support, proving comfort doesn’t need to be sacrificed for fashion.
“There is a growing demand for footwear that is casual but also very sophisticated in its terms of materials, color and shape,” said Freewaters cofounder Eli Marmar. “We find that this sophisticasual approach is resonating in all our key markets — outdoor, action sports, street, yoga and even natural food grocery stores. This very dynamic and broad audience is really fun to design for.”
In a refined sandal design, Acorn expands its FirmCore Comfort Footbed into the Prima line with the Ankle, Cross Slide, High Ankle and Cutaway Thong variations (MSRPs $90-$95).Hand-waxed full-grain leathers and non-marking rubber outsoles outfit the collection. Acorn also promotes the footbed in a second category — the WearAbout Slide, Thong and Toe Loop (MSRPs $65) — with a sportier, beefier outsole. Woolrich launches the barefoot-worthy Lane (MSRP $140)travel shoe with a lugged rubber outsole, unlined suede upper and a new moisture-wicking Woolrich wool footbed.
“The Lane was designed as a lightweight, minimal shoe, but super comfortable for travel — I mean for hitchhiking and jumping on trains, the kind where you don’t really know where you’re going to end up,” said Carl Blakeslee, creative director and co-founder of Portland Product Werks, which leads the design of Woolrich Footwear.
In a lightweight walking series, Hi-Tecincorporates the anti-fatigue Vibram Rollingait system in the men’s Witton with leather and suede uppers, and the Wallen with nubuck and suede uppers. Also rocking the Rollingait system, the V-Lite Rio Quest adventure traveler includes a stroballed EVA layer for extra cushioning and a moisture wicking shoe liner (MSRPs $80-$100).
Shock-absorbing Rebound technology is a notable feature of Bogs’ entry into flip-flops, with the Hudson Rubber (MSRP $25), featuring rubber multi-strap uppers, and the Hudson Leather (MSRP $35), with soft leather footbeds.
On the fashion-forward front there is also a resurgence of trendy-yet-technical vulcanized rubber styles. Columbia designed the breathable women’s Vulc N Vent Lace Mesh with a mesh upper and the men’s non-mesh Vulc N Vent Lace with a washed canvas upper. Both versions (MSRPs $55) boast vented footbeds and non-marking rubber outsoles. Freewaters shares the boat-style Kennedy (MSRP $68) for men with a vulcanized appeal — but “without the heavy rubber, so it’s almost half the weight and very packable and extremely stylish,” Marmar said. Woolrich brings an entire vulcanized collection — the Strand, Boat and Dock (MSRPs $100) — to men and women’s categories with full-grain leather and wool uppers, and the Woolrich wool footbed.
“I believe that the art of vulcanizing is a dying practice. Unfortunately, this type of manufacturing got pushed to the bottom of the barrel and niched for ‘cheap shoes,’” Blakeslee said. “We intend to celebrate vulcanizing by focusing on things like the last shape, the hand craft, and how the rich assortment of materials play off of each other.”
Lightweight, packable pairs of stylish shoes are gaining popularity for on-the-go, active consumers. Pakems brings its compressible designs into the low-top Sol Light (MSRP $55) with breathable mesh uppers, EVA midsoles and inner midsole drain holes for quick dry, drainage and breathability. Freewaters creates the Logan (MSRP $74) with breathable stretch denim uppers and a performance cushioning runner construction. And Sperry Top-Sider provides the versatile women’s Yoga and SUP inspired Son-R Flex (MSRP $75) with minimal construction, yet protection and stability via wave-siping outsoles for traction and a footbed that heightens the foot’s awareness of the terrain below.