Plush, protective sandals and ‘shandals’ sweep summer activities for 2015

Outdoor footwear brands are moving beyond the flip-flop. Find out what's ahead for outdoor retail in 2015.
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This Outdoor Retailer Summer Market recap is brought to you in partnership with Gore-Tex.

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Sandals and watershoes for 2015 are sweeter than ever, with comfort-driven designs and supportive footbeds — but they haven’t sacrificed their feather-light weight. Plus, the active wearer’s desire for high-quality, versatile footwear has spread to the sandal world. Fresh designs feature multi-use silhouettes and a wide range of protection to carry that summer stoke from the water to the trail.

“Consumers, especially millennials, want to own fewer things and want what they own to be higher quality, meaningful and cover a range of uses,” said Chaco President Chip Coe.

Providing an entire spectrum of shandals — a cross between a shoe and a sandal — Chacointroduces the closed-toe OutCross Evo collection (MSRPs $55-$115) inspired by the original OutCross, with three gender-specific variations, a fourth Mary Jane style for women and a kids’ pair. A non-marking EcoTread outsole and Luvseat PU midsole carry through the OutCross Evo 1, 2 and 3, while the uppers provide progressively more coverage.

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Hi-Tec welcomes a lightweight, drainable hybrid shoe/sandal to the season — the Ezee’z Shandal for both men and women (MSRP $60) — with a durable outsole, an impact-absorbing EVA midsole and a breathable high-performance fabric upper. Taking a MacGyver-style approach to design, Keen debuts the Uneek, a lightweight, wear-anywhere shoe/sandal with an upper that’s woven from just two cords (MSRP $100).

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“The entire shoe is able to move back and forth and the size doesn’t change or feel wide,” said Jeff Dill, business unit director for outdoor at Keen. “It offers a nice flexibility or range of motion, and it feels more like a flip flop than a shoe, initially.” The design’s central focus is simplicity — though, despite minimal material use, comfort and security aren’t sacrificed. The shoe rests on a lightweight PU midsole, anatomical microfiber footbed and high-traction rubber outsole.

For everyday multi-use, Keen also offers the Sarasota Slide. It’s an active-inspired, ladies’ slide with a nubuck leather upper, non-marking rubber outsole and natural sponge rubber and cork footbed (MSRP $100). In a sportier look, Columbiacreates the lightweight Megavent PFG, a breathable hybrid shoe for trail, water and boat use. With a speed lace-closure system, the open-mesh upper is covered with a protective net-like PU layer and a Blood ‘n Guts water-and-stain-resistant treatment. The midsoles have ports for airflow and water drainability (MSRP $105).

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As with running shoes, sandals are embracing cushioning once more.

“We’re seeing a movement towards more substantial underfoot construction,” Coe at Chaco said. “People are putting more and more protective layers of cushioning underfoot, even though it’s still lighter in weight. We’re seeing something in the sandal arena called the stacked height — instead of being a half-inch, you might be an inch or more above the ground with the layers.”

Case in point: Freewaterspicked up on the “Hoka One One” inspiration and designed the Tall Boy (MSRP $48), a flip-flop silhouette with a high-rise midsole, flex-grip outsole, arch support and heel cup.

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“If you’re on your feet all day, cruising around traveling or around the city, there’s no reason why you can’t have that cushioning in a sandal,” said Freewaters cofounder Eli Marmar. “It was a delicate balance to get that thickness without making it look ridiculous. You need to add subtle curves to trick the eye and make it look thinner than it is.”

Also focusing on comfort, the Hollbrook Sandal collection (MSRPs $80-$120) from Timberland offers four, premium full-grain leather styles for men — a flip-flop, slip-on, closed toe and sandal — with Timberland’s internal anti-fatigue footbed and Vibram rubber outsole pods beneath the high-impact areas.

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With paddlers, boaters and kayakers in mind, a bundle of watersports shoes offer streamlined silhouettes and protective, grippy features. The Jawpaw Lace (MSRP $80) from Adidas Outdoor is a lace-up, sneaker-style shoe with a Stealth rubber outsole — the only current water shoe incorporating Five Ten’s Stealth technology in the market. The outsole includes underfoot drainage areas, and the fitted upper is a breathable, open-mesh nylon. Likewise using drainage holes in the outsole, Wolverinebrings the breathable Portage (MSRPs $68-$72)to men and women with an EVA sock liner, providing protection while shaving bulk for an increased foot-to-ground, kayak or canoe sensitivity. As an evolution to the Rapid series, Keen created the sleeker and lighter weight men’s Zambezi (MSRPs $100) with a more open and breathable upper, and a one-strap pull- and quick-release system to quickly snap out when needed. A neoprene boot is added in a second version, the Gorgeous (MSRP $150),for cold water protection.

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--Morgan Tilton

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