Vasque footwear: Spring 03

Without really getting out and pounding the dirt in Vasque's new footwear, it is hard to tell how successful the company has been, but at first blush, the results of its focus and attention on innovation is more evident in Vasque's Spring '03 line than it has been in recent years.
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Vasque told the SNEWS team during our early summer visit to Minnesota that the company was finally beginning to fully utilize the Redwing design facility. During that visit, Red Wing Shoe Company president, Dave Murphy, also promised us that the company was more committed to product innovation and quality for the outdoor performance market than ever before.

Without really getting out and pounding the dirt in Vasque's new footwear, it is hard to tell how successful the company has been, but at first blush, the results of its focus and attention on innovation is more evident in Vasque's Spring '03 line than it has been in recent years.

Sure, the Super Alpinista, introduced early in 2002 turned heads both for its visual appeal and technical features, but that boot was a niche product for a niche market and not something a company could hang the future success of the brand on.

Rick Appelsies, marketing manager for Vasque, told us that the company's footwear design team was seeking to establish Vasque as, "a brand with high-performance footwear that offers consistent quality with superior styling."

We told you back in May that we would expect to see more light and fast footwear coming out of the Vasque design think tank -- and quickly. We also told you that there is no doubt in our mind that Vasque was on its way to becoming a leading brand once again and its new product is worth a buy-in from retailers.

After getting a detailed insider peek at the new product line, we see nothing that would cause us to change our tune. Here then are a few of the products that stood out to us as potential winners at retail:

Backpacking:

There's nothing foo foo about the look or fit of women's Isis GTX boot. The light tancoloring softens the visual statement and does make the boot seem smaller (important we are told) making it quite appealing to potential female buyers. What will sell consumers, though, is the fit. Vasque says it has exerted a lot of effort and time into making a superbly fitting boot on a women's specific last. Both the standard and Gore-Tex version (pictured) feature a Vibram Literun sole that delivers extremely lightweight, shock-absorbing performance enhanced by an aggressive, self-cleaning lug design for maximum traction.

Hiking:

Vasque has been living off the residual goodwill of its Skywalk boot success for a number of years now, but we think that the men's Momentum just might help consumers and retailers forget and move on. While the boot looks as though it will offer superior lightweight hiking performance and an outstanding fit, the subtle styling just might inspire folks to wear it as much with Levis as with hiking garb. Like the women's Isis, the Momentum's standard and Gore-Tex version (pictured) feature a Vibram Literun sole that delivers extremely lightweight, shock-absorbing performance with a lug design that offers maximum traction.

Cross Trail:

Vasque is clearly taking a gamble here. By putting Stealth rubber on a line of multisport shoes, the company acknowledges that it is placing marking rubber on shoes that could leave black scuffs all over household and school hallway floors. Still, by adding the extra friction rubber, Vasque said that it has created a marriage of comfort and no-slip performance not previously experienced in multisport footwear. The men's Catalyst with Stealth and women's Ion with Stealth (pictured) are built on a running last. Both styles also come in an eVent waterproof/breathable version.

Trail Running:

The company tried to enter the trail running market a few years ago, but as it will readily admit, it lined up for the race without a clue and without a running soul. Things have changed considerably and the Velocity line for men and women offers nice visual appeal as well as the promise of adequate running performance with a motion control type sole and a shark-tooth lugged sole for added traction. Both the Velocity eVent and Velocity (pictured) are built on running lasts. The eVent models for men and women feature a zip-closure cover over the vamp to offer increased weather protection. Our bet is that the Velocity will be the strongest seller by far.

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