ORSM ’12 Footwear Preview: Race to the middle

Brands shift focus back to foot protection while maintaining a minimal vibe in latest shoes and boots debuting at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012.
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Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, SNEWS is previewing the top new trends and products you’ll see at the trade show in Salt Lake City, Aug. 1-5. All these stories also can be found in the print or digital flipbook edition of our Planning Guide.

A year ago the debate was barefoot or not. This year it’s a race to the middle, said GoLite Footwear’s CEO, Doug Clark.

While minimalist philosophies are creeping into more footwear categories, from hiking to trail running, many companies are rethinking the amount of cushion and protection they’re willing to shave off in a move to preserve customer safety.

“I suspect there’s going to continue to be quite a bit of talk about minimalism in trail shoes,” said Josh Fairchilds, vice president of product for Oboz, “but we’re also expecting the pendulum to start swinging back in the other direction.”

“We’ll not see as extreme minimalism as we’ve seen in the past,” echoed Jonathan Lantz at La Sportiva. “It’s common sense: When people run a lot, they do appreciate a little bit of cushion.”

Growing are the multisport offerings from companies such as Scarpa and Five Ten, which also pair a minimal vibe with protective qualities.

“We maintain that what the consumer really needs is protection, stability and durability,” Fairchilds said.

Minimal, close-to-the-ground features are hitting the casual world, with Chaco and Sanuk embracing the trend. Brandan Hill, director of product development at Chaco, said products in the company’s Near Ground Collection are close to the ground but maintain trademark support.

>> Vasque revamps its most popular hiking boot, the Breeze GTX, in the new Breeze 2.0 GTX (MSRP $159.99) to make it 10 percent lighter than the previous model. The protection and durability come in with the molded rubber toecap, abrasion-resistant airmesh, new EVA midsole and TPU plate system.

>> Lowa, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year, brings the Cevedale Pro GTX (MSRP $365), designed with Vibram’s Mulaz outsole and shock-absorbing Expert PU midsole package with synthetic crampon attachments. The split leather and microfiber upper has single-tongue construction, Gore-Tex lining and Lowa’s C4 Tongue for walking comfort. 

>> TrekSta USA will introduce its Sync (MSRP $125) and Sync GTX (MSRP $145) trail runners, which feature lightweight yet structured uppers and a 4-millimeter heel-to-toe drop. The products have a new lightweight dual-density phylon midsole cushioning system designed to encourage proper running form and a HyperGrip outsole, and are both built on the company’s nestFIT design (a last that resembles a human foot).

>> Salomon brings its minimal Sense Ultra (MSRP $180), with a 4-millimeter drop and Sense Mantra (MSRP $120), with a 6-millimeter drop, to the trail-running space. Both door-to-trail products have the company’s new Endofit technology for precision fit and Profeel film for forefront rock protection.

>> Scarpa’s Rapid (MSRP $110) is designed to handle anything in any situation from hiking to approaching to backpacking. The supportive shoe features a sole with more grip than its brethren, and is built on a trail-running chassis with midsole density adjusted for walking with a pack. It has suede and synthetic uppers, and TPU forefoot plates for trail protection.

>> Oboz brings lighter, sportier multi-sport shoes that can be used for light hiking, including the Luna (MSRP $125), which has an all-synthetic mesh, highly breathable upper and stitch-free, welded microfiber overlays that anchor the lacing and help hold the feet. It has a rubberized synthetic toecap and triple density insole. The men’s Rimrock (MSRP $125) has an all-synthetic mesh, highly breathable upper, but sports a double layer of Nubuck leather overlays, a TPU heel counter and a BFIT Deluxe footbed.

>> Chaco’s women’s Fantasia (MSRP $90) from its Near Ground Collection, is a toe-loop sandal with the company’s LuvSEAT contour (which emphasizes arch support to align the body by properly supporting feet). On the men’s side, there’s the Mighty (MSRP $90) another sandal built with the LuvSEAT contour. Both products have straps that are easier to adjust than in the past.

>> Hi-Tec will bring its Figaros (MSRP $70) athletic casual shoe to the market. The shoes have an athletic Chuck Taylor All-Star look to them thanks to the raised rubber around the shoe’s toe box. The company put suede uppers on a proprietary rubber outsole to give a more affordable alternative to its court-style Zuuk.

>> Keen unveils the newest addition to its watersports footwear fleet with its Cascasde CNX (MSRP $100), a hybrid water sandal featuring a synthetic upper welded to a seamless microfiber lining, with a 4-millimeter midsole drop and multi-directional flex grooves for traction.

Be sure to check out many more new footwear products and trends in the O.R. Daily, published live at the show Aug. 2-5, and available digital format the following day of print at SNEWS.

--Ana Trujillo

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