Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 Preview: Footwear

Is minimalist dead? Latest shoes assimilate trend, but keep protection.

Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, SNEWS is previewing new trends and products you’ll see at the trade show in Salt Lake City, July 30-Aug. 3. Today, we take a peek at footwear. You can access all these articles and more in our digital edition of the O.R. Daily Day 0.

Depending on how you look at it, the minimalist trend in footwear either is dying or it’s assimilating itself into the next generation of performance shoes.

“The minimalist fad is petering out, and what you’re seeing as a result is taking the best practices of the minimalist philosophy and putting them in flexible shoes made of lighter-weight materials,” said Meagan Nedlo, Karhu’s sales manager.

A few running companies — notably Brooks and New Balance — join Altra Footwear in offering cushioned yet full ground contact products with lightweight, flexible uppers for spring 2014.

In the realm of hiking boots, next year’s offerings continue to shed weight, and aim to balance flexibility with stability. Comfort is another goal, as brands employ softer constructions for boots to feel good right out of the box and strategic cushioning to protect consumers from elements found on the trail.

“I think people are looking for hiking boots they can slip into and immediately feel comfortable in, but are still rugged and trail-worthy,” said Josh Fairchilds, Oboz’s vice president of product.

Multisport shoes are being designed with more cushion and sturdier elements so they can be used for functional training and gym workouts.

Vasque, Patagonia Footwear and Icebug join category leader FiveTen to offer new sticky rubber outsole technologies. Vasque teamed up with Vibram, whereas Icebug and Patagonia Footwear produced their formulas in-house.

>>Altra Footwear has never been minimal, but hasn’t exactly been traditional either. Founder Golden Harper describes the company’s products as offering the benefits of minimalism blended with the practicality of a traditional shoe. Famous for foot-shaped shoes with wide toe boxes, this year the company launches the Lone Peak 1.5 (MSRP $115), with a removable rock plate and gaitor traps.


>> Following the trend of complete ground coverage from heel to toe is Brooks, revamping its Adrenaline GTS 14 and Ravenna 35 to incorporate full ground contact for good heel-to-toe transition, a new lacing system for a custom-like fit and a 3D Fit Print on the upper for a lightweight, flexible, no-stitch feel.


>>Dynafit designs products for ultra trail runs and long hikes in the hills in its Pantera (MSRP $139). The shoe offers control and balance with every foot strike. The Vibram Mapping Compound sole is constructed from three distinct rubber compounds that allow the shoe to adapt to all types of terrain.


>>Icebug Marketing Director Evan Wert contends it’s better to have a bit of a rise when you’re trying to run uphill. So the 8mm rise Enlight (MSRP $160) RB9X incorporates the company’s recently launched proprietary sticky rubber, RB9X, for increased traction.


>> The inspiration for Patagonia Footwear’s sticky rubber outsole came from the climbing world. The proprietary climbing rubber that’s used in the multisport Splitter (MSRP $110), part of the company’s Mountain Mobility Collection, adds traction and stability.

>> Vibram teams up with La Sportiva in the Cornon GTX (MSRP $180), a mid-cut, lightweight, flexible, sturdy hiking shoe with a Gore-Tex lining. Vibram also partners with Vasque to offer some of its stickiest rubber compounds in the Vasque Grand Traverse (MSRP $130). The shoes have Vibram’s Ibex, which is molded into an approach shoe-inspired sole good for wet rocks or scrambling on wet ridges. The low-cut hiking shoe is a hybrid between an athletic and approach shoe.


>> Offering trail runners with the benefits of minimalist philosophy in a more substantial package is Karhu, with its Fluid Fulcrum and Steady Fulcrum (both MSRP $125). The Fluid is a neutral shoe while the Steady is a stability model. Both use an 8mm drop and offer a responsive run with a bouncy feeling that can transfer from trail to pavement.


>>Oboz’s Helium (MSRP $120) has a synthetic upper to save weight, and make it more breathable and less likely to absorb water. It has a dual density EVA midsole and is lower to the ground to get a more natural foot strike. Ideal for hiking and flat pedal mountain biking.


>>The North Face introduces its Ultra line, which runs the gamut from functional training shoes to high-cut backpacking shoes. The Ultra Kilowatt (MSRP $120) is designed with functional training in mind, with sturdy rubber at the arches to protect from shredding while climbing ropes, and a wider outsole to protect consumers during sharp, lateral movements.


These are just a few of the new products to debut at the show. Be sure to check out many more new products and trends in the O.R. Daily, Days 1-4, published live at the show, and available digital format each following day of print on SNEWS.