If this year’s excessive cold and snow along the East Coast is any indication for winters to come, a bulk of consumers will be clamoring for warmer and drier outdoor and fitness gear in late 2011. And high on their wish list might be better coverage for those toes down low.
Companies at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market debuted their cures for the common cold feet, along with new styles and colors to brighten those gray winter days, and a sneak peek ahead to spring and summer.
Below is a recap of what SNEWS found new and cool in winter footwear on the show floor, including some unique upcoming spring and summer lines.
After last season’s successful launch of its first winter boot with a built-in electric heating system, Columbia (www.columbia.com) was back with four new electric styles for fall 2011, including the men’s Bugaboot Plus Electric (MSRP $400) and the women’s Heather Canyon Electric (MSRP $300).
Columbia will have some competition in the arena from Wenger (www.wengerna.com), which unveiled five new electric boots for fall 2011 with its new integrated Heat on Demand technology. This includes the men’s Boar Heated (MSRP $275), a snow performance boot, and the women’s Millicent Heated (MSRP $199), a fashionable suede and merino wool tall boot.
Both Wenger and Columbia’s electric heated boots are powered by rechargeable batteries built into the boots and deliver three levels of heat. Depending on the heat level chosen, the companies said the batteries last about three to five hours on average.
Seemingly, both brands have integrated the heating technology without adding a lot of weight or compromising on style. The boots are still able to retain performance through traditional lining and waterproof or resistance protection when the heat isn’t needed or the battery runs out.
“The heat is there when you need it,” said Joe O’Neil, Wenger’s vice president of sales and marketing. “So when you’re moving outdoors and warm, it could be off, and then turned on when you’re standing still.”
Producing heat the old-fashioned way, winter trail runners will be happy to see more of their favorite running shoes being offered in waterproof/breathable lines to keep toes dry and cozy in inclement weather.
Oboz (www.obozfootwear.com) offered its Lightning trail running shoe in a Lightning BDry model (MSRP $130), with the company’s proprietary BDry waterproof/breathable lining under an airy mesh to pare a bit of weight. Two types of insoles are included with the shoe, allowing consumers to pick between more arch support, forefoot cushion and a well-defined heel cup -- or a minimalist option for a closer feel to the ground.
Also entering the waterproof/breathable trail running market in 2011 -- Ecco (www.eccousa.com) with its new Biom GTX (MSRP $225) with Gore-Tex.
The Montrail (www.montrail.com) and Columbia family offered OutDry waterproof/breathable technology in many of its fall 2011 shoes, including the Montrail Badrock (MSRP $125) trail runner.
And Saucony (www.saucony.com) turned heads with its ProGrid Outlaw (MRSP $110), designed with a higher top and waterproof-breathability to protect runners on more rugged or muddy terrain.
After the snow melts
While this is Winter Market, SNEWS couldn’t help but notice some new spring and summer lines of footwear on the show floor. Perhaps the most interesting -- given the recent ultra-minimalist trend -- was Tecnica’s (www.tecnicausa.com) introduction of trail running shoes with over-sized soles for greater stability and cushioning.
The wider and thicker soles on the Tecnica Diablo Max (MSRP $130), an all-mountain trail runner, and the Tecnica Inferno Max (MSRP $150, photo - left), a racing trail runner, are a play on what Hoka recently introduced to the market. In fact, the two companies share the same development team on the technology: Hoka’s co-owner Jean-Luc Diard is a senior vice president with Tecnica.
“As a consequence, we can leapfrog the technology back and forth with two points of view,” said Tom Berry, a sales marketing and merchandising manager with Tecnica. “Hoka is taking it more extreme to the niche market, and Tecnica is broadening it to be more commercial.”
Berry compared the technology to what’s happening in many other sports with oversized golf clubs, tennis rackets and mountain bike tires. He said the shoes particularly shine on the downhill and uneven surfaces, providing stability and allowing runners to maintain their speed.
“We’re not against minimalist running, but it’s not a performance solution,” Berry said. “It’s a great training solution. But you don’t see people winning races in minimalist shoes.”
Warmth, color and style
Fashion and function unite in several fall 2011 lines, including Patagonia(www.patagonia.com) with its new lace-up Lugano (MSRP $175/mid-height; $190/high-height), a stylish suede sheepskin boot with heavy tread that accommodates snowshoeing.
Tretorn (http://store.tretorn.com) showed the unisex sneaker-boot hybrid Highlander Boot Vinter (MSRP $160, photo - right) with a leather upper lined with Gore-Tex, synthetic sherpa inner lining and a traditional gum tread outsole designed for city and outdoor life.
Jambu (www.jambu.com) unveiled its second fall line, including the Burlington, (MSRP $179, photo - left) a flashy, waterproof mid-calf boot made with leather, fabric, rubber and a sweater-like top collar, along with floral motifs.
Even Chaco (www.chacousa.com), known primarily for its sandals, ventured into the cold with a new line of leather shoes and boots, based on the same thick and supportive base and Vibram soles of its iconic sandals. The new Credence Baa boot for men and women (MSRP $250) has a shearling wool inner, and a waterproof membrane between it and the leather outer.
Footwear options from Jambu and Patagonia catered to the health and wellness-minded active person. Jambu incorporated its new Bare Feet Designs outsole in its Birmingham (MSRP $129), a lightweight leather and sherpa fur slip-on designed to allow the foot a full range of motion. Patagonia Footwear’s Better Clog (MSRP $125) supports healthy feet with a style that suits those who wouldn’t usually consider a clog fashionable.
New and flashy colors popped at Outdoor Retailer to lift the winter doldrums. adidas Outdoor showed off its new Boat CC Lace shoe (MSRP $65, photo - right) in bright reds, oranges and yellows, making the shoes look and even smell like a fruit. Seaweed was even a color.
The Addie Rider (MSRP $220) from Patagonia is a twist on an equestrian classic that comes in black and chimney colors. Also look for bright red accents added to many of the classic Tretorn rubber boot styles.
Something old and something new
Brands like Timberland and adidas are no stranger to outdoor and fitness buffs, but both companies are making a comeback of sorts in 2011 with new specific outdoor-oriented footwear.
adidas Outdoor (www.adidas.com/outdoor/us/) debuted its Terrex line of hiking shoes and boots to the U.S. market in fall 2011, focusing on lightweight performance and its ForMotion and AdiPrene cushioning technologies to reduce shock and stress in the foot, heel and knee, particularly on trail descents. Anchoring the line is the Terrex Fast X FM Mid GTX (MSRP $160), a light and technical boot, and its low-cut cousin, the Terrex Fast X FM GTX (MSRP $140, photo - left), both with Gore-Tex waterproof-breathability.
In particular, company executives said they want to do a better job with outdoor footwear for women -- matching beauty and performance with an outdoor ethos and green roots. A prime example is Timberland’s new Crystal Mountain tall boots (MSRP $180, photo - left), with 30-percent recycled fleece lining, a dark pink waterproof outer and 42-percent recycled rubber soles.
There’s no shortage of innovative footwear ideas coming out of Winter Market.
Urshuz (www.urshuz.com) introduced its new footwear company, which allows consumers to pick the designs, colors, uppers and soles to build their own shoe. A patented looping system between the upper and sole of the shoe locks everything together.
Speaking of building shoes, Dr. Scholl’s (www.drschollsshoes.com) will do it from the inside out in 2011. The brand famous for its comfort inserts debuted a line of shoes around its inserts: Free Step, which mimics the barefoot state; Energy Renewal, designed to absorb shock; and Pressure Relief, a sole that conforms to the foot.
Can’t decide whether you like that open tongue or closed booty upper on your running shoe. Check out Avia’s (www.avia.com) new XZR Bolt lightweight racing shoe (MSRP $100, photo - right) with a unique design that offers an enclosed, wrap fit on one side for support, yet turns into a traditional tongue on the other for unrestricted fit.
Korkers (www.korkers.com) showed off its line of boots with interchangeable soles that snap on and off to adjust for more or less traction.
Finally, for the ultimate minimalist shoe, take a look at ZEMgear (www.zemgear.com), which won an In-New-Vation award from SNEWS and 3M for first-time exhibitors at Outdoor Retailer. The ZEM Oxygen2 (MSRP $50, photo - left) has four-way stretch Lycra material surrounded by six high-frequency welded, thermoplastic bands that provide lateral stability and can expand and contract with body warmth. The shoe’s goal is to provide performance protection for barefoot activities.
For more coverage on footwear at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, check out SNEWS’ coverage in o.r.d., the show’s trade show daily powered by SNEWS: "Kids’ winter footwear offers grown-up style, performance" on page 17 and "Footwear’s growing green impact" on page 24.
--David Clucas with Elizabeth O. Hurst and Amanda Fox