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Functional Footwear Ruled Outdoor Retailer’s Winter Market

The great outdoors is calling, and consumers are responding by immersing themselves in nature.

But first, they need to strap into the appropriate footwear.

At Outdoor Retailer’s 2020 Winter market, brands showcased their advancements in weatherproofing, comfort and protection against the elements—all designed to help outdoor enthusiasts and athletes hit the trails and the streets.

Sourcing Journal spoke to some of the show’s leading footwear brands about their latest designs and technology, along with the features and functionality consumers have been demanding from the industry at large.

Teva

Teva's Grandview hiker launches in February, representatives said.
Teva’s Grandview hiker. Sourcing Journal

Cult favorite sandal brand Teva is stepping outside of its comfort zone with a hiking style designed for braving the outdoors.

The brand will launch its Grandview GTX hiker, which features a generous, sandal-inspired fit, in February.

Ideal for long day hikes or multi-day trips, the performance boot features a proprietary heel-lock feature, which connects a set of straps around the shoe’s ankle to the front lacing system, providing security throughout a range of movements.

The patent-pending Universal Heel Locking System also prevents the foot from sliding forward as wearers trudge downhill, Teva representatives said. To accommodate for any slippage that does happen during a steep descent, the design team created a toe box with 30 percent reduction in toe pressure than an average hiking style.

A durable Vibram Megagrip outsole provides grip and traction underfoot, while Gore-Tex technology seals out water and other elements.

Birkenstock

Birkenstock's Off Road Edition sandal, coming in April.
Birkenstock’s Off Road Edition sandal. Sourcing Journal

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The cork-based classic has gotten an upgrade.

In response to fans who wanted elevated performance features—like water-resistance and under-foot traction—for days exploring the outdoors, Birkenstock has released a collection of rugged sandal styles called the Off Road Edition.

“We wanted to maintain the cork footbed—because that’s a traditional feature that everyone recognizes—but we wanted to protect it,” Jacqueline Van Dine, vice president of merchandising for Birkenstock Americas, said.

Van Dine’s team engineered a triple-density TPU midsole-outsole, with one soft cushioned layer of foam to support the cork footbed, a slightly denser one to encase the outsole unit, and a thermoplastic rubber lug base for grip and protection.

A microfiber insole liner mimics the brand’s signature suede, but offers enhanced moisture wicking and a faster dry time. Synthetic straps are fleece lined to prevent chafing against the skin, and the plastic hardware on the sandals’ straps swivels to offer a greater range of motion.

The Off Road Edition contains four styles—two for men, and two for women—and will launch in April.

Wolverine

Wolverine's ShiftPlus Polar Range Boa boot drops in September.
Wolverine’s ShiftPlus Polar Range Boa boot. Sourcing Journal

Michigan outdoor footwear brand Wolverine debuted its most rugged style to date at Outdoor Retailer last week.

With more features than most modern vehicles, The ShiftPlus Polar Range Boa boot is designed to help wearers move through frigid temperatures and tough conditions in comfort.

Primaloft’s ultra-thin Aerogel insulation traps heat without adding bulk, while a Vibram Arctic Grip outsole prevents slippage on icy terrain. A breathable-yet-waterproof membrane makes the full-grain leather style impervious to moisture seeping through the seams. A DuraSpring low-density PU midsole provides ample cushioning for long periods of standing or walking.

Finally, a Boa-designed lacing system (originally developed for ski boots) allows the wearer to turn a knob on the shoe’s side instead of removing his gloves to lace up in potentially frigid conditions.

According to Wolverine’s vice president of global product, Steve Workman, the design team pulled out all the stops in creating this style. “It’s our pinnacle product, the tip of the spear, with all of the bells and whistles and technology,” he said.

“It’s for extreme cold—if you want to walk or hike, this is what you would do it in,” he added. “It’s a technical shoe meant for every day.”

The ShiftPlus Polar Range of boots will launch in September.

Saucony

Saucony's Switchback 2 sneaker.
Saucony’s Switchback 2 sneaker. Sourcing Journal

Building upon its heritage in athletic performance, sneaker brand Saucony has doubled down on its trail running offering in recent seasons.

The 122-year-old American sneaker company has recognized a shift in the way athletes are using their products. Instead of sticking to sidewalks and pavement, runners are taking to trails.

This spring, Saucony will debut three new trail styles for varied terrains and use cases, product line manager Katie Pyle told Sourcing Journal.

The Switchback 2 is a lightweight style made for long distances, Pyle said. Tightly packed rubber lugs on the shoe’s outsole add traction, while a carbon mesh rock guard underneath protects the wearer’s foot from jagged edges and rough terrain. Bouncy, beaded TPU makes up the midsole of the shoe, adding resilience.

To avoid “lace-bite,” which occurs when runners ties the laces too tightly across the vamp, Pyle’s team implemented a Boa lacing system. “If your foot starts to swell, or you need to tighten up, you can do it on the fly,” she said.

The Canyon TR running sneaker is designed with the cushioning and shock absorption of a street running shoe, but a few subtle design features make it trail ready, too. “It’s rooted in trail, but it’s a road hybrid,” Pyle said.

Low-profile lugs provide off-road traction, while substantial cushioning protects against uneven terrain. Finally, the shoe’s engineered mesh upper is reinforced with a thin and flexible 3D-printed film to guard against mud and debris.

The Mad River TR 2 is designed for the avid trail runner who wants to move quickly on any type of terrain. The shoe features a lugged outsole with mapping for users to add their own ice spikes, should they want to customize their kicks with even greater grip.

Two rows of eyelets for the front lacing system allow for even more personalization, as wearers can lace them tightly for more security or more loosely to accommodate for wider, or swollen, feet.

Sperry

Sperry's IceWave boots for women.
Sperry’s IceWave boots for women. Sourcing Journal

Sperry doesn’t just make preppy boat shoes anymore.

The New England-based brand, which made its name with its iconic Top-Siders and duck boots, is moving into all-weather performance.

A new range of products, dubbed Techwave, provide more technical functionality than anything released before by the brand.

According to senior account manager Luke Jay, the IceWave line of men’s and women’s weatherproof boots is the biggest advancement this season.

With a traditional duck boot silhouette featuring an all-rubber outsole and vamp, the shoes certainly appear ready to tackle the icy sidewalks and slushy streets that plague the cold-climate cities in the winter months.

Ceramic bits embedded in the rubber lug outsole add grip on ice, while 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation retain heat and repel water. The women’s styles are lined with all-natural shearling for added warmth and softness.

Fully waterproof leather uppers are seam-sealed up to a point above the ankle, ensuring that outside moisture can’t seep in through eyelet holes or stitching.

“I think a lot of people saw the product we made and thought that it was just a fashion play,” Jay said. “There’s true tech built into it.”