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For 2015, hiking footwear is exploring a fresh area of comfort with climate control from the inside out. Across the board, designs are focused on establishing airflow to help draw moisture, humidity and heat away from hard-working soles.
At the forefront, Gore-Tex’s Surround technology — which debuted in a pair of Salewa casual shoes in 2014 — is making its splash with an update for outdoor multi-sport and hiking footwear. Close to 50 styles will incorporate the sock-like waterproof/breathable technology. Click here for a SNEWS primer on the new technology.
“About one-third of the sweat glands are located on the soles of our feet, and normally hiking shoes are completely enclosed beneath the foot,” explained Marc Peikert, global product specialist for Gore-Tex Outdoor Footwear. By extending Gore-Tex waterproof-breathable protection to the bottom of the foot (in combination with a breathable underlying mesh that acts like a pump to circulate air) it allows shoe brands to open things up in the sole with breathing channels.
“Excess moisture and heat can escape not only through the upper construction, but also downwards below the foot, and then laterally, resulting in dry feet,” Peikert said.
Salewa expands its use of Surround technology into hiking with the Alp Flow Mid GTX (MSRP $239), with lateral ventilation ports, an Ortholite and ballistic mesh upper and its customizable footbed, 3F System. “There’s air sucked in from the outside, and air pushed out,” said Jim Lamancusa, director of sales and marketing for Salewa. “The insole we use for the outflow acts as a bellows, so when you step down it lets moisture-laden air out of shoe, and we you step up it rebounds and sucks in dry air.”
Scarpa incorporates Surround technology in the lightweight, trail-worthy Oxygen GTX (MSRP $189), which also has an around-town casual aesthetic. The shoe has suede uppers, a dual-density EVA midsole and protective rubber toe rand. The Oxygen also includes Scarpa’s Sock-Fit construction, which replaces the traditional tongue with a stretchable Schoeller softshell material to reduce bulk and improve fit.
Also looking to keep feet breathing, Columbia introduces the lightweight, land-or-water Megavent (MSRP $95) with a PU-netted, open mesh upper and a midsole with ports for drainability and airflow. Vasque brings breathability into the lightweight Inhaler and Inhaler Low (MSRPs $120-$160) with toe and heel ventilation ports and 3D structured mesh, including Gore-Tex variations. And from Ahnu, the backpacking Mount Tam WP and day hiking Mount Tam Air Mesh (MSRPs $110-$120) feature waterproof leather and breathable mesh uppers. Numentum technology aims to promote balance and stability with less bulk.
Entirely new to footwear, Arc’teryx ushers in the alpine approach Alpha FL (MSRP $190) and a technical, lightweight hiker, the Bora Mid GTX (MSRP $270). Focused on climate management, improved fit and durability, the footwear can be thought of in two parts: an internal stretchable booty that conforms to the foot for comfort and fit, plus a seamless, one-piece TPU upper for protection, including individually PU-coated nylon yarns for breathability. The line also includes the Alpha2 FL (MSRP $270) and Bora2 Mid (MSRP $320) versions, which include a removable liner to help dry out the shoe, and the option to insert more insulated, separately sold liners(MSRPs $80-$95).
Footwear for the up-and-coming generations needs to be lighter, faster and more versatile, but cannot sacrifice durability, said said Arc’teryx Footwear Product Line Manager Federico Sbrissa. While consumers are spending less overall, they are willing to invest in high-quality, functional products that last longer, he said.
As consumers seek a wider variety of activities — both on-trail and in the urban outdoors for done-in-a-day pursuits — reflectivity, light-hike and speed-hike genres are taking center stage. Merrellbreaks into speed-and-run hiking with the Capra Sport collection (MSRPs $130-$190), incorporating a tapered toe-box, plus more of a running midsole for stability and take-off, and mesh uppers laid with molded polyurethane skeletons for durability.
“One reason running has become more popular is because people have less time and need that one- or two- hour burst of fresh air and exercise to fill their needs,” said Merrell Performance Category Business Director Mark Pavsek. “There are opposite trends too — that people have the need to unplug and are looking for a place without the cell phone, and want to spend multiple days on the trail where your feet are the only mode of transportation to get you there.”
Also focused on light-and-quick hiking, Asolo debuts the Magix ankle-high backpacking and trekking shoe, and the above-ankle Avalon GTX for long excursions and trekking (MSRPs $210-$260). Salewa brings the Speed Ascent, also available in a Gore-Tex model, (MSRPs $139-$169) with the Vibram Rollingait System for a rocker-style sole that helps to prevent fatigue.
Blending speed hiking with Gore-Tex Surround, Zamberlan releases the lightweight 132 Air-Round GTX RR Speed Hiker (MSRP $180), and La Sportiva premieres the Core High GTX and Primer Low GTX (MSRPs $170-$190)—which also showcase the weight-shaving Nano-cell technology, a protective and supportive PU grid that is injected directly into the mesh upper.
The desire for versatile footwear is driving a fashion-forward, casual approach to performance shoe design. In several more traditional boots, designers are streamlining the silhouettes for comfort and aesthetic reasons. Aku brings the sleek Alpina Plus LTR Mid (MSRP $250)with EVA-and-PU IMS3 multi-density midsoles. Danner refreshes the Mountain Light with a lighter weight bi-fit board (MSRP $320). And with a more modern crossover style, Oboz debuts the low-profile Teewinot (MSRP $120)with a perforated suede leather upper, molded rubber toecap, protective heel overlays, a supportive footbed and high friction rubber outsoles.