While the footwear trade show continues to focus on dressier offerings, FFANY held last week in New York again underscored the popularity of athletic styling. Particularly pervasive was vulcanized canvas takes across a number of brands and incorporated into varius styles. But an overall push toward lightweight construction, comfy bottoms and multi-purpose uses backing many trends on the athletic side are also showing up in many casual shoes in Spring 2016’s collections.  

In the walking category under the GOwalk platform, Skechers has recently benefited from being able to deliver visible technology such as the V-Stride angled outsole. But its overall momentum in walking continues to stem from acceptance of its Resalyte cushioning and the brand’s ability to continually bring newness to the category, whether through slip-ons, lace-ups or other options, said Rick Higgins, SVP, merchandising/marketing, Skechers Performance Division.

GOfit, launched three years ago, has been a quieter success with Skechers now landing among the top spots in the training category for the first time. The GOfit TR that utilizes space-dyed meshes arrives next spring. A new shoe, the GOflex, with a fully-siped and bendable outsole arrives later this summer.

GOgolf Pro, being worn by seven-time PGA Tour winner, Matt Kuchar, has also sold well and the GOgolf Elite arrives in spring 2016. In the run space, the GOrun Ride 5 arrives in Spring 2016 with an enhanced upper. The big news is the launch of Skechers’ first stability shoe, the GOrun Forza. The shoe will be worn by Kara Goucher, a top American female distance runner over the past decade who signed with Skechers last year.

Higgins said GOrun fans have long asked for a stability version but Skechers was waiting for its other platforms to be established before entering the category. “It’s got a seamless upper and a lot of the same design language you’d expect from a GOrun shoe but adds a nice soft durometer in the midsole and is a true stability shoe.”

Merrell is undergoing a comprehensive rebranding in spring 2016 under the “Do What’s Natural” theme. Jamie Mandor, head of global marketing, said the campaign focuses on how the “young adventurer is enjoying the outdoors today.”  Mandor, who arrived at Merrell from ‪L'Oréal‬ in November, said the brand in the recent past has pushed some platforms “too far” on either the performance or on the lifestyle side. Mandor said the readjusted positioning “feels really good because it’s not the new Merrell, it's the real Merrell. And it’s where we’ve always been but we walked away from it a bit in the past.”

As far as trends, Mandor said Merrell would be emphasizing “faster lighter silhouettes across the board.” Another focus will be on providing versatile options such as its Hydro Hiker collection that’s designed to be hike-able on the trail but also featuring quick-drying materials to handle any streams.

A big product story is the Capra Bolt, building on the success of this past year’s Capra hiking boot collection. Coming in a mid-waterproof, a low-waterproof as well as low-ventilated option, the Capra Bolt still plays up color and its hoof-inspired Vibram MegaGrip outsole but reaches some more accessible price points, said John Angle, Merrell’s direct of customer marketing.

In a trail run category, the All Out Crush and All Out Crush Lite builds on the success of the All Out Peak and All Out Charge and feature a polyurethane film on the upper to handle adventure or mud races. Like many of Merrell’s collection, Angle said the trail running line contains “great color pops.”
The Round Pound sandal collection particularly stands out for its “young aesthetic” not only with color pops but artistic details on the outsole and unfinished edging that gives it a handcrafted look.

Dansko has three key themes planned for Spring 2016 as part of a move to “celebrate our favorite seasonal story,” said Matt DeWitte, Dansko’s director of communications. The first arrives in February under the “Celebrating the Arts” theme and is signified by a push around the Marta, a mary jane clog style that’s part of its Tivoli collection. In March, the “Celebrating Friends” theme arrives and is supported by a dressy Dominique sling back sandal. Finally, “Celebrating Travel” in April is paired with the Pamela thong sandal.

DeWitte said the themes – to be supported by marketing on social media and on its website as well as lifestyle imagery in stores – are designed to demonstrate “the breadth and depth of what we are doing.” Dansko is strength in wedge sandals and the clog making one of its periodic comebacks. Said DeWitte, “A lot of shoe trends are just starting to emerge that we think will continue into next season.”

Sperry underwent a major rebranding this past February by ditching the Top-Sider from its name and launching its “Odysseys Await” campaign. Karen Pitts, VP of marketing, said research classified the brand’s 13-to-34 Millennial consumer as ‘Intrepids’ similar to the brand’s founder, Paul Sperry. Said Pitts, “He was inventive, he was bold and loved the sea, and really followed his passions wherever they went. So we sort of channeled that energy with this new platform.”

The new positioning inspired much of the Spring 2016 line with a revamp of its boat shoes collection featuring new materials, treatments, colors and prints to “celebrate, energize and elevate” the overall design. Said Pitts, “As the market leader in boat shoes, we have the responsibility to keep it fresh.”

Sperry will also look to build on the success it’s found in canvas with styles such as the Seacoast, Sperry’s most successful vulcanized sneaker ever. Pitts noted that Paul Sperry’s first footwear invention was a classic CVO canvas style, but Sperry looking to create unique canvas options that “straddle that world between brown shoes and sneakers”

On the men’s side, Sperry is coming out with a Paul Sperry collection, which Pitts described as a “modern inventive take on our classic boat shoe” featuring lightweight design, vulcanized construction, quick-drying fabrics and the brand’s Son-R midsole technology that heightens the wearer’s natural sensory responses.

Crocs is embracing four stories to “reinvigorate the core of our business, said Megan Zielinski, global manager wholesale merchandising. The first focuses on refreshing its classic clog business with different silhouettes and patterns. For example, its popular Sarah collection for women is being expanded with a wide array of embellishments and also gains a wedge version.

A second theme is “relaxed active” that features a host of reds and blues to infuse an ”active casual vibe” into its line. The third, “graceful nature,” relates to a more softer feminine appeal, notable with the thinner straps on its Isabella sandal model. Finally, the fourth theme, “Find Your Fun,” traces back to Crocs’ new marketing campaign and shows up on product with surprising details such as sunglasses and pineapples on product “to show that our brand can really stand for and be fun.”

Crocs is also extending its spring season to eight months with some spring deliveries arriving as early as November and some as late as next July.

Birkenstock this spring married the popularity of the strong athletic-inspired appeal with the sandal trend by sticking a TPU rubber bottom on a collection of colorful nubuck leathers in women’s. The program will be expanded in the Milano and Arizona styles to men for spring 2016. Said Matt Hundley, Birkenstock' USA’s PR and events coordinator, “It’s a more polished looking everyday sandal and we’ve had some nice acceptance with it.”

Hundley also noted that an athletic-inspired razor bottom is being introduced to a boot this fall and will be expanded across Birkenstock's seasonal color ways come Spring 2106.

As far as trends, Hundley noted that Birkenstock is playing up pastels and the “soft pattern look,” and also sees neon is making a comeback in Spring 2016. Birkenstock also continues to find strong appeal for its newer closed-toe sneakers and other casual shoe offerings with loyal fans looking to benefit from the brand’s footbeds year-round.

At Timberland, a particular focus will be the indigo blue color across boots and other styles as well as waxed canvas, said Keith Carter, associate manager, at Timberland. Lightweight and laundered materials are also some underlying themes for Timberland come Spring 2016. But the overall push for Timberland is to continue to redefine the “modern classic” with unique leathers and suedes, surprising colors, and other treatments. Carter said Timberland, acquired in 2011 by VF Corp., has lately been benefiting from its efforts to position itself more as an outdoor lifestyle brand. Said Carter, “We see our customers making stops on the modern trail finding inspiration at every turn.”