Versatility continues to be the buzzword that dominates outdoor sandals. Consumers want a mix of comfort and performance, and they are gravitating toward durable styles they can wear on a variety of terrains. Just as athletic influences have crossed over into outdoor in recent years, design sensibilities rooted in everyday fashion are evident in many of the newest Spring/Summer 2016 outdoor sandal styles from the leading brands.
“There seems to be a steady shift to more comfort styles, which have gained market share, and away from the traditional trail styles,” said Andy Annunziata, VP, retail solutions at The SportsOneSource Group. According to data compiled by SportOneSource’s SSI Data, Trail Sandal sales were down in the mid-teens for the trailing 13-week period ended May 9, as many participants remained indoors. Conversely, Outdoor/Action Casual sandals were up in the mid-teens for the same period.
“The term ‘sandal’ is broadening right before our eyes,” said Andy Jacobs, founder of Cudas Footwear. “A sandal used to describe open, thong style, sparsely built summer footwear. Nowadays, a sandal might also be a strappy, amphibious, sport-oriented piece of warm weather gear.”
The horizon for outdoor sandals has not only broadened in terms of style, but also in terms of when and where they are worn. “Sandals are quickly becoming year-round footwear, no longer relegated to the back of the closet come autumn, and a far cry from the bargain-priced slap for your family beach vacation,” said Cudas Footwear’s Jacobs. “Sandals for 2016 are brimming with versatility, footbeds and soles that work well in water and on land, custom fit closure systems and high performance construction.”
Jacobs also noted that color trends in the industry are brightening, and said to look for teals, hot pinks, ocean blues, coral and lime green to pop against a sea of neutrals in 2016 sandal lines.
One of the most notable and important trends to impact the sporting goods industry at-large is also influencing consumers in outdoor sandals: the “athleisure” phenomenon. Roughly defined as apparel and footwear that can be worn for either athletic or leisure pursuits – or both – athleisure products have become hotly sought after by consumers who desire a specific look and lifestyle. In response, manufacturers and their designers are attempting to bring such styles to market and capitalize on a growing and lucrative category.
Tom Cove, president & CEO of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), recently emphasized the rapid growth of the athleisure trend during his State of the Industry address in Indianapolis, IN. “Athleisure – the combination of an athletic and apparel look – is really strong,” Cove said. “Athleisure is a happening and a powerful thing. It draws a much broader universe into our business than just the hardcore athlete.”
More consumers are frequently buying their sandals both for outdoor usage – whether it’s on the trail, the beach or on the water – and for everyday fashion statements. Cove noted that, according The Wall Street Journal, Barclays analysts estimate that the U.S. athletic apparel market will increase by almost 50 percent to more than $100 billion at retail by 2020. That whopping sales number represents an enticing opportunity for manufacturers. The equation is simple yet powerful: Functionality plus aesthetics equals versatility.
“You will see just as many athletic shoes on the trail right now as you will see actual trail shoes,” observed Ryan Riggs, global product manager, outdoor, at Keen. “And that’s 100 percent the athleisure trend. It’s all these people that have grown up wearing Nike’s on a daily basis and doing all of their stuff in running shoes, and trying to extend that use into outdoor activities. And it really does skew into what they’re wearing as far as sandals. For us, we definitely don’t see the athleisure trend going away any time soon.”
Chaco’s newest offerings for 2016 reflect a commitment to balancing performance with comfort. The men’s Z/Cloud sandal, $110, evolves the Z series with the new Z Cloud platform. The sandal’s construction includes a non-marking ChacoGrip ™ rubber compound, and features a new high-performance outsole, an instant-comfort topsheet, antimicrobial application for odor control, and a LUVSEAT ™ dual-density PU midsole. The Z Cloud, which is also available for women, has new webbing colors and patterns, and comes in five colors, including woven wood, maze slate (pictured), traffic orange, gobi olive and black.
Chaco is also rolling out the new women’s Sansa, $90, which meets the growing demand for athleisure footwear. The Sansa expands the brand’s women’s leather sandals, which is a fast-growing category for Chaco. Specs include a premium full-grain leather upper, comfortable pigskin lining, a women’s-specific LUVSEAT PU midsole, and a cushioned foam layer for instant comfort. The Sansa’s fashion sensibilities stand out thanks to a tribal-inspired emboss on the leather footbed topsheet, along with beautiful hand-stitched detail. Four colors are available: adobe, turquiose, peach and dark earth.
For Cudas, providing a secure fit for the summertime casual thong sandal is of utmost importance. To that end, Cudas developed “perfectPull,” a patent pending closure system which gives the wearer unique control over the tension in the upper. Customization is key to the brand’s 2016 offerings, as the tension created by the perfectPull system can be adjusted for activity level and personal preference.
“The Collection caters to our more active sandal wearer than a typical thong. We think perfectPull will be a great match for those who enjoy being active in the outdoors as much as we do,” said Cudas’ Jacobs.
Leading the way in the perfectPull Collection for both women and men are the Edisto, $35, the Warwick, $39, and the Hyco, $35. The Edisto includes flashes of turquoise and coral and all Edisto’s feature Cudas’ signature air mesh padded thong, contoured heel cup and arch support. The Warwick is a waterproof leather-like sandal which allows the wearer to adjust the tension in the upper. Lastly, the Hyco’s toe and heel bumper offer protection from rocks and other hazards, while its grippy sole is anti-slip and non-marking.
Sanuk has several new designs on the way. The brand’s Yoga Mat Collection women’s line, for example, will see fresh updates for Spring 2016. Among those is a thinner footbed for several styles with a faux leather overlay that changes the dynamic of the product, including the Yoga Gora Gora, $50, a double strap slide sandal. “Our sweet spot on the women’s side has been the Yoga Mat,” explained Trisha Hegg, VP of product at Sanuk. “Our Yoga Mat material falls in the outdoor realm, but we put a more modern twist on it. We’ve got more of a modern flair than a technical flair and have been embraced whole-heartedly by the outdoor community. The material is based so much around comfort.”
Hegg also believes the comfort factor of Sanuk’s 2016 line fits in perfectly with the current demand for the athleisure look. “We don’t have to say, ‘Here’s our dressy version of our sandals, and here’s our athleisure.’ We’ve already been there since the beginning, from the company’s inception,” she said. “It’s nice being recognized for that, because it’s definitely our sweet spot.” For men, two notable new styles are the Beer Cozy Hops, $36, and the TKO, $65. The TKO is a part of Sanuk’s casual Boulevard Collection and stands out due to a true vulcanized casual sneaker design with a structured, padded collar.
Oofos will continue its focus on the recovery footwear category with the introduction of the Oolala Slide for women in 2016. The Oolala Slide, $60, was developed by building out from the popular shape and fit of the women’s Oolala Thong, ultimately incorporating the same slim silhouette and form-fitting strap. The Slide includes Oofos’ proprietary OOfoam material, which absorbs 37 percent more impact than EVA and offers arch support and comfort. ”We think about what kind of additional products our customers are telling us they want our technology to be in, to continue to give them more diverse uses for it,” shared Duncan Finigan, Oofos’ marketing director. “From a style standpoint – one of the things you’ll see coming out in the fall and then next spring – we’ve looked at new technologies in applying different design treatments to our products. We’ll have more design options carrying our technology for next year and heading into 2017.”
Poised to take advantage of the athleisure trend, Keen’s new 2016 styles are versatile and technologically advanced. Back for its second year, the Uneek, $100, will introduce new colors, styles and cord for Spring/Summer 2016. The hybrid style ditches traditional machinery and conventional materials for a simple two-cord construction. The Uneek provides a custom and secure fit as a result of its free-moving cord structure and PU midsole for long-lasting support. “It’s super versatile,” said Keen’s Riggs. “From a construction standpoint, it’s all about simplicity. It came away being something that is comfortable on foot. We’re going to keep looking at ways to change the cords – change the diameters and the materials of the cords.”
Keen’s Maupin, $90, is a women’s style designed for high-performance water sports. It employs a one-pull webbing system for a secure fit and easy adjustment, as well as a one-hand quick-release for safe functionality in the water.
At Sperry Top-Sider, nautical functionality and bold, sleek aesthetics stand out in styles for 2016. According to Lee Baxter, VP of performance product at Sperry, comfort and grip are central to the brand’s sandal line, while styling and color can influence versatility. The Hydro Sandal, $80, utilizes fast drying injected EVA wraps in the forefoot improve fit and support, while a leather strap provides customized fit on the heel. The Hydro, which will be available in navy/grey, black, and dark brown, effectively reduces slippage on wet or dry surfaces thanks to a molded rubber outsole featuring Adaptive Wave-SipinG, which disperses water underfoot.
Sperry’s Big Eddy Thong, $60, is an ultra-lightweight thong sandal weighing 5.8 ounces. SON-R Technology provides natural sensory feedback, leading to greater stability and agility on multiple surfaces. Technology also helps the thong promote fast drying via a compression molded EVA foot bed with independent chambers, maximizing comfort and sensory feedback. The Big Eddy will be available in grey, brown, and black.
One brand capitalizing on the athleisure boom in particular is Birkenstock with its casual yet sporty styles, and the company has enjoyed strong sales recently as a result. The Sneaker Bottom Sport Sandal, $140, incorporates leather construction with a hybrid appearance. “For Birkenstock, the outsole is a major story for 2016,” said Matt Hundley, public relation and events manager at Birkenstock USA. “While the sneaker bottoms on these sandals were first introduced in Spring 2015, they tie so closely to the athletic trends that continue to dominate the footwear landscape, so for 2016 we brought them in on our iconic Arizona two-strap and the Milano with heel strap in a rich, sturdy oiled leather. It’s an ideal combination of the sneaker and sandal world – a sneaker outsole under a Birkenstock footbed.”
For Merrell, the Capra Collection and the Search & Enjoy Collection lead the way for Spring/Summer 2016. The Capra Sieve, $90, puts emphasis on versatile performance by combining features such as a cord and lock lacing system; which provides a quick secure fit, neoprene lining for padded comfort, and a moisture-controlling EVA footbed. “Capra Rapid Sieve is a continuation of our recently launched Capra Collection and is adventure ready and sure-footed to seamlessly transition from water to trail,” said Julie Saint-Louis, design director – performance outdoor footwear, at Merrell. “We noticed that the adventure ready mindset was looking for capable gear for enjoying adventures in and around water, which is why we created this versatile, breathable, water-friendly sandal.”
Merrell’s Around Town Slide, $85, takes its design inspiration from the outdoors while allowing wearers the benefits of an outdoor sandal even when they aren’t on the trail. Both the Around Town Slide and Around Town Thong – part of the Search & Enjoy Collection – feature full grain leather upper, pigskin lining for comfort and breathability, and a molded nylon arch shank. “We’ve created our Search & Enjoy collection to allow us to continue to tell our story after the trail,” explained Saint-Louis. “We made sure to include the same great technology we utilize in our performance shoes like M Select Grip technology and the same shock-absorbing heel air cushion as Merrell’s hiking shoes. Our palette was inspired by fields and botanicals that you come across on your hike.”
Ecco’s 2016 line also brings home the theme of versatility. The Biom Delta sandal, $140 (yak leather) and $130 (synthetic), for men and women is built around a BIOM last, which was designed after working with the German Sports University of Cologne to scan the feet of 2,500 athletes and construct an anatomically precise last. The premium yak nubuck leather upper provides durability and fit, while the quick-drying synthetic- upper option is designed for water sports and wet hikes. Other specifications include direct-injected PU midsole foam for long-lasting comfort and a durable rubber outsole for grip. “Consumers are looking for versatile sandals that are casual enough for day-to-day wear, but also rugged and supportive for light hiking or other adventures outside of the city,” said David Helter, sales director at Ecco Sport. “The new Ecco Biom Delta sandal addresses this trend with a protective covered-toe design, direct-injected midsole and gripping rubber outsole. We offer it in water-ready textile or premium leather upper options, meaning there is something for everyone.”
Another new style for Ecco is the Offroad Anni 10, $130, for men and women. The soft nubuck leather upper includes 3-point adjustability and neoprene lining for a soft, comfortable fit. The Anni 10 features a molded ECA footbed with microfiber cover for cushioning and stability, in addition to Ecco Receptor technology, which provides dynamic support throughout each phase of the step.
Teva will also strike a balance between style and comfort – and between outdoor activity and everyday usage – with their Spring 2016 styles. The new Terra Float Collection modernizes the sport sandal by combining on-trend styling with exceptional step-in comfort. The collection includes the Terra-Float Universal, $95, and the Terra-Float Livia for women, $90. Both styles are designed with Float-Lite ™, Teva’s new proprietary compound, to deliver comfort without the weight of the traditional sport sandal. “Consumers are looking for footwear that transcends traditional boundaries by offering both style and comfort,” said Lorie Pointer, Director of Product and Design at Teva. “The new Terra Float Collection is a natural extension of the Original that provides consumers with comfortable footwear that is accessible and versatile for everyday wear.”