Footwear at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market saw several trends crossing the show floor. Trail Running remains a hot category with more vendors making a presence felt here, both from the traditional outdoor companies and from the traditional running guys.
By now, the integration of womens-specific lasting and technology in performance and casual products is a given. Now, designers are focusing on creating womens products from the ground up, not merely offering takedowns of mens footwear with a womens-specific fit.
At Brooks Sports, the big news is BioMoGo, an eco-friendly, non-toxic, natural additive that is incorporated into the companys original MoGo midsole to speed up the rate of biodegradation. According to the company, traditional EVA midsoles can last up to 1,000 years in a landfill. BioMoGo can break down 50 times faster, biodegrading materials into reusable byproducts in about 20 years. By 2028, Brooks expects to save 29.9 million pounds of landfill waste through the application of BioMoGo alone. BioMoGo, which does not sacrifice durability or performance, will first be offered in the Trance 8 shoe slated to hit retail July 1. All Brooks performance running shoes featuring MoGo will inherit BioMoGo by the end of 2009. Moreover, the technology will be treated as an “open source” innovation and will be shared with other footwear brands and industries.
Hi-Tec introduced two technologies at the show: ion-mask waterproofing and InsuLite lightweight insulation. In the case of ion-mask-a patented plasma-based application originally developed for military clothing to repel chemicals-Hi-Tec joined forces with the technologys developer, P2i. This surface enhancement permanently alters the surface of a product at the molecular level to repel water and other liquids, forcing them to bead and run off.
Unlike a waterproof/breathable membrane construction, a shoe treated with ion-mask will not gain weight when wet since the material will no longer retain water. Hi-Tecs V-Lite Altitude Ultra is the first footwear model ever to feature ion-mask technology. The companys second innovation, InsuLite, is a proprietary blown-EVA shell technology that is lighter and warmer than rubber and is also a better insulator. It will be available in the mens Eiger and womens Gemini models.
At Vasque, hiking remains the top category (with the Breeze boot being the top-seller), and womens products now account for 40% of the companys business. The light-and-fast category, which encompasses trail running and multi-sport product, is growing rapidly, and a higher-end kids line was launched in Fall 07. Vasque is also rolling out a new cushioning system called VST (Vasque Spine Technology, originally developed for use in Red Wings casual line) in trail running shoes, and will eventually expand it into multi-sport product.
Over at Merrell, the mood is upbeat-the company exceeded plan in the U.S. and globally in 2007. According to company execs, the growth was fueled by “sales of more shoes to the same folks.” Currently, womens-specific performance footwear is the brands fastest-growing category.
For Fall 08, Timberland is expanding its Sport/Utility line by improving fit and cushioning and freshening the aesthetics. The b-Life Collective will also expand with winterized models that will include waterproof technology, as well as boiled wool mixed with other materials for a young, fresh look.
Ecco continues to thrive in the lifestyle/casual arena, and the hiking and trail running lines are also growing. The company is especially enthusiastic about the trail running market, citing a broad consumer base and “huge lifestyle crossover appeal.” Winterized walking product will also be a focus for Fall 08.