The Rise Of The Sneakerboot Amidst Surge In Hiking
Hiking footwear sales continue to spike and with so many new consumers entering the market, the sneakerboot has positioned itself as the prime choice for those looking for versatility in their footwear repertoire.
“Sneakerboots are the perfect silhouettes that can take you anywhere, from the city to the outdoors and back to the city again,” says Greg Duffy, Timberland TSBK senior director of outdoor. “These styles offer the comfort, flexibility and style of a sneaker but with the additional benefit of traction and waterproofing.”
While hiking footwear sales dipped in the first half of 2020 due to the lockdowns, says Matt Powell, senior industry advisor for sports for The NPD Group, hiking grew 22% in the second half of 2020 as consumers sought ways to stay fit while socially distanced. Then, the first quarter of 2021 saw a 60% jump. “I expect hiking to stay strong in 2021,” Powell says.
Companies young and old have seen not only an uptick in traditional hiking boot sales, but a real surge in the relatively new world of sneakerboots—also known as light hike—a product designed to hit the trails for a day hike, but often with crossover lifestyle appeal. From Danner to Merrell or Salomon to Timberland and Oboz to Hoka One One to Forsake, the list of brands embracing this new category of hiking footwear continues to grow.
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“It has been really interesting to watch,” Sam Barstow, co-founder and COO of Forsake, says about the hiking growth. “We have been focusing on our core products, not necessarily the highest-performance or most casual, but the really versatile styles used for day hikes but that won’t just sit in a closet. I think that is what is resonating right now, especially with people who are newer as they are looking for value and not just a use once (option). Having those crossover looks and performance features resonate most.”
A sneakerboot starts with good traction and stability in the midsole to reduce foot fatigue and slipping. Barstow says a rugged and lugged outsole with a midsole shank, without too much bulky material, fits the needs. Waterproofing is another big area consumers clamor for in the light hike, which not only improves comfort and reduces blisters on a hike, but makes the shoes ideal for a lifestyle option in the city on a wet or slushy day.
“Many consumers are looking for a hiking shoe that can do it all, take them from peak to pub, city to trail, or mountain bike to hike,” says Becky Marcelliano, outdoor marketing manager for Salomon North America. “Other new consumers want a core hiking boot to visit national parks or explore the sport of hiking for the first time. All types (of hiking) are booming, light and fast, core hiking boots, multisport adventure shoes, even burlier backpacking boots. But to match the massive uptick of new consumers getting outside, it makes sense that hiking shoes that are approachable in both technicality and price point are really on the rise. We’re seeing massive demand across all styles, however.”
Consumers want a mixture of an intro to hiking, a crossover style or even a more affordable option. Marcelliano says versatility to work on multiple types of terrain, but with out-of-the-box comfort, grip and stability proves imperative. “Aesthetically, many lean toward shoes that have a bit more of a lifestyle style, rather than a traditional rugged hiking boot.”
While consumers may know to look for a durable, comfortable and lugged option, companies also say that the midsole is an important aspect of the light hike category that sets it apart from a traditional sneaker. Erin Hutchinson, Danner media relations manager, says a midsole should shed overall weight compared to a hiking boot while offering excellent cushioning and rebound. When paired with an outsole that has extra grip for rough and uneven terrain, it becomes the ideal light hike option.
John Burch, senior vice president for global operations at Merrell, says they’ve seen growth in the most versatile footwear offerings, specifically lightweight hikers. “We also understand that consumers are looking for stylish, yet functional footwear and have seen increased interest in our classic trail sneakers,” he says. “Lightweight hikers are a great entry-level shoe for consumers as they work like a crossover style. The shoes bring fashion-forward aesthetics with the traction and durability of classic hiking boots.”
“The key to unlock for light hike is to capture all the comfort, lightweight and flexibility of a sneaker but with protection, traction and support,” Duffy says.
With the performance multiple steps up from a sneaker, but not quite as burly as a true hiking boot designed to take on the massive weight of overnight packs and multi-day treks, Barstow says the consumer expects a product that can visually identify with outdoor DNA, but fits their lifestyle if they don’t hike weekly. For Forsake, that means keeping the upper clean of slogans and trademarks and leaning on athletic influence with materials, but with an outdoor look that comes through in such things as lace hardware, webbing and leather. Of course, the heavy lugs of a light hiker should offer a level of outdoor distinction.
As Powell expects a strong 2021 for hiking, brands believe growth still exists in the light hike category. Angelo Ng, chief merchant officer for Wolverine Worldwide, says evolving running collections and adding new colorways help build out the options, while Marcelliano says with millions more people getting outside in the past year, the growth potential can last for a while.
With consumers looking to the outdoors as a way to recharge, Duffy says, hiking and trail walking have led the way in terms of accessibility and as a relatively inexpensive way to spend time with friends and family. That only pushes a continued interest in light hike. “Outdoor has,” Duffy says, “permanently crossed into the sneaker world.”
Brands’ Top-Selling Light Hike Options:
Salomon: The Outline and X Ultra franchises lead the way. The Outline fits that lifestyle style, but with stability, comfort and grip.
Timberland: The Garrison Trail, Solar Wave and Mt. Maddsen lead for Timberland, with the first two built with lightweight water resistance and full-length protective outsoles.
Forsake: The Patch has been the best-seller on the women’s side, with the Halden leading for the men. The Maddox Mid is a new option and the Banks just released in spring 2021 with a low-top non-waterproof option for the warmer summer months.
Danner: Launched in 2019 and inspired by the 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, the Trail 2650 is a lightweight hiker that feels like a trainer but with the technical know-how of the Danner hiking boot. The model now includes a Gore-Tex-lined version, higher height options and the spring 2021 Trail 2650 Camp inspired by the hotter, dustier environment of the PCT in Southern California.
Merrell: The Moab line takes the brand’s popular hiking boot and introduces the Moab Speed, a lightweight hiker version with a “fashion-forward” look that includes the traction and durability of the boot. A new Moab Flight is a cushioned trail runner and the Bravada classic women’s hiker and Antora trail runner have proven popular too.
Published at Mon, 10 May 2021 15:34:24 +0000
Article source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/timnewcomb/2021/05/10/the-rise-of-the-sneakerboot-amidst-surge-in-hiking/