While spreading their wings, manufacturers are also continuing to emphasize versatility – creating footwear that works on water, trail and even barstools – as a key design feature, as well as traction enhancements and light weight.
“Consumer interest in watershoes is being driven by performance, versatility and style/color,” maintains Chaco GM Chip Coe, toting the company’s new OutCross Evo collection as meeting all three. “Consumers demand watershoes that will perform across a wide range of environments, including in-stream, in the boat and on the trail.” Kicking off with strategic partner REI in March, its new OutCross collection illustrates the versatility trend by letting consumers choose from its widest range of colors and patterns yet.
While still covering its conventional shoe sales bases, NRS is crushing it with its new Crush watershoe, which, originally available in a men’s version, is now also out in a new women’s design. “Women’s water shoes make up a relatively small proportion of our overall footwear sales, but it’s an emerging market we believe will show strong growth over the next several years,” says marketing manager Karen Woodard, adding that the Crush series was designed with versatility in mind, no matter the gender. “Women paddlers are charging just as hard as the men, and they need gear designed for them that combines fit, comfort, aesthetics with performance.
We worked hard to make it a go-to shoe on and off the water.”
Woodard stresses that its versatility is key, and that they strived to make it look just as good at the bar as it performs on the water. “We wanted a shoe people could wear all season long, and that said ‘boater,’” she says. “It took us a while to bring it to market, but it’s exactly what we wanted.” She adds that the women’s version is all-new, as is a new line of women’s specific neoprene shoes.
The women’s market, as well as the SUP market, is also important to Asheville, N.C.’s Astral Designs, which has expanded its collection to include four additional women’s-specific styles in the Aquanaut, Porter, Mary Jay and Loyak. Before this year, Astral’s only women’s-specific watershoe was the Brewess.
“Women represent a huge part of the outdoor footwear market, and their specific needs and style vary from what works for the guys,” says Astral CEO Philip Curry, whose new offerings are built on a women-specific last. “We’ll continue to grow our women's category, with our product and marketing efforts.” With proprietary G.15 rubber for enhanced grip, the shoes also target the SUP market, excelling in a wide-variety of terrain. Improving versatility and performance, Astral is also now making outsoles with two versions of its proprietary G-Rubber: G.SS, formulated for maximum grip; and G.15, a reformulated standard version combining grip and abrasion resistance in a conformable rubber. All its models feature a “relaxed appearance” for off-water use.
Applying its sailing background to paddling-oriented watersports, Sperry Top-sider continues along its vein of emphasizing grip, style and lightweight construction with the success of its SON-R Sounder, available this spring in the new women’s SON-R Flex. It’s also debuting a new line of kids’ watershoes in its lifestyle line, as well as the new Point Breeze collection for women. “Today’s watershoes are influenced by lightweight athletic construction and sporty material details to evolve from basic water socks to all-around footwear,” says vice-president of product Lee Baxter. “Our watershoes blend our technical outsoles with fast-drying materials, sporty details and all-day comfort.”
Teva also hops on the versatility bandwagon by increasing coverage in shoes like its new Evo line. The intent, say designers, is a shoe that works in the water and out on town afterward. “We’ve maintained our iconic silhouette while fine-tuning the style to offer comfort and versatility on any adventure,” says director of product and design Lorie Pointer. “We’ve added several multifunctional features and kept it lightweight and comfortable for exploring the outdoors or as an everyday option."
With a solid handhold in the men’s footwear market, KEEN is also increasingly courting the women’s spectrum. It now offers women’s versions in most of its entire watershoe line, including the new for 2015 UNEEK and re-designed Clearwater. It’s also placing an increasing emphasis on targeting the kids’ market with a slew of new SKUs, including the new Kids Rio, available in sizes for both toddlers and children.
Shoes You'll See This Season
Astral Aquanaut: Built for the trail and river, the Aquanaut is constructed of 1,000-denier Cordura® Nylon with welded reinforcements at the heel, toe and eyestay. TPU reinforcements add beef at abrasion-prone areas and a semi-rigid heel cup. Quick drying material, including fine-screen side mesh, with drainage ports and a closed-cell EVA foam midsole provide maximum ventilation, while a G.15 high friction rubber outsole with toothy central lugs offers top-of-the-line traction. $119.95, www.astraldesigns.com
Chaco OutCross Evo: Great for all types of watersports, the new Chaco OutCross Evo collection comes in men's, women's and children’s models. All have breathable mesh uppers and employ jacquard webbing with open construction (the openness varies with models; the most is found in the Evo 1, and the least is in the Evo 3). Midsoles offer support via Chaco's PU Luvseat footbed, while comfort and durability are cornerstones thanks to strobel-lasted, barefoot construction with EVA foam layer and nylon support shank. For traction, an EcoTread™ outsole made from 25 percent recycled rubber comes with 3mm-deep lugs and a siped tread design for frog-like adhesion. $100-$115 (Kids: $55), www.chacos.com
Five Ten Eddy: Five-ten hops back in the watershoe game with the Eddy, its new solution for water sports. The sleek profile is designed to fit into small play boats and our grippy Stealth Phantom rubber won’t scuff your kayak, SUP, or deck. The non-marking Stealth Phantom rubber outsole features our Climbing Zone for sure-footed precision. $100, www.fiveten.com
Sperry Top-sider SON-R Flex
As with its other SON-R offerings, the new SON-R Flex women’s watershoe features GripX3 technology with anatomically positioned outsole pods that work with a chamber-filled insole to respond to different pressure exertions. The result, it says, is a better “feel” for unseen, underwater terrain. It also comes with Hydro-Grip™ Rubber for traction, an anti-microbial lining, and drain ports for quick drying. $90, www.sperry.com
Kokatat Seeker: For cool weather and river SUP paddlers, Kokatat serves up a new bootie offering warmth, comfort and extra grip. The Seeker’s sole is designed to maximize board feel and grip so you don’t slip off your surf, while its single-hand adjustable lacing system with neoprene cover eliminates snag hazards while allowing for precise volume adjustment and fit. $65, www.kokatat.com
Farm to Feet Blacksburg Water Sock: A sock rather than a shoe, the Farm to Feet Blackburg is designed to fit inside river sandals to enhace comfort while shielding the tops of your feet from sunburn. Meant to be worn with water-draining shoes, water sandals or other similar footwear, it’s knit with a combination of U.S.-sourced nylons and elastic yarns in a unique water-draining design (one yarn used is a PTFE nylon that sheds water, dries quickly and provides UV protection). $16 (low), $17 (quarter-crew), www.farmtofeet.com
KEEN Kids Rio: Now toddlers and children can enjoy the same level of protection when paddling or at camp as their parents. The new Kids Rio is a technical, lightweight and “fun designed” sandal made for land and water outings. Built for toddlers and kids, this sandal provides a contour arch footbed, added toe protection and soft EVA construction. $34 (Toddlers), $40 (Children), www.keenfootwear.com
KEEN UNEEK: With new two cord construction, the UNEEK molds to your feet for perfect fit. Made form polyester braided cord with nylon core for strength, the cords and free-moving junction let the upper move and adapt to the shape of foot, providing freedom of movement, security and structure. A lightweight PU midsole, with microfiber cover, keeps it durable while a high traction rubber outsole with razor siping ensures grip. $100, www.keenfootwear.com
NRS Crush: Three years in the making, the Crush line was designed offer versatility, featuring surf styling, a sticky, siped rubber outsole, crushable heel for slip-on access, and a quick-drying, DWR-coated canvas upper. It also carries a unique glueless shoe box with NRS strap. $79.95, www.nrs.com
Teva Evo: Teva’s newest multisport shoe is designed for watersports, running and hiking. Made from breathable, quick-drying mesh with a synthetic upper, it has a lace closure system for easy fit, while a midsole cushion maximizing comfort. For grip, look to its Spider Original Rubber outsole for wet or dry stickiness. $70, www.teva.com