The Boot Book: Best Foot Forward
Whether for work or play, shoppers know what they want from their boots, and in laundry list fashion. As society continues to emerge from the pandemic, many consumers are looking to buy shoes that complement a new array of ever-changing endeavors. “Consumers continue to look for authentic brands, bringing great value with enhanced comfort features and functionality,” explains Brandy McCarty, CMO of the Eastman Group. “All products must be ‘fashion right,’ but not ‘fashion forward,’” he adds. On top of that, there’s technology, sustainability and even specific preferences on the shape of the boot. To gather some insight on what’s trending in work, lifestyle and outdoor boot offerings; we chatted with some industry insiders.
Ecco Outdoor/MX Mid Boot GTX
Built on an anatomical last, this stylish outdoor performer has a motocross-inspired PU outsole offering traction and support, with an additional TPU insert for stability. The boot is built with the brand’s direct injection process that uses fluid materials that follow the natural shape of the foot. Ecco’s MX Mid Boot GTX features Gore-Tex and is a breathable, 100% waterproof shoe. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $160.
A mid-height boot with a dash of vintage flair, the Lena has a stretch engineered knit upper and easily slips on. Long, round laces tie up around the ankle. The boot’s name pays tribute to Lena Mattausch, who helped merge the Women’s Protective Union with the Cooks and Waiters Union, ending 83 years of gender organized unionism in Oboz’ backyard of Butte, MT. Available Spring ’22.
This waterproof suede and nylon hiker has sealed seams and a breathable, waterproof membrane construction, along with abrasion and scuff resistant TecTuff toe and heel guards. With a 100% recycled plastic lining, 50% recycled plastic mesh upper, 100% recycled plastic lace and Kodiak Comfortzone ECO footbed, it’s both sustainable and stylish. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $150.
Keen/NXIS EVO Mid and Low
The lightest and fastest Keen hiker accommodates both men and women. This style features the original comfort fit (Keen boasts 18 years of experience designing hikers) and iconic toe bumper for protection. A proprietary horseshoe tread pattern grips from heel brake to toe roll. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $170-180.
Hoka One One/Anacapa Mid GTX
The brand’s innovation in hiking reaches a new peak with the lightweight, cushy Anacapa Mid. Made with sustainable materials, the upper has a PFC-free DWR treatment paired with a Gore-Tex bootie and is wrapped with leather accents certified by the Leather Working group. It also uses recycled polyester in the collar, mesh and laces. And the sockliner is 50% soy-based polyurethane. The midsole features compression-molded EVA, and lots of it. Available Fall ’21. MSRP $170.
Salewa/MTN Trainer 2 Mid GTX
Designed to tackle all types of mountain terrain, the protective and grippy MTN Trainer 2 Mid GTX features ample cushioning along with Salewa’s trademark 3F system that connects the instep to sole and heel, ensuring flexibility, support and the correct fit. And the boot’s multi-fit footbed allows for a greater range of foot shapes and sizes to create a more accessible shoe for a wider range of sizes. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $269.95.
Industry Insight: What are the Key Traits that Consumers are Looking for Right Now in the Boot Category?
“We see that consumers are definitely trending towards versatile, multi-use boots, or what we refer to as ‘hybridization.’ They are looking for something that has functionality, weather protection, grip and stability, but also looks good with a pair of jeans at the local brewery. Since consumers are also getting more casual and athletic, this type of styling is important as well. We’re looking for that perfect blend of athletic-outdoor.” – Thomas Dixon, national sales/product manager, Ecco Outdoor
“Right now, most customers are seeking a versatile hiking boot. Something that can take them comfortably from mountain trails to Main Street for a post-hike beer. This also means the boot doesn’t look out of place while strolling sidewalks. We also see that boots made with sustainable materials, for instance, Bloom algae biomass that make up the insoles in some of our newer styles, always get a second look.” – Rich Hohne, director of brand + consumer experience, Oboz
“We believe people want to invest in brands and products they believe in, can count on and that they can trust. And when it comes to footwear, consumers are also looking for multi-functional and versatile footwear, boots that can go the distance and do double-duty. Whether they need footwear for work or play, consumers want functional style that can transition them from one situation to another.” – Karen McSorley, senior brand manager, Kodiak
“As more people get outside with friends and family, they’re looking for boots they know will be comfortable, that will serve them across a variety of environments, terrain and uses. They want boots that will last. Consumers are increasingly looking toward brands they know and trust. Brands that share their value and are doing the right thing for the environment, and on social justice issues as well.”– Erik Burbank, VP Keen Effect, Keen
“Above all else, consumers want comfort and function. There is no patience for technical nonsense or fashion that serves no purpose. It has to work, and it has to feel amazing.” – Jake Anderson, co-founder, Forsake
“When picking out boots, customers always want the essentials: a comfortable fit, good traction, slip resistance, and sustainable materials where possible. With so many new customers getting outdoors for the first time during COVID, there is also a push for boots that are more accessible and versatile than the conventional offerings. This new customer wants a boot that feels more similar to their trail running shoe: lightweight and comfortable that they can go anywhere in. Of course, there is still the customer looking for the more conventional boot, but I think we’ll continue to see more offerings across the industry that trend lightweight and non-obtrusive on the foot. Aesthetically, this new demographic is also increasing the demand for more creative color arrangements that ‘pop’ and give the lifestyle flair they seek, unlike the traditional colors seen on standard hiking footwear.” – Michael O’Brien, marketing director, Topo Athletic
“Since the pandemic started, there is a greater trend towards a lifestyle approach with boots or shoes that can also be worn every day.” – Peter Sachs, general manager, Lowa Boots
“As part of our mission to support the next generation of skilled trade workers, we’ve spent significant time with young work boot consumers. We continue to see the bar for comfort being set by sneakers, but [we also see] a desire for classic work boot style influences that signify proven toughness and timelessness. Sales of soft toe boots continue to grow, as consumers can wear them for their work needs, but also doing projects around the house and casual wear.” – Lauren Poole, brand marketing director, Wolverine
“Western boot consumers want a well-rounded boot that can do it all. First and foremost, consumers are craving a new level of comfort. Secondly, the boot must be durable. Finally, consumers demand the traditional western boot style and aesthetic. This product category is about more than footwear — it’s a lifestyle.” – Monte Nelson, VP of Western, Twisted X
“Sustainable function has emerged as a leading trait. Consumers want function-first products that are going to perform, as they are spending more time outdoors. For the sake of a sustainable environment, we at Baffin hope the days of ‘disposable fashion’ move behind us.” – Mark Hubner, SVP of brand and strategy, Baffin
“Consumers are looking for a brand that brings quality built products to the market at competitive prices. They need products that hold up in the environment in which they are used, whether that is for work, outdoor, lawn and garden, lifestyle, or new for us, the fishing industry. We are all about the function of the product, with features built in to enhance the wearing experience. We use all-natural rubber, leading to a more durable, flexible product.” – Craig Hahn, senior partner, Dryshod
Washington Shoe Co. offers a chunky, rugged, sturdy boot in a monochromatic color palette for the urban warrior. This boot crosses seasons and easily transitions from day to night with high quality rubber and neoprene. The Ruston also features a memory foam insole and lightweight EVA outsole. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $90.
Lowa/Axos GTX Mid
The new Axos family consists of modern styles with lightweight, athletic performance in mind. The GTX Mid and Lo are constructed with seamless welded polyurethane/synthetic uppers that feature a specially designed comfort cuff, and set on the new sneaker-inspired Camara outsole. The Axos GTX Mid is 100% vegan. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $250.
Tecnica/Magma S Mid GTX
A versatile, lightweight hiker designed for those who prefer a quick pace on the trail but also require steady grip for technical rocky scrambles. The anatomically shaped last more closely matches the shape of the foot, delivering a precise fit out of the box that can be even more dialed in with the integrated lacing system. The mid-cut boot features a synthetic upper with a Gore-Tex liner for waterproof/breathable protection, and the thoughtful outsole design, inspired by MTB enduro tires, aims to provide optimal grip on all surfaces regardless of conditions. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $190.
Aku/Croda DFS GTX
Italian brand Aku’s new Croda DFS GTX boot is a high-end outdoor performer, built to be light, agile and comfortable. It has a light and sturdy Kevlar upper, along with an elastic spider frame structure and a Vibram Croda Litebase outsole that is 30 percent lighter and 50 percent slimmer than typical mountaineering boot outsoles. Offered in men’s sizing and women’s-specific sizing, too, designed specifically for each gender’s plantar anatomy. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $399.95.
The Guide is built to move with the body, thanks to a high-performance UltraSpring midsole that energizes each step. A grippy Vibram rubber outsole makes it suitable for any terrain. Feet stay fresh with a breathable waterproof membrane and moisture wicking mesh lining. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $140.
Topo/Trailventure 2 WP
This rugged, waterproof hiking boot has a durable mesh upper with a full eVent waterproof bootie construction. It also has a widened platform and a ZipFoam midsole and external TPU heel counter for comfort and security. A Vibram Megagrip outsole provides grip and a full-length ESS rock plate offers protection and stability. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $175.
“At Washington Shoe, we are seeing consumers craving chunky rugged, significant textured soles and a floral focus for spring 2022. Consumers want a blend of fashion, function, comfort and affordability for their entire family. Unlike other years, we’re seeing a shift towards a contrast of soft and hard, both in design and in our patterns and colors.” – Stacy Cail, marketing and engagement director, Washington Shoe Co.
“We see the most consumer demand in two areas: function and value. As one way to deliver value, we have focused on muted colors that can be mixed and matched with numero
us outfits. Waterproofing and other performance features are also trending now as the outdoor market has become increasingly popular in the past year.” – Jordan Anderson, director of product development, Rocky Boots
“In the safety footwear industry, athletic inspired constructions, materials, and styling are still trending. The millennial demographic is demanding lightweight, breathable, comfortable footwear without sacrificing safety and durability requirements. Essentially, these consumers want a boot that fits and feels like an athletic shoe, but performs like a work boot.” – Kasey LaCourse, senior footwear designer and developer, Georgia Boot
“The key traits these customers have been demanding are more lightweight and comfort technologies. Comfort, function and durability outweigh fashion when it comes to work boots, although we do our best to make them as aesthetically pleasing as possible, such as creating shallower looking safety toes and a variety of patterns and colors.” – Mark Recchi, VP of research and development, Durango Boot
“Durango has seen strong growth in our work category, especially the Maverick XP family that reflects both basic tried and true designs, as well as innovative looks and colorways. Our Rebel Work styles have also continued to increase each and every year. The patriotic have been among our best-selling work items.” – Jordan Gottke, national sales manager, Durango Boot
“Consumers are looking for more casual and athletic options, particularly sneaker fashion or lifestyle casual styles. Fashion is becoming more important in the work footwear category, particularly as more women make up a greater share of safety and protective shoe wearers. Warehousing, light manufacturing, and logistics are becoming the next great revolution of America’s workforce as people are ordering to their doorsteps, so we are seeing a lot more being added to our overall workforce market for safety shoes.” – Brent Jennings, VP of marketing, Warson Brands
Baffin/Compass Collection Western
The Western touts a removable fixed-fit multi-layer inner boot system with Thermawick high wicking next-to-foot lining material for enhanced breathability and improved thermal regulation. IceBite Grip provides greater slip resistance than conventional rubber. An inside zip and pull loop at the back make boot entry a breeze. Available Fall ’21. MSRP $200.
Thorogood/Midnight Series 8” Moc Safety Toe
Part of the brand’s American Heritage line, these USA-made black steel toe work boots offer added protection with the 8-inch shaft height, while the slip-resistant MAXWear Wedge outsole is slip and oil resistant. The boots have a durable Goodyear storm welt construction, removable shock absorption insert, composite shank, steel toe protection, and can easily be resoled when needed. Available now.
Wolverine/Raider DuraShocks Waterproof
An update of the workhorse Raider boot with DuraShocks offers extra toughness with new reinforced details. Triple needle stitching, a molded toe cap and riveted heel bumper enhance protection in harsh environments. DuraShocks Flex absorbs shock with each step and provides maximum flexibility on all terrain thanks to individual compression pads throughout the outsole. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $180.
Georgia Boot/Georgia Boot OT
The Georgia Boot OT collection features a polyurethane midsole and durable Carbo-Tec Rubber outsole joined to the upper through a direct attach construction. Thanks to a shock-absorbing AMP LT insole and Georgia waterproofing, these lightweight, multi-purpose work boots provide comfort for those extra-long workdays. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $161.
Durango Boot/Durango Maverick XP
This premium work boot option is crafted with state-of-the-art technology that delivers all-day comfort and support. A five-density, three-layer comfort system allows for optimal performance for any task at hand. Durango has two versions of the Maverick XP style, one is a waterproof steel-toe boot that meets ASTM F2413 protective toe classification and electrical hazard standard and another that is soft toe. Available Spring ‘22. MSRP $186.
B-Tek Heat lightweight four-channel hollow fiber insulation provides high-loft breathability in a broad range of temperatures, making this a multi-season option. The B-Tek Scent Free antimicrobial next-to-foot lining keeps odors at bay. A lug sole outsole design offers added traction on packed snow and ice. Available now. $210.
XTRATUF/Ankle Deck Boot ECO
Featuring Yulex Foam, a plant-based alternative for standard neoprene, the Ankle Deck Boot ECO builds on the heritage of the brand’s Ankle Deck Boot, crafted specifically for sport and recreational fishermen. The lightweight, durable and comfortable boot has a non-marking and slip-resistant outsole, along with 100 percent waterproof protection. Yulex natural rubber is derived from the sap of the Hevea Tree. Available Spring’22.
Nevados/Cross Brace Work
Protection is paramount with the Cross Brace Work. This waterproof boot offers a shock absorbing outsole with grip toe; medial and heel traction; wet stick siping; midfoot traction; and is oil and slip resistant. Wide widths and a back pull-on tab make it a solid option for a variety of wearers. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $80.
Rocky Boots/Rocky MTN Stalker Pro
This versatile outdoor offering is designed to tackle rugged terrain. Waterproof full-grain leather and the new Shield technology provide durability, reinforcing all of the highest abrasion areas on the boot. Rocky Vapor Pass waterproofing and a Vibram Mountaineering outsole complete the package. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $185.
The Mudslinger is a farm/work boot built for getting dirty, but keeping feet dry. Seamless construction keeps this 16” boot 100% waterproof, while a five-layer chemical-resistant outer shell keeps the wearer safe. A Wixit Cool-Clad Airmesh liner lets feet breathe (thanks to micro dot perforation to improve airflow) in this all-natural rubber, self-cleaning tread design. Available Fall ’21. MSRP $114.95-119.95
A casual mid-top style that is ideal for everyday wear, the Mason Mid also performs outdoors, providing support and traction with its rugged outdoor tread design. It is fully waterproof, thanks to an internal waterproof breathable membrane and premium waterproof-grade, full-grain leather gold-rated by Leather Working Group for environmental responsibility. Available Fall ’21. MSRP $150.
Twisted X/11” Tech X
The design of cowboy boots (inspired by Spanish Vaqueros) hasn’t changed much since the 1800s and have always been built for function. In an effort to modernize, Tech X employs CellStretch comfort technology which responds by activating over 100 individual pressure points. With every step, comfort cells in the heel and forefront compress and rebound for customized support. Available Nov. ’21. MSRP $204.95.
Rockport Works/Women’s Total Motion Sport Work Sock Bootie
In the Total Motion Sport Work, sporty meets sophisticated with truTECH lightweight shock absorbing technology. A TPU stabilizer on the heel provides extra stability, along with slip resistant traction on the heel and forefoot. A steel toe is protective. Available Spring ’22. MSRP $132.
Reebok/Hyperium Work Retro Trail Hiker
Inspired by retro trail runners, this heritage style offers long-lasting support while balancing cushioning and response. The slip resistant rubber outsole keeps feet secure on any terrain. Extra wide protective toe reduces weight of the shoe while maintaining crucial impact protection (meets or exceeds ASTM F2413). Available Spring ’22. MSRP $130.
Kodiak/Grebe 8” Safety
This full-grain, lightly pebbled 8-inch leather work boot has a padded leather tongue with comfort collar and an abrasion resistant, moisture wicking Cambrelle lining. Its Comfortzone LITE Footbed is built with an Ortholite Hybrid compound and it has a direct injected polyurethane midsole with integrated injected toe bumper. The outsole is slip resistant and it has a CSA and ASTM approved steel toe, composite plate, EH, as well as 200 gram Thinsulate insulation. MSRP $129.99.