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What's Trending in 2021

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“Versatility in footwear continues to be extremely important to consumers. More shoes for the outdoors are being purchased than ever before, as consumers continue to spend significant time there. Footwear that combines functionality and style is integral to be able to wear for multiple activities. We also continue to see sales of soft toe boots 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

“One of the more important trends impacting the outdoor boot category is the shift in lifestyle and people’s desire for experiences over things. While the pandemic is driving people outside in the near term, what I believe to have staying power is the want to engage in more opportunities for experiences. The result is that function is winning out over fashion more than we’ve seen in a long time.”

Mark Hubner, VP of Brand, Baffin

“One of the biggest evolutions we see relates to growing consumer expectations on how brands address corporate social responsibility and sustainability. We view this as the single most important evolution taking place in outdoor footwear right now. Today’s consumer wants to understand what brands stand for, and how they are addressing these issues, and having robust programs in place to address these important issues is now considered required practice. Specific to product, versatility and hybrid design continues to be a strong trend, but increasingly sustainability features such as recycled content, biodegradability, or plant-based materials sourcing is becoming more and more important in these products.”

Mark Mathews, VP of Sales, SCARPA North America

“New performance technologies. There has been little meaningful technical innovation in outdoor footwear in many years — and we’re excited about disrupting the category with a visible technology that has a measurable positive benefit for our fans — making their days on the trail easier and happier.”

Erik Burbank, VP Keen Effect, Keen

“We’re definitely seeing an extension of the casual WFH (work from home) trend in 2020, which means comfortable, easy on product that’s also versatile for outdoor performance. Outdoor inspired and protective against the elements, yet still feels like your perfect comfy sneaker or slipper when you put it on.”

Megan Vinton, Director of Product, Bogs

“I would have to say as we spent more time outdoors in autumn/winter 2020 and will continue to again in 2021, the importance of weather-proof materials and multi-functional footwear will be key. Whether exploring your local trail or the urban/suburban environment around you, weather-proof footwear built to withstand the elements that can multi-task will win out.”

Karen McSorley, Brand Manager, Kodiak

“Versatility and hybridization will continue to be major trends for 2021. We are seeing a ton of new faces in the outdoors and our industry is growing, which is great for our retailers. There is a lot of investment into hard goods (bikes, skis, SUPs, etc.) and people are looking for footwear to go along with all their activities. The weekend warrior and car camping experts want versatility, something that can hold up on the trails with good grip, give you stability and weather protection for the mountain bike switchbacks, and still look good when they roll into town for a pint at the local brewery (socially distanced of course!).”

Thomas Dixon, National Sales/Product Manager, Outdoor, ECCO USA

“For 2021, footwear trends will have consumers looking for versatility of the product. Brands that are producing technical footwear that allows consumers to go from home to office or home office to the outdoors are going to remain trending upwards. We will continue to see more people experiencing the outdoors and purchasing products from brands and retailers that they trust with an emphasis on local. For Tecnica Footwear, this means focusing on the consumers and retailers to ensure that our products are easily accessible while continuing to inspire an active outdoor life.”

Rob Phillips, North America Business Unit Director, Tecnica Footwear

“One trend that is set to impact the outdoor boot category substantially in 2021 is the need for cooling technology. Additionally, as the industrial work and outdoor footwear category grows, we are seeing a demand for different styles of workwear — similar to the lifestyle category. For customers, function and safety come first, but a close second is style. We’ve seen the division between work and life grow increasingly blurred, and consumers now expect pairs that can be worn on and off the job site.”

Soyala Breen, Senior Director, Footwear Merchandising, Work, Ariat

“I see continued growth in the boot category. Solo sports, continued social distancing and people reconnecting with the outdoors.”

Marty Meade, Director of Sales and Marketing, Bearpaw

“Consumers are looking for a lightweight boot that is comfortable and durable.”

Bianca Boettcher, Marketing Manager, Thorogood

“Throughout the pandemic, our work and work boot categories have been strong and continue to grow stronger. We’re seeing trends in casual and outdoor boots, but without the focus on performance as we did before. Comfort is becoming an important feature in the boot category. Distribution channels will be very important in 2021. We strongly believe brick and mortar stores will make a comeback, specifically specialty stores like the work and outdoor categories. The customer is looking for expertise, someone who can provide specific answers and personal service.”

Prasad Reddy, CEO, Twisted X

“We see the continuation of multi-functional, multi-occasion wearable products combined with comfort and value. Specifically, in the outdoor industry, we are seeing more and more customers exploring the great outdoors – some technical, true hikers and explorers; but mainly families and weekend warriors spending more time outside due to the pandemic, for exercise, safe social distanced socializing and simply to mentally recharge or decompress during this difficult year.”

Brandy McCarty, CMO / SVP Global Brand Strategy, The Eastman Group

“The work and outdoor categories are converging to feature the best innovations from both product segments. Consumers are purchasing multi-purpose boots that can be utilized in several of their daily tasks, including safety requirements for the job and all-purpose use for lifestyle needs. Traditional work boot silhouettes now feature many prominent details from outdoor, including aggressive tread designs, high-performance midsoles and footbed technologies to ensure all day comfort.”

Matt Tucker, VP and Brand General Manager, Georgia Boot

“Athletic inspired. Work brands are realizing there is a large portion of consumers that have never worn a boot and look at them as being heavy and uncomfortable. Hytest is focused on incorporating materials and technologies from the athletic brands to bring performance, comfort and lighter weight styles to traditional work boots without sacrificing durability.”

Matt Gould, Product Development Manager, Hytest

“We continually ask consumers who purchase our footwear what their number one requirement is for safety footwear. Across all categories, boots included, is the weight of the shoe. We are also seeing a continuing trend toward lightweight boots that are great for the outdoors and all-weather environments, but fit more like a casual lightweight hiker.”

Brent Jennings, VP of Marketing, Warson Brands

“With the advancement of mills being able to produce sustainable or recycled fabrics and materials at lower cost than previous years, suppliers have been more aggressive with those offerings. Since they will be at a comparable price to non-recycled materials, I think brands will follow suit organically. Smart fabrics are continuing to trend, with technology that can cool or warm your foot based on the atmosphere inside the shoe, in addition to offering anti-microbial aspects.”

Jordan Anderson, Product Development Director, Rocky Boots
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