Merrell is taking barefoot into new areas.
The Rockford, Mich.-based brand, a division of Wolverine World Wide, is building on its popular Barefoot collection for spring ’13 by adding two lines that take inspiration from Barefoot’s low and nonexistent heel offsets, increased ground contact and lightweight fit. The collections, Proterra and Mix Master, join Barefoot in a new product family called M-Connect.
“The M-Connect collection is pure performance,” Wolverine Outdoor Group President and Wolverine SVP Jim Zwiers told Footwear News. “We’ve said one of our brand direction banners is to engage with the outside athlete, and this collection will address that highest adrenaline user in trail, training, running, multisport, hiking and these types of categories.”
The existing Barefoot collection, which launched in spring ’11, will be updated with new uppers for fitness and running styles.
The Mix Master collection of men’s and women’s running and trail/multisport styles is built on a 4-mm. heel drop. Proterra’s light hikers for men and women are also done on a 4-mm. heel drop and feature a stitchless upper.
The company said tests it had conducted at the University of Virginia’s Speed Performance Clinic and Motion Analysis Lab showed that the improved ground contact paid off with increased stability in motion, a major goal of the collection.
“M-Connect combines everything we’ve learned from barefoot and from outdoor. We want to expand the occasions and the [number of] people who can use and benefit from what we learned,” Zwiers said. “This lets individual users determine the best product for their individual needs, preferences and body mechanics, and connect to the earth with product that’s fast, light and encourages a natural stride.”
The prices for the new lines start at $90, similar to Barefoot.
“We’ve seen that the Barefoot collection has had a broader [retail appeal], and we think the target audience can expand broadly,” Zwiers said. “Our three key categories are outside athletic, outdoor and lifestyle, and we think in many ways, this [initiative] will bolster all of those.”