GM, Hide & Sole; Missoula, Mont.
“We’re seeing more customers looking for something lightweight and cushioned with a bit of arch support. Brands on fire include Birkenstock and Chaco, with Birkenstock seeing a resurgence. More of our customers are aware it [offers] a soft footbed, so we’re starting to carry more of [those styles].”
Owner, New England Comfort Shoes; Norwell, Mass.
“I cater to a mature customer, so the true extra-depth shoes — such as Dr. Komfort and Drew that feature layers of adjustable, removable insoles — have become very important. I get referrals from podiatrists. It’s a go-to type of [footwear].”
Owner, Ahh Comfort Shoes; Arlington Heights, Ill.
“One of the features I find helpful are rocker bottoms from Waldläufer and Finn Comfort. They have some sandals and shoes that off-load the foot brilliantly. A lot of companies made a huge mistake by jumping off the [rocker-bottom] bandwagon entirely [when brands were being sued]. Now there’s a vacuum in the industry for this technology, which worked extremely well for [some] people.”
Owner, The Shoe Shoppe; Farmington, N.M.
“Altra, a new [athletic] brand, is exploding. The home run is its Olympus trail style with Zero Drop technology, where the heel and forefoot are the same distance from the ground. [It’s] not big on arch support, which is against everything I’ve been taught. But I’ve got young customers [buying them]. It’s all [they] want to wear.”
Owner, Jo’s Comfort Zone; Gaithersburg, Md.
“I’ve always sold Birkenstock, but this year it’s been phenomenal. [Fashion] models and the media have brought it to the forefront, and bloggers have discovered its comfort and helped make it trendy. My twentysomething customers are reading these blogs. My boutique clients wearing True Religion jeans are coming in and asking, ‘Do you know this new brand I saw in a magazine called Birkenstock?’”