Once reserved for the gym or a morning run, sneakers have evolved into the go-to look for anyone seeking comfort, from performance labels to designer takes on the trend. But how are today’s comfort brands, in the business of delivering footwear with features such as arch supports to underfoot cushioning, staying relevant in today’s athleisure-driven market?
Here, comfort executives reveal how they’re keeping up with — if not staying ahead of — athleisure’s momentum.
LISA SCHMITZ, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT, WALKING CRADLES
“Beginning in fall ’18, Walking Cradles answered the requests of customers by launching the Metro Collection line of casual sneakers, available in sizes and widths. It features our removable Tiny Pillows insoles made with non-compacting foam and antimicrobial sueded fabric socks, flexible bottoms and slip-resistant tread. Now, in response to feedback from customer surveys, online reviews and social media, for spring ’20, we’re launching Metro +, which takes the comfort features up a notch by increasing arch support, adding additional contouring to the heel cup for more stability, while incorporating dual-density foam into the footbed to maintain bounce-back much longer than memory foam.”
ALISON BERGEN, CEO, AEROSOLES
“We’re excited about the spotlight sneakers bring to the casualization of women’s wardrobes and the importance of comfort right now. We’re expanding our assortment to include active-inspired looks with features including removable footbeds, arch support, extra memory foam and strobel constructions that allow for more flexibility. We’re also [adding] lightweight cup soles and stretch upper materials that are recyclable and breathable, along with sporty perfed uppers. These looks offer options for our customer’s multifaceted lifestyle today.”
GREG TUNNEY, GLOBAL BRAND PRESIDENT, HUSH PUPPIES
“We’re seeing the morphing and evolution of the traditional casual brands becoming more athletic inspired, and the athletic brands are moving into more casual styles. [However], we’re not designing ‘performance athletic’ footwear and trying to outdo those brands. Instead, we can take the performance aesthetics in the marketplace and interpret them into casuals and sneaker designs. In our Body Shoe collection of athletic-inspired looks, we’re doing smart-looking sneakers, which our consumers call weekend casuals and activewear, that can be worn with jeans and yoga pants.”
JAMES ROWLEY, PRESIDENT, MEPHISTO USA
“There’s no question the brown shoe market got a wake-up call from the sneaker business. However, it’s also created lots of opportunities for [brands] to build a hybrid business and take advantage of the trend. Mephisto doesn’t build its sneakers the way a sport company does. Our sneakers are traditional brown shoes in disguise. While a sneaker may not be acceptable in the workplace, hybrid styles such as our men’s Thomas sneaker are. These styles are built with quality craftsmanship but offer a more sport-casual look. This has quickly become our strongest category, even though priced higher than a typical sneaker at $250.”
SCOTT CATES, PRESIDENT OF SALES, ALEGRIA
“When Alegria by PG Lite was born 12 years ago, it was our comfort and wellness technology that put us on the map. We now have introduced athleisure-inspired styles under the Traq by Alegria label, which has the Alegria DNA of slip-resistant outsoles and removable footbeds. Every pair features our exclusive Q-chip technology designed to support those who incorporate wellness into their daily lives by tracking their steps with our free smart phone app. Being connected to the medical community, we’ve seen growth with athleisure styles in the workplace, which now have become staple items.”
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