The hiking boom brought on by COVID-19 did more than inspire people to get outdoors. It also led brands to expand their product offering.
York Athletics Mfg., a company rooted in performance with shoes that both training enthusiasts and devoted runners enjoy, delivered its first-ever all-terrain look this week, dubbed the Via. The new model, according to York co-founder Mark McGarry, was influenced by what was happening both in the market and the brand’s community.
“A lot of people were going outside and spending more time training outdoors, but also specifically hiking. Having a sneaker-hiker alternative was something we thought would be cool to add into our training category because the outdoor category was growing and people were getting outside to train because it was safe,” McGarry told FN. “We’ve considered doing trail running in the past, some outdoor version of the Henry [running shoe]. We’ve had that vision for a while. But it was during COVID that we incubated this.”
The look, which McGarry said took 16 months to produce from start to finish, features an increased collar height cut below the ankle for full range of motion, an internal bootie system to dirt and mud out, durable and water-resistant ripstop nylon uppers, molded heel counters to keep the foot secure and natural cork sockliners for moisture management.
Also, the shoe has a sustainability story. It was created alongside sustainable material marketplace Oceanworks, which created the shoe’s upper material from recycled ocean-bound plastics off the coast of Asia. And the Ecostep outsole, which was created by Vibram, is made with at least 30% recycled material.
The brand said the Via is its most sustainable offering to date.
“It checks all the boxes you can imagine,” McGarry said. “It’s a sustainable outdoor sneaker and a nice alternative to hiking boots. You feel like you’re wearing a pair of lightweight running sneakers, but you have stability and security. It’s clean and minimal, and I think a lot of the other hiking sneakers tend to be overdesigned. Part of our intention was to make sure that it maintained a minimal aesthetic.”
York released the Via this week on Yorkathleticsmfg.com with a $185 price tag. The shoe arrived with a predominantly back palette, as well as two colorways created by beloved gymnast Aly Raisman, who became a brand ambassador in May 2019.
“She wants to work on projects that have a purpose. She loves spending time outdoors, she hikes a lot, and she gets peace and calm from the outside world,” McGarry said. “She was intrigued about the sustainability aspect, and having her help spread that word to activate the shoe was part of the plan from day one.”
He continued, “And the colorways we did with her, a lighter pink and a yellow, was her take on it that was a bit more lighthearted, with calming colors in the mix as opposed to the black and the gray we’re used to.”
Looking ahead, McGarry confirmed with FN that new versions of the brand’s Henry and Frank shoes will arrive in spring ’22.