ARTICLE BY Minh Vuong

The Best of the Great Outdoors in Sneakers 2021

Salomon XA Pro

The past two years have seen an uptick in people putting their screens down and rediscovering the great outdoors. The reacquaintance with nature in 2021 was no doubt enhanced by some excellent footwear that brands – big and small – developed to tackle life beyond the city. Sure, some of it was predicated on trend forecasting by the fashion industry’s puppet masters, but there was also a genuine and organic return to a simpler lifestyle – albeit aided by some complex footwear. Here’s the best of what happened outside in the sneaker space this year.

On Running NYSX
On Running NYSX

On Running Hit the NYSX

In just over a decade since their founding in 2010, Swiss brand On reached the achievement of going public on the New York Stock Exchange. A feat achieved back in September, company founders Olivier Bernhard, David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti took 100 runners for a jog along the Hudson River en route to ringing the opening bell at Wall Street.

On’s success has largely been attributed to their Cloud series of footwear, which has been adapted for multiple genres and disciplines. One particular focus area has been hiking and trail shoes that perform on the streets as effectively as they do the uneven terrain they were originally designed for. On is now reportedly worth over $7.3 billion!

,Salomon XA Pro 1

Salomon: Made In France

Salomon are returning footwear manufacturing to their birthplace of France. They’re doing this by opening a fully automated footwear factory near their Annecy HQ, in a first for the country. Known as the Advanced Shoe Factory 4.0 (ASF 4.0), this 10 million-Euro facility is filled with robots along the production line.

ASF 4.0 still have a ways to go before they hit their target of 500,000 pairs manufactured annually – they’re projected to hit 15k by the end of this year – but once the team is scaled up to 50 workers, production rates will hit full steam. The first products from the factory will start hitting the market in spring 2022, and more designs will come in 2023 from factory partners Babolat and Millet.

The North Face VECTIV
The North Face VECTIV

The North Face VECTIV

After witnessing the brand achieve success on the track and field with carbon plate technology, The North Face went to a higher altitude and set out to propel trail running with VECTIV. Built around a carbon plate to give an extra spring in the step, TNF also added a proven rocker sole for better heel to toe transition. And with decades of outdoors experience, it seems they were onto something.

TNF athletes were busy testing the VECTIV tech in 2020 before more mortal trail runners were able to try them out in January this year. From all accounts, runners of all abilities are going off the beaten path more than ever before! Check out our interview with the brand’s Senior Director of Global Footwear, Michael Thompson, here.

adidas Terrex Free Hiker Made to Be Remade

Terrex is Made to Be Remade

Brands are trying to make the outdoors greater by taking more care in how they're manufacturing their products. One consideration adidas have made with their Terrex trail line is how to actually make a shoe more than once. They’re doing this with the aptly named Made to Be Remade range.

Having already created Three Stripes classics like the UltraBOOST and Stan Smith under this product umbrella, the Terrex Free Hiker puts recycled TPU knit to the test on the trail. And with Parley also occasionally coming out of the ocean and onto the mountains, the Terrex series is certainly looking a lot greener.

Nike ACG Air Mowabb 2021 Retro
Salomon ACS Pro Advanced
Merrell Hydro Moc
Reebok Beatnik

Heritage Trail Revival

The extra attention on various brands’ outdoor offerings has resulted in some pulling out their archival off-road classics. Nike ACG is as big as ever in 2021 with anniversary reissues of icons like the Air Mowabb, while Salomon’s new Sportstyle category now houses early-2000s obscurities like the XA PRO 1 and ACS Pro Advanced.

In a similar vein, Merrell have undergone a bit of a sexy rebrand with their 1TRL division, which has successfully introduced the heritage Jungle Moc to the fashion crowd via an Awake NY colab. The Hydro Moc evolution also struck a chord on the streets as it did on the campsite. And speaking of campsite cruising, the Reebok Beatnik ushered in the mulement proper in 2021.

Catch up on the Best of 2021 in sneakers here.

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