Thursday January 22nd, 2015

Arc’teryx knows outdoor apparel. The high-end brand based in North Vancouver, B.C., has made its name on its climbing roots and laminated apparel. But the Amer Sports-owned company sits ready for a new signature. Or shall we call it a footprint? Starting with the spring 2015 line, Arc’teryx launched eight models of footwear, a new foray into the hiking, climbing and technical gear market.

What is it?

Starting research and development in 2012, Arc’teryx was ready for a Spring 2015 line of shoes revolving around two families, the Alpha FL and Bora. A combination of a low-cut technical approach shoe with versatility built in to also be a low-cut hiking shoe, as Federico Sbrissa, Arc’terxy footwear product manager, tells Edge’s Tech Talk, and a mid-cut hiking boot built on the same technologies represents an initial salvo into the technical footwear market.

How does it work?

Known for it laminating abilities, Arc’teryx may have upstaged itself with its Adaptive Fit technology, a separately manufactured inner bootie that works with the four-layer laminated outer for fit, breathability and weather protection.

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Using a Gore-Tex Performance Comfort Stretch membrane for the entire bootie, the construction reduces glue points and removes the tongue, allowing for more breathability and increased waterproof coverage inside the shoe. The liner package stretches and conforms to individual foot shapes to up the level of comfort in a hiking boot.

The outer shell is a seamless one-piece layered with a non-woven treated microfiber for smoothness, a woven textile with PU-coated Nylon yarn for enhanced airflow, a TPU film for support and a high-abrasion TPU film for extra reinforcement. Every layer provides hydrophobic properties for fast drying.

The space between the shell and liner promotes airflow, which helps with breathability.

On the Vibram sole, each product line gets designed for activity-specific movements with high cushioning and three-dimensional rubber components for heel and toe protection from rocks. The lightweight injected EVA foam gets protected thanks to the TPU upper wrapping it on the most exposed areas, which also improves durability.

Why’s it significant?

“The idea was to offer our users a superiors footwear system to allow them full customization experiences, from climate properties to fit,” Sbrissa says.

Once Arc’teryx started its work on liners, they found the stretchable materials not only enhanced the climate protection, but also the ability to conform fit, “being separated from the upper and being so elastic.”

The new way of designing technical outdoor footwear merges the idea of comfort and activity-specific performance.

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What are the implications in the world of outdoor sports?

Arc’teryx has brought in a fleet of new construction methods and materials, such as the TPU films and TPU coated yarns that make up the main upper mesh. Even some of the TPU films and glues used in the lamination prove new, even if the construction process is well known to the company.

“The incredible knowhow of Arc’teryx in lamination technologies,” as Sbrissa says, will also provide an expectation of continued enhancements, especially with a company that knows there’s no point entering a market unless you’re providing a completely new experience.

What are the downsides?

We simply don’t know yet. The new footwear model is just that: new. As the Arc’teryx line moves further into the real world, any needed tweaks will certainly take center stage as Arc’teryx continues the path toward footwear expansion.

Courtesy of Arc'teryx

Who’s using it already?

Arc’teryx has a pocket of fanatical admirers, especially in British Columbia, the world’s capital of rock climbing. From there, the roster of Arc’teryx-signed athletes will prove the avenue for Arc’teryx to expand its reach.

What’s the future of it going forward?

Spring 2015 was just a start. A “unique mountaineering and ice climbing boot” mixing together the footwear technologies developed since 2012 will come in spring 2016. Also expect two new models in the lightweight approach category and a leather version of the Bora boot. And beyond that, Sbrissa says plans are already forming for fall/winter 2016, spring 2017 and even 2018.

“There were very high expectations set from the beginning of the project to deliver something new, never seen before in our industry,” Sbrissa says. “Doing something new in the footwear industry is not very easy.”

Creating a deep footprint in their first effort may prove the toughest challenge in the entire Arc’teryx footwear project.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb

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