Sprinting Into the Future of Footwear Technology

For decades the footwear industry has been focused on style, comfort, durability and basic functionality. These days consumers are looking for more, coming in large part from major trends like the rise of athleisure and the growing popularity of fitness as a lifestyle. The type of extra value these consumers are seeking will be provided by footwear manufacturers that incorporate “smart” textiles and wearable technology.

As for investors the takeaway is pretty clear:  Footwear companies need to have a vision as to how they will bring their products into the future and give consumers exactly what they want. The manufacturers that are on the cutting edge of material science and consumer research will be able to deliver winning products and consistent financial performance.

Let’s look at some specific examples of what the future of footwear might look like, based on what we’re seeing in the product pipeline today.

rise of ‘smart’ footwear

The athleisure and athletic wear categories are dominating the footwear market’s growth. Research from the NPD Group showed that U.S. consumers spent $323 billion on apparel, footwear and accessories in 2014, which was a 1 percent increase over 2013. That translated to about $2 billion worth of growth in these product areas. A big part of that increase is coming from “smart” products that improve performance and augment the user’s lifestyle.

Smart footwear – and smart textiles in general – go beyond the basic fabrics and materials and offer some kind of performance-enhancing aspect to the product. For example, some new materials offer odor-neutralizing properties. Others light up when the wearer’s body temperature reaches a certain point. Now, we’re seeing footwear with embedded sensors that can track distance traveled, calories burned and other biometric data.

In a recent article, Geek featured some of the most exciting innovations in the footwear world –the kinds of designs that will in all likelihood become standard features in several footwear categories. Take the new Shift Sneakers for example. One of the biggest problems people have is matching their sneakers to the outfit they want to wear. Shift Sneakers are made from a material that can change itself to reflect different wavelengths of light. With an accompanying app, you can change the colors of specific areas of the sneaker to help you match whatever you’re wearing.

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