With the prospect of winter ahead of us, sneakerheads are shivering at the thought of having to shelve their grails in favor of more functional footwear. Given that some of the biggest sneaker brands are rolling out their best-selling sneakers with the addition of full-on winterized toolings – more than just Nike’s FW15 Sneakerboots – we decided to create a checklist to help you pick out the best pair of winter sneakers.
Kevin Reid – who heads up Livestock‘s clothing line illustrated example – is an industrial designer who previously worked with Norse Projects and Native Shoes. Given that we’re currently plummeting into the freezing depths of winter, Reid is just the person to speak to for some advice on buying winter-ready kicks.
“The best winter footwear integrates technical solutions for waterproofing, durability, insulation, breathability, grip, support and weight regulation,” Reid told us. “Most examples of performance footwear have adopted synthetics over natural materials, as they provide more resilient, engineered performance at a better price point. Traditionally, winter footwear has been chunky and stiff, with performance features that are arguably too extreme for daily use. With winterized sneakers, we tend to get more flexibility, a softer ride and a more streamlined silhouette.”
With that in mind, here are five essential factors to look for if you’re thinking about picking up a pair of winter kicks.
As far as protection from the weather, traditional sewing techniques result in a seam with small openings and cracks for water to seep through. Bonded seams, also known as sealed seams, results in a sealed connection between two fabrics. This is particularly useful with laminated waterproof fabrics, where the seams are sealed for 100% waterproofing.
Waterproof fabrics sewn together will allow small amounts of water to creep through the seams, while bonded seams prevent this. Bonded seams can also reduce bulk and provide a much cleaner aesthetic.
A good winter sole consists of a healthy distribution of rubber and lugged treads which are capable of clawing through wet, slippery and icy ground without collecting dirt.
There are plenty of effective options when it comes to winterized soles. Welted mountaineering boots, such as those from Diemme, typically use a rubber-composite sole (often from a third party specialist such as Vibram or XL), which is stitched to the upper with one of many welting techniques, the most popular choices being Goodyear, stitch-down or Norwegian welt.
Welting gives you the ability to simply pick the stitch to remove/replace a shoe’s outsole, so you can spend years working in the perfect leather upper and just replace the sole after it has worn out.
Because of the shorter product lifetime of synthetics, the popular option for sneakerboots and modern winter performance shoes is to glue the outsole/midsole to the upper with waterproof adhesives.
Originally used in wetsuits to regulate body temperature in cold waters, Neoprene has become a popular choice for in-socks, linings and shoe collars in today’s sneaker industry.
In winterized sneakers, Neoprene is especially useful for creating warmth and a snug fit. Because the mid-layer is rubber, the fabric holds out water. It’s less popular in performance shoes because the lack of breathability can make for pretty stinky kicks. In some cases, perforations are made in the mid-layer to add breathability.
GORE-TEX – along with other brands like Polartec and eVent – specializes in waterproof, breathable membranes. The functional component of these fabrics is a thin plastic membrane, often laminated to work with a fabric and backing of your preference. The membrane features micro perforations, big enough to allow hot air and water vapor molecules to escape, but small enough to prevent water and cold wind creeping in.
There are more obstacles, obstructions and distractions on the streets in the winter. Whether it’s due to snow, rain, ice or simply darker skies, visibility becomes a big issue for those braving the outdoors in the colder months.
There are different ways of applying reflective detailing to footwear, but the reflective technology is generally the same. Thousands of tiny glass beads acting like small mirrors are applied to the face of a material. When a ray of light hits these glass beads, the light is reflected in thousands of different directions.
For casual winter footwear that balances technical detailing with stylish silhouettes, winterized sneakers and sneakerboots are a great choice. They won’t last as long as a pair of mountaineering boots, but they should provide adequate protection from the elements for a couple of seasons.
This emerging footwear category has succeeded in bringing lighter, more streamlined footwear to the market at a reasonable price point, with a high level of protection, comfort and flexibility.
“Personally, I love gear that adapts and shapes to the user. Investing in a good pair of welted leather boots like the Diemme Roccia Vets or Yuketen Guide Boots is worth every penny. With that being said, I like to change things up daily and there’s tons of great winterized product out there. In addition, I’m a sucker for aggressive, technical silhouettes on footwear, so I’ve been nerding out with the stealth Nike Huarache Utilitys and some of the insulated adidas Boost silhouettes, too.”
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- Lead Image: Extra Butter