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Lighter, more sustainable, better: trends for footwear and soft equipment in spring/summer 2024

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Where is the journey for shoes and soft equipment heading in Spring/Summer 2024? Clearly to more lightness, according to Louisa Smith, internationally recognized textile and fashion expert. She asked brands at OutDoor by ISPO and gives an outlook on the coming season.

Louisa Smith is a globally recognized textile and fashion expert. Her innovative spirit and expertise make her a sought-after opinion leader in the textile industry - also in the sports and outdoor sector. She is a leading jury member for the Textrends Awards and presents them once a year at ISPO Munich. Louisa also supports the team around the ISPO Award with a sustainability check and checks the sustainability info of relevant products - for more transparency and real change in the sports world.

Wherever you look, the focus for sports and outdoor brands in the footwear and soft equipment segment for spring/summer 2024 is on creating particularly lightweight products. Consumers can look forward to this, because performance, fit and sustainability are not neglected thanks to exciting innovations in materials and design - a win-win situation.

The trend towards lightness could already be observed a few years ago, but now it has reached all areas, including clothing, footwear and soft equipment, from backpacks to tents. The industry is also focusing on sustainable sourcing and the use of recycled and responsibly produced materials - for a low CO₂ footprint, less waste, PFC-free materials and recyclable products.

Camping but in light

From jackets to tents - everywhere is getting lighter and this benefits everyone from casual adventurers to professionals. For consumers, it's a win-win situation, because less weight means more functionality and more comfort.

As much fun as outdoor and camping equipment is, the weight of all the equipment often spoils the fun. Nordisk breaks new ground and offers a camping set that weighs only one kilo. It consists of a tent, a mat and a sleeping bag and still ensures that you stay warm and dry.

Featherweight backpacks

Bach is also following the trend towards lightness with a camping set, but also with the Dr. Expedition Duffle Bag, which is not only lightweight but also extremely spacious. The bag is part of the "Re-source by Bach" label, with which the brand only identifies products that are made of at least 50 percent recycled or bio-based material - in the case of the Dr. Expedition Duffle Bag, the entire bag is made of 100 percent recycled polyester outer material.

A backpack you can barely feel? Millet's Trilogy Sky 25 + has a capacity of 25 liters and weighs just 0.66 kg. The outer shell is made of Dyneema, a composite material that is stronger than steel and makes the backpack lightweight, but also incredibly robust at the same time.

Osprey celebrates its 50th anniversary with backpacks that focus not only on fit and finish, but also the fiber. The Talon Earth collection is made from Rain Ocean Nylon, which is derived from recycled fishing nets. Daylite Earth is made from recycled polyester sourced from ocean PET bottles.

Lowe Alpine has designed the AirZone Ultra ND26, a streamlined, minimalist and very slim hiking backpack specifically for women. The ventilated carrying system makes it perfect for fast hikes and ultra-light summer activities. The main material is made of 100% recycled Ocean Nylon from rain, made from used fishing nets, and also has a fluorocarbon-free DWR coating.

Lowe Alpine_AirZone Ultra ND26
Lightweight and adapted to wearers: the AirZone Ultra ND26.
Image credit:
Lowe Alpine

3D printing and innovative materials for extremely lightweight shoes

For the shoes, Merrell has found the perfect compromise between functionality, lightness and performance. For the MTL Long Sky 2 Matryx trail running shoe, the brand uses a combination of sustainable 37.5 Technology and an innovative thermoregulation material derived from natural minerals for the inner lining. For the upper, Merrell has collaborated with Chamatex to develop a single-layer Matryx woven textile that is reinforced with Kevlar. The Kevlar threads ensure that the shoe does not stretch too much, so the foot is well fixed - for a good feeling on the trail and a breathable shoe.

Merrell has incorporated single-layer Kevlar into the upper.
Image credit:

To achieve the right balance between weight, performance and durability, especially strength, little things count. Simply making an existing shoe or backpack "light" doesn't work - it requires rethinking, from fiber to end product, to apply the right technology. While the focus in the process is on weight reduction, performance, sustainability and creativity must not be limited as a result.

Hezo implements this challenge through 3D digital printing, in the Cycling Shoes the 3D outer layer is individually adapted to the feet of the athlete. The lining is created through a 3D knitting process. Cyclists who have tested the shoe report that the Hezo Cycling Shoe manages both: a firm fit for power transfer and a very light weight.

The lightweight Dolomite Carezza WP is a versatile shoe for everyday use, such as travel and outdoor activities. It is made in collaboration with Responsible Sports Initiate (RSI), which aims to improve the social and environmental conditions in which products are manufactured and distributed.

Spring/Summer 2025: It goes on easily

The trend towards lightness is also evident in the ISPO Textrends, especially in soft equipment such as backpacks, where particularly exciting innovations are being submitted. Brands are increasingly using recycled plastics, developing new materials and recyclable alternatives. This is supported by lightweight, extremely strong yarns. A challenge on the topic of lightness in footwear? Moisture management and thermal regulation.

Brand Hoyu has developed NEUCYCLE, a technology in which the fibers are shredded and wrapped with a recycled TPU film. The major advantage is that non-mono fabrics, which are normally difficult to recycle because they are blended fabrics, can be returned to the circular economy.

Recycled polyvinyl and recycled polyester are used in EPO in a unique mesh construction. Tianfu takes regeneration to a new level by using "fish silk," a fiber made from mussel shells. This can be used for backpacks, for example.

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