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Topline Magazine | January 23, 2018

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Gore-Tex Reinvents the Breathable Waterproof Shoe

Charles Watkins

Gore introduces Surround technology for shoes

Twenty-five footwear brands debuted more than 50 new styles at the Outdoor Retailer Show this winter, all of which were designed to incorporate Gore-Tex’s new Surround technology, which is aimed at boosting breathability without compromising waterproofing in both casual and performance footwear.  We recently had a chance to check a few leading examples of these shoes from Salewa, Zamberlan,La Sportiva and more at Gore Surround Road-Show in downtown Denver, Colorado.  Suffice it to say that Surround works as advertised – in fact better.  It’s almost like wearing sandals they’re so windy underneath the foot.  (Look for a full product review from Topline soon).

Few innovations have transformed performance clothing and footwear as much as Gore’s permeable fabric membrane, Gore-Tex.  Invented in 1969, it was designed to repel liquid water while allowing water vapor to pass through while being lightweight and durable enough for all-weather use.  But, as with any product, external factors have had varying effects on that legendary breathability in shoes.  In particular, the footbed of a shoe has the ability to act as a barrier to Gore-Tex’s abilities.  Enter “Surround,”  the first major innovation in shoe breathability since they invented the genre.

The engineers at Gore imagined a new footbed that sits in between your foot and the bottom surface of the shoe.  One that is still breathable, still waterproof, and comfortable enough for daily use.  What they came up with is just this side of a modern marvel.  This new footbed compliments the Gore-Tex membrane that is still used to envelope the rest of the foot for all surface protection. Put together, sweat can now escape through the GORE-TEX laminate positioned in the underside of the shoe and into the open structure of the mesh-like Surround footbed– and from there out of the shoe via several vents positioned both underneath and low in the shoe sides.

“Keep in mind about one third of the body’s sweat glands are located on the soles of our feet,” says Global Product Specialist for Gore-Tex Outdoor Footwear, Marc Peikert.

“While normally, hiking shoes are completely enclosed beneath the foot, GORE-TEX SURROUND quickly channels sweat away from the feet in addition now through an open, patented construction below the foot. Excess moisture and heat can escape not only through the upper construction, but also downwards below the foot, and then laterally, resulting in dry feet. And dry feet make you feel better and reduce the risk of blisters and chaffing.”

“Footwear developers have been working hard to better address consumer’s needs for waterproof protection for activities like hiking where people have to deal with, and want to be prepared for, various ground conditions,” continued Peikert. “Consumers know that you need to be protected with your hiking footwear from morning dew, puddles, or sudden weather changes in the mountains as these conditions can challenge boots and shoes and for sure affect their comfort. Even a shorter hiking experience should not be impacted through the unpleasant feeling that comes from wet feet on what would otherwise be a great day.”

Several favorite brands in North America including LaSportiva, Mammut, Salewa, Scarpa, and Zamberlan are producing outdoor footwear with SURROUND technology this spring.