5 Aug 2008
Trail Blazers(HKTDC Fashion - Footwear, Vol 02,2008)
Hiking Shoes & boots
Drawing on advanced technology, today's hiking shoes and boots go the extra mile to provide utmost protection and comfort
With a greater awareness of the importance of healthier lifestyles, hiking as a simple, healthy, affordable pastime is drawing more advocates the world over.
If there's one thing that the serious hiker cannot do without, it's that all-important pair of shoes or boots. Protection and comfort are naturally prime considerations, and Hong Kong manufacturers are on their toes to ensure they meet even the tallest orders from discerning buyers.
For example, Ironsteel Worldwide Ltd offers the aptly-named "Outdry" waterproof hiking boot, model T-654.
"A flexible waterproof membrane is laminated on the inside of the upper to prevent water from getting into the boot," says General Manager Sam Ng. "It also incorporates a Vibram sole, which accommodates all the requirements of the serious hiker and provides excellent ankle protection."
For trekking on rugged ground, the company's lightweight safety shoes are superb choices. "They are sturdy enough to protect one's feet from getting hurt, and yet they are surprisingly light," Mr Ng claims.
Also a hot seller, model T-700 features a four-inch-high upper. "The shoe has a protective toecap that is made of composite materials instead of the metal that is conventionally used. This means the product is lighter than the average safety shoe," Mr Ng explains.
"It also features an anti-torsion ATS outsole of 'triple density', meaning there is a rubber layer, a phylon layer and also an anti-torsion stabilizer in the middle part of the sole," he continues. "The sole is also strengthened with a plate that protects the foot from stones, pebbles, thorns, nails and other on-the-trail perils."
Mr Ng says the company's range of hiking shoes and boots sells for US$30-100 FOB Hong Kong per pair. "We are able to offer boots with a special waterproofing technology that we have developed in cooperation with Italian industrial scientists," he adds. "We use a lot of imported components from Switzerland and Italy, and our boots have a special sole that enhances grip on difficult surfaces."
Mr Ng points to the buoyant market for hiking footwear. "We are experiencing a good sales climate. Our hiking boots are selling well in Italy, Spain, Germany and other parts of the EU. The markets we sell to are fairly traditional and conservative, and they demand dependable footwear for higher elevations."
Sharing the bullish sentiment is Road Mate Int'l Ltd. "The market seems to be in a robust state at present, and we sell mainly to Europe and the US," says Managing Director William Gan. "Because of our background in work and safety shoes, we can offer steel-toecapped models."
Among the company's popular sellers is men's hiking boot model RMSF-920, which features a nubuck/suede upper and a phylon/rubber sole. "The customer can also opt for a steel toecap," Mr Gan advises.
"We source leather from the US, Korea and Taiwan to produce high-quality hiking shoes," he stresses.
Another major hiking shoe supplier is Hau Tai Int'l (FE) Co, whose top-selling products include model HT-29605B. "It has a training-shoe appearance that is likely to appeal to younger as well as older hikers," says Director Gary Lee.
"It may look lightweight but blends sturdiness with flexibility to great effect," he notes, adding that the shoe has an EVA-phylon sole, and a cow suede upper with nylon mesh.
"There is also a yellow trim safety feature," he advises. "This model is a big seller in Europe."
Using materials such as PU and cowhide sourced from the mainland, Hau Tai is encouraged by the healthy state of the market for hiking boots.
"It's good out there," Mr Lee notes. "Hiking is an activity that will never go out of fashion among its core demographics. The good thing about the hiking boots market is that there are no great surprises that require a rapid reconfiguration of production."
Another major manufacturer is Meitac Int'l Enterprise Co Ltd, whose model NA5861 also features yellow strips for safety. "It two-tone charcoal and pale grey coloration looks youthful and trendy but the shoe is also a safe and reliable partner on the hiking trail, as many users have attested," claims Director Mendy Mo.
The shoe features a PU/nubuck upper and a TPR/phylon outsole. Another popular product, model NA6054, has a PU/nubuck upper and a rubber outsole.
Clearly, buyers on the hunting trail for high-quality hiking shoes and boots will find themselves on the right track if they are looking at Hong Kong's offerings.
TEXT BY JACOB WOLFE