When the mountains are steep, the days are long and the rain and snow won't stop, dedicated athletes reach for footwear made with the GORE-TEX brand's waterproof, breathable membrane.
In the past, that meant big, burly mountaineering or hiking boots with thick soles, ankle support and construction built to handle abuse at the far corners of the earth.
But what do you reach for when the rain and snow won't stop, the days are just as long but it's the urban jungle that stretches out as far as the eye can see? That question got Gore engineers and product developers like Kirk Christensen, Running Footwear Product Specialist, thinking about how to bring the big-mountain performance of GORE-TEX product technology to the roads and trails their customers use every day.
We have a strong focus on 'end use,'and based on that, we ask what expectations customers will have on waterproof protection and climate comfort performance."
"We have a strong focus on 'end use,'" said Christensen, "and based on that, we ask what expectations customers will have on waterproof protection and climate comfort performance."
The end result for all of this end use: GORE-TEX Extended Comfort, a footwear laminate for all kinds of non-insulated shoe uppers. Extended Comfort product technology maximizes heat and moisture-transfer, which means shoes that are both waterproof and breathable. The ability to combine both of these assets in a non-insulated shoe opens the door for high-performance daily footwear incorporating mesh and synthetics as well as the more traditional leather. Sure, hunters will appreciate the waterproofing and breathability of their camouflage hunting boots, but so will daily commuters and flyweight road runners.
"Running is a great example of a use with elevated levels of perspiration," said Christensen, "and the Extended Comfort laminate facilitates the highest amount of perspiration and heat removal."
And as running and casual shoes approach the functionality of hiking boots, manufacturers are keying in on the potential benefits of a mixed-material construction for activities that might've previously been associated only with the most rugged footwear options.
"We're seeing a market trend where outdoor and hunting styles are becoming more athletically inspired," said Christensen, "so it makes sense that we see more styles designed with Extended Comfort."
Once again, it's about "end use." "The GORE-TEX brand is part of the larger shoe system itself," said Christensen, and that means each and every evolutionary step in GORE-TEX product technology—Extended Comfort included—begins and ends with the outdoor enthusiast, walking commuter, or running addict in mind.
As footwear brands incorporate Extended Comfort into their lines, Gore's technical consultants—who share the same wide-ranging interests and lifestyles as their customers—work with manufacturers to develop solutions for consumers' evolving needs. The focus, as always, is not just the shoe itself, but who will be using it, and how.