When it comes to footwear, Lindsey Lindemulder has her ears – and eyes – to the ground. As VP–brand marketing at Merrell, Lindemulder steers Merrell’s overall brand strategy, tasked to understand both the consumer and how Merrell can be an enticing solution.

It’s become a more dynamic task over recent years as people engage with the outdoors – and outdoors products – in new ways. 

More and more, for instance, Lindemulder sees people hitting the trails in sneakers and trail running shoes, not traditional high-top hiking boots. While an undeniable positive for Merrell, an outdoors brand since 1981 that’s been earning significant buzz in the performance running world of late, it’s a reality other footwear brands recognize as well, forcing Lindemulder to be even more intimately attuned to what’s around the bend to ensure Merrell’s competitiveness.

“We want to be a part of peoples’ lives day in and day out,” she says. 

To accomplish that, Lindemulder and Merrell look to capitalize on three growing trends in performance footwear, particularly trail running footwear.

Trend #1: The continued 

melding of function and fashion 

Many an old-school run shop reminded customers verbally, if not with in-store signage, to avoid buying running shoes based on color. These days, such a suggestion is wishful thinking. Today’s consumers want to marry fashion and function and they expect brands to deliver on both fronts. 

“It feels like a new non-negotiable for consumers,” Lindemulder says.

Trail gear, for example, was long associated with browns, greens and other dark, often uninspiring colors. Category leaders and upstart brands, however, continue pushing aesthetics on high-performance, dialed-in trail running footwear to deliver product that looks as well as it works.

To wit, Merrell’s recently released Agility Peak 5, a signature trail shoe for the brand, features a crisp white colorway called “Cloud” on the men’s side as well as a vibrant yellow-and-red option (HighRise/HighViz) and a bubbly royal blue-and-orange combo (Tahoe/Cloud).

Trend #2: Technological advancements keep coming

To energize and entice customers, Lindemulder expects technical advancements to continue propelling performance running footwear. 

While plates – carbon fiber, TPU and the like – have been all the rage of late, footwear brands will continue to innovate in numerous ways, from foams to materialization to breathability and so on, to push boundaries and hit lofty goals for fit, function and fashion. 

The ongoing campaign for technological innovation in footwear also positions brands to earn a share of the consumer’s tightening wallet, Lindemulder says, as individuals are more likely to spend on products offering something new or highly differentiated as well as versatile.

Trend #3: evolution 

of Gorpcore

“Gorpcore” first entered the fashion lexicon around 2017, a term to describe “the hallmarks of camp gear into [everyday] wardrobes,” according to a story in New York magazine. Think puffer jackets, fleeces and hiking boots walking down a Brooklyn side street or across the college quad. Outerwear designed for outdoor recreation found a home in streetwear. 

And here it stays, albeit evolving, says Lindemulder. 

In footwear, the rushing Gorpcore trend is driving footwear brands to deliver product that is lively, on-trend and fashion forward. It is also positioning run shops to cultivate new potential customers, many of whom might never touch a trail with their new kicks. Such realities are likely to push Gorpcore in new directions as mainstream acceptance of the look swells.