Knit it Up

Brands Weigh in On What Knit Uppers Have to Offer in Outdoor Styles.

Clockwise from top right: Adidas Terrex Free Hiker,MSRP $200. Danner Caprine, MSRP $150. Keen Axis Evo, MSRP $160. Mammut Ducan Knit High GTX, MSRP $249. Oboz Women’s Lynx Mid Waterproof, MSRP $150.  Khombu Jess, MSRP $40

What are the benefits of a knit upper?    

Sam Barstow, Forsake. “The main benefit of a knit upper is that the material is very flexible and stretches to fit your foot for a sock like feel with no break in period. Knit uppers are also lightweight and breathable.”

Giuseppe Ciavarro, The Eastman Group. “Air ventilation, comfort fit (molding to the feet), easy care, machine washable, lightweight for performance, packable, sleek aesthetic, multipurpose.”

Christoph Hühnerbein, Mammut. “Mammut uses knit uppers to improve flexibility as well as durability and to reduce pressure points. In addition to enhanced performance due to abrasion resistance, this technology provides a distinct technical modern look together with the ability to offer specific functional areas.”

Greg Thomsen, Adidas Outdoor. “A knitted upper provides lightweight breathability, stretch and flexibility, ensuring comfort while on long hikes or trail runs. The Primeknit, specifically, has all those qualities, in addition to water repellency for wet terrain. Aesthetically, knitted shoes enable designers to utilize more creative approaches with colors, textures and patterns embracing today’s trends as seen on the runways.”

Mark Matthews, Scarpa. “The benefits of a knit upper include reduced weight, significantly increased breathability, improved packability, simplified shoe construction and the ability to zonally knit the fabric to increase structure in certain areas where needed and reduce in areas where it’s not needed. You can also offer some pretty cool graphic and texture elements in knit uppers to enhance the aesthetics.”

Gabriel Phillips, Danner. “There are quite a number of reasons to utilize engineered knitting, which is why we see it in the market so frequently today. This type of manufacturing makes it possible to incorporate a wide variety of features into a single component. It might have an incorporated tongue, for instance, or designate specific zones with breathable and high abrasion knit patterns, creating a lightweight upper that is both strong yet flexible. All this in a single piece also allows the final product to be made with fewer seams (which are typically weak points). And though it does allow for a wide variety of aesthetics, one of my favorite benefits to knitting is actually in waste reduction. Where typical manufacturing is reductive, cutting smaller shapes out of a larger one, this is an additive process. When a piece is finished being knit, that’s it. Like making a scarf, you just cut the thread at the end. The scrap material leftover is almost nothing.”

Matthew Ross, Body Glove Footwear (Surf9). “It’s extremely comfortable and it dries quickly.”

Blane Conrad, OluKai. “The benefits are endless and more about the end use. When we design a knit we always ask what are people going to wear this shoe for, what’s its purpose, and then we build accordingly. Breathability, lightweight, quick dry, hydrophobic, pattern, endless colors, etc.”

OluKai Makia Ulana Kai, MSRP $130. Custom designed, unlined engineered mesh upper with full-grain leather accents.

Are knit uppers here to stay?

Mark Matthews, Scarpa. “Yes. It is a great new technology when used in the appropriate application.”

Gabriel Phillips, Danner. “As long as there is a real problem that engineered knitting solves for, I think we will continue seeing it in the market beyond fashion trends of the season. Its versatility provides a wide range of uses, which helps create staying power. Though the technology doesn’t do everything, it is a good option to have in the tool box.”

Kristin Herrmann-Ratz, W.L. Gore & Associates. “Yes, many brands are creating knitted soft conformable uppers, it’s a terrific look and there are more options now than in the past. Teams are looking to expand and push knit into areas where it hasn’t been before.”

Greg Thomsen, Adidas Outdoor. “Definitely. Adidas has been designing knitted shoes for many years. We are seeing this trend across the board in the fashion, casual lifestyle and performance categories. Designing shoes with knitted uppers enables product designers to get creative about ways to make products more sustainable, extremely important for consumers as they become more conscious of the products they purchase. Adidas is committed to expanding the use of knit products for both performance reasons and the efficiency of the no-waste knitting process.”

Sam Barstow, Forsake. “Yes, knit uppers are here for good; they’re too comfortable to fade away!”

Giuseppe Ciavarro, The Eastman Group. “Knit is becoming a seasonless staple. It’s only going to get bigger.”

Blane Conrad, OluKai. “There are endless possibilities with knit uppers, so yes, they are here to stay — but constantly evolving. We will continue to push the boundaries on how we engineer, reinforce and what we ask knit uppers to do. At a base level they are extremely comfortable and built for barefoot wear, which is critical to our island lifestyle brand.”

Christoph Hühnerbein, Mammut. “Knitted fabrics will be even more relevant in the future and thus a valid alternative upper material besides leather and woven fabrics. The benefits for the customers are numerous. Mammut will extend its efforts on distinctive knitting styles. Due to technical development and cost optimization the knit upper is already very competitive compared to other options used in footwear manufacturing today.”

Matthew Ross, Body Glove Footwear (Surf9). “Any trend that is both functional and stands out has a good chance to stick around for a long time.”

Body Glove 3T Barefoot Requiem, MSRP $60. The first hydro knit three-toed water shoe from Body Glove, the Spring 2019 Requiem has an ultra-grip outsole, drainage system and zero heel lift.

What type of durability does a knit upper offer in outdoor footwear?

Kristin Herrmann-Ratz, W.L. Gore & Associates. “Knit construction isn’t something we’d recommend to take to Mount Everest, but it’s a terrific option for consumers looking for a versatility in their everyday lives. Consumers are looking for options they can wear to work and then out and about and even into the gym and trails. Light and fast is a common request among consumers and our brand partners are developing with them in mind.”  Gore-Tex’s new 3D fit footwear technology, designed to work with knit and woven uppers, is a waterproof, breathable technology that contours to the shape of the foot (like a sock) and is part of the brand’s Guaranteed to Keep You Dry product brand.

Blane Conrad, OluKai. “Textiles are in general a very durable materialization to work with. Consider all of their different applications in equipment that is designed for safety — harnesses, vests, etc. The great think about a knit upper in footwear is it allows us to cater the type of material used, knit density, stretch characteristics and breathability to the end use of the shoe. Take the Makia Ulana Kai, for example. That shoe is designed to be worn barefoot as a water shoe in hot weather, so the construction of the knit supports that use — sock-like fit with a collar for easy-on-off and comfortable fit, breathable and we used a hydrophobic yarn so water just beads off the exterior of the shoe.”

Christoph Hühnerbein, Mammut. “Mammut uses knitting technology to integrate multiple different structures as well as processing methods and their properties seamlessly into a single elastic fabric to meet the requirements of specific zones of the foot. Additional durable 3D abrasion resistant structures or breathable zones can be added to a shoes construction exactly where needed. Fewer seams guarantee an optimized construction and functionality, reduced friction and maximized freedom of movement increase comfort. In addition, the knit upper offers the same level of color fastness and longevity as for example woven fabrics.”

Sam Barstow, Forsake. “Durability is actually one of the main pain points in using knit textiles in footwear. Outdoor footwear in particular has to be able to withstand a beating and if a thread does fail, a knit upper will unravel. We address this issue in our knit shoes by utilizing durable nylon thread and a thick weave. We also apply no-sew TPU overlays to reinforce the high wear areas around the toe and full grain leather on the heel.”

Mark Matthews, Scarpa. “There is nearly always a tradeoff in sacrificing some durability when going from leather to knit, or woven fabric uppers. Improvements are seen in weight reductions, increased breathability and simplification of construction, but this comes along with the sacrifice of some durability and support.”

Matthew Ross, Body Glove Footwear (Surf9). “The very nature of Body Glove’s line of 3T Barefoot shoes is for robust, active use, in and out of the water. Our hydro knit Requiem shoe can stand up to extensive walking on the shore, paddling, fishing, even an adventure in the woods.”

Scarpa Gecko Air, MSRP $130. For Spring 2019, Scarpa blends an approach-capable outsole with a stretchy, knit sock-like upper. Intended as a lifestyle shoe.

Greg Thomsen, Adidas Outdoor. “The Adidas Primeknit is a form-fitting technology that assures the best fit with the least amount of excess material. The Primeknit material wears like iron and product test have shown it to outlast traditional materials.”

Gabriel Phillips, Danner. “Danner has a long history of durability and we try to continue this commitment to longevity with the introduction of new products and new manufacturing techniques. In the case of the Caprine knit collection, we’ve worked together with our factory and supplier to utilize a particularly high-grade thread in combination with functional textures in the knit pattern itself. This mix provides a very durable upper. When we tested the abrasion capacity of these panels the results were extremely impressive. This makes the end product both easy to wear as an everyday shoe, yet much more functional than a typical athletic piece when taken out for a day hike. It’s a piece that can be trusted, from top to bottom.”

Forsake Men’s Maddox, MSRP $114.95. Hits retail February, 2019. Nylon knit upper and moisture-wicking lining keep feet breezy and cool. Peak-to-Pavement outsole provides steady all-terrain support.