The headlines don’t lie. It is hot. This spring has been the warmest ever recorded in the U.S., but Columbia has something cool in store for Spring ’13. The active outdoor brand is debuting its Omni-Freeze Zero, a line of apparel that becomes cooler in hot, moist conditions and is incorporating the technology into footwear.
The technology is the culmination of a four-year effort. Visible blue rings are injected with cooling polymers. When the material comes in contact with sweat, the rings swell and create an instant cooling sensation. “We see sweat as a renewable resource that will allow athletes, outdoor enthusiasts or anyone that spends time in hot, humid conditions to sweat smarter, staying more comfortable,” says Mick McCormick, executive vice president.
“Feet sweat more than any part of the body,” adds Columbia Vice President of Global Footwear Merchandising, Mark Nenow. “It made perfect sense to bring the technology to footwear.” The first shoe to get the Omni-Freeze Zero treatment is the Powerdrain Cool ($90), the latest edition to Columbia’s expanding Drainmaker line. The line, which debuted three seasons ago, is near and dear to the product development team’s heart and one that Nenow says is improving with age thanks in part to the company’s hybrid, multi-use approach to design. “We work on products for ages and one of the things we realized in the first run of the Drainmaker is that it was a little too vulnerable in the forefoot. Since people are using the shoe for a number of uses, we wanted to reduce vulnerability and give the design a more protective and hybridized outsole,” he explains.
These days the end use is in the eye of the user, says Nenow. “It’s not determined by the shoe wall, or by what we say it is,” he explains. With multiple uses in mind, the company is also taking steps to expand the line with new styles. In addition to the Powerdrain Cool and the flagship model, the Drainmaker 2 ($85), Columbia will bow a lightweight, high performance Drainmaker Sock ($75) that Nenow describes as the “ultimate triathlete shoe” constructed with a one-piece sock upper and an easy-to-wear casual moc, the Drainmaker Slip ($70).
The new and improved Drainmaker line also includes a retooled midsole. “We’ve enhanced drainability and air flow by increasing the amount of portholes and the size of them by about a third from the first collection,” Nenow reports. Designers also dialed in on midsole foams for “awesome cushioning, comfort and durability.”
Those performance features will be offered for kids for the first time in Spring ’13, too. Nenow says there was a huge outcry for kids’ Drainmakers, especially as more families hit the trails and summer camps increase in popularity.