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Trail Runners Have Officially Replaced (Certain) Boots, Rabbit Launches Running Shoes & More On Unisex Sizing

Let's dip into the grab bag!

Today Colin answers a listeners email and addresses comments about unisex sizing as well as addressing their concerns regarding a recent interaction they had with a notable boot brand.

Lastly, Colin gives his thoughts on the recent news that Rabbit Running has entered the running footwear space.

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Episode Transcript

Colin (00:00):

Welcome to the Rock Flight where we speak out truth, slay sacred cows and sometimes agree to disagree. This is an outdoor podcast that aims for the head. I'm Colin Tru, and today it's a grab bag of outdoor topics that have been rattling around inside my head. Recently we're going to hit a listener email as well as tackle another story I heard about on a different podcast entirely. But before we get to that, here is your to-Do List First, subscribe to the show, wherever you're listening. Then rate the show five stars please. After that, leave a quick comment or review on the podcast app where you are listening and are now subscribed. And lastly, head over to rock and sign up for our newsletter. Look, I know that sounds like a lot, but the team here at Rock Fight is pumping out these episodes for your listening pleasure. All you have to do is support the shit out of us and we appreciate each of you for checking out this show and the good work we're doing Alright, that's it. Let's start. The show comes

Chris DeMakes (00:53):

You rock fight, rock fight, rock fight.

Colin (00:58):

Okay. Just the other day I got an email from a listener named Wayne and Wayne wrote in on a couple of subjects and he touched on one I wanted to address because ever since we put out an episode a few weeks back where apparel designer Michelle Rose and I talk about unisex exercising. I've had a few interactions on the subject of unisex exercising, so this was a perfect opportunity to address it here on the show. So in his email, Wayne writes, my wife and I enjoy the rock flight, especially on our way to or from the Trailhead. It's like listening to talk radio without the politics. Thanks Wayne and Wayne's wife. That's really what we're going for over here. He goes on, but that's not why I am throwing a sizable rock in your specific direction. My wife and I are in our sixties. We remember when 99.9% of gear was made for men.

(01:43)It took a long time for women's specific packs, climbing harnesses, sleeping bags, et cetera to hit the market too long. My wife now has women's specific packs and sleeping bags and she likes that gear is made for a woman's body. Gear and clothes that fit her don't fit me and vice versa. It's not just the size, height and weight, it's body shape, something about hips and breasts. Our bodies are different. Look, if you're wearing outdoor clothing walking your dog or hanging out at the bar, fine unisex exercising might work for you if you're actually on belay or 10 miles into your run. You want active wear designed for your body. That's why a company as inclusive as Patagonia still makes men's and women's clothing. You can be inclusive and gender affirming without throwing out decades of progress in clothing design. Feel free to throw a rock back at me.

(02:26)I have a vibranium shield for such an occasion. Wayne, is your name Wayne? Is it Steve Rogers? Maybe Sam Wilson. Okay. Well first off, again Wayne, thanks for the email. Like I said, I've heard about this from a couple of folks, so happy to jump back into the topic of unisex sizing because there's a common thing when we don't fully understand something and we take it to a logical conclusion. And from what I've learned, that's kind of what's happening here with unisex sizing. I'll fully admit that when I heard about unisex sizing, I did the exact same thing. When brands introduced gender specific footwear, clothing and gear like Wayne and his wife experienced, that was a really big deal and I don't think there's anyone who wants to go backwards on something like that, but as I understand it, unis excising wouldn't be taking something away or eliminating men's and women's.

(03:12)It would be in addition to generally speaking, for a long time, active brands really only have had a handful of body types in mind when designing their products. Until recently, if you didn't fit into the mold of a skinny or super fit person, it would be tough to find products to support an active lifestyle. From what I understand, adding unisex exercising would simply increase options. I'm sure there are and will be brands who go exclusively with unisex sizing, but I can't picture a world where that's the only option from every brand. Even if you look at backline, which was the brand that was highlighted by i's blog that inspired the episode of the rock fight that we're talking about. They offer men's and women's specific bottoms, their unisex size garments are their tops where instead of men's and women's, they offer two options called contoured and straight cut performance that are more personal to body shape regardless of gender.

(04:03)Like I said, when I heard about unisex sizing for performance garments, my eyebrow raised in a dubious manner, but then I learned that there are real practical applications for consumers and like we discussed in the original episode manufacturing as well. But the way that Wayne brings it up in his email is understandable and I'd encourage everyone to dig a little deeper on the topic and seek out the brands and goods that are already out there using unisex sizing to see that we're not losing anything and that some folks are actually gaining a lot from a development like this. Okay, let's move on to our second topic from the grab bag and it's also from Wayne. Wayne and Wayne's wife are just straight killing it and you can too send your emails and questions and feedback to my rock Okay. Also in Wayne's email, he raised some concerns around a recent experience he had with Boot Maker VAs.

(04:46)So Wayne writes, I bought a pair of Vask Men's Breeze LT, GTX boots, great boots, but the sole was wearing through. I reached out to VASc about getting the boots resold. They said, we do not offer repairs at our warehouse on the VAs line for any potential repair options. We recommend contacting our authorized VASc repair shop Dave Page, who I believe is in Seattle, if I'm not mistaken. Anyway, Wayne contacted Dave Page and he said that The Breeze is not a Resoleable model, and he goes on to write first. It is rather pathetic that Vast could not answer the question. And second, the boots next stop after I'm finished with them is the landfill. Too much of the gear we buy is designed to fail. Houdini and Patagonia are trying to make headway on this with clothing, but I don't see much happening with hard goods.

(05:32)Again, Wayne, thank you for the email and thank you for listening to the show. So on this one, it's funny that I got this email from Wayne because literally today I had a conversation with Justin Hausman about what we're doing about, let's call them soft hiking boots or shoes. Not that long ago, running shoes were almost entirely road shoes. Trail running didn't really start to gain traction as a category until about the early two thousands. And even then a lot of early trail runners were innovates and montrel and those were burly shoes. So your trail choices were basically running shoes like asics, softer boots from a brand like Merrill or a full grain leather boot, like a vast Sun downer. Since then, trail runners have grown exponentially to the point where I don't really know why anyone would prefer to wear that mid-tier soft boot anymore, even though there are plenty of brands that play in that category like Keen Obos and even Hoka and on Have Boots.

(06:23)Now on a recent gear and beer episode of the Rock Fight, Justin talked about his affinity for hiking in Boots, specifically full grain leather, hiking boots that you have to break in and you can get them resold. And it made me reflect about that middle of the Pact Soft Hiking boot because trail runners have supplanted the need for those boots, the vast breezes that Wayne bought, the Merrill Moabs, the Keen Tars, the Oboes bridgers. All of those boots at this point seem like overbuilt trail runners. That means they come with all of the same disposable qualities that running shoes come with as Wayne found out when he tried to do the right thing with his vast breezes. Now, before you write into my rock to defend your love for light hiking boots, which you should absolutely do, by the way, I'm not judging your preferences.

(07:04)These brands continue to make all of these shoes so clearly there are consumers who want to buy them. But guys, this is simply another good example of too much stuff in the industry. I'm sorry, call me a broken record. But the amount of categories and brands and styles on the outdoor footwear wall has grown and most of them have grown towards the end of the spectrum that is pretty much disposable. If you want to wear a boot, get something that you might have to drop north of $300 on, but it'll last you more than 20 years and can be resold, that $300 sounds like a lot, but you're currently spending $180 on something that only lasts a few years. So do the math. If you want something more athletic, just catch yourself a pair of trail runners and to all the footwear brands out there making boots or even trail runners for that matter, please immediately pivot to making them resoleable.

(07:51)Maybe shoes won't decompose in a landfill, but I bet we can make the ones we're currently making last a hell of a lot longer. Okay, the last thing in the grab bag today is the news that came out last week and I heard it on Dylan Bowman's podcast. That rabbit running has made a shoe. If you're not familiar, rabbit Running is a running apparel brand based in Santa Barbara, California, and they're a really cool story. Over the past 10 years, the founders grew the brand out of a specialty run shop Santa Barbara running, and they have found a really loyal following the last few years of my running life, I exclusively wore their shorts and I still wear those shorts when I go hiking. So while I'm sure you know what I'm about to tell you and offer my opinion on Rabbit running launching shoes, I want you to know I think they're a super cool and authentic brand that is actively making the running space and by default, the larger outdoor space better through what they make.

(08:39)I love small brands making cool products to serve a specific audience, and while yes, they definitely have some extraneous items in their apparel line, but I mean who doesn't, for the most part, what they make is focused on runners. I'm sure eventually they'll sell the brand to some big parent that will try and blow them up, but for now they are super cool for that reason that they're still independently owned and under the direction of a small group of folks with a specific vision. I'm not willing to totally bet against them in this footwear endeavor. But that said, do I think they should be making shoes? No. Their shoe is called the Dream Chaser, and if you compare it to other first generation shoes from brands that are now well established, it actually looks pretty good. It's simple. It has some modern footwear sensibilities. Aesthetically, it probably has a little too much of that Sketcher's basic big box vibe with a heavy dose of Hoka in them, but nothing that can't be improved on.

(09:32)So I don't think they should enter footwear for several reasons. First, like I've talked about before, it's hard to expand into new categories even when on paper it's a perfect fit. This morning I made a few insider calls of some rep and retail friends and they all confirmed what I was thinking. Mostly that selling these to other retailers is going to be hard. Typically, and I understand I'm casting a wide net here. Buyers are more open to giving a new apparel brand a try more so than a footwear brand. I mean, it's simply a question of real estate. You can usually clear out an arm of a four-way a lot easier than you can gamble, punting a shoe off your shoe wall for an unproven brand. Ideally, you would also bring a retailer, a new technology story, something that isn't currently available on your shoe wall, as well as multiple styles and multiple colors within those styles.

(10:18)Way back when I was tech wrapping and I'd walk into a retailer and see only one Dingleberry, Timberland on their shoe wall, lost in a sea of other brands, all of whom had two to six different models to give customers a bunch of choices. It was like I could see the grim reaper hovering just behind my one lonely shoe unless we somehow talk these folks into carrying just a few more of our styles than the end was coming. It just hadn't arrived yet. And who knows, maybe they simply want to sell directly to consumers, but based on what I know about footwear manufacturing minimums, that seems like it would be a poor strategy. Last thing here, rabbit running is beloved. The folks I spoke to this morning also made sure they mentioned how much they love the brand and praise their bottoms specifically. There really aren't that many brands out there with a high approval rating like Rabbit carries.

(11:03)And I tell you that for several reasons. For one, it's why I wouldn't 100% bet against them when it comes to shoes. But secondly, it's also why I'm doubtful because this is a brand that everyone loves. It's easy for them to lull themselves into thinking that becoming a shoe brand won't be that tough. And third, and lastly, what's wrong with being the best running apparel brand? The battle to become a shoe brand is going to be long and costly. Even if you absolutely crush it, it will still be long and costly or you could just continue to be the fucking best at making running clothes. But I suppose that ship has sailed because the dream chaser is on its way. So more to come on that front once we all get to see the shoe and try it ourselves. Alright, that's the show for today. I cannot wait to get your feedback on all of this. Send it on over to my rock The Rock Bite is a production of Rock Fight LLC. Check out more amazing where you can sign up for our weekly newsletter news from the front. I'm Colin True. Thank you for listening and here to take us out. He's the lucky one. He's getting out of here, but he may freeze in the last days of summertime. It's Krista Makes with the Rock Fight Fight song will see you next time. Rock fighters. Rock

Chris DeMakes (12:12):

Fight, rock fight. Rock fight, rock fight, rock fight. Rock fight. Here we go into the rock fight where we speak our truth, stay sacred cows and sometimes agree to disagree. We talk about human power and outdoor activities and backs about topics that we find interesting like my culture, music, the latest movie reviews. And in for the head, this is where we speak our truth. This is where we speak our truth to. Welcome to the.


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