Innovative materials are a key factor in the outdoor equipment sector – W.L. Gore leads the field
If you ask someone from our sector to name one of the major innovations relating to the materials used for outdoor clothing and shoes, the answer given almost always is: “membrane technology”. W.L Gore leads the market in the development and application of this technology.
And as innovations will be a major issue addressed at the European Outdoor Summit – with among others the keynote from best-seller author Max McKeown focusing on this subject – we have grasped this opportunity and Achim Löffler, Global business leader for GORE-TEX® footwear from W.L. Gore will be giving an entertaining talk on the significance of innovations for the company and its success:
1. What role does innovation play in Gore’s company philosophy?
Gore is a technology-driven company, has Product Leadership as a defining philosophy, and is focused on discovery and product innovation. Well known for waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX® fabric, the company’s portfolio includes everything from high-performance fabrics and implantable medical devices to industrial manufacturing components and aerospace electronics. For each division in the company innovation and the delivery of great products is a key strategic objective.
2. Despite being widely used from many of the best footwear companies, you just launched a new technology especially for this segment. When and how did the process start?
The GORE-TEX®brand has its roots in outdoor activities in which people participate to enjoy life and explore their surroundings. These activities include not only climbing and mountaineering but also what is widely understood with then term “hiking” – the perfect sport for people who prefer taking moderate exercise in unspoiled countryside rather than going to extremes. It was for this wide target group of hiking enthusiasts that we developed our new GORE-TEX® SURROUND™ product technology. It is durably waterproof, but also breathable all-around – a world first for hiking shoes.
We started with the development a few years ago, at a time as we launched the GORE-TEX® SURROUND™ technology for the casual area. We were wondering: is there an unmet need in the hiking area too? And indeed: as a result of market research we identified that there is quite a big number of consumers who would appreciate more breathable yet waterproof hiking shoes especially for warmer conditions. That was the initial start to develop the GORE-TEX® SURROUND™ technology for hiking – which is by the way a completely different technical solution than the one for the casual area driven by different needs of very different enduses. (casual vs hiking)
3. What is the difference to former technologies and how did you ensure that it is ready for the market?
Shoes with the new GORE-TEX® SURROUND™ technology feature GORE-TEX® laminates developed to be integrated into the shoe upper and completely surround the foot – on all sides. What makes them so distinctive is that they are not only as durably waterproof as any other GORE-TEX® product, they also allow for breathable all-around.
The centerpiece of the new technology is a special new construction under the foot. Sweat can also escape through the GORE-TEX® laminate positioned in the underside of the shoe into the open structure of the “spacer” – and from there out of the shoe via side ventilation outlets. This unique construction keeps feet drier because the sweat produced by your feet – about one third of our sweat glands are on the soles of our feet – is transported away from feet faster. Dry feet enhance a sense of well-being and prevent rubbing and painful foot blisters from occurring.
We tested the new technology at an external institute, which executed a scientific, controlled comfort wear tests with test persons in a climate chamber. We also did field tests with mountain guides in outdoor enduses and also specific wear tests only focusing to test the durability of the integrated “spacer.” And finally we tested the new technology in our own labs – in the walking simulator as well as in the centrifuge as or our climate comfort test. And all those have shown: the GORE-TEX® SURROUND® is working and delivering a benefit for the consumer. Together with 25 of the worldwide leading outdoor footwear brands which incorporate the new technology in their collections GORE-TEX® SUROUND™ is ready to be launched on the market!