Hiking footwear is an important category for most outdoor retailers. While there are many good options out there, we believe SCARPA's 79-year footwear history helps provide a fit that is hard to beat. To gather a little more on-the-floor feedback, we check in with our friends over at Ascent Outdoors in Seattle, WA. Brennan, their footwear buyer shares a few tidbits and a review of the SCARPA R-Evolution.
Q : What is your name and role with Ascent Outdoors?
Brennan Halterman / Footwear Buyer / GinjaNinja / Shoe Fit Druid 15th level
Q : Have you seen a lot of growth coming from the hiking portion of the footwear business?
Absolutely. People need shoes and there are many quality options that we provide. I love that so many footwear brands provide diverse fit options to their selection. Long ago are the days of wearing a soaking leather boot for a day to "break it in", or the misconception that all models in a brand fit the same. I feel that we assist our customers in footwear needs that are applicable to general NorthWest sensibility and the potential to excel in multiple environments. We are fortunate to be able to enable folks of all ages into properly fitting footwear with education and caring. It is our duty to fit their booties!
Q : What sort of buying patterns are you noticing from consumers these days?
We have a very diverse shoe selection that caters to a diverse population of outdoor enthusiasts with all levels of experience. If there was one aspect that people want to usually discuss is which shoe "does it all" for the uses they envision. We have ounce counters who grab for trail running shoes and folks who want ruthless "do everything" boots for packing loads and mountaineering needs. Most folks need a good fitting hiking boot/shoe that allows them to get into nature and come out without blowing their toe nails off or leaving them without heel flesh. Without getting too high on my soapbox, I find it is of great importance that assisting customers in proper sizing, lacing, and qualifications of a healthy shoe fit is tantamount for their overall health and not suffering returns with blood soaked used footwear.
It is easy to overlook footwear, but with a trained eye and knowledge of how your product fits in regards to your assessment of the individual foot type, will get you return customers coming to your shop for years. And tell all their friends. Proper shoe fitting is becoming a lost art in the internet days but no amount of online shopping can replicate a quality shoe fit with someone looking out for your interests. I have fit peeps with no toes and other disabilities, folks with crazy feet types, and even an Alaskan Inuit elder that threw her walking stick down and ran around hugging her family when we got her in the right boots. Note to staff: The first step is caring. The rest comes easily.
Q : What's the most frequently asked question that you receive from customers and how do you address it?
I guess it would be, "Is this shoe/boot waterproof?" I then qualify the item in question and instantly tell them that the average foot sweats AT LEAST 27 gallons of sweat a year. I can't not tell them this. Then I mention that we still live in the Northwest which can mean all sorts of reasons to choose either breathable quick drying shoes or moisture wicking technologies and non cotton socks. I grew up in a rainforest in SE Alaska so I understand the need for daily waterproof footwear but I also can be found hiking in sandals when it's even a little warm. It is my goal to assist each individual, fitting them into the type of shoe that they feel will work for their needs whether it is a light shoe or a technical boot.
Q : What made you pick the SCARPA R-Evolution to add to the wall for your hiking boot selection?
When the R-Evolution came out I was immediately impressed by the Sock Fit DV Schoeller instep and the quality design for a back packing boot that is comfortable and supportive. I find that the boot fits a fairly decent amount of people due to the design and lacing options, while also allowing for individual modification for bunions on the stretching bar if needed. It has been a solid option for our customers since it came out and we are glad to have it in our selection.
Q : Any other SCARPA models that you stock that you find works well for your shop?
If I had a faucet that could produce Scarpa Moraines' in both Women and Men's constantly, I would be very happy. Best selling low top waterproof hiking shoe that we carry. Add a foot bed, show them a lace trick, toss them some socks and you have a great sale and a stoked customer. I have a friend who buys them two at a time. We also crush it in the mid top version. Stock them heavy and thank me later.
We carry the Mont Blanc Pro which is great for our diverse volcano selection that we are blessed to have close by. Also, our new Zodiac Tech models are doing very well and are a fantastic backpacking/scrambling choice for some of the long and beautiful approaches that also allow for some technical application. I call the Tonic color "Felony Orange" to my customers while easing them into the sweet soft shell anterior fit. I then call their attention to the triple density midsole and make them dance on my incline ramp to show them the spectacular heel fit. A humble request to Scarpa Europe: I can see your website from here. I need these in the Women's version. TRUST ME. Until then, I know I can order these in smaller sizes...
The new Epic Lite is a new model for us and doing well once you explain the concept and sheer versatility it provides. As much as I sell trail runners for all sorts of outdoor choices, I feel that the diverse traction options and increased durability for this shoe allows folks to have a great light and fast sensation without compromising weight per step and stride enabling.
We also crush it in our climbing section and provide the Force series, Helix, Techo X, and Origin models for Men and Women. Our climbing shoe staff is the bees knees.
Q : Any upcoming or past adventures that you're particularly stoked about?
I am blessed to live in the Pacific Northwest and have a multitude of spectacular options depending on how far I want to drive. I get down to Rainier quite often these days and have amazing terrain to wander about on and numerous wildlife viewings to boot. My wife and I saw our first flying squirrel recently and a few weeks before that I got to see a cinnamon bear over at the Carbon Glacier area.
I also have a solid crew that joins me on "off season" trips to plunder the Olympic Coast when only the cool kids are out there. It usually involves leaving after work, getting a ferry, and driving deep into the peninsula to a late night camp or midnight trail start. The things we have seen out there would take a few minutes but think whales, sea lions, otters, raccoon thugs, old growth rain forests, sea caves and sheer utterly savage views of sea stacks and waves. A baby skunk climbed into Frank's pack last year. We had left already so he had to deal with it. That's what happens when you sleep in on GTFO morning.