For me personally, there was no greater sneaker in 2020 than New Balance Tokyo Design Studio’s three-in-one hiking sneaker. Thanks to an ambitious yet remarkably simple insert system, the “Niobium Concept 1” can be quickly stripped down from waterproof boot to mule, and then again into a minimal slipper.
In its most complete form, the high-top sneaker in Snow Peak’s army green color scheme held me down on hikes, rainy and snowy days, and whenever else I just felt like wearing it. I also got a lot of use out of paring it down to mule form, the perfect shoe for a quick errand. Now, nearly a year later, New Balance has enlisted another outdoor brand from abroad to help create some of the coolest technical footwear you’ll find.
CAYL, a Korean brand that hits many of the same notes as some of our favorites from Japan and stands for “Climb as You Love,” is partnering with New Balance on both a sandal and slide intended for the wilderness. While they’re two distinct products, and not modular like the Niobium Concept 1, they share equal attention to detail and a tactical appearance we just can’t resist.
Choose your fighter — CAYL and New Balance have created the CRV Sandal and CRV Slide, suited for different levels of activity in the great outdoors. The CRV Sandal is for proper trekking and features a two-pronged fastening similar almost identical to that sweet, sweet Niobium. The first layer uses a speed lacing system to keep your foot snug, and a zippered shroud made out of the same gridded ripstop nylon CAYL uses for its hit backpacks provides additional protection. A few holes are cut out of the upper where it meets the insole, which will help dispel water and allow you to easily traverse any shallow rivers or streams that meet your path.
The CRV Slide is for more casual wear, specifically for the down hours spent around a campground. But because it's padded with extra-cushioning, it can serve double duty as a house shoe or for when you need to make a quick jaunt outside your home. It too uses CAYL’s gridded ripstop — giving you two options to bring the minimalist tech lord drip to your feet.
Get them stateside one way or another — For now, a release has only been announced for May 13 directly through CAYL’s Korean webstore. Both sandals could end up being exclusive to Korea, but we’re holding out hope that they’ll release in the U.S. either from New Balance or a CAYL stockist that ships here.
Still, the worst-case scenario is that you end up needing to enlist a proxy service to have your sandals sent across the world — a nominal amount of extra legwork to get what may just end up as our favorite sandals of the summer.