Thursday, March 6, 2014

Patagonia Everlong

A few months ago I started trying out a pair of the brand new Patagonia Everlongs. I remember on the day I received them I was lacing up my pair of go-to shoes to head out on a 10-mile trail run when the Fedex man showed up at the door with these flaming beauties. I eagerly put them on and headed out the door.

Ruby slippers

I don't typically run in "minimalist" shoes and so it might have been wiser to start out with a less ambitious run, but these shoes were a surprising happy medium. Maybe it would be good to give you a benchmark of what kind of shoe I usually run in. I like shoes that strive for moderation. I do 90% of my weekly runs on trails and since the ground is cushy I like a firmer midsole in my shoe. I like a shoe with a secure midfoot wrap but a roomy toebox... I don't want my foot to slide around but I need some room for my toes to swell up when I'm running long. My typical shoe has very little arch support and I like a flexible, seamless upper.

That said, I think that most of the reviews on the Everlong to date are put out there by men. Also this shoe was brain-child of Patagonia athlete Jeff Browning - again, a man. So, while this shoe far surpassed my expectations, I would like to put out there that if Patagonia decides to ever tweak anything about this excellent shoe in the future, they should get some more female feedback. Women's shoes are not just smaller men's shoes in prettier colors. Here's the details.

The Story
It's kind of weird to start off a shoe review with the story of how it was developed, but in this case I think that the story is what has made so many people intrigued by this shoe. Patagonia makes great clothing and great lifestyle footwear but they've long had a bad rap in the trail-running community for their running shoes. When I go to races I am quite the shoe nerd, quickly judging people by what's on their feet and I can't remember a time when I've seen anyone wearing a pair of Patagonia kicks. Obviously no one is more aware of this than the company itself and they sought out advice from one of their athletes, 100-mile specialist Jeff Browning, to come up with a shoe that would kick start their edge in the growing trail-running industry.

Jeff worked closely with Patagonia designers to come up with a shoe that had a racing-flat feel but could withstand the rigors of a 100-mile race. He wanted the bare minimum of what his feet would require and nothing extra. While wearing these bad boys he had some outstanding performances. Clearly Patagonia had done something right. Jeff Browning had his dream shoe, but would it be a shoe that would appeal to masses?

The Details
Let's work from the bottom up. The outsole of this shoe is one of it's most unique components. Instead of having a traditional outsole with lugs protruding from it, there are outsole "pods" that come out directly from the EVA foam. This provides great grip while saving the shoe lots of weight. This shoe performs exceedingly well on slick rock and hard pack. I do a good number of runs on rocky, pebbly terrain and, though I was initially worried about feeling the rocks through the foam, I've yet to have a bad experience. I definitely run more nimbly to avoid sharp rocks, but the reality is that during a long race you probably don't want to crash down gnarly hills anyway. This shoe gives you protection while keeping you on your toes. In addition, the shoe performed better than expected in mud and because of the lack of grooves and lugs, mud was less likely to cling to the shoe.
Red outsole pods, black foam.

Now on to the midsole. The EVA foam provides a very soft ride. I loved the stripped down nature of the midsole and it is easier to characterize it by what it DOESN'T have. No noticeable arch. No cumbersome rock plate. No unnessecary stability features. It boasts a 4mm drop, making it perfect for people striving to get away from the 12mm drop of the shoes of yesteryear but not ready for the zero drop of today's newest trending shoes. The amount of foam distinguishes it from a true minimal shoe, making it more accessible to people that want to feel a connection with the ground without the pain and transition period that comes with running "barefoot." The wide and stable platform made me feel very comfortable on technical terrain.

Last but not least, the upper is one of my favorite parts about this shoe. No bothersome seams to give you blisters. The tongue actually stays in place. The mesh is breathable without letting too much grit in. My one complaint is the fit in the heel. I've read a lot of reviews by men who think that the heel fit is great so here's where I'm thinking that women require something different. I found the heel to be too roomy and the fit to be a little stiff in the back. Fortunately the mid-foot wrap on this shoe fits like a glove and so there isn't much sliding or sloppiness.

Overall Impressions
I absolutely love this shoe. It's light and fast. It's eye-catching. It's everything an average runner would need and nothing more.

Bottomline: If you want to try out a "minimalist" shoe but you don't want to go through the fuss of transitioning your legs and building your mileage to get used to it, then THIS IS YOUR SHOE! Just hop right in and your legs will feel fine. 

Don't be scared off by the fact this shoe was made for a guy who wins 100 mile races. This shoe is for the everyman.

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