If you are a regular reader of my blog, this is going to sound like I'm beating a dead horse. There is a specific type of shoe that I am always searching for. I love the feel of barefoot, or minimal shoes. But I need enough cushioning and protection to run Ultras. Two years ago that shoe didn't exist and I was forced to do a lot of cobbling to try to get what I wanted. It seems as though I'm not the only one looking for that combination in a shoe, especially now that the popularity of Ultras is rapidly increasing.
Obviously it is not easy to make a shoe that feels like your running barefoot, but still protects your feet and protects against rocks, roots, etc for hours on end. The newest offering from Patagonia aims to do exactly that (disclaimer: these shoes were provided free of charge for review purposes by Patagonia). Designed with help from Ultrarunner Jeff Browning (impressive list of race results here) I think they have done a great job of meeting both expectations.
The shoe has "A flexible 4mm drop midsole and outsole allow for a more natural mid to forefoot strike while the 24.5mm/20.5mm (men) and 23mm/19mm (women) stack height provides added cushioning for long-distance comfort. A lightly padded, semi heel counter “pod” secures the heel" as described by Patagonia.
It actually has some very interesting features, including the most minimal heel of any trail shoe I've ever encountered.
Putting it on for the first time it felt like putting on a slipper. Literally. It feels like there is nothing on your heel. I was initially concerned that this would lead to a sloppy fit and excessive foot movement. But that is not the case.
They feel very light on your feet and in fact only weigh 8.5 Ounces in my size 10.5.
The internal heel "pods" are almost identical in design to the heel on the Montrail Fluid Flex, and they work just as well.
I have not experienced any heel lift while running and the softness of the heel is very comfortable.The forefoot fits nice and snug with very little lateral slop. Even running downhill my foot does not slip forward and hit the front of the shoe.
Speaking of the front of the shoe, the toebox is very roomy and the slight stretchiness of the upper material make it extremely comfortable. My one complaint about the shoe is the sort of odd shaped toebox. Specifically, the very front of it is pointy, leaving a gap over my middle toes. It's not a big deal, but it feels like a "dead" area that I occasionally catch on rocks. The shoe fits absolutely true to size and its the only area of the shoe that fits a bit oddly, so it's not an issue of it being to big for me. I would have been tickled pink if the toebox was shaped like the last Patagonia shoe I tried, the Evermore (my review on runblogger here), which has one of the nicest fit of any of the shoes I own.
What I really like about this shoe is the sole. There is a perfect amount of softness and "squish", but yet its very flexible. This encourages a nice forefoot stride, but still is comfy when heel striking.
The tread, while on the minimal side for a trail shoe, provided adequate traction. I was actually surprised at how much traction they have, but that might be because I had very low expectations since it looks more like a road shoe pattern. I'm sure in very burly conditions it would become evident that there are no toothy lugs. I just haven't tested them in those kind of conditions yet. As a result of this minimal tread, they are extremely smooth on pavement, making them an excellent transitional shoe good for a full day of running on roads and trails.
For another point of view, check out this review by guest blogger Laurie Greenberg on Runblogger.com.
Patagonia has generously allowed me to give away a free pair of EVERlongs to one lucky reader. Just watch the video below and then answer this question in the entry form below. "What slogan is featured on the bottom of the EVERlong sole?" I will randomly select a winner on November 1. Patagonia will directly ship the winners shoes by November 15. This offer is good only to residents of the US and Canada. Good luck!
Update 11/02/2013 - Congratulations to Jordon Psaltakis!! Your the lucky winner of a pair of Everlongs! Your shoes will ship directly from Patagonia sometime after Nov. 15!