We’re seeing a move towards moderation in running-shoe designs for 2014, and with the release of the Patagonia EVERlong ($110), Patagonia creates a shoe with minimalist features that is meant to withstand 100 miles. Under the creative guidance of Jeff Browning, the EVERlong gives a nod to road-racing flats with softer midsole cushioning than typically seen on trail shoes as well as the lack of a heel counter and rock plate.
Through some research, I found Browning and Patagonia designers worked on four prototype models for the EVERlong starting in June of 2012. Browning states on his blog that he is on his 13th pair and he has been wearing them exclusively for almost a year now. It always piques my interest when the best runners in the sport have a great deal of input into a trail shoe, and the results usually speak for themselves. Running in the EVERlong, one can tell that this shoe was refined to give Browning all that he needed for 100-mile races and absolutely nothing more.
If I had to pick my definitive favorite part of this shoe, it would be the upper. Soft and flexible, with great midfoot lock, the upper is nothing more than dual-density air mesh and welded-on overlays in all of the right places. While the air mesh is breathable it is also fairly tough, and I was surprised at just how little dust and dirt got in. Minimal but effective padding is provided around the very flexible heel collar, and I was surprised by the lack of a traditional heel cup or plastic reinforcement that is commonly seen on trail shoes. This seems to allow the EVERlong to really form around the heel and I never felt unsupported by the flexible upper, mainly because of a very effective midfoot wrap that kept my feet on the platform no matter how technical the trails became.
The EVERlong runs true to size and the upper is complimented by simple flat laces, and a wide and flat tongue which stays in place through hours of running. A natural last provides a deliciously wide forefoot that never feels sloppy on downhills due to the effective midsole wrap.
Inspired by a road-shoe feel, the EVERlong’s midsole is composed of fairly soft EVA which gives it a very lightweight and flexible feel. A 20% recycled EVA footbed sits directly below the upper and is designed to mold to the contours of the foot, which it did. A moderate stack height (24mm/20mm) and 4mm drop provide a very agile feel for the EVERlong and, at 8.4 ounces, it is a great shoe for racing and faster-paced training.
As a neutral shoe, there are no heel-counter or pronation-control features, but the wide platform and low stack height provide a very low-to-the-ground and stable feel on technical terrain. I enjoyed that while there was not a noticeable arch, the EVERlong really hugged my foot and gave me a lot of confidence, especially on fast downhill sections.
Something noticeably missing from the midsole is a rock plate. The softer durometer EVA foam did cause some discomfort when stepping on sharp rocks, and you can definitely feel the ground when running in the EVERlong. But, out of about 120 miles in the shoe, I maybe had one or two moments where I shrieked in pain due to hitting a rock, and at those times I really wished for a rock plate. However, as someone who likes softer EVA foam, I appreciated how smooth the EVERlong felt on smooth trails as well as the occasional road.
The question is always lugs versus surface area, and I’ve found that different trail runners prefer varying degrees of outsole lugging. The EVERlong saves a great deal of weight by placing sticky outsole pods directly over the soft EVA on the bottom of the shoe. The risk with this is taking a sharp rock in the EVA rather than on the harder outsole portion. The benefit is that the outsole pods to provide great grip on harder trails and rock and the mostly flat outsole has a great deal of surface area to work with.
While I typically don’t get to run in the mud often, I did test the EVERlong during the flooding we’ve experienced recently in the Colorado Front Range. I’m not sure that any all around trail shoes, besides those designed for fell running, do very well in mud and the EVERlong was certainly no exception. However, it drained well after going through puddles and creeks and the excellent fit and lock down at least kept the shoe from feeling sloppy.
To put it frankly, the EVERlong is one of the best-fitting trail shoes I’ve ever worn. I last experienced this type of form fit with the Salomon Sense Ultra, but the EVERlong has an overall softer feel that seems to hug the foot without restricting it in any way. I took this shoe out of the box for a two-hour run and had zero issues with the fit or performance.
Make no mistake, the EVERlong is a minimalist shoe, and I think that Browning and Patagonia nailed it in terms of providing just enough cushioning for 100 miles. The EVERlong has more cushioning, and softer cushioning, than a shoe like the New Balance MT110, but runners may not find it as protective due to the lack of a rock plate. Some runners may not have a problem with this, and looking at Browning’s tough race schedule over the last year, he certainly put the EVERlong through the paces in different conditions including Bandera 100k, Ice Age 50, San Diego 100, and Run Rabbit Run 100. I imagine that he encountered any and all conditions during this schedule. The softer EVA provides an incredible ride, especially for runners going door-to-trail, but the absence of even a minimal rock plate was noticeable and questionable at times.
The EVERlong is the most exciting shoe ever released by Patagonia, and I’m excited to see what additional tweaks will be made in the coming incarnations. The fit alone is worth a try, and if you’re someone who likes a softer feel, then definitely check these out. I would recommend the EVERlong for runners who run primarily on hard-pack trails that are not often bogged down with mud, as well as those looking for a door-to-trail option.