Writing a shoe review is tricky work. Our feet aren't the same, we’re not looking for the same things, and we are all going to use them differently. Oh, then there is the problem of being friends with the designer of the shoe…
When I received my Patagonia EVERlongs, I really, REALLY wanted to like them. I am a big fan of Patagonia and what they stand for. I’ve met and run with Jeff Browning, champion ultrarunner and designer of the EVERlong. I've heard the story of how the shoe came to be, and what they were trying to do. Basically, it was going to break my heart if the shoe was a bomb. Good thing I don’t have to worry about that anymore!
To put it succinctly: the EVERlong is great. Weighing in at less than 9 ounces and having a 4 mm heel-to-toe drop (20.5/24.5 for men) it definitely can be considered “minimal”. But it is not a “barefoot” shoe. Do I feel some sticks and rocks? Yes. But they have to be pretty big! Starting with the upper, they added nothing that was unnecessary and left us with a perfectly lightweight, snug fitting upper with great width in the forefoot and a great midfoot wrap. The seams are all welded to keep the weight down, and mesh is breathable yet durable. They even left off overlays along the midsole in the forefoot which allows for easy water drainage. The heel lacks any sort of counter, but it does have two Kinvara-style pods to really help lock in the heel. I have to mention two things here though. First, be sure you lace the shoe using all of the eyelets. If you don’t, the heel somehow seems a little shallower and you get the sensation that you might be able to run out of it. I never did, but it felt like I could. Second, there is no excess of material in the upper so I worry that some people will have trouble with orthotics. I have run with my Blue Superfeet in them and not had a problem. Something chunkier just might.
The midsole and outsole will make you feel like, and think, you are in a road shoe. The step in feel is great, and your first run will feel fast and soft. It’s not a pillow-y soft; it’s an appropriate softness, but one that you don’t see in many trail shoes. One contributing factor to this may be the lack of a rock plate, but I can assure you that it is not missed. A lot of shoe companies lower stack heights or drops in an effort to get you closer to the ground, and then add a protective element. The end result is a really firm shoe that doesn't move with the foot. The EVERlong shows great balance in getting you lower to the ground, but still providing some cushion, and yet still delivering great ground feel and complete confidence whether you are ascending or descending. And that last comment is one that I didn't think I would ever write when I first looked at the outsole. Patagonia decided to skip the traditional, trail shoe-style lug pattern and were left with what looks like a road shoe. They chose to go with a pod style design and I must say I’m surprised with how well it performs. Admittedly, West Michigan is not in the mountains, but our trails are just as gnarly as most. Would I choose to wear the EVERlongs if I was going off trail in the mountains? Probably not. Since I've had them I've run nearly every trail in town and run in warm, dry conditions and wet, rainy conditions (it is fall in MI!) and only once was my traction compromised. Of course ithat was in some serious mud, and the only thing that would have helped was the Salomon Speedcross. Bottom line, I don’t miss the lugs.
Overall, I give the EVERlong an “A”, and place it in my permanent rotation in the trunk. They are probably minimal enough that I will keep their usage to runs of fewer than 20 miles. It is a neutral shoe, like most trail shoes, but the full ground contact outsole and filled-in arch area create a very stable platform. Nice job Bronco Billy…Giddy Up!
Upper: 10/10 – nothing extra, nothing missed
Cushion: 10/10 – surprisingly perfect, it changes what I thought was possible and good
Traction: 10/10 – I didn’t miss the lugs, but may not work for gnarlier terrain