By Brian Metzler
When it comes to running shoe brands, Atreyu is like a hot new alt-rock band on an indie record label. Their shoes are simple and extremely functional, but they also serve up plenty of small-brand creative swag and a distinctive quirky cool. The Austin, Texas-based company famously launched by former hot dog restaurant entrepreneur Michael Krajicek three years ago, only offers three models: The Base Model everyday trainer; The Artist carbon-fiber racing model; and, now, The Base Trail off-road running shoe. How does a microbrand like Atreyu develop a lightweight trail running shoe with a supercritical EVA foam midsole that’s so chock full of runnable zest when most big brands can’t figure it out? By keeping things simple. If you’re looking for a cushy, comfortable shoe for running mild to moderate trails, gravel roads and grassy fields, it’s definitely one that’s worth a look.
What’s New: This is a brand new shoe from Atreyu, but it doesn’t have all of the new bells-and-whistles of many other contemporary models you’ll find at your local running store. (And you won’t find this one at your favorite local running store because Atreyu only sells direct.) The best component is the supercritical hyper-responsive foam midsole, but it’s also how the shoe is put together that makes it special. The Base Trail was purpose-built to be a comfortable, lively and reliable trail runner with materials that are effective and affordable, even if those components are not cutting edge.
Why It’s Great: Like all Atreyu shoes, The Base Trail is noteworthy for what it’s not. It’s not heavy, not overbuilt, not clunky and not expensive. Instead, it’s a well-cushioned off-road cruiser with reliable traction and an affordable $115 price tag. Does that mean it's a cheap, flimsy or insufficiently designed shoe? Heck no! It means it’s a smartly designed, just-what-you-need shoe that’s worthy of running on a variety of surfaces. It may not be a shoe fit for gnarly, rocky routes, but it can hold its own on small sections of that kind of terrain and is adept at hopping rocks while crossing streams.
Fit-Feel-Ride: The Base Trail fits true to size with a medium-volume interior but not a lot of wiggle room in the toe box. It doesn’t feel cramped in the forefoot, but it doesn’t feel quite as long as some of your other trail shoes. The step-in feel is sparse but comfortable with a soft footbed and thin, padded tongue that molds to the shape of a runner’s foot, and a thin TPU upper that cinches down with a pair of microfiber support straps. It’s an effective design, even if nothing too fancy. What sets The Base Trail apart, though, is the ride. The supercritical EVA foam midsole feels plush and squishy with the flexibility of your favorite road running shoes, allowing for a fun and flowy vibe on smooth dirt trails, mildly technical routes, gravel roads and even sections of paved road or concrete paths when necessary. The thin, full-length rubber outsole has an array of 3.5mm hexagonal lugs and, while it might not be as compliant as a Vibram Megagrip, it’s pretty darn good and strikingly similar to a Vibram Litebase outsole.
Why You’ll Love It: You’ll love it because it feels wild, energetic and free. Honestly, this shoe feels quite similar to a Saucony Endorphin Speed with a more trail-appropriate outsole or a better version of the Brooks Catamount that’s easier on your bank account.
Weights: 6mm heel-toe drop (31.5mm in the heel, 25.5mm in the forefoot)
Weights: 8.1 oz. (women’s 8), 9.5 oz. (men’s 9)
Pro: For such a simple shoe, The Base Trail gets a lot of things right that many other trail runners often miss. It’s not super light, but it’s light enough to be nimble and fast when you want it to be. It offers exceptional proprioceptive feel for the ground. Plus, the upper is reinforced, but it’s also drainable, breathable and reflective.
Con: This isn’t a shoe you’re going to want to lace up if you’re planning to run rocky ridgelines with chossy sections of scree and debris. It’s not remotely equipped to run craggy technicals like a La Sportiva Bushido II or Salomon Speedcross 5. As terrain becomes more technical, The Base Trail becomes less effective. But for most of the trails out there, it’s a solid choice.
Atreyu The Base Trail are available to purchase here.