Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”
In the past, many trail running shoe designs have incorporated the “more is better” philosophy of design – if some cushioning and support is good, then more must be better for the life on the trail. At times the result has been stiff and chunky trail runners that seem better suited for long hikes meandering fire trails rather than running across trails carved by Mother Nature.
Marking Patagonia’s entry into the minimalist-shoe market, the Fore Runner stays true to the company’s steadfast approach to design – simple yet utilitarian accented with enigmatic color schemes that are in harmony with nature instead of adverse to it. The Men’s (and women’s) Fore Runner, new for 2012, continues this tradition of simplicity of design, while also marking the company’s entry into the minimalist-shoe market.
Quickly navigating technical trails — whether for racing or interval training– generally requires lightweight, low-to-the-ground shoes that protect your feet while not inhibiting their flexion. Often times, the unfortunate trade-off is that shoes in this category offer little cushioning and protection for your feet.
To the contrary, the Fore Runner’s minimal heel-to-toe drop (4mm), traction-gripping rubber outsole and relatively lightweight package strike the perfect middle ground – bringing your foot closer to the trail while still offering the cushioning and protection some trail runners desire.
Building up to a series of 6-milers on the local trails, the Fore Runner quickly hits their stride. With a breathable mesh, an anatomical foot frame, and low profile that promotes a more natural feeling stride, the Fore Runner handled the trails with ease.
Fit and Performance…
Running through the great wide open is a joy – but it can also be a lot of work. To keep you cool on those long runs, the Fore Runner features a durable and breathable air mesh/synthetic leather upper; 100% polyester moisture-wicking, ventilated air-mesh collar and tongue lining. And if you’re run calendar is chock full of ultra distance runs, the recycled EVA anatomical perforated footbed supports, cushions and molds to the contours your foot.
Our Gumption runner found the Fore Runner to be comfortable, well-fitting and aesthetically pleasing. Whether traversing the rock strewn undulating trails of the local foothills, or conquering the concrete jungle on your way to the trail, your feet will thank you for wrapping them in these kicks.
A fair weather friend these shoes may be. The same well ventilated air mesh upper that manages to wick away moisture 300 days a year, may also subject your sock covered feet to the perils of running through streams and muddy trails.
If you don’t mind the risk, then the multi-density sticky rubber outsole will make sure that you have more than enough traction to conquer the obstacles ahead whether wet rocks or clay hardened trail.
Underfoot, the lugs are aggressive enough to keep you moving swiftly through the backwoods, yet subdued enough to ensure comfortable travel if your route to the trail head requires crossing a few miles of asphalt. Unlike more aggressive lug designs in other trail shoes which accumulate debris, clog up the lugs, and weigh you down, the Fore Runner’s tread pattern offer mud and debris nowhere to hide.
True to size, the Fore Runner fit our Gumption runner’s wider than average feet well. The use of a foot-forming footbed and contouring materials made spending time in them effortless while the 1mm forefoot plate helps protects you from trail hazards underfoot.
And, thanks to the available color schemes (we especially liked the grey with splashes of red) the Fore Runner was just as welcoming on casual Friday as they are out on the trails.
Room for Improvement …
It should be noted that the same shock absorbing materials that provide superb flexibility and dampen impact also resulted in a “softer” ride. While the softer ride may benefit ultra-distance runners covering miles of hard packed trails, for reduced responsiveness may be a hindrance to some shorter distance trail runners.
The $110 price tag may be a little steep, but the Fore Runner is a quality addition to the Patagonia line up of trail runners. If your standard run routine includes long outings on single track winding through the Sierras, the Fore Runner will keep you comfortably supported and never weigh you down.