Patagonia Fore Runner Review

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The Fore Runner marks Patagonia’s entry into the minimalist trail running category; because it does have some weight, cushion, and drop, I suspect the Fore Runner was created for a different reason, namely as just a simplistic approach to a trail shoe. Nothing extra, nothing fancy.  The Fore Runner is the no-frills interpretation of minimalism.  Like the name suggests, the most attention in this shoe is paid to the forefoot, which is ideal for the natural-form runner.

Right out of the box these shoes were comfortable and felt durable. I wore my usual size, and they fit fine for short and mid-distance runs, but felt slightly small on long runs. Consider sizing up one-half size if you are a higher-mileage runner.

With more than average snow in Colorado’s Front Range this winter, it took me a while before I could get them out on the trail;  in the meantime, however, I couldn’t resist wearing them, so I threw them on for errands on a regular basis. They were so comfortable, even for long hours on my feet, and around town in the snow/slush.

I finally got them out on some shorter (5-ish mile) trail runs, and was just as pleased with them in action as I was with them in casual use. I also ended up doing a few light hikes in them because I was enjoying them so much.

The upper is a combination of  air mesh and synthetic leather, making them both breathable and durable; surprisingly, they kept my feet warm in cooler conditions. The tongue and heel have a decent amount of cushion, providing a comfortable feel, but not so much that you can’t tighten them well. I found that the microfiber surrounding the heel, rand, and toe bumper kept out moisture and added protection from rocks, twigs, and debris on the trails. Overall, the upper is very simple, especially compared to other trail shoes I’ve run in, but they get the job done.

Continuing in its simple design, the midsole seemed to be a uniform material that protected from rocks while providing some cushion and a firm support at the same time.  (There is an 8mm long shock absorption plate in the forefoot, designed to distribute pressure and protect the foot.)  These shoes are definitely designed for a neutral runner as they did not seem to have any motion control features.  The product information says that the arch support is ‘medium’, but I felt it was less than that – should you need a lot of arch support, an insole will be required.  Patagonia uses an anatomical, gender-specific footframe, which contributes to a nicely-contoured feel.  The recycled EVA in the midsole and footbed, along with forefoot flex grooves,  allowed me to feel connected to trail with every step while running and hiking on technical trails.

The lug pattern on these shoes is extremely simple, but very effective. Combined with the sticky rubber the soles are constructed out of, they provided excellent traction on rocky, wet, and muddy trails. They did tend to collect a decent amount of mud, though.

Overall, I really enjoyed the simplicity of the Patagonia Fore Runners. These shoes have earned their keep in my stable of running shoes and they’ll be a great cross-over for a light hiking shoe as well.

Patagonia’s Fore Runner women’s trail runners are available in Feather Grey (pictured), Deep Plum, and Forge Grey.

MSRP: $110

Type:  Trail Running

Heel-Toe Differential (Drop):  4 mm

Weight:  7.76 oz (women’s)

Gender:  Women’s and Men’s versions available.

For more information on the Fore Runner and other Patagonia products, visit www.patagonia.com.

Stephanie Smith: Stephanie grew up moving constantly whether in gymnastics or running around on the family farm in New York. Nowadays, she has melded her energy and passion for the outdoors into a career in the ski industry and a continual quest to spend as much time outside enjoying everything that Colorado has to offer. In between skiing each of Colorado's 26 ski areas in one season, she can be found in the Front Range pounding the pavement marathon training or enjoying the abundant singletrack on her mountain bike or her own two feet. Stephanie also enjoys cooking to fuel for her activities, traveling, good beer, reading, and spending time with her family and friends.
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