Monday, February 17, 2020

Atreyu Running 100 Mile Review (2020): Blast Off!


Article by Michael Ellenberger

Atreyu Base Model (2020): $75-$95 (Pre-Orders February 21, 2020). 

Introduction

If you've been around Instagram (or keeping a keen eye on my Strava log), you may have come across a small company in Austin, Texas called "Atreyu Running Company." Atreyu is the rare running startup, a gritty "team" (really just one guy named Michael Krajicek) with the desire to build a low-cost, dynamic running shoe that can be raced (it's covered a half-marathon in under 70:00) but also trained in (I now have over 115 miles on my pair).

This is an exciting time for running shoes - we're in the midst of the carbon fiber wars, with nearly every major manufacturer debuting a new racing model before the 2020 Tokyo/Sapporo Olympics. So how does Atreyu, and it's team of one, fit in? They fit by building an ultra-light, ultra-comfortable, and ultra-cheap shoe that defies the specialization of running shoes and functions as a do-it-all, no-nonsense (and quite good looking!) trainer and racer.

Also of note - Atreyu is planning a subscription model for its shoes, both to keep its cost down, and to simplify the shoe buying experience. Users will be able to choose delivery intervals between 1 and 3 months. Atreyu founder Michael Krajicek told me he once picked up a pair of New Balance 1400s at $75, and appreciated the joy in getting a shoe you want a price that doesn't make you think twice. With that in mind, he set the subscription price of the Atreyu as low as $75 - so everyone can find that no-brainer shoe. A single pair will still be near the industry's low end, at $95.

Not only is Atreyu coming in well below the market cost, they're also promoting recycling of old pairs as well. Michael told me that each new pair will come with a prepaid return label, so Atreyu will cover the cost of sending the shoes back to Atreyu HQ. From there, they'll sanitize, rebag, generally renew, and finally re-distribute the pair back via a number of community outreach organizations, including those helping the the homeless in Austin. 

It has no model name. It has no advertising campaign. It has a subscription model. It has recycling. It's like nothing we've seen before.... this is the 2020 Atreyu base model.

Tester Profile

Michael is his 20’s and is a 1:07 half marathoner. He runs 50-60 miles per week, generally in lightweight trainers or racing flats at around 6:00-6:30 minutes/mile. 


Pros: Light, bright, fun, fast… and inexpensive to boot! Plus, a recycling program to be proud of.

Cons: One style may not fit all; rock magnet.


Stats:


Stack Height: 15.5mm/21.5mm at 6mm offset. (5mm EVA sock liner)
Weight: 5.6 ounces (size 8.5; fits true to size)
Available $75-95, depending on subscription
Pre-orders open February 21 at https://atreyurunning.com

First Impressions and Fit

The Atreyu is undoubtedly the shoe I get the most comments on when meeting up with runners; it's a really cool looking shoe (I have the model in the "Voyager" colorway that looks straight up NASA-inspired). And slipping it on, it's immensely comfortably... and light. This is the first inflection point for those switching to Atreyu: you'll be training in something that may actually be lighter than what you've raced in in the past. 

I spoke with Michael about the weight, too - I'm used to training in lightweight trainers or even racing flats (fellow startup Enda Sportswear made a terrific lightweight trainer, the Iten, that I logged many miles in back in 2018), but Atreyu hopes to attract runners from all ends of the shoe spectrum. Michael told me the Atreyu model is intended to be used as a no frills and no nonsense running shoe that is built to be a natural feeling extension of the athlete. Moreover, he told me that modern research suggests is it less about the mechanisms in the shoe, and more about the running form/economy for efficiency. That in mind, Atreyu built a shoe to align with the idea that the athlete already has everything they need in their arsenal, and needs a fresh shoe to get them there.

On foot, the Atreyu is most reminiscent of some of my favorite older Nike models - the fit is like that of Nike's terrific Mayfly flat (the shoe designed to last only 100 kilometers), and the ride akin to that of my all-time favorite trainer, the Nike LunaRacer.

Upper

The upper is by far the coolest part of the shoe - my space shuttle-themed, out-of-this-world upper is not only artistically striking, but immensely comfortable and supportive, too. It is actually dye sublimate printable on so one can well imagine the possibilities...The material is thick enough to hold your foot in place without sacrificing breathability (there are no overlays here; all of the lockdown comes from the upper itself). 

The only qualm I had with the upper (and it's a small one) is that the back heel element and pull tab are a sort of suede-like material - visually, they're cool, and they function well to help you put on the shoe, but I noticed that the grippy suede texture hand a tendency to tug on my sock a little. Not the end of the world - clearly not enough to stop me from running - but a future model may do well to have the grippy surface only where it does not face sock.




Midsole

It's a slab of EVA. That's it. And in its simplicity, I think the midsole is an enjoyable and often quite peppy ride. There's a certain traction that comes with the combination midsole/outsole; not only in the shoe's ability to grip the road, but also in the immensely direct 1:1 pick-up and put-down of the shoe. When you're striking, you're striking, and when you're not, you're not. There's nothing lost in translation here, as can happen in a multi-faceted or fulcrumed shoe. Impressively, I also noticed no changes when running in as cold as 5 degrees Farenheit (we've had a mild winter, haven't we?) and as warm as ~70 (thanks to the lovely, hot treadmill).

There is a slight price to be paid here, too. The slab of EVA is light. It's fast. And it is not particularly supportive. If you're used to training in something like an ASICS Gel-Kayano, a Nike Structure, Mizuno Wave Creation or any of the so-called old guard trainers, you may not want to jump into this, err, both feet first. This isn't Atreyu-specific of course - training in anything light and flat has a learning curve. But less efficient runners, or those simply used to something more builky, may want to heed the shoe-rotation role before going all-in on Atreyu. Fortunately, I think Atreyu's price point makes that more than feasible.

Even after 100 miles, there's on significant signs of degradation. The photo above shows the trainers after over 100 miles, and you can see there's visually not a lot changed from zero - maybe some light creasing, at most. Underfoot, it feels nearly identical - I just finished up a 10 mile progressive effort in them (about miles 115-125), and while it's possible they have compressed and hardened slightly underfoot, there's certainly a lot of life left in the midsole. I weigh around 125 lbs so depending on weight and foot strike type your results may vary.  I don't think most runners will have an issue taking these to 250-350 miles.
A brand new (but for a couple indoor miles) outsole

Outsole

There's only exposed EVA on the outsole - Atreyu told me they specifically declined adding rubberizing agent on purpose, to avoid redundancy. Often our reviews only show photos before, or after only light, mileage (because really, who wants to stare at dirty shoes?) - here, I want to drop a comparison of new and after over 100 miles, just to show what I'm seeing. Atreyu told me some visual wear is common - it'll happen right from the beginning - but I can confirm that even a decently well-worn outsole can grip on Chicago winter roads, sidewalks, and trails (though in general, I would not take a shoe this flexible on a real technical trail).

Oh, and hardly a big deal, but in the interest of completeness: the relatively pliable outsole and deep groove just suck up rocks. I did a run that contained a ~2 mile gravel stretch and had to go through afterwards with a stick just to remove all the little debris in the outsole crevasses. Again, the designers had to balance weight with functionality; a little rubber here may prevent this, but cost an ounce. Unless you're ardently anti-rock, it's just something you'll need to get over.
This photo is aftter about 100 miles - notice some EVA fraying (but also, lots of tread left)

Ride

As mentioned in the midsole, this is a terrific get-up-and-go shoe for races and workouts, but it really is soft and reliable at lower speeds. If I was conducting a blind ride test, I would undoubtedly have pinned this as Nike Lunarlon foam, which is no longer in use for running shoes, but was a dynamic and bouncy ride that didn't sacrifice softness for speed. As with Lunarlon, the Atreyu is not firm, and those coming from something like Mizuno, or from more lower-cushion, minimalist trainers, may be in for a shock. 

In that regard, I don't know that I would even call the Atreyu "responsive" in its ride - but it's so light that you still don't lose anything when running at a high turnover. Consider a traditional flat, like the Nike Streak. A Streak-like shoe will give you feedback by being firm and low to the ground; you can tell exactly how long you're spending on each foot, and when you get going, it really feels like you're flying. Not so here - except that the low weight makes it so easy to pick up and put down the shoe that you don't mind a little squish when you get there. Again, if you've run in the LunaRacer or LunarTrainer, you already know this sensation - and boy, is it a fun one.

Conclusions and Recommendations


The Atreyu trainer is one that I just kept coming back to, mile after mile. Even the day after a grueling 10 mile workout ("The Alternator" - I'm going to start naming all of my sessions now), I pulled out the Atreyu for my easiest recovery miles of the season. A sub-6 ounce shoe! For recovey! But they're really just that pleasant to run in, and I know I'll continue to sneak them in around other review shoes for months to come.


Earlier this year, we review the well-loved Skechers Performance GoRun 7+ Hyper, and I called it a damn near perfect trainer. That's true - the Skechers is a terrific trainer. The Atreyu is, in my opinion, an equally perfect trainer... with a slight astrisk. What makes it perfect for me - super lightweight, no frills, dyanmic and ready for any workout - is what may make it prohibitive for less efficient or heavier runners. I won't mince words - the Atreyu could function as every runner's workout shoe. At at $75, it honestly should. Reviewed as a daily trainer, I just need to walk that back a little bit - if you're faster, or generally not a runner who heavily wears their shoes through, this is undoubtedly for you. If not, I still encourage you to give them a go, in moderation - if not because you're helping an awesome startup, then it's a great price.
Score: 9.5/10


Watch RTR Editor Sam's First Run Impressions and Shoe Details Video


Comparisons


Nike Pegasus Turbo 2 (RTR Review): Size-wise, these fit similar (true-to-size on both counts). Like the Atreyu, the Turbo is a bouncy and dynamic ride. Unlike the Atreyu, I would leave the Turbo on the bench for any track work or racing. For high-mileage training, the Nike may win out on longevity, but at more than twice the price... it looks like a harder sell. You obviously can't go wrong with the Turbo 2, but if you're looking to save a few bucks, and can bear a lighter trainer, I think the Atreyu is worht a look. Those looking for a little more structure won't be disappointed in the Turbo 2.

Adidas Adizero Adios 4 (RTR Review; RTR Review for the Adios 5): The Adios 4 was a racer that I actually really loved to train in; that Boost midsole wasn't so harsh as to fatigue the legs over longer or easier runs. That said, Boost and Atreyu's EVA composition are nearly dimetrically opposed. Whereas Boost is firm and responsive, the Atreyu is bouncy and soft. I also greatly appreciated the wider toebox of the Atreyu, compared to the Adios - those who found the Adidas too narrow shouldn't have problems here.

Hoka One One EVO Rehi (RTR Review): Hoka's bare-bones, no-carbon racing flat, the Evo Rehi, was appreciated for its simplicity and comfort. In nearly every way, I think the Atreyu actually improves on what is functionally the same platform (an upper with a slab of EVA at the midsole). Some of the drainability of the Rehi was appreciated for wet summer runs, but I think the Atreyu is a better pick overall, especially at the price.

Enda Iten (RTR Review): Enda and Atreyu are both running shoe startups, small fish in a very big pond. The made-in-Kenya Item was Enda's first offering and, like the Atreyu, is a lightweight trainer. Enda offers some rubber underfoot, which helps with durability, but Atreyu's midsole is superior in its cushion and ability to help fight off fatigue. Enda's newer model, the Lapatet, isn't in quite the same class, but has a more similar EVA midsole. I would take the Atreyu over the Iten, though runners scared off by the Atreyu's lightweight profile should give the Lapatet a serious look, especially if they want to support a startup. 

Skechers Performance GoRun 7+ Hyper (RTR Review): I teased this in my conclusion a little, but already I think Skechers and Atreyu have made 2 of the most compelling lightweight trainers of the recent past, and choosing between them isn't easy. My decision tree would be this: if you're an efficinet runner who has or trains in racing flats (or similar), give the Atreyu a serious look. If you're looking for something bouncy and responsive that still fits the more traditional mould, you absolutely cannot go wrong with the GoRun 7+ Hyper.

New Balance FuelCell Propel (RTR Review): Though the Propel is several ounces heavier, the road-feel here is somewhat similar. Runners who liked the Propel but wanted something a little lighter (besides the Rebel!) should look, too, at the Atreyu.

Pre-Orders February 21, 2020:
Atreyu Base Model

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The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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17 comments:

Michael said...

Following!

John said...

I know you said the fit was true to size, but specifically about the toe box...is there room or is the fit pretty snug?

Michael said...

It's a pretty roomy toebox. Technically I have a size 9.0, but Atreyu tells me that what I was sent will be sold as an 8.5. Assuming that's true, I'd say it's on the roomier side, relative to competitors.

ron m said...

I needed to go down 1/2 US size (9.5) in the Turbo 2 from my usual 10 US ZFly and Vfly OG, 4%, NEXT%, ADIOS 3,4, BOSTON 6,7,8, RAZOR 3..... If you wore any of the mentioned models did you need to size down 1/2 US in the Atreyu? You said TTS but not my experience in the mentioned Nike, Adidas, Skechers (MENS)shoes.

Dan said...

Oh, I like the mention of Lunarlon. The Lunar Tempo was one of my favorite trainers a few years ago; that soft yet minimalish cushioning was great. This shoe looks a lot like the Altra One2. Did you have any experience in it?

Michael said...

@Ron M: Not a ton of overlap, but I believe it fits pretty close to the Turbo 2 (my pair has gone mysteriously MIA, so I can't measure it). Going to a 9.5 shouldn't be an issue.

@Dan: I went through 10+ pairs of the LunaRacer in college. It was awesome. Unfortunately I haven't worn the One2 - Sam put a few miles on the Atreyu, though, and may have tried the Altra,

Unknown said...

Solid review and I'm excited for the brand just worry shoe sales on top brands will hurt them. Particularly New balance, Saucony and Skechers. Most shoe brands hit a 30-50% markdowns rate and this model needs more shoe designs to sell loyalty. Long run 8mm drop, 4-6mm lightweight package is taken care of but a track shoe isn't.

Anonymous said...

U.S. only?

Michael said...

@Unknown - thank you! I certainly see the concern; I saw the FuelCell Propel going for like $50 the other day. There are cheap shoes to be found... but $75 is still near the lowest MSRP around, and obviously there are broader considerations beyond price!

@Anonymous - good question, and I don't know the answer. If you use Instagram, you can reach out to Atreyu (on our page, or theirs), and I can drop a note to their founder as well.

Jeff said...

Great review. I would urge people interested to go listen to the Believe In The Run interview. Gets in-depth on the recess to make this shoe and why. Still can’t help but think of END shoes out of Portland in 2008, remember those? Hopefully Atreyu doesn’t meet the same fate.

Unknown said...

How does it compare to Escalante (Racer)?

Michael said...

Unknown - never worn it, unfortunately. Hopefully will get a go in the next update...

Collin said...

I'm very intrigued in Atreyu. Any idea how fit and midsole fell compares to Hoka Clifton 6 (Wide)?

roy hampton said...

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on comparing the Atreyu to NB Beacon (1).

Michael said...

@Roy - Limited experience in the Beacon. I probably have 20 lifetime miles in it. That said, I think they are similar in underfoot feel - the Ateryu is sort of a "Beacon Lite." Both squish with some mild responsiveness. I didn't remember loving the upper on the Beacon 1, whereas the Atreyu's is very nice. But if you're a heavier runner or looking for a higher-mileage shoe, I think the Beacon is lightly a better call. For a workout/up-tempo shoe, I'd recommend the Atreyu.

Anonymous said...

how does the atreyu compare to the skechers horizon vanish?

Michael said...

@Anonymous - The Ateryu is a little softer, but a little less bouncy/responsive than the Skechers (which is even less responsive than something like the Run Fast Pro).

I've written about this before (and it's just my theory) - once get into a shoe this light, you don't necessarily "need" responsive midsoles or carbon fiber plates because your foot strike (especially when running fast) can pick-up and put-down light shoes so quickly, there's no extra "propulsion" needed. Some shoes that do add something - Reebok Run Fast Pro, New Balance FC5280 - are then a step above. But in general, I think both of these shoes function really well as workout/racing flats.

The upper in the Atreyu is way, way better than the Skechers, too. Skechers may win on durability (but Atreyu is setting up some recycling program, so maybe moot). Considering $75 vs. $100, I'd take the Atreyu (but realistically... I'd take both!).