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Below is a transcript of Alan's video review, edited and formatted for clarity. Watch more of Alan's reviews and adventures at our Run with REI Co-op YouTube channel.
Atreyu's Base Trail Is Just What You Need
It's cool. It looks cool; it's designed cool—it's a cool shoe.
The Atreyu Base Trail really makes me wonder how paired down can you really get a trail runner.
Disclaimer: I work at REI, and these shoes were provided to me for a review, but the opinions I'm going to be sharing today are all based on my experience in the shoes.
Weight: 10 ounces per shoe for unisex sizing.
Drop: 6 mm.
Stack height: According to Atreyu, 31.5 mm in the heel and 25.5 mm in the forefoot. (We measured 30 mm in the heel and 24 mm in the forefoot.)
The Base Trail from Atreyu is a really interesting experiment in designing trail running footwear that really is just what you need. I was really curious to put it on, partially because I love the brand's Daily Trainer so much, especially its simple pared-down design.
Want to know more? Check out this profile of the brand in our blog Uncommon Path: Atreyu Running Shoes Get the Job Done.
So if we take a look at the shoe from top to bottom, I think the thing that strikes most people here—I know it struck me first—is the [transparent] upper. For me, it does make me want to pick it up and try to look through it all the time.
Upper: It's cool because you can see through it a little bit, but when you get really close, you notice that it's a little bit cloudy, which is probably a good thing. [When I] put my hand in there, you can see it pretty well. So it's pretty breathable, it's pretty thin, but with that grid pattern there, it's got that rip stop quality to it.
It's the least stretchy upper that I've felt in a while. You'll notice that there is some microfiber just in the toe box. [There are] these black pieces on the inside, kind of this underlay system, [which make the shoe feel] a little bit more comfortable, but can give you some fit points—some points of reference for your foot, which is nice. There's also the really cool Atreyu logo. Love that.
Come to the back, you'll notice [there's more black], and that's because on the inside you have a little bit more of that cushioning there, and you can pair that with a little bit of the cushioned insole. Getting to the tongue, you'll notice that it does feel pretty traditional. It just feels almost like a suede tongue that most traditional footwear has. Cool thing about Atreyu footwear is that it's unisex. So you can see right here in the tongue that it's actually for a men's 9 or a women's 10-and-a-half. And then the laces are pretty basic. What I like about the laces though, again, is that they're long enough to customize the fit. You'll notice that the underlays on the upper go through the lace eyelets, too, which is usually pretty important in trail running footwear.
Midsole: If we get down to the midsole, we'll notice that, again, you get that 6mm drop. This is made with Supercritical EVA, which is [Atreyu's] proprietary foam. Essentially, [the foam contains] a little bit of carbon dioxide, giving you [extra responsiveness]. It's actually the same midsole that's in the Daily Trainer, but it's going to give you a little bit of that bounce. [When it comes to the cushioning] spectrum, it's probably squarely in the middle.
Outsole: Moving out to the outsole, that's where you've got this really distinctive insect pattern. You're hopefully using this on dirt trails or mixed terrain—and you'll leave your mark, for sure. If you're running in the daylight, you probably can't get lost. Just follow your footsteps back; you should be able to see [them]. The lugs on this shoe aren't super aggressive. You'll notice that there is a slight difference, though, going from the [center] out. Essentially, [there's a] more aggressive pattern shape, and they look a little bit more like arrows moving into more circular or octagon shaped lugs. And the same thing on the backend, except they're in reverse order, which helps you with that braking.
Out and About in the Atreyu Base Trail
I've put 45 miles on the Base Trail, and I've been able to take them in a couple of different conditions, including some of my favorite trail systems that I test most of my trail running footwear on.
Pumping the Brakes
With more aggressive lugs in some parts of the outsole, I knew I could brake in the shoe, so I took it out on some stuff that's a little bit more moderate. I gained some elevation, certainly bombed down some hills, which was nice, running down switchbacks, which is always my favorite thing.
And then I took it on some stuff that was a little bit more technical, local trails, but scrambling over rocks a little bit more; some of the stuff where I wasn't running, had to pull myself up over rocks and things like that. And then especially on the downhill, jumping over things that were a little bit more obtrusive, getting into some stuff that was perhaps a little bit muddier, a little bit wetter. I never felt like, Oh man, I'm going to slip in this shoe. It felt like I did get some solid purchase in it and some solid traction.
Don't get too ambitious off trail: Maybe it was a mental thing, but I never tried to get super off trail with it. If I was scrambling or doing some stuff, I slowed down a little bit more. I made sure my foot was secure. And after, again, only about 45 miles or so, the fact that the front part of the lugs are wearing down already, I just think that's probably the right decision. Things to consider: Is it hard packed? Are you going to be on single-track? I wouldn't go bushwhacking, I wouldn't go off trail, and I wouldn't do a lot of climbing in it. That said, for me, the shoe did really well in a way that I thought it would excel in, and I had a ton of fun in it.
Finding the Fit
When I first put on the shoe, I was thinking about fit, especially since this upper really doesn't stretch. But I was able to fit in the shoe and I was honestly surprised by those underlays. I was like, Oh, that feels nice.
Go long, not fast: It does hit my foot in a very specific way, even in ways where the volume of my foot doesn't fit the volume of the footwear, and I might have a little bit more room, the way the tongue feels underneath and the way the microfiber hits my foot in my sock still feels like it gives me enough security right there. Again, the back of the shoe and the heel portion especially essentially almost has no heel counter. It's really relying on the type of mesh that it has in there and then the reinforcement of the cushion. But I like that because I'm not trying to go as fast as I can; I'm trying to go longer than faster. I'm just feeling comfortable, feeling pretty slow and enjoying what's around me. And so I'm not wanting a ton of weight on the back part of my foot, and this gives me that comfortable feeling that I like for that part of the footwear.
So overall, it felt pretty good. It feels a little bit more secure and a little bit less forgiving than the Atreyu Daily Trainer, but that's probably what you want in trail running shoes. You probably want a little bit more structure there. And when I say a little bit more, I really mean just a little bit more. There's really not a lot of structure. It's some microfiber. That's the structure. So it's really not a lot, which keeps me comfortable. It keeps me feeling like I can run free and like I can run for as long as I want.
From Road to Trail and Back Again
I moved about two years ago, and my new place is about two miles away from this spectacular park. I fell in love with the park right away. And pretty soon I realized that I can run out my door for about two miles, get to the park, run for four miles on unpaved surfaces, and then run back another two miles. And the first thing I thought of was, Man, I wish I had a transition shoe. I wish I had a shoe that felt good on paved services and equally as good on unpaved surfaces and then got me back home feeling comfortable the whole way. But I couldn't justify it. I was like, Well, I could just wear road shoes. Maybe I could just drive there and wear trail shoes.
A stealth multi-terrain shoe: But that desire always lingered in my mind. And when I got in the Base Trail, they were clearly positioned as a trail running shoe, and they are. But I, again, turned it around, and I looked at what it was on the upper, the midsole and the outsole, and I felt like this could do what I wanted it to do in that respect. The lugs weren't deep enough to feel uncomfortable on the paved surfaces, but they still inspired confidence on wet, maybe rooty, rocky terrain, especially from a local park perspective. And what I really loved paired with that is that it has this midsole, again, of the Daily Trainer. So this is a run that I do pretty regularly, and it just feels like it can be consistent in that way.
Pair that with a pretty light but protective upper, now I had a shoe that works for this very specific run that I really enjoy. Usually when I think of trail running, I think of images and trails, and I remember trails and experiences that perhaps belong in my mind in a categorization under a different type of shoe. Maybe something that's more aggressively lugged, maybe something that has a little bit more structure. And when I looked at this shoe, what I thought about, wow, this could be honestly my workhorse shoe, if I use it as a transition shoe in that way, and as a shoe that can be on some lighter trails. If I'm honest with myself and think about, where is most of my trail running mileage coming from and where can I stand to put a little bit more miles or time in? And that's usually the trails that are closest to me, and those trails are well-suited for running with a shoe like this.
Who is the Atreyu Base Trail for?
The Base Trail really seems like it would be a great option for folks that are looking to get just a pared-down shoe that could be confidence-inspiring on the dirt. It would work for folks who are entering the trail running space for the first time and are going to their local park trails; maybe their trails are gravel trails. It would also work for folks who are looking for a trail runner as a hiking shoe. I honestly get really excited when I think about hiking in this shoe because it's super lightweight. It's still protective. I can see my socks through there. That always makes me excited about it. And it still gives me a lot of confidence-inspiring traction on the bottom.
A note on women's sizing: Because this is a unisex shoe, if you're somebody that's used to wearing women's trail runners specifically, this comes in a little bit wider width. It comes in a D width. So if you're looking for a wide fit, then it might be a really awesome shoe for you to try on.
What do you think?
So that's my review of the Base Trail model from Atreyu, but I'd love to hear from y'all. What do you think about when you hear stripped-down trail running shoe? If you had the opportunity to design a trail running shoe in a completely different way, what would yours look like? Leave a comment on the YouTube page.
The Tech Specs
Atreyu Base Trail Trail-Running Shoes
Trail-Running Shoe Type Rugged-Trail
Cushioning Moderate Cushion
Heel-to-Toe Drop (mm) 6
Heel Stack Height (mm) 31.5
Forefoot Stack Height (mm) 25.5
Midsole Supercritical EVA
Weight (Pair) 1 lb. 4 oz.