Since the brand’s inception in 2014, Tracksmith has marked its corner of the running apparel market in two predominant manners: world-class material construction and vintage style. The Eliot Runner, Tracksmith’s first shoe offering, faithfully follows this blueprint, as a high-performance road trainer that looks like it came out of a box from 1978, seamlessly blending style with performance. Even the name echoes the brand’s ethos: the Eliot Lounge is a legendary runner’s bar near the company’s Boston headquarters, and Eliot the Hare is the name of Tracksmith’s logo.
The Eliot Runner is designed as a versatile, high-volume trainer for dedicated road runners, and one that would perform well and provide a comfortable ride over a range of speeds. Construction of the shoe started with an interesting premise: the goal was to create the sensation of running on gentle, natural surfaces like a soft, springy pine needle path, even when running on the road. To accomplish this, they utilized Pebax, an advanced thermoplastic compound that is being utilized with increasing frequency in “super shoe” road models for its combination of lightweight cushioning and strong energy return.
Two different densities of Pebax are used in the Eliot Runner—directly underfoot is a full-length Pebax insole that is triple the thickness of standard insoles to provide the cushioned landing sensation of a soft trail. The footbed sits atop a firmer and more durable full-length Pebax compound that provides increased stability and responsiveness off the ground, with generous stack heights to support cushioning and comfort during long runs.
We were pleased to find that the underfoot sensation works as intended, as the dual-Pebax combination produces a firm ride with just a little bit of give at impact to soften the landing. However, over longer distances, the firmness becomes a predominant sensation while the cushioning effect seems diminished. We’ve worn the Eliot on runs up to 20 miles, and while they’re not as forgiving as the best cushioned road trainers we’ve tried recently (Topo Specter and HOKA Clifton 9), they are better than other shoes in this category. One departure from current shoe construction trends and perhaps something of a homage to old-school trainers of the 1970s, is the fairly steep heel-toe drop of 9mm that definitely favors heel strikers and makes midfoot landing especially challenging when your legs are fatigued.
The outsole of the Eliot continues the “trail-inspired road shoe” approach with a layer of full-length rubber that has nice durability and traction on asphalt and concrete, but is built with small (1-2mm) lugging that can hold its own during off-road detours. The lugging isn’t quite aggressive enough for this to be a true hybrid road-to-trail shoe, but it works well if you’re only doing a dirt mile here and there during your long road run.
Although the shoe looks like a model that Jim Fixx, author of the 1970s book, The Complete Book of Running, might have worn, modern lightweight engineered mesh creates a soft, flexible feel against the foot with great breathability in warm temperatures. Attention to detail in the lacing area results in flat laces that don’t dig into the top of the foot, and microsuede around the collar and eyestay work in conjunction with the logo sash to lock the foot in place atop the footbed. We found the last to be slightly narrow in the forefoot, and this created some discomfort at the medial and lateral metatarsal heads during runs of more than 90 minutes or so, so runners with wide feet might find the fit problematic.
As first edition running shoes go, the Eliot Runner is generally quite impressive, with a high overall build quality and use of premium materials that aligns nicely with Tracksmith’s apparel collection. While the ride quality is pleasant, the experience for a couple key subsets of runners (those with wide feet, or natural midfoot-to-forefoot strikers) might be challenging with long distances. For those with the right profile, however, the Eliot Runner could definitely meet its objective of being a comfortable daily trainer for committed road runners.
The Tracksmith Eliot Runner is available in men’s and women’s versions at www.tracksmith.com.
Features and Specs:
- Weight (men’s/women’s, average among size range): 9.4oz / 8.0oz
- Stack Height (heel/toe, in mm): 33/24
- Heel-Toe Drop (mm): 9mm
- Upper: Lightweight engineered monomesh
- Soft Pebax insole
- Midsole: full length, full thickness Pebax compound
- Outsole: full length rubber
- Two color options for men and women
- MSRP: $198