After nearly a decade of being one of the top boutique brands in the running world (though they've arguably grown large enough to dispatch the "boutique" label), Boston's Tracksmith has seen the running footwear space lacking — and has decided to fill that gap with their own shoe.
Enter the Eliot Runner.
Looking to develop a shoe that could accommodate any workout, Tracksmith built the Eliot from the ground up, hoping to capture the spirit and feel of the New England running surfaces on which it was tested and toughened.
When visiting the shoe's page on the Tracksmith website, the copy and images cultivate a specific vibe — one that fans of the brand will find very familiar; think pastoral, New England hills dusted with snow, or the woods you might find surrounding Thoreau's Walden Pond. The brand wants the runner to ruminate on the specific feeling of running in the Northeast: the subtle cushion from a bed of pine needles, a wood chip path or a spongey old indoor track. It's about more than just pounding pavement. When wearing the Eliot, Tracksmith contends, you shouldn't notice the hard surface below your feet at all.
To do this, the brand chose to use Pebax, a springy foam that provides the gold standard in cushioning and support. The insole is thicker (and more comfortable) than any insole I've ever run in, while a slightly denser Pebax in the midsole results in a firm ride with just enough give — kind of like, well, pine needles.
After a handful of runs in the shoe, I can say that the designers really did harness some of that New England alchemy (or is it Salem-esque witchcraft?) in creating this shoe; the Pebax insole and midsole combine for a Goldilocks underfoot feel that's not too squishy and not too firm. Combine that with a tread somewhere between a road shoe and a trail shoe and you've got a daily trainer fit for all kinds of surfaces.
When it comes to aesthetics, the shoe fits hand-in-hand with Tracksmith's core designs. A blue sash runs across the side of the shoe and fans of the brand will recognize the familiar red and white racing-striped tab, a detail that adorns the back of almost every Tracksmith piece. The shoe is perfectly understated, but possesses incredible attention to detail, something I've appreciated in all of the Tracksmith apparel I've tested in the past.
I took the shoe out for runs throughout Brooklyn, from Prospect Park to Greenpoint, on steady, consistent asphalt, on busted city sidewalks and on light trails in between. Here's how it went.
What's Good About Tracksmith's Eliot
The Shoe's Aesthetics Evoke a Specific, Wonderful Feeling
These days, running shoes aren't considered the eye sore that they once were. Salomon and Hoka, among a handful of others, are all being seen as a complement to Instagram 'fits and runway styles alike. While the Eliot may not fit in with the aforementioned kicks, it does hold its own in the style department — just in a different way.
Like all of Tracksmith's gear, it's all about heritage good looks with a touch of New England prep (or pep, as you'll see on the Eliot product page). One look at the shoe and you can't help but think of the leafy streets of Boston and the preppy college kids strutting through Harvard Yard. The look is decidedly New England, and that's something to love about it.
Performance-Wise, the Shoe Delivers in Almost Every Way
The aforementioned bright, cushy Pebax insole and pleasantly firm Pebax midsole, a grippy tread, a breezy mesh upper: the shoe seems to have everything you'd want from a daily trainer. While it's not made for race day, that's not what Tracksmith was looking for. It wanted a go-to, run-hard-and-put-away-wet, never-let-you-down type shoe, and that's what the brand delivered.
Tracksmith prides itself on logging hard miles and the glory of the suffering that comes with working hard for big results (again, New Englanders here), so don't dare think of the Eliot as a cheap way for Tracksmith to prey on its unsuspecting loyalists. This shoe should be considered by even the most nitpicky gearheads in the running world.
What's Not Ideal About the Eliot
For Some Reason, It Hates My High Arches
I have high arches, so maybe this is a me thing. (Though if I go by the countless insole brands and a quick search on the internet, it turns out I'm hardly the only one with high arches.) With that said, I felt my arches collapse a bit with every step. Normally, I discard a running shoe's insole after one run (or sometimes before) and swap in my Superfeet insoles. This time, the Superfeet made it worse.
I was fine with that, because in talking with the Eliot's designer, the insole was indeed designed to be a feature that runners would come to love. I still might come to love it, and it is damn cushy...but for some reason, my shins howl at me every time I lace these up.
The Eliot Comes at an Uncommonly High Price for a Trainer
I've worn a lot of training shoes because, well, I'm always training for something or another. At $200, these come in as the most expensive pair I've ever tried. It's not an exorbitant amount to pay for a shoe you'll run in every day, and over time this may very well prove to be a very long-lasting shoe (fingers crossed for replaceable insoles) — but for most people, myself included, $200 is a big chunk of change. I am familiar enough with Tracksmith, though, to believe that the price is justified. Hopefully my trust isn't misplaced.
The Tracksmith Eliot Runner: The Verdict
I've been lucky enough to wear a lot of Tracksmith gear over the years, both through testing for Gear Patrol and on my own before I began working here. So when I heard the brand was launching a pair of everyday trainers, my interest was piqued. Everything I'd experienced with the brand up to this point had exceeded my expectations, from design to performance, so while I eagerly anticipated the Eliot, I also found myself holding it to a standard that was higher than normal. That might not be fair, but hey, Tracksmith has set a high bar.
After a ton of training miles and more to come (once I've figured out the arch thing), I can confidently say that the shoe has lived up to its billing. If you want a shoe for every workout, from the local pine needle-laden trails to the concrete sidewalks of the big city and the sweat-soaked track, the Eliot is there to put in the work with you.