DAVE: You know what the beauty of running is? Runners are very open people. They love to talk. Sit at a bar post-long run, hang out at a race– chances are you’ll find another runner to gab with.
That’s basically how I met Michael Krajicek, Co-Founder (along with his brother Gabriel) of Atreyu Running Company, an Austin, Texas-based shoe company looking to shake things up within the shoe industry.
We were literally standing next to each other at The Running Event in Austin this past December. He had a bag of shoes, and well, if you’re a shoe geek like me, you know how the rest went down. A few weeks later, a pair was on my doorstep.
First, let’s get you cats some background on the brand. It’s different. And I love that. Running shoe companies have been doing the same old shit for years in terms of distribution. Atreyu is trying to change that.
For starters, it’s a B2C business, no middleman, just direct to athlete. You won’t find Atreyu in stores, at least for now. Second, the shoe ordering is subscription-based. A timely re-up if you will. After the shoe is done, send it in with their pre-labeled packaging you get with the shoe, and you’ll get another within days. The old shoe will go to charity.
As a member, you’ll also have pre-release access to certain models down the pike. Giddy up!
My US size 9 comes in at an ultralight 5.6oz (158.5g for those of you across the pond)– strikingly light and so damn fast. Atreyu comes in around a 6 mm drop, 21.5 mm in the heel and 15.5 mm in the toe. Every colorway we’ve seen (there’s three at this point) are clean, and typically include a killer tagline like “Keep going, the battle lies within” or “Fear only regret.” I’m not going to fib, when I read that as I slip them on, it motivates me. Simple wording goes a long way.
Price point is $95 for one-time purchases and $75 for subscription members.
THOMAS: I dig the shoe, I dig Michael, I dig his vision. I guess I better buy a shovel.
DAVE: Let’s start with the midsole: It’s old school. Very a la early Kinvara days. I loved that shoe. And it’s why I like this. It’s classic EVA, but has a lower density. There are flex grooves and cutouts in the outsole and cut with a hardening agent that is designed as “outsole grade EVA” when it’s used as a mix. Did I lose you? Long story short, it’s the way midsoles used to be made. And your run is rewarded due to it.
It rides smooth. The shoe understands you. I have about 60 miles on my pair with easy miles, medium-long runs, and some progression work. It performs well at all paces. It’s snappy and efficient enough to handle my slower recovery days (7:45-8:00 pace) and even more fun on normal aerobic days of (6:50-7:15). Because of the simplicity in design, it works with you. It’s the type of shoe you put on your foot and don’t even notice it is there. There aren’t many shoes out there that can still do that today. My buddy Rory Tunningly (who’s basically their flagship elite runner) says the Atreyu really starts to “settle in” after about 30 or so miles. I found that to be the hardcore truth as well. It really has come into its own.
Ok, so you want to go fast? Well, so far this shoe definitely likes the limelight. Last Sunday’s fast finish run (10E + last 5 FF) had me looking at my watch 12 miles in thinking I grabbed some other dude’s Garmin (who’s actually fit)! I was flying. But here’s the gist of it. It was effortless. I call that fun. Rory is racing the Olympic Trials in this shoe as well. Will be fun to see how they perform!
The upper is pure simplicity. No bullshit overlays, no unnecessary added weight. It molds, so prepare for that racer-like fit. I don’t care if it’s a trainer or racer, I’ve always felt a true trainer should mold to your foot like a spike. Atreyu does that.
The price point of $95 is solid no matter what. But to offer a subscription at $75, I like it. It’s creative. It could change the way we think about how we purchase our trainers.
THOMAS: This is the type of shoe that every company should have in their lineup. A simple upper, stripped-down midsole, and super lightweight. It seems like a no-brainer, but we see companies come into the running space thinking they need a gimmick. Or they have a simple, solid shoe and the next version has an overlay here, a support structure there, and before you know it, the shoe is a monstrosity. Maybe the trick is to avoid all the gimmicks.
The upper on the Atreyu works as it should– it is breathable and soft on the foot. Once the shoe is on the foot, you will forget about the upper, which is how it should be. No heel lift, no hot spots, no B.S. The midsole follows suit. Michael has dialed in the firmness to cushion ratio just right for this shoe’s goals. Think about the old Nike Lunar Racer or the OG Kinvara. If you want to get modern, it shares the feel of the Skechers Horizon Vanish. Turnover is easy with the shoe weighing sub-6 0z. for a size 10.5, and don’t worry about the exposed outsole. I ran in the rain and the shoe had fine traction on multiple surfaces. I was surefooted taking corners on wet docks at full speed.Visit Atreyu Running
DAVE: It runs a tad short and the laces on this proto sample are a bit long. I guess I had to put something in this column. But if you like a little more room, go up a half size.
THOMAS: Dave mentions the sizing. Since the time he wrote his portion of the review, Michael has addressed the issue in the next production run. It shouldn’t be a problem moving forward. These won’t be the most durable shoes (Michael himself suggests around 150-200 miles of use), but for $75 on the subscription plan, you will be able to get the miles you need out of these shoes.
The only other negative is that I would like to see a model with the tongue attached. As it is now, the tongue needs to be adjusted when putting the shoe on.Visit Atreyu Running
DAVE: Write it down. Call me crazy. Call me out. I don’t care. This is one of the best performance trainers I have put on my foot in the last 10 years. If it needs to be compared to something modern-day, it feels like a Skechers Razor 3, minus the Hyper Burst. It wants to move, no doubt, but it provides a beautiful effortless run experience at slower speeds, too!
I look forward to continuing to work with Michael to provide feedback and wish him nothing but the best in this crazy and very scary venture into the running shoe game. I personally feel a lot of the tools are there for success and after getting to know him much better, he’s a driven dude with a passion for running and simplicity. That’s straight cool.
Atreyu presale subscriptions start on 2/21, with a July 1 ship date. The slick design and breathable upper will make this a great summer shoe. Get on the preorder list by visiting their website and check out their Instagram for a look at the other colorways and designs.
Stay tuned. Atreyu is onto something big. Hit me up with any questions!
THOMAS: I enjoyed running in this shoe. It’s light, it’s simple, and it disappears on the foot. This is a perfect example of K.I.S.S., Keep It Simple Stupid. If you’re not stupid, go get yourself a pair of these and stack up on some fun mileage. Special thanks to Michael for visiting us and hand-delivering my test pair. I am a big fan.
You can watch our interview with him below, where he and I discuss his business model, the breakdown of the shoe, and what you can expect from Atreyu Running for 2020.Visit Atreyu Running