Tracksmith Eliot Runner Review: Clean As a Cape Cod Crewcut
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9.2 oz. (261 g) for a US M9 / 8 oz. (227 g) for a US W7
First-ever running shoe from Tracksmith
33.5/24.5 mm (9 mm drop), with 10 mm Pebax insole
Full Pebax midsole is responsive but on the firm side
Gold side stitching, suede collar and eyestay, embroidered insole, and elastic pull tab
Available now for $198
THOMAS: Tracksmith is first and foremost an apparel company, and with the release of the Eliot Runner, a fledgling footwear brand as well. But what they really are is an experience provider. The Eliot Runner is an example of how Tracksmith approaches a product launch from the moment the consumer interacts with the brand.
In the case of the Eliot Runner, the story unfolds with a navy box decorated with Tracksmith branding, sturdy and adorned with the familiar red and white stripe and hopping hare logo.
Like a Russian nesting doll, a matte navy shoe box holds the actual shoe. It’s the kind of shoe box you’d expect to find postcards from your grandfather who served overseas. Under the lid is a pastoral sepia-toned picture of a rolling road and a gold foil Tracksmith logo. Vanilla-colored tissue paper crinkles with illustrations that match the embroidered hare from the apparel line as you pull it back to reveal more than just shoes.
Finally, you unveil the Eliot Runner, a beautiful shoe that looks modern and vintage simultaneously. A contemporary example of what was good about the past and a hint about the future. Like a vintage car with a brand-new engine. This is what I mean about giving the consumer an experience. I have never written about the packaging a shoe arrived in until now.
Small details in the design show off the thoughtfulness that went into the shoe to make it share the Tracksmith DNA. Of course, that DNA just got injected with some new nucleotides with the Eliot Runner. We’re talking a full Pebax midsole combined with a 10 (!) mm Pebax insole for a combined 33.5 mm stack height in the heel and 24.5 mm in the toe box (9 mm drop). Wrap it all up with a mesh upper with some faux microsuede overlays and a gumsole for traction, and you have a pretty slick looking shoe in a fairly light package (a bit over 9 oz., 260g for a US M9).
But let’s be honest, if the branding experience translates into something other than performance, Tracksmith will be left selling an expensive fashion shoe.
ROBBE: If I were an outsider looking in, like some Dickensian orphan with a cold bowl of day-old porridge, I would be a Tracksmith hater. I mean, they once dropped a six-pack of maple-flavored sparkling water on us, with no irony in sight. Their lookbook models either grew up in a boarding school, a Portland tent encampment, or a mime collective– maybe all three. After Saturday long runs, the athletes spend whole decades drinking pour-over coffee before starting the day at 4 p.m. Evenings consist of community potlucks and stick and poke tattoo sessions, Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes only. All this happens while a Bon Iver B-side plays on a gramophone in the background. Alas, it’s a lingua franca that only some understand.
They’re an easy target for disdain, and I totally get it.
However, that would be as an outsider, and someone who’s never run in Tracksmith. But I run in Tracksmith– a lot. We get a lot of gear to review here at Believe in the Run, and yet 80% of the time, I still wear Tracksmith. As in, Turnover Tights almost every day of winter and a rotation of two Brighton Base layers for 90% of my cold-weather runs. My one pair of Van Cortlandt shorts is pretty much the only thing I wear in the summer. I’m a disgusting person, and I blame Tracksmith for it.
Point being, their shit is good, and anybody who’s tried it can attest to it. Aside from a very few pieces that the average runner has no interest in (looking at you, Commute Collection), I think it’s all priced more than fair. And Thomas is right– while it’s high-quality running gear, it’s still more than that– it encapsulates an experience.
There are plenty of brands making carbon copy running gear from budget tech fabrics in large scale factories and turning it around and selling it to you for $35 at your local outlet. And you know what? I totally get it. It fills a need, and people need that. But not every person wants that.
The fact is, there’s a large contingency of runners with disposable income who want an elevated experience from a brand. In 2023, style points count: Higher quality fabrics, more attention to detail, little add-ons that make the buying experience feel personal. And Tracksmith pretty much delivers on that, year after year. Yes, I poke fun at their vibe, but it’s all in good fun. Truth be told, I think their branding and image is impeccably executed, and they really do focus on allowing everyday runners to access the pinnacle of the running experience. And you can absolutely put a price on that.
That brings us to the creation of Tracksmith’s flagship running shoe in the Eliot Runner, which, for any small running brand, is riskier than eating Citgo-station sushi harvested along Boston’s Back Bay. Creating a shoe from scratch requires a sizable investment either in research and development and/or consulting costs. Then you actually have to go back and forth with an overseas factory on creating a product that doesn’t suck. A million things can go wrong in that process, and at the end of the day, if it sucks, you’re f*cked. But, hey– you miss 100% off the shots you don’t take, according to Wayne Gretzky, according to Michael Scott. So Tracksmith went for it.
The final result is a slimmed-down silhouette that looks both classic and modern, with hints of classics like the Nike Killshot/Pegasus, a Samba-like toe box, and old school laces. It looks both familiar and new at once.
At nearly $200, there’s going to be plenty of haters. Do we think it’s fair? We’ll get to that. But at least it’s not the $30,000 one-off bicycle from District Vision. We’re all street urchins at that point.Shop Tracksmith Eliot Runner
THOMAS: The traditional look of the shoe hits all the right nostalgia triggers. Strapping the shoe on, the vintage look fades as you notice the modern upgrades. The first thing you’ll notice about the upper is the inner-bootie construction. The bootie is attached to the tongue and lines the front of the shoe. It keeps the tongue in place and helps create comfort and fit in the toe box.
The topsole/insole is 10 mm of plush Pebax. This layer is where the Eliot Runner gets its soul. It’s where your foot makes contact and delivers the overall sensation driving the feel of the Eliot Runner. Running in the shoe, I got what I expected, a friendly daily trainer with medium cushioning. The gum rubber outsole has the traction and durability you’d expect. Back to the design: I was amused every time I found a new Easter egg hidden in the design. Tracksmith had some fun with branding their first trainer.
ROBBE: Well, the design should hit a perfect ten for Tracksmith aficionados. The off-white with navy stripe and gold stitch detailing puts the Eliot Runner in a Venn diagram with concentric circles of running, cocktail hour-ing, lawn concerting, traveling, yachting, and summering. It’s a really nice looking shoe. Which, if it’s a Tracksmith shoe, it needs to be at least that. First hurdle cleared.
Next is the step-in. That big ol’ insole makes a difference, and it’s needed. It’s comfortable, bouncy, and sure, it gives off that “pine needle” feel that Tracksmith was trying to get in a shoe. I can affirmatively say I’ve never seen a stitched-in logo on a running shoe insole, but Tracksmith did it with their gold script against a navy background. It made me feel quite royal. Of course, there’s the poem on the underside of the insole, which is a nice touch for no other reason than it’s a nice touch.
Like Thomas, I enjoyed the pseudo-gusset or half bootie inside the shoe. It provides a nice wrap around the foot. No issues with lockdown through the run.
There are some things I really love about this shoe, but they kind of do-si-do with some things that I hate about the shoe, which leaves me feeling like a partner with one foot in the square dance and one foot out. Initially, I loved the nice pop from the Pebax. It’s barely noticeable, but it’s there. If you’re more of a heel-striker, you get it more on landing, but it’s there on toe-off as well. The farther you go, the less you notice it, but it’s there.
Overall, this is a simple shoe, but it performs well as a straightforward daily trainer. It won’t blow your mind, so if your doctor has prescribed you Pebax for your erectile dysfunction, and you’re used to that excitement, just temper your expectations. It operates more as an off-label script, so just give yourself some leeway when it comes to performance.
I think the weight is pretty admirable, and hits just right. It’s enough of a shoe that it should reliably last for a few hundred miles, but it’s not going to feel clunky on the run. In fact, it runs even lighter than its weight.
Did I mention it looks really good?Shop Tracksmith Eliot Runner
THOMAS: My pair of Eliot Trainers ran a half size too big. Talking to others who received the shoe, the sizing seemed inconsistent. Some runners found the sizing correct, and others said it ran long.
ROBBE: The sizing on the Eliot Trainer is wacky. My original pair was a full size too big, so I passed it off to our video guy Brandon. I got a second pair a half-size down and it fit perfectly length-wise, but was pretty snug around the midfoot/toe box. I’m not sure if they were sourcing from different factories, but I’ve seen some people say their pair was a size too small, so I’m not sure what even to tell you if you’re considering buying a pair.
The collar is too low slung, and that’s probably due in part to the 10 mm insole elevating your foot much higher than a traditional shoe. I also suspect this is why the ceiling in the toe box felt a little low and the overall fit was a little tight on the top of the foot. So you definitely need to lace up to the top eyelet, but you have to be creative about it because the lace length isn’t that long, so a runner’s loop is out of the question. The laces are very old school, which is great for looks, not so great for modern performance (I had no issues overall though).
When people hear “full Pebax” midsole, they’re probably expecting something different than what this shoe delivers. It’s a fairly firm ride overall, which– in Tracksmith’s defense– they kind of tell you right in the product description. It feels much like a traditional daily trainer in the Pegasus range. Maybe even an actual good version of a Brooks Launch, which is something the world needs.
I guess we should cover the $198 price point. If you’re looking for a straight dollar-to-performance ratio, then no, it is not worth it. You can certainly find a slew of shoes at a $30-50 lower price point that perform as well or better. But let’s be real– that’s not what you’re paying for in this shoe, anyway.Shop Tracksmith Eliot Runner
THOMAS: The Eliot Runner is a standard daily trainer. It isn’t something that will knock your socks off. Unfortunately, the price and the baggage some runners have surrounding the Tracksmith brand sets the Eliot Runner up for criticism. When the price gets up to $200, runners want high-end game-changing performance rather than a daily trainer.
You aren’t buying the Eliot Runner for racing. It is a utility piece of gear. The runner that purchases the Eliot Runner loves the Tracksmith brand, the classic design, and maybe flexing their buying power. In defense of the higher-than-average price, Tracksmith used premium ingredients like Pebax, was meticulous in the design, and manufactured a smaller number of shoes than a brand focusing on footwear.
All of these factors drive up the cost of a trainer. I like the shoe for both running and casual wear. Tracksmith has an excellent first effort in the Eliot Runner. I would compare the Eliot Runner to Nike Pegasus, Saucony Ride, New Balance 880, and the Asics Gel-Cumulus. My pair of 10.5 weighs 10 oz/286 grams.
ROBBE: We’re living in one of the greatest periods of running shoe history, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. This is a good thing. We have a wide array of options that cater to almost any runners’ preferences. And there’s a place for personality, with running shoes that perform well but can be a statement both on and off the run. This matters, because no matter how much you think you your Mizuno Wave Rider or Brooks Levitate looks cool with cargo shorts, the fact of the matter is– they don’t.
Luckily we’re blessed with more bespoke offerings from brands like Tracksmith, Diadora, Brandblack, Speedland, and Norda. And yes, it’s going to cost more, but they’re also more intentional about what they’re doing and what they’re offering to their customers. Do you want to feel like a background actor in a blockbuster sequel or a central character in a critically-acclaimed indie film? Either choice is fine, just don’t be upset if someone wants the latter.
So if you’re content with wearing the same pair of Gel-Cumulus for the next six years, then go for it, and enjoy your running. Totally awesome. And if you want a shoe with a more personalized touch, that pairs equally as well with a pair of chinos or Van Cortlandts, then go grab the Eliot Runner. Look good and feel good.
In the words of Kacey Musgraves: “Follow your arrow wherever it points.” Or follow your “hare-row,” which always points to Tracksmith.
You can pick up the Tracksmith Eliot Runner for $198 (and see more colorways) by using the shop link below.Shop Tracksmith Eliot Runner
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As the founder of Believe in the Run, Thomas’ goal is to help runners pick the shoes and gear that will make their running experience the best that it can be.
All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Kinvara 2, Hoka Clifton 1, Nike Alphafly Next%More from Thomas
Robbe is the lead copywriter and editor for all things Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. Appreciates mezcal and New York Times crosswords. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 Runshield, Asics Metaspeed Edge+More from Robbe
I enjoy coming here and reading about the shoes and gear you guys test. Recently tho, its been honestly difficult to “believe” your reviews and recommendations. People come here for honest reviews, regardless of brand affiliation or sponsorship. I love tracksmith like the next guy, but the fact that you have an partnership/affliction to Tracksmith, Asics connection or New Balance supplying shoes for your NY marathon, shouldn’t prevent you guys from being critical like you use to be. This review was all fluff, biased because it wasnt reviewed extensively as its main purpose of which Tracksmith intended in its website description, as a running shoe.
Hey Matt, appreciate the comment. I would say, we don’t have any sort of sponsorship with Tracksmith, we just get gear to review like every brand sends us, and we have PLENTY of shoes and gear, so we don’t ever feel a need to hold back from a shoe. The brands actually value it more when we trash a shoe, which I’ve done on the New Balance SC Elite, Asics Magic Speed 2, etc. Personally, my “bad” section for this shoe was four paragraphs long (I mean, I said it’s a better Brooks Launch). I like the shoe, I think a certain person will really like it, but it’s not a performance shoe. I do appreciate your feedback, and thanks for following.