Atreyu Running Race Model ($120)
Michael: I’ll admit my bias up front – Atreyu is a brand I absolutely adore. Partially, it’s because I admire fellow-Michael Krajicek, and what he’s done to start a new running shoe brand from scratch… but more so because I’ve just come to really, really enjoy their products. The Atreyu Artist (the outgoing model, which this replaces) was a go-to workout shoe for me, and the Base Model (their cheapest, most frill-less offering) is legitimately one of my top-5 favorite running shoes ever. I’ve worn through at least 5 pairs of that shoe, and while that’s partially a function of their somewhat limited lifespan, it’s much more a testament to my love of that shoe.
So, when Michael reached out about testing the new Atreyu Race Model, I was excited – but also nervous. I’m going to give this shoe (as I do all shoes) an honest review, and even though I’m a fan of the company, I might well come down hating the shoe. Fortunately… that isn’t the case here. And while I don’t think we’ll see as many Atreyu on the start line as we do Vapor- and Alphafly, I do think there’s a case to be made that this shoe could work better for more runners than its more aggressive competitors.
Simple, no nonsense in both form and function (Ben; Michael)
Extremely affordable as far as carbon plated shoes go (Ben; Michael)
Soft midsole without being too sloppy (Michael)
Likely not snappy enough to compete with other half marathon / marathon racers out there (Ben)
Certainly not a firm shoe, lacks that “punch” that some others have (Michael)
Ben is the Senior Rabbi of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel of Elkins Park, PA. A cancer survivor, he has run 21 marathons. He holds PRs of 3:15 for the marathon and 1:30 for the half. At 46, he still enjoys pushing himself and combining his running with supporting a variety of causes. Follow him on Instagram: @RabbiBPD or Twitter: @BDinPA
Michael is a patent attorney and graduate of Northwestern University Law School. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). Michael’s PRs include a 67:43 half-marathon (Chicago Half-Marathon) and a 2:21:19 marathon PR at the 2023 Grandma’s Marathon. Michael continues to race on the roads, and is chasing a sub-2:20 marathon and potential OTQ in the future.
Weight: men’s 8.05 oz / 229g US9
Samples: men’s 8.05 oz / 229g US9
Stack Height: men’s 35 mm heel / 29 mm forefoot ( 6mm drop spec) Same as Artist
$120 Available October 2023
First Impressions, Fit and Upper
Ben: Upon step-in the Atreyu Race Model feels light, simple and extremely wearable. It feels fun right away, not taking itself too seriously. This is a no-nonsense shoe, very stripped-down and simple, in keeping with Atreyu’s general approach. The Race Model picks up where the Artist left off with (at least perceived) added stack and cushion and a thinner upper, both of which are positive changes in my opinion.
The reflective weave of the upper is paper-thin and comfortable, though I found that I could have gone up a size from my typical size 9. That said, the heel collar feels stable and secure, as much as if not more so than The Artist. The traction is highly noticeable immediately, created by the full-length rubberized outsole. It’s hard NOT to notice how grippy these shoes are the minute you try them on. It possibly has better traction than most – if not all – of the so-called super shoes out there. (Ben)
Michael: Atreyu sent me a size 9 (a half-size up from my usual), but warned me my model was pre-production and may not fit exactly the same as a finalized 9.0. In that regard, I am mildly hesitant to give too much advice on sizing, but I think a 9.0 fits quite well – if you’re in-between sizes, as Ben suggests above, I would tend towards sizing up (which is nearly never my advice in racing shoes). These seem to run a little short, though I’d love to try a production 8.5 and confirm.
The upper itself is awesome; Atreyu calls it a “TPEE reflective weave” material, and it’s light, breathable, and quite comfortable. I really dig the graph paper aesthetic (I’d pay big money for a graph-paper Base Model), and didn’t have any issues with lockdown. Heck, my first run out of the box was an 18 mile workout, and I had absolutely no issues in these – if you’re someone who wants to race in shoes without a break-in, I wouldn’t worry here.
The most exciting features on the upper are (a) the heel pull-tab (thank you, though with a wide opening and easy lacing, it’s not totally needed (imagine an AlphaFly without a pull-tab… you’d never get it on!); and (b) the “shark-skin” unidirectional friction fabric at the heel.
This is funky – not the shininess, below. If you rub your finger on the fabric moving down (towards the floor), it slides easily (as your foot, going into the shoe). Rub the other way, and you meet some resistance. A really neat trick, and one I’m genuinely surprised I’ve never seen in a shoe before. It didn’t come with any extra irritation, so why not?!
Ben: The supercritical TPE midsole is lively without coming across as harsh or burdensome. It feels peppy upon step-in, though not aggressively so. The higher stack of 35 mm heel / 29 mm forefoot and greater cushion will help it hold up for longer races or workouts, maybe more than the Artist did but not in the same obvious way as the AlphaFly or Adios Pro. The carbon plate is not overly noticeable, in my opinion.
Michael: Soft and squishy, but with enough spring – I don’t think anyone will put on the race model and feel that immediately the roll you feel when you put on the AlphaFly for the first time, but that’s a function of the geometry and design of this shoe as well. The Race Model packs a more relaxed ride, and while it’s got some pop when running hard (I did some gradual uphill strides in these, and definitely benefited from the plate and spring at my top-end effort), it’s more of a cruise-ride than a full-on propulsion.
Were I a sommelier (a shoemmelier?), I’d detect many notes of New Balance FuelCell in this one. This shoe is damn close to one of the greats – the FuelCell TC – and not a far cry from the Rebel v2 or RC Elite v2 either. Mix in a little Brooks Hyperion Elite and a pinch or two of ASICS MetaSpeed, and I think you’re there. It’s very much on the soft end of the spectrum.
Ben: As noted above the perforated die-cut rubber outsole is extremely grippy and feels smooth (both to the touch and on the run). Like the rest of the shoe, it feels simple, fun and light without being overly opinionated or harsh.
Michael: Surprisingly pleased here; I’ve put about 60 miles on my Race Models and not only have I not noticed any wear, but I’ve actually had good luck on wet surfaces.
Dedicated Strava followers may notice I’ve put together a two-mile “race loop” in my neighborhood (I recently ran a solo time trial – 9:47, which was great as my “end of season” race before the baby comes!) and that gives me great opportunity to test shoes on curves, including some with slick painted elements. I wore the Race Model for two laps of that “course” on a rainy day and while there was some slipping when on the crosswalk markers, it wasn’t markedly worse than others – certainly not a shoe I’d be concerned about for a wet race.
Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations
Ben: The Race Model is a breath of fresh air: light, streamlined, clean and comfortable. It can handle workouts and likely could hold up for a marathon (though it would not be my first choice). I believe many would benefit from using it at half marathon distances and shorter. I think it improves on the Artist in both comfort, cushion and versatility. It feels quite tame when compared to a VaporFly (certainly version 3) or Saucony Endorphin Elite. In this way, it may serve as an entry-point into the world of carbon plated shoes for some. The price tag is a huge bonus, as is always the case for Atreyu. I’ve enjoyed the miles I’ve put on it thoroughly and am looking forward to using them for workouts (and maybe a tune-up) race as I prepare for the Philadelphia Marathon this November.
Score: 9/10 with deductions only for not being able to compete with the headiest racers on the market these days.
Michael: You can scroll down to our world-famous Comparisons section, below, but I think a comparison is a good way to wrap-up this review, too – if you’re a fan of softer, more cushioned racers (say, if you wish New Balance would bring back the FuelCell RC Elite v2) or train in a soft shoe (New Balance 1080, perhaps, or the Hoka Clifton or Mach) and you want to carry that over to racing, then the Race Model is a phenomenal choice. Moreover, for newer or slower runners who want to give a carbon-plated option a try – but don’t want to shell out $250 or $275 (or, in Adidas’s case, $500!), the Race Model is an absolutely great deal.
For those who have the funds for the full spectrum, but are still considering the Race Model, I’d break it down two ways – do you want a shoe for workouts that costs half as much as your racer? Because you’re getting way more than half the performance, and I think keeping a pair in your bag for when you want to rip a run is only a good thing. Then, there’s those who may want to race in it, but want to know how it stacks against the top-end racers, and I think the answer is that it falls into that second tier of racers. You probably won’t lose minutes off your marathon, but I do think something like the AlphaFly v2 (boy, I cannot wait for v3!) or MetaSpeed Sky+ is just a faster option at my race paces. But if you love the Hyperion Elite and want to give this a go, I don’t think you’ll find it a way different experience.
Weighing cost against performance is a massively difficult task, so I’ll wrap my conclusion by saying that I’ll be keeping the Atreyu Race Model around, and using it for tempo runs and (especially) long run workouts. As I’ve written many times, I don’t love soft shoes, but there’s enough to the Atreyu Race Model to keep me interested, and I think even runners with less affinity for the brand than I have will be pleased with this $120 rocket.
Michael’s Score: 9.2/10
How many smiles?
Atreyu The Artist (RTR review)
Ben: Covered in greater detail above; I believe The Race Model is a refined, faster version of The Artist in ride and fit. (Ben)
Michael: Basically what Ben said; if you liked the Artist, you’ll love the Race Model, and even if you didn’t, I think the Race Model can win some people back. It has a better fit and a more mature midsole that, while still soft, stays out of “sloppy.” Take the Race Model.
New Balance Fuel Cell RC Elite v2 (RTR Review)
Michael: This is one of the closer comparisons, in my book, in terms of feel – the outgoing RC Elite v2 does have a more distinct “plate feel,” but both are dominated by their marshmallow midsoles, and lack an aggressive geometry. The RC Elite v2 is the shoe I ran my “breakthrough” marathon in in 2021, so I have a special affinity for it, but with supply drying up, I do think the Race Model is a suitable heir apparent.
New Balance Fuel Cell SC Trainer v2 (RTR Review)
Ben: The Race Model is livelier, lighter and more likely to be used as both a trainer and racer. I found the SC Trainer v2 to be bulky and flat feeling. The Race Model is neither of those things.
New Balance Fuel Cell SC Elite v3 (RTR Review)
Ben: I had lockdown issues with the SC Elite V3 (unlike the V2) in ways I did not have with the Race Model. I believe the Race Model feels faster, less bulky and smoother.
Michael: The SC Elite v3 is the successor to the RC Elite v2, but a pretty significant revamp (and it brings more stiffness and structure than on v2). Personally, I do prefer it (I ran the 2022 Chicago Marathon in the v3, and was really impressed), but if you came from the v2 and want that softness back, I’d look to the Race Model.
New Balance FuelCell TC (RTR Review)
Michael: Actually, this is what makes me the most happy about the whole thing – the FuelCell TC was (in my opinion) one of the greatest trainers ever made and, for reasons I cannot comprehend, was discontinued by New Balance. The Race Model isn’t quite FC TC-level, but it does feel shockingly similar and, at $120, is a great replacement.
Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 (RTR Review)
Michael: I didn’t run the HE3, but did the previous-generation HE2 and the Race Model share a lot of similarities – both are more squishy than sharp, and more gentle than aggressive. I actually prefer the Atreyu here because I think the outsole is more competent, I get a better lockdown and it was less expensive.
Hoka Mach X (RTR Review)
Ben: The Mach X is a more complete shoe in my opinion. It works equally well for speed sessions and races, is light and sleek with great lockdown and durability. My guess is that most people will use the Race Model primarily as a session shoe and not a “goal race” marathon or half marathon racer.
Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 (RTR Review)
Ben: The Endorphin Pro 3 is more aggressive and faster feeling. That said, it’s a good comparison for the Race Model in that neither will likely compete with the Nike’s and Adidas’ of the world but both serve as highly wearable, race-ready options. I think I would lean toward the Atreyu.
Watch RoadTrailRun Editor Sam’s Video Review of the Race Model (15:39)
The Atreyu Race Model will be available in October at Atreyu