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“We’re going across the river today, BABYYYY!!!” I heard as my legs shook, preemptively feeling sore from the grueling workout that was to come in a few minutes. This was during my high school years in Northern Kentucky, where once a year my cross country coach liked to make us run across the bridge to Cincinnati. “It’s good for your soul,” he’d tell us (acting as if that was enough encouragement.)
I’d venture to say that most people have a love-hate relationship with running. The sport can be brutal — especially if you’re in a place like Ohio where it’s freezing cold this time of year — but when it’s over you feel absolutely euphoric. It has an interesting power to bring people together: you may have met your best friend in your city’s running group… or you may use running to get as far away from people as possible.
Running is deep. It’s both personal and communal. It’s special.
Whether you’re an Olympic marathoner or a thirthy-something just trying to stay in shape, the fundamentals of running never change: comfortable socks, weather-appropriate clothing, a desire to show up today better than you did yesterday, but most of all, the right shoes. Tracksmith, which launched in 2014 but is already expanding its brick and mortar shops internationally, designs high quality performance gear that serves everyone from the most intense runners to the most casual. Over the holidays, I chatted with co-founder Matt Taylor about the brand’s origins, expansion, and venture into footwear with their new training shoe, the Eliot Runner.
Taylor, a lifelong runner, started Tracksmith out of Boston in 2014. His goal wasn’t to create some flashy neon shirt or hyper-lightweight shoe, but rather a brand that could function for both the most serious athlete and the average customer. “We focus on solving the needs of committed runners… and if we can do that it certainly will work for every other running situation,” Taylor told me.
When Tracksmith launched, other apparel brands seemed to be intent on looking like the most advanced brand on the planet. Tracksmith takes a different approach: the aesthetic is understated, but the underlying craftsmanship is cutting-edge. It draws on its New England heritage with soft, neutral colors and simple silhouettes.
It’s working extremely well. Just in 2022, Tracksmith opened a popup store across the pond in London (with a permanent address opening this year), did collaborations with J.Crew and PUMA, released a podcast with Malcolm Gladwell, and announced its own running shoe.
The Test Run
I tried out a few different Tracksmith apparel pieces from their winter collection, plus the new Eliot Runner shoes, and the brand has some of the best quality I’ve seen in running gear. Part of the charm of Tracksmith is how niche it is as a brand; it doesn’t try to be everything for everyone. They don’t make products designed for other activities like yoga or pilates… just Really. Good. Running. Stuff. The materials are durable, I haven’t had any issues with stitching or breathability, and the fit is superb. Here were my favorites:
Trackhouse Crew ($110)
If you wear crewnecks, you need to stop what you're doing and go buy at least one of these right now. I used to have a gray crewneck from Everlane for years before it finally fell apart last year. Since then I’ve been looking for the perfect long sleeve replacement — and this is it. I’ve probably worn it about 50 days since I received it in the mail two months ago, and will definitely be buying it in more colors next fall.
Inverno Gloves ($32)
For the longest time I’ve used a pair of old fleece mittens, so these Inverno Gloves were a welcome upgrade. They’re definitely luxurious — the fabric comes from Italy and they have touchscreen-capable fingertips. With other gloves, wiping snot from my nose can be irritating to my dry winter face (hey, it happens), but thankfully these are designed to be softer on the face. Take it from me: they are.
Eliot Runner ($198)
The Eliot Runner is about as “down-the-middle as it can get,” as Taylor told me. Having experience running in a fairly wide range of brands, including the HOKA Cliftons recently, I think the Eliot is an instant classic. The Nike Pegasus of our time. It's true to size and doesn’t look overly “engineered” with fancy colors and accents, so it’s completely different than what’s on the market now. (Feel free to wear them casually as well, sneakerheads.)
The midsole uses Pebax®, which research argues is the best foam for performance shoes today. The Eliot Runner provides comfortable cushioning without too much bounce, while also providing stability that's much needed when going on any run over three miles. They’re available in a white-navy colorway as well as a recently-released black colorway. And Tracksmith is more than willing to back it up: if you don’t love your Eliots after 30 days, they’ll take them back for a full refund.
In It for the Long Run
Tracksmith isn’t “retro” or “throwback” or “vintage” — the brand looks the same as it did in 2014 and will almost definitely look the same in 2024… and in 2054. It’s just timeless. But what’s underneath is timely: the Eliot’s Pebax® sole, merino-polypropylene blend pullovers, and Italian-engineered moisture wicking fabrics are top-of-the-line materials in the world of performance wear.
If you’re serious about running, you should really check out Tracksmith. They don’t follow the latest flashy trends or just pump out new products for the sake of making a buck. They are serious about runners and take a thoughtful approach to their craft, and their price tag.
I wish I would’ve had Tracksmith back in my high school days. I certainly could've used some of their tights doing extra laps in those freezing cold track-season winters. Brands that like to use shocking neons and buzzy words (not mentioning any names) better keep an eye out, because Tracksmith is quickly catching up. Slowly, but surely.