'Lululemon’s first off-road shoe has surprised me – in a good way'
After making its foray into the world of footwear last year, Lululemon has released its first road-to-trail shoe: the Blissfeel Trail. It coincides with the reveal of the brand’s new initiative – Further – that will see 10 women take on a six-day ultramarathon in March 2024. So it seems like Lululemon is set on following the likes of Nike and Adidas into the trail running world.
The Blissfeel Trail is built on the same midsole construction as the brand’s road running shoe, the Blissfeel 2. However, Lululemon has made some key changes that lend the Blissfeel Trail towards rougher terrains. The upper has a protective film for added durability, with a PPU covering around the toe that provides a level of stability and protection, and on the outsole there’s 4mm lugs that are orientated between the heel and the forefoot to support traction.
Who’s the shoe designed for?
We asked Simon Atkins, senior vice president of footwear at Lululemon, what kind of runner – and running – the Blissfeel Trail has been designed for. He says it's for women who want ‘a versatile runner for multiple conditions' rather than ‘being forced into a lane’.
‘She's running in it, plus also doing day to day activities,’ says Atkins. According to him, it’s also for runners who are doing ‘multiple sessions a week... so from a distance point of view it is exceptionally capable’.
Having tested the Blissfeel Trail ourselves, we think it’s suited to shorter distances, steady miles and gravely terrains – but it does hold it's own on the road, too. While we’d recommend the Blissfeel 2 for distances up to 10km, we reckon the Blissfeel Trail could handle slightly further – up to 15km – if that route includes quite a bit of off-road. On tarmac, the firmness is slightly too unforgiving for longer miles. It’s also a good option for more technical parkruns, walks in your local woods or easier hikes. If you’re tackling a half marathon or more, though, you’re probably going to want something with a bit more cushioning. And for muddier, technical terrains, it will be an absolute no-go – the upper simply isn't durable enough to handle that.
What does the Blissfeel Trail feel like to run in?
I've been putting the Blissfeel Trail through its paces over the past week, on a series of runs around Vancouver – the home of Lululemon.
Just like the Blissfeel 2 road shoe (and its predecessor) it definitely offers a firmer ride. But while I haven't loved this in the road version (max-cushioned advocate over here), in the Blissfeel Trail it hits the mark. When you’re tackling uneven surfaces or trails, you don’t want something plushy and propulsive; you want something with a bit more ground feel that helps you to feel in control. So when it comes to the midsole, it feels like Lululemon has got it right here.
In the past, the brand has been pretty hush-hush about the foam used in the midsole of its running shoes, but Atkins did confirm to RW that it's a EVA-based foam that Lululemon is 'continually upgrading'. He also said that, in shock absorption and energy return testing, the brand has been able to 'get the profile of the run that they’re looking for with the foam it uses'. So, if you were hoping for a more cushioned ride in future iterations, don't expect it anytime soon. Although, Atkins said that as the brand gains feedback from its customers, they will 'either raise or lower the stack height as they so wish'.
While the upper definitely feels more durable than the Blissfeel 2, it's thinner and more flimsy than I'd expect from a trail running shoe, so it's definitely better for beginner-style off-road terrains (eg, hard-packed trails like canal paths) rather than anything more technical.
The outsole comprises 4mm lugs. I haven’t had any problems with stones getting caught in them, so they seem pretty evenly spaced, and I felt like I had a good amount of grip on the trails I've been testing them on.
How does the shoe fit?
Compared with the Blissfeel 2, the Blissfeel Trail runs much truer to size. I’m a UK size 8 or 8.5, and opted for a size 8.5 in the Blissfeel Trail. There’s definitely more than enough room in the toe box, with plenty of wiggle room for your toes, so there’s no need to size up. I ran in the shoes straight out of the box too and experienced no rubbing or blistering.
The Blissfeel Trail is a good option for shorter distances, hikers and fairly new runners who want a shoe that can get them from their front door to the trails.
I wouldn’t recommend them for anyone tackling a half marathon or more, particularly if it's a race, and that’s for a couple of reasons. First, you’d need absolute confirmation that the ground was going to be dry on the day of your race; the Blissfeel Trail is waterproof to an extent, but it isn’t one for wading through muddy bog. Secondly, even though a firmer ride is suited to trail running, I’d still want a bit more cushioning if I was taking on a longer distance – perhaps something more in the realm of the Nike Pegasus Trail 4. Although Atkins claims the Blissfeel Trail can cover many miles, I'd say this would be over the course of a week, rather than on an individual run.
All this being said, if we're going on promise alone, the Blissfeel Trail never claims to be a long distance nor a performance shoe. It's a versatile daily trainer, designed to take you from road to trail, and that's exactly what it does. And to be honest, I don't see Lululemon changing this anytime soon.
‘I think that our sweet spot has always been around a high-performing product that is equally versatile,’ said Atkins, when I asked him if Lululemon would ever venture into the world of performance running shoes and (dare we say it) carbon plates.
‘As we develop year on year, we will take a look and engage with our guests to see what activities they’re doing and the types of products that they're looking for. For right now, I don't see it, but certainly, it's not off the table.’
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