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Patagonia Tsali 3.0 Men’s and Women’s Trail Running Shoe Review

In Patagonia’s line of trail shoes, the Tsali 3.0 holds the maximus badge for their collection of dirty tread. It is their workhorse shoe designed for long miles, varied terrain, and foot comfort.

patagonia_tsali3wm

Over the winter months Olga and I have had the opportunity to take the men’s and women’s Tsali 3.0 on a number of dirty adventures so we are excited to share our thoughts.

Let’s get to it!

Specs of Interest

  •  moderate weight – 10.4 ounces (size 9 men’s), 8.5 ounces (size 8 women’s)
  •  traditional drop – 10 mm, with a 27mm/17mm (heel/toe) stack height (top of insole to external edge of outsole)
  • flexible mesh upper
  • forefoot shock absorption pad
  • sticky rubber outsole with moderate tread height
  • neutral shoe – No medial support. Simple.

Out of the box, besides the staring-at-the-sun color (at least for the men’s), the mesh upper caught my attention and was very flexible and the simplicity of it likely helps keep the weight down for a shoe with a fair amount of cushioning and outsole.

Looking at the under-belly, the tread seemed like a solid all-purpose design with lugs of moderate height.

To the trails!

Men’s Tsali 3.0 – David’s Test Drive

My adventures have been from 5-20 miles in conditions from urban grass and sidewalks, to rocky, rooty trails with steep climbs and descents, and even a number of water crossings.

patagonia_tsali3m

patagonia_tsali3ma

Fit

Shoe fit is true to size. Size 12 has been my goto size and it was no different for the Tsali 3.

With a more traditional shoe design, I was pleasantly surprised by the subtle roominess. It wasn’t sloppy by any means but I noticed a bit of workable foot room in the midfoot area and even comfortable living quarters for the piggies. I think the simple mesh upper supported that roomy feel as apposed to a shoe with a number of overlays and dense/stiff material. I like it!

I could wear a thin or medium thick sock with these guys and be comfortably ready to play.

Let’s Get Dirty

My first run in the Tsali 3 was a 10 mile singletrack scamper on a rocky and rollin’ trail. Moderately technical.

The initial strides…

The Good – Loved the firm mid-sole feel. They felt responsive for a shoe with a fair amount of cushioning. Also, liked the slight roominess feel where it felt like they could stay quite comfortable for a good amount of miles.

The Bad – I felt like I was running on 2x4s from your local home improvement store.

Stiff, stiff, stiff.

For non-technical sections, the galloping wood blocks performed just fine but while dancing over small rocks of various sizes, shapes, angles, the shoes seemed to be more open to little ankle rolls. They seemed a little skittish.

When dancing over top of many of the rocky sections, the shoe did provide a nice amount of protection most of the time. Somehow…a sharp rock corner would sometimes still find a way to penetrate and say “Hi” to the bottoms of my feet in the forefoot area.

A toe bumper is highlighted in the Tsali 3 description. I would remove that. Toe protection is minimal especially for a workhorse type of shoe. More than a couple times I yelped after Mr. Piggy kissed a rock. Yes, I should raise my damn feet!

My first run in them was a so-so experience.

I stuck with them and they began to ride better with some miles under their tread. Less like sporty Klogs, more like trail running shoes.

One of the Tsali’s biggest adventures was a 17-ish mile journey at the Ouachita Switchbacks race in northeast Oklahoma. Great rocky singletrack. Stream crossings. Grunt climbs. Weeee descents. Rollers.

The Tsali really ran well. For the stream crossings where they took a swim – excellent draining!

One downer, afterwards I noticed the toe bumpers began to separate from the front of the shoe.

patagonia_tsali3mb

After 100+ miles.

Tsali 3.0 pic after 100+ miles.

Tsali 3.0 after 100+ miles.

Tsali 3.0 after 100+ miles.

For me these shoes have a fine wine vibe – they got better with age (mostly). For a workhorse type of shoe, I love the spunkier moderate weight, firm midsole, and comfortable upper. A few opportunity areas would be to improve the piggy protection (harder and wider rubber material with an emphasis on the first two toes (Mr. and Mrs.), better glue), tweakage of the absorption pad, and reduce/eliminate the initial break-in period.

Who would most dig the Patagonia Tsali 3.0:

  • Looking for moderately firm cushioning with a more traditional shoe drop
  • Looking for a simple, breathable, comfortable, and drainable upper
  • Someone that may run a few road miles in them.
  • Someone that has the patience to break them in to meet their true personality

– David Hanenburg

Women’s Tsali 3.0 – Olga’s Test Drive

A couple of months ago I had written a review on Patagonia EVERlong, and I had purchased and written about Patagonia EverMore as well back in April 2013. Enter Patagonia Tsali 3.0 (in the picture below on the left, to compare with EVERlong).

Patagonia Tsali 3 with the EverLONG

Patagonia Tsali 3.0 with the EVERlong

A little back story:

In the beginning of last year I was looking for a new shoe. Not that there is anything wrong with my beloved Sportiva Helios (or Crosslights for shorter ultras), but I was curious about what’s out there. The information of what I am used to wear is an important part of the review because everyone is different.

I emailed Krissy Moehl, my former teammate from the Montrail golden days who is now an ambassador and a designer for Patagonia’s shoe line along with Jeff Browning. I asked her what she prefers in her new shoe sponsor. He response was “Tsali 2.0” (that was a full year ago) – and she closely compared it to the Montrail Hardrocks. Well, the thing is, I always hated Hardrocks (the shoes, NOT the race). Thus I picked EverMore and ran a number of races (up to 100 km on rocks) and loved them. I Loved the EVERlong as well – so, the time has come to give Tsali 3.0, the new and improved version, a try.

The review:

I put the shoes on – and hated them pretty much right away. Well, maybe that’s too much of a word. I disliked them. I tried really hard to like them – I walked in them to work (my 6 mile road route I use as my shoe-break-in method) and had numbness on the bottom of my feet for a full day. The shoe didn’t bend much. It was narrow in a toebox. It was stiff. I took it for a trail run (I am talking way back in September). I couldn’t run over rocks as I didn’t feel them (rocks) under – and in part it’s a good thing, as our Texas rocks are very sharp and very mean, but in part I was slipping off them rocks because the shoe was not conforming over. They were slick over limestone slabs. They didn’t grip well on loose rock or wet dirt. They were still stiff.

So, I dropped them into a washing machine for a spin cycle – and they finally came out better. Softer some, bendy-er, better fitting. I could get some more runs in and write the review, at last.

patagonia_tsali3wa

As you notice on the full side view photo, the bottom is very thick. That’s why I was mentioning what I am regularly running in (and yes, I also ran in Hoka for almost a year, so I know Moon Boots as well). It has a high stack of outsole and midsole combination, what for me leads not only to a weird “I don’t feel the trail’s nooks and crannies”, but to a higher risk to roll my ankle. The depth of the shoe itself is moderate, so it won’t save the ankle if it does roll. The sole feels smooth on the road (and after that laundry experiment at least most of my numbness was gone), but not so much on the twisted and technical trails. 5 (out of 10) for the last for me.

The grip: I found it unreliable. Come to think about it, Krissy mentioned the same thing. Just too smooth to hold on to anything that is muddy, rocky, slick or steep downhill. 4 (out of 10) for the grip.

patagonia_tsali3wb

The comfort: just as with the EVERlong, the Tsali 3.0 is equipped with this new cushion pad at the heel, what serves in a dual way: soft, and hold your ankle in place by reducing the slide of the heel up and down and side to side. The insoles are breathable and thin. 7+(out of 10) for that category.

patagonia_tsali3wc

Flexibility: as mentioned above in my first impression, while they bend in your hands and after washing them (and crossing a few creeks) I found them more “bendy”, I still didn’t like them much. I couldn’t easily (key word) flex my foot; conform to a rock or a root/log (what added to that slipping off), walk on toes (not something required, just a test). Note that only the toe-box was bending. The midsole stayed very stiff, thus that conforming problem (the push off requires a flexible forefoot).

patagonia_tsali3wd

Speaking of toe-box, for me, personally (I have wide feet), the shoes were narrow. Like, “first time in a decade I got blisters on my pinky toes at six miles” narrow. I repeated the test three times, and every time came back with blisters, which I did feel by the way. There is no way I’d wear them for a long race! And the whole idea behind Tsali’s line is the 100 mile races, lots of cushion and protection.

Protection was good, I have to say. Those rocks did not stick into your foot, as they did in both the EverLong and EVERmore. That bottom of the foot soreness never developed.

Wet test: I ran in rain and a few times through the creeks during the runs. The draining was acceptable – again, wish it was better (Crosslights from Sportiva is my standard), but in two minutes I wasn’t sloshing, and about five minutes after water crossing the shoes were wet but not heavy, and drying (if in hot weather) was within 10-15 minutes. The soles stayed moist a little longer.

Laces: Very bad. Need to do double-tie and still manage to get them loose as I run, especially when wet!

Durability: Due to my personal physical condition I ended up putting only 80 miles on them with the longest run being 10 miles. So, once I was ordered by a doctor not to run for a bit, I decided to give them to my good friend to continue testing. I achieved two goals:

  1. I extended the mileage so I could write about their longevity
  2. Someone else gave me an independent opinion on their wear and feel

a) About 150 miles later they seem to be rather “squished” in the outsole and worn out. The little chips are separating off the soles, the pronation and its mistakes are obvious for that few miles. The whole shoe feels sloppy inside.

patagonia_tsali3we

b) Thoughts from Cris Strong: I found the shoes to have a roomy toe-box, but not so much that it left my feet sloshing around. They were absolutely true to size and very comfortable. A light-weight shoe, with a thin sole, however, they would never be mistaken for a minimalist shoe, which is perfect for my liking. I want my feet to feel protected without extra weight or feeling clunky. When running on a flat, crushed granite trail they were fast and smooth. On a rockier trail I could feel the roots and rocks, but never with any pain, just more intimate with the terrain. The only complaint I have-and it may seem trivial to some- was that the laces were ridiculously long. What exactly is anyone suppose to do with 14+” of laces? Even after double lacing them I had to rig them all over my feet. And who wants to trim and burn and glue shoes they just dropped a Ben Franklin for? I’ll give them a 9-.

patagonia_tsali3wf

Bottom line for me: this shoe I would consider for myself only as a lightweight hiking shoe. It is lightweight, indeed, but absolutely not what I am looking for in a trail running shoe: too stiff for a shorter ultra, and too narrow and unstable for a longer one.

– Olga King


Tsali 3.0 talk

  • What has your experience been with the Tsali 3.0?
  • What did you think of the shoe stiffness?
  • How the shoe handle on a variety of terrain?

If interested in the Patagonia Tsali 3.0, they can be purchased at Patagonia (men’s / women’s) or Amazon.

About the author

Olga King and David Hanenburg Olga King (Varlamova) has picked up a second wind of running at the beginning of her fourth decade. With the success of being a self-proclaimed “freight train that never stops”, she has finished over 100 races at distances from the marathon and beyond. David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on Olga and David, check out the About page.

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