I’ve spent a bit of time in Denmark, and I can say with a good deal of confidence that it is a country that takes design very, very seriously. Walking along the cobblestoned streets in downtown Copenhagen, you can’t help but notice the hallmarks of Scandinavian design everywhere you look: sleek lines, minimalism and not an ounce of wasted material. Bike and pedestrian paths blend seamlessly alongside crowded city centers, creating a thriving network that can only be described as a “bike commuter’s paradise.” It’s a matter of good design.
Much like Scandinavian streetscape, the Danish shoe company’s line of performance running shoes, ECCO Biom, is the perfect mix of minimalist design and streamlined performance. The company’s Biom division was the brain child of ECCO’s president (and African barefoot runner) Dieter Kasprzak, with much of the early prototypes and testing done by world champion triathlete Rasmus Henning.
The philosophy of the shoe is simple: natural motion is a better way to move. Every stitch of the shoe follows this philosophy, along with an ample emphasis on keeping material light. The anatomical structure of the shoe mimics the barefoot as much as possible, starting with the insole. While many modern running shoes have soft foam padding and removable insoles, the ECCO Biom Evo Racer Lite has just a molded anatomical foot bed meant to fit every nuance and curve of your barefoot. The mesh and yak leather uppers create a second-skin fit that is both incredibly durable and insanely light. Finally, the asymmetrical collar and tongue is designed to create a sock-like fit to the shoe, which, along with the rigid and low-drop heel, work to keep your ankle position primed for a mid-to-forefoot strike.
So with all this fancy design technology swirling around your head, let’s cut to the chase: how do these puppies fit? Well, they fit me just fine, but I also have pretty narrow feet. I’d say these shoes are definitely on the narrow side, so if you’re rockin’ New Balance wide fit, then maybe go ahead and put these back on the shelf.
I immediately took these suckers out and ran a 15K road race. Stupid, I know. I’ve never claimed to be smart. Not once. However, lucky for me these are meant to have zero “break-in” time, and they felt perfectly fine. No blisters, hot spots or numbness commonly found in new shoes that haven’t had time kind of break-up and settle in around your feet. But you see, that’s the point: these shoes were designed to mold to your barefoot like a glove.
Which brings me to my next point: these shoes really do fit like gloves. How do I know? Well, because I walk my dog along a pretty sandy trail daily, and these are the only shoes I’ve ever worn that I didn’t have to pour sand out of at the end of my walk. I can’t really speak to what this means performance-wise, other than it makes me incredibly happy.
Let’s talk for a minute about yak leather. It’s the benchmark material of all ECCO shoes, and there’s a reason for it: it’s both incredibly durable and incredibly flexible. Usually with shoe leathers you kind of have to make a choice of one or the other. But I didn’t hesitate to take these shoes out on a rocky trail run and they held up just as well as some of my bulkier trail running shoes.
Now I’ve been pretty well trained as a mid-to-forefoot striker by now. Yep, I hopped on that bandwagon back in 2007 I believe, but there are still traces of my inner-heel-striker that show up on really long runs, at the end of very long races, or when I’m running on an pretty technical trail and trying not to fall down a cliff. I could feel a couple heel strikes during the last mile of my 15K in these shoes, but otherwise they kept me on the straight and narrow. And they do it subtly, which by that I mean there isn’t a giant lug or spring attached to the forefoot, nor a laser that zaps my shins every time I strike the ground heel first (Note to self: create shoe that does this and make millions). It’s simply in the structure of the heel and the positioning of the collar. Now, being honest here, the asymmetrical nature of the tongue does make these shoes a little bit harder to get in and out of, but once you find the right angle it’s really no sweat.
Overall, I would recommend these shoes to my narrow-footed female running friends who are already fairly established mid-to-forefoot runners but want a shoe that encourages a natural gait, can last through high-mileage on varying terrain, and won’t slow them down with unnecessary material or weight.