When the best features of an approach shoe (smooth sticky rubber outsole for optimal edging and scrambling traction) cross-pollinate with the best features of a trailrunner (lightweight design, stable, aggressive tread), the Patagonia Rover ($125) is the result.
This mutant shoe breed is designed for the runner who wants to add rock scrambling and mountainous terrain to her run.
Unfortunately for me, I was unable to test these kicks on the terrain in which they are truly intended because Minnesota lacks mountains higher than 2,301 feet. I could literally run to the top of Eagle Mountain in flip-flops as it’s such a nice, smooth trail.
So I had to break up testing in segments: standard trail running and scrambling over the rocks.
The Rover has a nice 4mm drop midsole and a .8 mm forefoot ESS plate to protect feet against rocks and other trail debris.
Since my favorite network of running trails have hills, rough terrain and the occasional felled tree creek crossing, the Rovers were ideal.
The aggressive lugs allowed for stability and good control on descents with loose gravelly rock. The nice wide toe box allowed my piggies to splay comfortably.
One potential downer to keep in mind is the uppers. It’s a combination of abrasion resistant mesh and synthetic leather, with seemingly more synthetic leather than mesh. The leather gives the required structure for scrambling but I fear it may contribute to diminished breathability on hot and humid days.
I began running in the Rovers last October so this is not something I can accurately report on at this time. Patagonia did add the Dri-Lex® lining for moisture control so hopefully that will balance things out come July. If you live in a dry climate, this won’t be an issue for you.
For sizing, I found that the Rovers run to be right in that sweet spot between medium width and perfection. The variable lacing system accommodates a sizable range of foot widths so the chances of these not working for you, width-wise, are pretty slim.
I experimented with sock thickness and found that the thinner the sock, the better. At least for my normal-width foot. I like the Darn Tough Vermont No-Show ultralight ($14).
If you have a classic narrow foot, you can go with a thicker sock. Like the Darn Tough Vermont Daphne ¼ sock ($17). It’s a classic hiking sock made with fine Merino wool but, because it cushioned and breathable, it also works well as a thicker running sock.
You can also consider the Patgonia EVERlongs ($110) if you can’t see yourself combining a hiking sock with a running shoe.
Before I go into this part, I have to be clear about something. These are NOT the shoes to wear if your plan is to run up to the base of the Half Dome and scale its bare face without changing shoes. In fact using the Rovers in place of proper rock climbing shoes is a bad idea (but would be fun to watch in a YouTube compilation video of silly self-inflicted injuries that could have been avoided!).
I tested them for their rock scrambling capability at arguably the best scrambling location in the Midwest: the rocky gorge of Gooseberry Falls on Lake Superior’s North Shore.
Wrought with lumpy beds of ancient lava, loose boulders and wet, wave-splashed low-angle slabs, the wrong outsole would have sent me plunging into the gorge of the Gooseberry River and over the falls into the frigid depths Lake Superior.
I remained safe and dry this particular weekend because the Rover’s stiff rubber made for confident edging where necessary and the aggressive trail running tread was grippy over rocks both dry and wet.
I like the Patagonia Rovers because it’s a multi-faceted multi-sport shoe for the runner who is at the level of the Hardrock 100, aspires to be at that level, or merely wants to run over mountainous terrain with a stable, confident, comfortable shoe.