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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Patagonia Footwear Bly > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron

Patagonia Bly Hiking Shoe

Test series by Kathryn Doiron
Initial Report: Apr 22, 2009

Field Report: Jun 29, 2009

Long Term Report: Aug 19 2009

Image of Patagonia Bly shoes
Image from Patagonia website

Personal Information:
Name: Kathryn Doiron
Age: 33
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 8" (1.7 m)
Weight: 150 lb (68 kg)
Email: kdoiron 'at' gmail 'dot' com
Location: Washington DC, USA

Brief Background: I started backpacking and hiking seriously almost four years ago. Most of my miles have been logged in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I have recently finished 1200+ miles (2000+ km) of the Appalachian Trail. My style is to be as light as possible while not spending a fortune. My pack weight tends to hover around 25 lbs (11 kg) with two days of food and 16 oz (0.5 L) of water. I have recently started getting into winter hiking, snowshoeing and kayaking.

Product Information:

Manufacturer: Patagonia
MSRP: $110
Weight: (stated) 21 oz (595 g)
Weight: (actual) 12 oz (345 g) for one shoe, size 10
Colours/sizes available: Burlap, Wildwood, Deep Ocean/5 to 11 with half sizes available

Initial Report:
April 15th, 2009

I received the Deep Ocean color which is a pleasing blue. I typically wear a women's 10 shoe and this shoe was no exception. The blue suede upper is one piece but has some decorative stitching on it. The sides of the shoes do have a bit of rubber wrap around to protect the shoe. The tongue is free floating at the top of the shoe but is gusseted staring from about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the top. There is a finger loop at the back of the heel as well as at the top of the tongue. The laces have a grommet at the top and bottom but fabric loops in between. The tongue has a webbing strap that runs down the length and can accommodate the laces at the mid point to keep the tongue in place. This shoe consists of recycled content in the form of mesh lining, midsole cushioning and lacing.

Outside of the shoe   Inside of the shoe

Patagonia dubs these as a low profile hiking boots. They were named after Nelly Bly who trekked around the world in 1889 in 72 days. They feature a shock absorption plate as well as a multi-tread system that make this sound like a boot while looking more like a shoe. They are very low profile and are cut under the ankle as a shoe is.

My initial impressions of the shoe are that they have the feel of a boot minus the ankle support. They really do have the look of a shoe. I am a little wary of the initial stiffness of the shoe and how much of a boot-like feel it has. I will be interested to see if the shoes will wear and break in like a boot or more like a shoe. I will look into whether they will soften with use or maintain that stiffness. Other then the stiffness, the shoes so far have felt comfortable to wear and have been relatively easy to tighten. The shoes are a good fit for everyday walking around but I wonder how they will wear once out in a trail situation. I feel that the toe box is a touch narrow and my toes feel close to the top of the shoe. I will be interested to see how well the shoes can keep my feet in place and whether they can prevent any toe jamming when moving through downhill terrain.

Lacing detail

I will be breaking in the shoes while wearing them around town and to work as well as to bring them out on progressively longer trips. I will be evaluating them for hot spots during the break in period to see if there are any potential trouble spots to look out for over longer or multi-day trips.

Close up of the tread detail

My test plan over the next couple of months will be to use the Patagonia Bly on all my outdoor activities. This will include backpacking in the George Washington National Forest and the Shenandoah National Park, plus dayhikes as well as occasionally car camping. I will be specifically interested in looking into how well the shoes stand up to wear and tear, how well they handle pack weight, as well as how well they keep my feet protected.

Field Report:
June 29th 2009

I have taken these shoes out on numerous dayhikes not including walking to work for break in purposes. I have outlined a few below to give an idea of terrain and how they have been wearing.

The first few times I took the shoes out was mostly on my walking commute to and from work as well as at work. I wanted to use that time to evaluate fit and to see how the shoes were breaking in. I was curious to see if the shoes would break in as quickly as shoes or take longer as boots sometimes can. So far they have been wearing well and seem to be breaking in as shoes would. The fit is slightly loose in the heel pocket and slightly short and narrow in the toe area. I sized these as I would hiking shoes and assumed I was going to be wearing only a single layer of socks rather then how I layer socks with boots. My toes don't jam into the toe section when walking but I can feel that my toes are just barely touching the top. So far during the break in period, I have put about 10-12 mi (16-20 km) on the shoes. They are comfortable and stylist enough for casual wear.

The first real trip out with these shoes was a simple day hike of about 3-4 mi (about 5-6 km). I wanted to start off with something relatively easy but more distance then my walk to and from work. This hike is on relatively flat terrain and I maintained a stiff pace throughout. The hike took just over an hour to complete. Weather was in the mid 90's F (low 30's C) with high humidity and a cooling breeze. The terrain does offer some ups and downs, just enough to get a feel for how the shoes are breaking in. I am pleased that I had no hot spots but my toes seemed to come into almost constant contact with the top during the hike, it wasn't painful yet. I did have to work on the laces a little to ensure my heel was snug and my foot couldn't slide forward while hiking downhill. I did experience some overheating with the shoes on this warm day. I was concerned this could be an issue, but as the miles passed, I noticed the heating didn't increase with time but rather seemed to go away.

My next trip out was another moderately distanced hike with hardly any elevation gain. Distance was about 6 mi (10 km). I felt that the shoes had been broken in enough to handle moving into longer hikes. And while I believe they were broken in well enough, I didn't count on them not being the right fit. In the end, my toes hurt badly by the end of the hike. While there was not a lot of elevation gain or loss, there were enough ups and downs that my toes were hurting from constantly hitting the front of the shoe from inside. In the end, I called Patagonia and asked about an exchange up one half size.

With the new shoes I again went through a similar break in period but I moved it along a little faster based on experience with the first break in. The shoes are broken in again after about a week walking around to work. I just recently completed a 4 mi (6 km) hike with a moderate elevation gain. I had the shoes tied a little too tight as I could feel the top of my foot aching about halfway through, but the thing to note was that my toes seemed much better. I did again experience some heating of my feet. It was a rather warm day and while it was uncomfortable initially, it seemed to decrease as time passed.

Impressions and Comments:
The replacement shoes that are one half size larger then the original shoes have been so far working much better for me. The replacement shoes arrived in about 3 weeks from when I posted them. The customer service representative was kind and gave me the info I needed once I asked the right questions. The fit is much better and while the shoes are narrow, I don't feel like I am jamming against the end of the shoe when I am walking up or down on hills. I did notice that the heel pocket seems a little looser then I remember.

I really like the full lacing that the shoes offer. I can tighten or loosen the toe area almost independently of the arch or ankle area. There is some shifting of the lacing but not a substantial shift. The laces are long enough to easily tie a bow without struggling with short ends. The shoes do seem to breath enough to dissipate heat. I do experience some initial overheating at the beginning of my longer hikes on warmer days, but it seemed to dissipate after a while. I am not sure if the shoes do this through breathing, or if this is part of the design, or maybe I just got used to it and didn't notice it any more.

The wear is a little difficult to determine right now as I had a replacement pair of shoes sent halfway through the first part of the testing cycle. The pair I returned still looked new (except for a bit of mud). The replacement pair still look new and I can't see any signs of wear on the soles. The shoes do feel like they have been broken in and are quite comfortable to wear. I have taken to wearing them on hard pack trails as they offer good cushioning to my feet.

Pros so far: comfortable, fit of shoe with support of boot and full lacing. Cons so far: narrow toe box and overheating a possible concern.

Long Term Report:
August 16th 2009

I have taken the Bly shoes out on a further three overnight trips with various dayhikes mixed in. I have outlined some of the trips below.

The first trip out was a two night trip in West Virginia in the Roaring Plains. The temperatures were down to about 55 F (13 C) at night, both nights. The elevation was relatively constant at about 4000 ft (1220 m) with no more then 300 ft (91 m) in elevation gain over 1 mi (1.6 km). The second day had some minor scattered showers. Day 1 was about 1.5 mi (2.5 km), day 2 was about 8-10 mi (13-16 km), and day 3 about 6 mi (9.5 km). Pack weight was 28 lb (12.7 kg) for most of the trip with about 3 mi (4.8 km) carrying 10 L of water for a group at a dry camp. The shoes did very well over the rocky scrambles and boulder fields navigated off and on the trail. With the rain on the second day and a portion of the trail done as bushwhacking, I did soak out the shoes. Once wet, water seeped in easily after that. They did not dry quickly either in spite of the sun coming back and another hour of hiking. They did eventually dry the next day after lunch time, likely from the sun drenched boulder fields we stopped on for morning break and lunch. Walking on surfaces that were canted to one side or the other wasn't very comfortable as the top of the shoe would press against my ankle uncomfortably. The shoes offer a nice stiffness to them for the boulder fields and scrambles but I found they could be rather stiff for more level and regular terrain. That stiffness is almost a disadvantage as stepping on smaller rock causes the shoe to turn to the side rather then conform to the obstacle.

The next trip out was a one night trip out to the Brighton Lakes area in Utah. It was 5 mi (8 km) both days with an elevation gain of about 4500 ft (1370 m). At the higher elevations, the wind was cooling as was the snow. As the terrain was initially well graded, the shoes were actually overkill, but at the higher elevations and on the path less travelled, having an aggressive tread made it easier to scramble over the boulders and through some of the snow-generated mud. The one thing I noticed about having an aggressive tread is that is can be a little bit of a challenge to get the bottom part of my pants over the tread without it grabbing at the pant legs. This can cause me to lose my balance if I try to remove my pant legs while standing.

Pulling pant legs over the shoe tread can be tricky.

The last trip was a three day, two night trip down at Bryce Canyon. I hiked about 6 mi (9.6 km) total with an elevation loss then gain of about 2500 ft (760 m). Temperatures were in the high 90's F (about 35 C) The trails are graded and easy hiking, but having a shoe with good support and padding made walking over the hard pack more pleasant. The shoes didn't cause my feet to overheat in spite of the high afternoon temperatures. The afternoon thunder showers were relatively brief and the shoes didn't have time to wet out.

Impressions and Comments:
I have really enjoyed wearing and using these shoes on the various hikes and backpacking trips I took them on. While I felt that the toe was a touch narrow and the heel pocket a touch too loose, they were great shoes for rocky scrambling. With the increased size, I feel more comfortable taking the shoes out on longer trips with weight on my back. The heel pocket does feel slightly looser and I have to take care to tighten the shoes enough to keep my heel from flapping around without over-tightening and causing the top of my foot to ache. Since my heel isn't held in very tightly I do find that my foot tends to slide forward in the shoe when hiking downhill. I haven't yet had painful toe jamming but I am aware that my feet do slide forward on downhill terrain and try to walk more carefully to prevent my toes from slamming foward.

Close up of wear on one nib.
Close up of the wear through the top layer.

The shoes wet out on an overnight trip that saw some drizzle in the afternoon, the shoes didn't dry out until mid-day the next day. They were not uncomfortable to hike in wet, but I expected them to resist water a little. If I plan more wet trips, a water sealant will likely come in handy. Although I was concerned about overheating, it never became a concern. My feet will get to a warm, comfortable temperature while hiking but don't seem to get hotter after that.

Close up of wear along heel on left shoe.
Wear along the side of the left shoe.

For long term wear, I noticed that one of the laces is starting to fray a little around a lower eyelet. The lace hasn't snapped yet, but will require some attention in future. The eyelet may just have a rough spot on it as I have not noticed this on any other eyelet. Otherwise, the laces are still in good condition as are the shoe's uppers. The tread is showing signs of wear on the outer edges as I do tend to walk on the outside of my feet, otherwise the tread is still looking good and is still aggressive.

Close up of the lace wear
Fraying of the lower lace just beginning to occur.


    - comfortable, aggressive tread
    - fit of shoe with support of boot and full lacing
    - excelled on very rocky surfaces


    - narrow toe box
    - shoes wet out in wet grass and drizzle, took some time to dry

This concludes my long term report on the Patagonia Bly shoes. I hope you have enjoyed following this test series. I wish to thank Patagonia and for allowing me to test the Bly shoes.

Read more reviews of Patagonia gear
Read more gear reviews by Kathryn Doiron

Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Patagonia Footwear Bly > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron

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