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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Patagonia Footwear Bly > Test Report by Pamela Wyant

Patagonia Women's Bly Shoes

Patagonia Bly

Initial Report - April 12, 2009
Field Report - June 30, 2009
Long Term Report - August 25, 2009



Tester Information:

Name:  Pam Wyant
Age:  51
Gender:  Female
Height:  5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Weight:  170 lb (77 kg)
Shoe size:  US Women's 9, medium width

E-mail address:  pamwyant(at)yahoo(dot)com
Location:  Western West Virginia, U.S.A.

Backpacking Background: 

Pursuing a long-time interest, I started backpacking five years ago.  In addition to day-hiking and weekend backpacking trips I try to do one longer trip each year.  A couple of years ago I began a project to section hike the Appalachian Trail (AT), accruing a little over 250 mi (400 km) so far.  My backpacking style always seems to be evolving somewhat, and I like trying different gear and techniques.  I can probably best be described as lightweight and minimalist; cutting as much pack weight as I can without sacrificing warmth, comfort, or safety

Initial Report - April 12, 2009


Product Information:


Manufacturer:  Patagonia
Year of manufacture:  2009
Model:  Women's Bly
Color:  Deep Ocean (Blue)
Size:  US Women's 9

Advertised weight:  595 g/21 oz (size not specified)
Measured weight:  664 g/23.4 oz for the pair

Website:  www.patagonia.com/
MSRP:  US $ 110

 

Inside of shoe and tread

Product Description:

ThePatagonia Bly is a light weight, low cut trail shoe.  A quote from Patagonia's website givens some insight into the company philosophy "Our definition of quality includes a mandate for building products and working with processes that cause the least harm to the environment."  In sync with this philosophy, the Bly contains many recycled materials - 100% recycled polyester laces, 40% recycled PET/60% polyester mesh liner, POLI-CORK 70% recycled open cell foam footbed with odor-neutralizing carbon and moisture-moving cork, 15% recycled EVA insole, 15% recycled compression molded EVA midsole, and 30% recycled rubber Vibram Ecostep outsole.  As a lover of wild places, and a firm believer in conserving our natural resources, the use of recycled materials is very appealing to me.

Looking at the shoes the use of recycled materials is not immediately discernible.  The uppers are suede leather, which while not recycled are a renewable resource.  The laces and soles look very much like normal non-recycled material.  The only part of the shoe that has a recycled look to it is the underside of the insole, which is predominately black with a variety of small colored specks.

Bly insoles

Specks in the bottom of the insoles indicate recycled materials


The Bly has a relatively simple and clean-looking design.  The uppers are formed from two pieces of attractive blue suede, one piece on each side.  The Bly is lined with soft fabric of two different styles.  The forefoot area is lined with a very soft simply knit black fabric, and the area to the rear of the shoe is lined with a grey textured fabric with a somewhat more substantial, yet still soft, feel.  A few decorative stitching details and the Patagonia name are sewn into the suede uppers.  The uppers have a wide, stylistically shaped laced opening.  A blue and white striped fabric tongue has a stiffened, attractively patterned ribbon running down the center and a small suede insert at the top.  The round grey woven shoe laces have small specks of blue.  They pass through two small blue metal eyelets at the bottom and then through small ribbon loops up the sides of the opening.  A little over half way up the tongue, the laces pass under the center ribbon for tongue stability, then through more ribbon loops to small metal eyelets at the top.

The Bly has a pull loop at the heel, fashioned of the same ribbon that runs down the center of the tongue.  A thin, curvy black rubber rand runs around the entire base of the upper.  The grey midsole of the shoe has a small light blue insert on each side, in the arch area of my foot.  The black Vibram Ecostep sole is molded to run slightly over the toe and part way up the heel.  The sole has stylized light grey inserts under the heel and forefoot.  The tread has an irregular pebbly appearance and is not very deep.

Bly tread

The tread has a pebble-like appearance



Trying them out:

I was happy to see that the Bly shoes came with the laces already passed through all the loops.  Yeah!  I merely had to remove the small cardboard inserts and slip them on.  Happily, they seem to run true to size and fit my foot very well.  Patagonia states these have a medium fit, with medium toe box and medium arch/instep, and this seems accurate.   They are fitted enough not to be sloppy, and roomy enough that my toes don't feel pinched.

Top view

I have not yet had a chance to get them out on the trail, but wore them for a full day at a family get together which involved a lot of standing outdoors on a concrete drive and sidewalk.  They felt great right out of the box, very supportive and comfortable.  They also felt cool and breathable, with no discernible dampness build-up in my socks at the end of the day.

Preliminary Impressions:

One thing I really like about the Patagonia Bly is the way the low cut feels on my foot.  I've often had trail shoes that felt comfortable enough underfoot and yet made the side of my feet sore by the end of the day where the stiff tops pressed against the area under my ankle bone as my foot flexed on sloped or rocky trails.  I've also had trail shoes with such a thick and stiff tongue that the top of my foot would get sore in the area near the top of the tongue.  The Patagonia Bly is cut to dip well below my ankles and the tongue is very soft, so I have high hopes that this shoe/boot will leave my foot feeling more comfortable at the end of a long day on the trail.

An added bonus is that the Bly is attractively styled in an almost art-like way, and that it's made at least partially from environmentally friendly recycled materials.  The only downside to the Bly so far is that it's almost too attractive for me to want to wear it on a muddy trail!  But testing calls, so as soon as I get the chance I'll be putting the Bly to the test on rocks, roots, and even mud puddles to see how they perform.

Field Report - June 30, 2009

Field Locations and Conditions:

In mid-April, I wore the Patagonia Bly shoes on a short (3 mi/5km) overnight backpacking trip in southern West Virginia, on a trip where a friend and I were teaching beginner backpacking.  Daytime temperatures were pleasant, in the mid 70 F range (around 24 C), and overnight temperatures were around 40 F (about 4 C).  The weather was clear, with only a small breeze every now and then.  The trail was maintained, but rugged with lots of ruts, mud, roots, and elevation change.

In late April I wore them on an overnight training at our local Girl Scout Camp.  Temperatures and weather conditions were similar to the mid-April trip.  I did not hike, but wore them while conducting a training on outdoor cooking and camping.

In April and early May I wore them on five hikes of about 3 mi (5 km).  Temperatures varied from around 60 F (16 C) to 85 F (29 C).  The terrain varied from smooth dirt semi-maintained old county roads to single width trails varying from smooth dirt to somewhat rough with rocks and roots.

In mid-May also wore the shoes on a 6-day section hike of the Appalachian Trail (AT) in North Carolina, from Winding Stair Gap to Fontana Dam (approximately 58 mi/93 km).  Daytime temperatures ranged from around 45 F (about 7 C) to around 85 F (about 29 C), with night temperatures about 35 F (2 C) to around 55 F (13 C).  The first day and early night were rainy and windy, and after that weather conditions were dry with only light breezes.   Terrain was rugged, with lots of rocks and roots and significant elevation changes (from a low of about 1700 ft/500m to a high of about 5300 ft/1600 m, and lots of ups and downs in between those extremes).  It seemed I was always either going straight up or straight down!

After approx. 75 mi/121 km

The shoes still look good after about 75 mi (121 km)

Use:

For the mid-April backpacking trip and some of the day hikes I wore the Bly shoes with mid-weight wool socks.  For the other trips I wore them with a pair of light weight wool and synthetic blend socks. 

For all of the shorter hikes, the shoes felt very comfortable, and I did not have any foot problems with them.  I was impressed by the fact that they did not soak through when walking through grass with light dew, since the shoes aren't promoted as waterproof.  I did notice some slight toe pressure on steeper sections of the April overnight trip, which should have been a good forewarning, but overall my feet felt quite well in them.  I liked the way I could adjust the laces for a wider toe box on uphills, or snug them tighter for downhill sections.

Unfortunately I did not have the same experience on my 58 mi/93 km section hike of the Appalachian Trail.  The shoes felt pretty good for about the first 3 mi/5 km, and then my toes began to feel very sore, especially on the downhill sections.  On the section I was hiking there are unfortunately a lot of steep downhills (and a corresponding number of steep uphills).  I also noticed some tenderness on my left heel on the uphills, but it was more of a nagging tenderness rather than an unbearable 'wow this really hurts' feeling.

Day one I hiked about 11.5 mi (18.5 km).  The weather was beautiful for the first few miles/km, but it started raining in the late morning.  I rested out part of the rain at a shelter, but finally hiked on anyway in light to moderate rain.  The shoes got wet, but my feet weren't really as soaked as I would have expected.  They felt wet, but not squishy wet.  I spent the night at another shelter along the way, and my shoes were still damp the next morning when I put them on, but they dried out pretty quickly when I started hiking on day two.  Later that day I developed a small blister on the top of my middle toe on my right foot, which is unusual for me as my feet don't normally blister at all, and if I've ever developed toe blisters it has been at the front of the toe.   I caught it pretty early and added a bandaid held in place with some duct tape and it didn't get any worse, although I could feel some pressure in that area.  My big toes were really getting sore though, especially on the down hills.  Day two's hike was about 11 mi (18 km).

On day three I was dreading the big down hill into the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) - a loss of almost 2400 ft (730 m) in 5.6 mi (9 km).  Fortunately there were some switchbacks and my toes didn't get quite the beating they could have, although they were still very sore by the time I reached my destination.  I had planned to stay at the NOC overnight, so I was glad my toes had a short day and would get a rest, although the hike from the restaurant level to the bunkhouse where I was staying meant I had a few steep downhill jaunts for dinner, purchasing resupply items, and breakfast.

Day four was mostly uphill, with a few very short downhill sections.  I hiked about 13 mi (21 km) that day, and my feet didn't bother me much until the last 2 mi (3 km) which was again downhill.  Day five brought lots of ups and downs, over a distance of about 11.5 mi (18.5 km).  My feet were really hurting from my toes, which were extremely sore by this time.  I took my shoes off at every rest break to get a little relief.  I considered changing to my camp shoes, but they weren't really suited to the rough trail.  The Patagonia Bly were providing very good grip on the numerous rocks and roots in the trail, and providing good lateral support - they were just beating my toes up badly.  At camp that night my toes under my big toenails looked a little grey.  I was pretty happy to end my hike on day 6 after about 7 mi (11 km) and get into some comfortable shoes.  My toes looked pretty rough - sort of greyish purple.

Within a couple of days my big toes were a nice deep shade of purple under the nail.  Several people asked me about them.  A couple even thought I had painted my my nails that color!  As I write this today, about five weeks after my trip ended, my big toes are still purple under the nails.  There does seem to be some normal pinkish color near the nail bed, so I am hoping the purple will eventually disappear as my nails grow out.

My purple toes!

My big toenails didn't fare too well on my rugged Appalachian Trail hike (photo taken about 2 weeks after hike)

The shoes seem to have held up pretty well, other than the shoelace on the right shoe started fraying a lot on my AT hike.  I'm not sure why this happened, as it didn't seem to catch on anything, and it didn't happen to the left lace.  The tread still looked very good, as did the uppers.  The shoes were very supportive.  I did have to move slowly because of the pain I had in my toes, but when I stepped the shoes always felt secure.  I didn't have any trouble with my ankles twisting or the shoes slipping on rock or even roots.

My feet also stayed comfortable in the shoes, temperature-wise.  I didn't experience any overheating or even much sweating, even on the warmer days.  And they weren't bad to hike in even when wet, as they were the first day.

Summary:

At this point it's difficult to come to a conclusion about the Bly shoes, other than that they did not work well for me for long distance hiking shoes.  They did work well for short hikes and everyday use, as they are comfortable underfoot, fairly breathable, and supportive.

Long Term Report - August 25, 2009

Field Locations and Conditions:

In mid July I started wearing the Patagonia Bly shoes again for some casual wear, taking the grandkids to the playground, running errands, and such.

In early August I felt my feet had recovered sufficiently and I wore the Patagonia Bly shoes on a 4 mi (6.5 km) hike in Prince William Forest in eastern Virginia.  The weather was hot and muggy, with high humidity and temperatures in the mid 80 F (around 30 C) range.  The trail was wooded, alternating between running along a stream and climbing wooded hillsides, with many areas filled with roots and moderate sized rocks.

Use:

I wore the shoes with a light weight pair of wool-blend socks.  My toes had recovered to the point they didn't hurt, but I was conscious of the closeness of the end of the shoe to my toes.  I also paid particular attention to the way the shoe fit my heel cup and arch area, wondering if the sizing might be off rather than the design of the shoe not being conducive to long distance hiking.  I felt that the heel, arch, and ball of my foot all seemed to fit the shoe appropriately.  My feet did feel a little tired by the end of the hike, but my toes didn't feel sore.  However, two days later, the toenail on my left big toe started coming off.  This may have been purely coincidental, as a tiny new toenail was starting to grow underneath, but the timing seemed odd, since I had not worn the shoes for anything but the most casual use since returning from my Appalachian Trail adventure in May.  The toenail hung on by a tiny sliver for a day, then I got tired of having it catch on everything and pulled it off, leaving a small raw area and a sensitive toe.

I normally do not have foot problems when I hike (even blisters are very rare), so the problems I experienced with the Patagonia Bly were puzzling to me.  In thinking about the way the shoe felt and fit, I believe that the toe box and area just behind the toe area and in front of the arch may simply be too wide.  This made the shoe feel comfortable until I started doing a lot of up and down hill hiking, when the shoe simply lacked the snugness in this area to prevent my toes from jamming into the end of the shoe.

The shoes show a lot of frizzing on the shoe laces, particularly on the right shoe.  This seems to be entirely on the surface and doesn't seem to affect their function, but it does look bad.  The original pretty blue color is now dingy and stained from mud, even though I scrubbed them with a rag and ran them through a cycle of the washing machine.

Summary:

While a very pretty shoe, the performance of the Patagonia Bly was very disappointing to me.  The shoelaces fuzzed badly, and the uppers stained rather badly.  While these were cosmetic issues, my feet just could not tolerate long hikes in these shoes.  While they seemed to fit well at first, the shoes allowed my toes to jam against the front of the toe box on long hikes, resulting in some ugly and painful results.  Needless to say, I won't be wearing these shoes for any future hiking.

Although they did not work out well for me, I would still like to thank Patagonia and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Bly shoes.


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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Patagonia Footwear Bly > Test Report by Pamela Wyant



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