In his wonderful autobiography Let My People Go Surfing, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard explains how the design of his company’s gear and apparel will never be dictated simply by fashion trends. Instead, it is created to serve the performance needs of a specifically targeted group of outdoor enthusiasts – rock climbers, skiers, hikers, windsurfers, etc – and if the general population coincidentally latches onto a particular product because of its styling, so much the better.
With that in mind, it should be pointed out that the company introduced their Advocate moccasin last year as “the ultimate travel shoe”: a lightweight accessory that is easily stowed in a backpack or camp bag, to be used as a comfy post-activity slipper after removing your feet from ski boots or hiking shoes. However, the “coincidental” group that should be latching onto it is the minimalist footwear crowd, because Patagonia has quietly captured what many of us are looking for: comfort, durability, and outstanding ground feel in a style that’s perfectly capable of all-purpose everyday use. All in a shoe that weighs less than 5 ounces. Sounds pretty great, right?
As you should expect from Patagonia, the benefit of these shoes extends beyond the consumer: the Advocate moccasin is part of the company’s 1% For the Planet program, which directs a percentage of certain product sales to various environmental protection programs. So buying a pair is good for you, and good for the planet - but for now we’ll focus on you, or rather, what Patagonia’s Advocate provides you.
Like any good moccasins, the Advocate is a model of simplicity: a synthetic leather upper with stretch bands for easy on/off without the need for lacing, on top of a flat, flexible outsole for natural foot movement. There’s no midsole, no heel, and no unnecessary features. Overall weight is 130g (4.6 oz), and it’s even lighter if you remove the insole (which I did - see below).
The Advocate’s upper is made of 100% synthetic leather, which is smooth on the interior surface to make it comfortable against bare feet. The outer surface has a brushed face to give it a bit of resistance from scuff marks. The leather is extremely thin, yet holds its shape quite well even after being rolled up or folded or otherwise mashed and mangled. There’s a rear pull loop to help get your heel into the shoe if the elastic on either side of the tongue area isn’t stretchy enough.
Patagonia describes the moc as having a full toe box, but I found the box to be slightly snug, both on top and on the sides. Thankfully, the 2-mm thick insole is removable, which provided all the room I needed in the toe box, and also improves the outstanding ground feel of these moccasins even further.
Below the upper is a moderately rugged “armadillo” outsole that’s more than adequate for basic hiking or street wear, but might be a little sketchy on uncertain terrain. Thickness of the outsole is only 3mm, so if you wear these without the insole, the Advocate offers what might be the best ground feel of any minimalist shoes on the market.
The only suggestions I’d have are to offer half sizes of the shoe, which currently is only offered in full sizes. If you’re in between whole sizes, it’s probably best to size up rather than down on account of the toe box situation, unless you’re planning on wearing these with the insole in place while wearing thick socks.
Another notable point if you’re considering purchase is that since the time I received my sample pair in the late fall, the Patagonia website has been updated to exclude the color combination you see in this review. I’ve provided links below to both the company website, which has current color schemes, and to Endless.com and Amazon.com, which have last season’s colors discounted in limited sizes.
Although Patagonia didn’t specifically set out to make the ideal minimalist shoe, they made a pretty darn compelling option with the Advocate. Whether you use it for its original intention as a travel shoe, or adopt it for your own multi-purpose minimalist use is up to you – and despite what he said in his book, I’m guessing that Yvon Chouinard won’t mind either way.
Best of all – and somewhat unexpectedly when it comes to Patagonia – is that the Advocate is very affordably priced in comparison to most everyday footwear on the market. The Patagonia Advocate moccasin retails for $55 from the company website.
*Product provided by Patagonia
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