[Trail runner] GoLite Sun Dragon
A good rule of thumb, say sustainability experts, is the heavier a piece of gear, the larger its carbon footprint. That’s one reason the 1.5-pound Sun Dragon earned a spot on this page. Built by Timberland for GoLite, this low-cut is the epitome of minimalist design. It has a synthetic mesh/EVA upper instead of leather, which reduces the greenhouse gases emitted in production of the shoe by about 40 percent. And instead of heavy rubber toe and heel rands, GoLite opted for a pattern of tiny polyurethane dots for protection. (It’s also PVC-free.) Golite uses 60 percent solar power in its California distribution center and offsets 100 percent of the total energy used in production in all of its shoes.
So how do these light-treading trail runners perform? We hiked and ran in them in Wyoming, Massachusetts, and points between, and we loved the springy, cushioned feel of the oversized lugs. "They grip like mad on dry, hard, packed dirt littered with rocks and roots," says one tester. But since the lugs are widely spaced, there’s minimal surface area for frictioning, so beware of major slippage on smooth slabs–especially wet ones. The Dragons are best for trail running, but because of a stiffened midsole that can handle up to 20 pounds, they’ll also appeal to dayhikers and ultralighters. $95; men’s 7–13½, women’s 5½–11; 1 lb. 7 oz. (per pair men’s 9½) (866) 784-6466; golite.com/footwear.