With a heel drop (the height differential between heel and forefoot) that’s 6 to 8mm lower than traditional runners, a low-profile tread and ultralight construction, the Fore Runner strikes a perfect balance between traditional and barefoot. A heel cushioning pod, small shank, and forefoot rock plate provide protection and shock absorption: Testers could feel the trail without feeling beat up by it.
The upper is a similar compromise: A petite rubber toe bumper is augmented by synthetic suede, which provided sufficient armor on dirt and gravel trails (toes did feel exposed on technical downhills). After 250-plus miles, one test pair is still going strong with no significant wear spots. $110; 1 lb. 1 oz. (w’s 9.5); m’s 7–15, w’s 5–11; patagonia.com