Gear Guide 2012: New Balance 110 Trail Shoe

This minimalist shoe offers great protection and stability.

[better-than-barefoot]

For runners who have suffered bruising in other barefoot-style shoes, the 110 brings welcome relief. Unlike traditional running, which involves a heel-first strike, barefoot running demands a shorter stride and a more gentle mid- or forefoot strike to use the body’s natural shock absorbers and compensate for less sole padding.

The 110 closely mimics a barefoot shoe with a heel that’s elevated just 4mm above the ball of the foot: “It let me stick to my mid-foot strike,” says one tester. “But the hard plastic underfoot plate let me step on small rocks and not worry about poking my feet.” The traction of the knobby lugs is solid on gravel, forest duff, and slickrock; less so in mud. The outsole is perforated under the forefoot to make the shoe lighter, but the plastic midsole plate blocks debris and moisture.

A hard plastic heel cup offers lateral stability and the outsole wraps over the big toe for protection. The synthetic upper allows ventilation through tiny holes and remains in good condition after 75-plus miles of rough use. The soft polyester liner and integrated footbed actually lets you run sans socks for a more barefoot feel. “Ideal for warm-weather running,” says one tester. Limitations: The minimalist design lacks support for running in rugged terrain. $85; 15.5 oz.; m’s 7-14, w’s 5-12; newbalance.com