The sharp granite and rolling trails in Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve don’t exactly scream, “Go barefoot-style here!” But the Minimus 1010, which has a decidedly barefoot profile—14 mm in the heel and 10 mm in the toe—proved cushioned enough for one tenderfoot tester to run hard and fast through potentially foot-pounding terrain. “I never feared where I would land on the rocky trails,” he says. “My feet were so light, I felt like I was flying.” One of a small cadre of truly trail-worthy running shoes under one pound, the Minimus 1010 achieves its balance between freedom and protection via a unique sole made with an exclusive high-traction Vibram rubber.
Twenty-two circular lugs—or pods—of foam cushioning react individually to the terrain, giving runners instant feedback, which helps them adjust their gait and promotes a lower-impact, midfoot strike. A thin TPU forefoot plate rounds out the protection. The 4-mm offset from heel to toe will please those who like a barefoot feel, but the 1010’s aggressive tread gives them a higher profile than a true minimalist shoe (like the New Balance Minimus). The lack of both an insole and foot-facing inside seams makes the shoe comfortable sockless. An extra-wide forefoot allows toes to spread out naturally. Best for medium to wide feet. $110; 15 oz.; m’s 7-14, w’s 5-12; newbalance.comDeveloped for trail runners seeking support, protection and cushioning, the 910 is the flagship New Balance performance trail shoe. It features a Gore-Tex® XCR lining for waterproof yet breathable protection, an NLOCK® support system for enhanced mid-foot structure, and an Ndurance® heel crash pad for durability. The 910 was also engineered to provide trail athletes with key technical elements to maintain high-performance results as the weather turns colder, such as Abzorb FL® Anti Freeze cushioning in the midsole, which retains its shock absorption properties and flexibility regardless of the temperature. A Phantom Liner offers blister-free comfort, an Ortholite® insert provides a comfortable ride, and the New Balance SURE LACE keeps shoes tied. The 910 is built on New Balances new PL-1 performance last which provides a more form-fitting feel with a more streamlined look.