Gear Guide 2012: Saucony ProGrid Outlaw Shoe

This shoe is built tough for the roughest paths, but offers a barefoot feel giving you comfort and breathability.

[best all-around]

“Perfect for monster days on all but the roughest paths,” proclaimed one tester after wearing the Outlaw on a 20-mile dawn-to-dusker on the Florida Trail carrying 15 pounds of water, snacks, mosquito repellent, and other essentials. “The shoes drained well and kept the swamp sludge out as I waded through knee-deep cypress bogs,” he says.

Nylon mesh uppers are breathable, yet the weave is dense enough to keep trail debris from working its way in, and a gusseted tongue and extended, elastic Achilles cuff help tighten the seal. (Caveat: The flap makes the shoes a bit more difficult to put on quickly.) The midcut cuff also lends extra ankle support. Hard plastic caps over the toes and the heel provide protection against rocks.

Despite those tough features, several testers dubbed the Outlaw their favorite shoe for long trail runs because it has an almost barefoot feel. The heel is positioned 4mm higher than the forefoot (traditional running shoes are elevated 10mm—or .4 inch—or more), but a hard plastic plate in the mid-foot and dual-density EVA provide more support and cushioning underfoot than true “barefoot” shoes. “The lower-riding heel improved my stride,” says one tester. “Compared to the blocky soles of traditional trail runners, I felt light-footed and efficient.” Check fit: They run small, so you may want to go up a half size. $110; 1 lb. 7 oz.; m’s 7-14, w’s 5-12;