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.comThe New Balance 101 Trail is a minimalistic trail runner ideal for race day or a long training run. The New Balance 101 is the perfect trail racing shoe for runners looking for a “minimalistic” shoe, reminiscent of a “barefoot” running experience. The stream-lined upper features overlays on the lateral side to hold feet in place through downhill runs and very few internal seams help to eliminate irritation even when the shoes are worn without socks. A thin protective ROCKSTOP© plate in the outsole protects feet from punctures and disperses shock without sacrificing the natural running feel. The New Balance 101 is equipped to deliver a smooth and responsive ride on any trail.
Team New Balance trail runners, Kyle Skaggs and Anton Krupicka, provided inspiration and design direction for the MT/WT101 Skaggs, winner and course record holder of the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run and Krupicka, two-time winner of the Leadville 100, tested the 101 throughout the design and development process, bringing the “ultra running” mindset to every aspect of the shoes. Their insights helped to utilize a revised manufacturing process to create a smoother heel counter to reduce irritation. Even the insole bares the mark of the NB Ambassadors; the bandana printed sock liner is in honor of Tony Kupricka, who wears a bandana during all of his runs.