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 720 is a shoe/sandal hybrid designed to move easily from water to trail. The New Balance 720 offers unique versatility, making it the one shoe you need for all your weekend activities, in and out of the water. The 720 features a quik drying mesh upper, which translates into less wate weight gain and faster drying capabilities. A unique heel construction enables the enthusiast to wear the shoe two ways - more traditionally as an athletic shoe, and also flattened down as a comfortable slip-on/slde. The 720's outsole is equipped with a H2Flow water evacuation system, a full length drainage system through which small ports between the midsole and upper allow both water and sand to quickly drain from the shoe. A HydroHesion non-marking rubber outsole features razor siping to maximize ground contact and grip.