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 lightweight, off-raod New Balance 876 provides exceptional cushioning and ground contact in a low-profile, minimalistic presentation.
The off-road New Balance 876 features several updates from the 875 that promise to enhance the overall fit and performance of the shoe. One major update from the predecessor is the addition of the Debris Free Construction, a new tongue that integrates with the rest of the upper to create a barrier from debris. The outsole of the 876 has also been redesigned to allow for more ground contact and a smoother transition on a wider variety of terrain. True to its predecessor, the 876 features a LockDown liner, an upper technology that integrates the shoes liner into the lacing system to offer a better fit. ABZORB® cushioning in the heel and forefoot, a full length ABZORB® Strobel board, and an Ortholite insert provides premium cushioning and comfort. The Rock Stop plate, which runs from mid-foot to forefoot offering stability and protection, is split lengthwise to allow for a responsive ride. A SURE LACE keeps shoes tied, a LIGHTING DRY lining provides moisture management, and a solid and sticky rubber outsole provides maximum traction.