New Barefoot and Minimalist Trail Footwear

As barefoot and minimal footwear grows in popularity, more options are being offered for outdoor and trail use. Whether you’re interested in going all in (barefoot) or want to ease into the idea (minimalist or lightweight), here are the latest trail offerings for 2011.

(Note: if you're thinking about joining the barefoot running or hiking crowd, start small and check out How to Run or Hike Barefoot on the Trail.)

Barefoot

What is it? Barefoot footwear is designed to allow the mechanics of the foot to function as they would when barefoot. These shoes are extremely lightweight, with little underfoot protection, and flex with every move of the foot. Barefoot footwear is designed for people who seek a barefoot sock-like feel, but want a thin layer between their foot and the ground.

Inov-8 Evoskin

Inov-8 has been designing minimal off-road shoes since 2003. Comprised of a singe piece of silicon, the Evoskin is reminiscent of Vibram FiveFingers and other toe shoes, but is even more minimal. The Evoskin foot glove weighs just 3.5 ounces.

“The main purpose of this product is to provide the wearer with a layer of protection, while they don’t lose any sensation from their underfoot touch to the ground,” explained Inov-8’s Gina Lucrezi.

While this stripped-down lightweight toe shoe may appeal to many, it is only appropriate for grass and soft dirt trails.

Sizes: XXS-XL

Weight: 3.5 oz

MSRP: $65

Available: Spring 2011


Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS

While Vibram didn’t create the barefoot running philosophy, they've certainly been at the forefront of the movement.

Using the same outsole and insole as the Bikila, released in 2010, the Bikila LS has been modified to accommodate wider feet and higher insteps. It also features an asymmetrical speed lacing system for adjustment capabilities.

For runners with larger feet, the stretchy uppers of many barefoot shoes are oftentimes too tight; this tongue and lace system is a preferable option for those individuals.

Sizes: men’s 40-47, women’s 36-42

Weight: 6 oz (men’s 42)

MSRP: $100

Available: Now

Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport

The more athletic topline of the KomodoSport sets this model apart. In addition, heel and instep hook-and-loop closures and a nylon stretch upper fits the foot like a glove, which is exactly what's intended.

The KomodoSport's 4mm Vibram TC1 performance rubber outsole provides a more aggressive lug pattern than the Bikila. It's specifically built to provide greater traction on lateral cuts, ideal for more technical, winding trails.

Sizes: men’s 40-47, women’s 36-42

Weight: 7.1 oz (men’s 42)

MSRP: $100

Available: Now

 

ZEM 360

With a pliable but sturdy outsole, the 360s are ZEM's best models for runners. (There's also an H20 model for kayakers and sailors and an O2 model with more moderate protection.)

“It has a sole that is geared towards abrasive surfaces with greater durability on those surfaces while running,” says Eric Cestero, ZEM Customer Service and Marketing Coordinator.

Keep in mind, however, that while the abrasion robust phylon outsole will protect your feet, this footwear is only appropriate on less-aggressive trails and roads.

What is different about the ZEM 360s compared to its competitors is that the sole reacts to the heat of your foot, allowing the shoe to mold to the contours of your foot. Along with the four-way nylon stretch upper, this shoe is designed to feel like a second skin.

Sizes: XXS-XXL

Weight: 2.5 oz

MSRP: $59.90

Available: Spring/Summer 2011

ZEM Originals

Like lobster gloves for your feet, the Split Toe versions of the Originals provides a sense of balance by leaving the big toe separated from the rest of the foot. ZEM’s four-way stretch upper in the Split Toe and Round Toe series fit snuggly against the foot to cut down on chaffing.

The Round Toe model houses a five-toe compartment for a more mitten-like fit. Interestingly, the Molded High Frequency Tech Bands that cross over the midfoot are meant to provide a small amount of lateral support, something most barefoot-inspired footwear lacks. The outsoles, which are comprised of a soft molded rubber bottom, are said to be sturdy enough for the trails.

Eric Cestero, Customer Service and Marketing Coordinator says, “these are recommended for barefoot running because the sole will protect you from hazards.” Available in Hi and Lo cut versions.

Sizes: XXS-XXL

Weight: 1.856 - 2.816 oz

MSRP: $29.90

Available: Now



Minimalist

What is it? Footwear categorized as minimalist represents the lightest weight traditional footwear on the market. The stripped down midsole is more flexible and lightweight than a regular shoe, but it still provides some underfoot protection. This footwear is designed for people who want a lightweight shoe that will flex with their natural gait pattern.

Altra Adam and Eve

Founded by former running specialty storeowners, the Altra crew knows running shoes. After 30 years in the business, they decided to focus on zero drop, foot-shaped, gender-specific running footwear.

Altra's most minimal offerings, the Adam (for men) and the Eve (for women), have a 3.4mm siped performance rubber BareSole outsole and two optional insoles for versatility. The foot shape design, highlighted by a wide toe box, allows runners to feel like they are wearing the shoe, rather than the shoe wearing them.

Additionally, the breathable stretch upper with two straps over the top of the foot makes for a snug and adjustable fit.

These are best for minimalist hiking, trekking, and running. For a more robust offering, check out Altra's lightweight Lone Pine trail runner (below).

Sizes: men’s 8-14, women’s 6-11

Weight: 4.7 oz (men’s), 4.5 oz (women’s)

MSRP: $89.99

Available: Spring 2011

Brooks Green Silence

The Green Silence, a super lightweight trainer for roads and some trails, deserves a mention. Brooks was able to shed weight for both the runner and the earth. Using half as many parts as other shoes in its category, most of the shoe is comprised of recycled materials.

If you’re self-conscious about the unique look of many barefoot options, the Green Silence sports an impressively trendy aesthetic. Never one to sacrifice performance, Brooks built this shoe for competition.

“We place the Green Silence in our lightweight/competition category,” says PR and Marketing Manager, Rebecca Dorfman. “The design is inherently minimal so it works well for runner’s looking for that type of shoe as well.”

Sizing: unisex 4-14 (includes half sizes)

Weight: 6.9 oz

MSRP: $100

Available: now


GoLite Tara Lite

While GoLite’s Tara Lites are more robust than a true barefoot or minimalist shoe, they offer an interesting alternative worth considering.

“It is our belief that most of the minimal shoes in market are going to be too little shoe for most people,” explains Vivian Lefebvre, Director of PR and Marketing at New England Footwear. “We do believe, however, that there is a lot of logic to the natural running approach, for example a zero drop, and we agree that trail runners could be much lighter.”

Utilizing the company’s new BareTech platform, the Tara Lite’s Sticky Gecko outsole sports a zero drop and has over 350 tiny lugs for traction.

Most unique is its inner thong construction, inspired by the sandals worn by the Tarahumara tribes of Mexico. For better stability, the big toe is separated from the other four toes, which also gives a more optimal fit by keeping your foot in place. 

Sizes: men’s 7-13, 14, women’s 5.5-10.5, 11

Weight: 11.2 oz (men’s 9); 8.3 oz (women’s 7)

MSRP: $120 (men’s), $115 (women’s)

Available: Now


 

Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150

Although not ideal for jagged terrain, like Inov-8’s earlier released Bare Grip 200s, the Bare-X Lite is a good option for rail trails.

A true minimalist racer, this shoe has a 7mm midsole with a zero degree heel to forefoot differential. One of its best features is the tongue-less upper, which is made of one piece of stretchy air mesh, giving it a slipper-like feel and making it great for competition.

Inov-8's Gina Lucrezi says, “the anatomical last is shaped to follow the curvature of an actual foot, while most lasts are made a bit straighter.” If you like the barefoot concept, but still want a shoe, Inov-8’s Bare-X Lite 150s are a minimalist option.

Sizes: men’s 5-13, women’s 6.5-11

Weight: 5.3 oz

MSRP: $65

Available: Fall 2011

Kigo Edge

A unisex slip-on, the Kigo Edge has a mere 1.5mm midsole. Although it may be thin, the sole is made of a high-density rubber, the same as a hiking boot, so it protects feet from sticks and stones. The shoes also have a protective toecap to protect you from stubbing toes on the trail.

The designers worked with biomechanics experts, physicians, runners, and hikers in designing the Edges. It's clear the Kigo folks understand runners, as these shoes have a deeper foot hole than most to prevent chafing on the heel and Achilles, as well as a non-slip rubber outsole.

Kigo also has committed to using biodegradable packaging and post consumer and non-toxic materials.

As co-founder Rachelle Kuramoto explains, “we want to be proud of what we’re doing, not just because we’ve created a stylish, minimalist shoe that is good for the body, but because we’ve done it in a way that’s good for the Earth too.”

Sizes: unisex sizing women’s 6-14 (whole sizes only) and men’s 4.5-12.5 (half sizes only)

Weight: 5 oz

MSRP: $69.99

Available: now

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove and Pace Glove

The trail-specific shoes in Merrell's new minimalist Barefoot line, the Trail Glove (for men) and Pace Glove (for women) don't fail to impress. In competition with the New Balance Minimus Trail (below), these can be worn on all types of trails.

Like any good minimalist trail shoe should include, the Trail Glove and Pace Glove have a zero drop heel to toe differential, an exceptionally wide toebox, and even a toe bumper. Stitched into the upper is a leather foot sling, providing a scant amount of stability in a very minimal shoe.

Not to be forgotten is a flexible forefoot plate system, which provides comprehensive protection against the cracks and crags of the trail.

Sizes: men’s 7-12, 13, 14, 15, women’s 5-11

Weight: 6.2 oz (men’s), 4.7 oz (women’s)

MSRP: $110 (men’s), $100 (women’s)

Available: Now

New Balance Minimus

New Balance has thrown its hat into the minimalist ring with the Minimus series. The line includes trail running, road running, and wellness styles for various types of barefoot running.

“The NB Minimus trail shoe features a Vibram outsole for lightweight traction and durability, as well as a deconstructed Acteva midsole that provides high flexibility and light cushioning,” says New Balance PR Manager, Kristen Sullivan.

The anatomically correct last has just a 4mm drop from heel to forefoot, whereas in traditional running shoes it’s more like 12.5mm. The Minimus is more of a minimalist shoe that maintains some structure.

“We believe that building great minimal footwear is more than just stripping as much as you can out off a shoe or making a lightweight shoe and calling it ‘minimal,’” says Sullivan. With the help of ultra champ Anton Krupicka, New Balance infused the Minimus with the latest in barefoot technology, for a minimalist performance shoe.

Sizes: men 7-13, 14; women 5-11, 12

Weight: less than 8.5 oz (men’s 9.5)

MSRP: $100

Available: Spring 2011


 

 

STEM Origins Series

Replicating the elasticity of human skin, STEM’s Origins Series of minimalist footwear uses a 6mm air-injected rubber sole. Sporting a wider toebox than most regular running shoes, this model allows the toes to splay apart, providing better balance.

Co-founder Andrew Rademacher describes the shoes by saying, “STEM is not just a minimalist shoe, it’s an ultra-minimalist shoe with a Barefoot IDEALIST design.” 

The STEM Origins series is for the trail runner who wants a barefoot ride, but still enjoys the feel of a minimal shoe.

Sizes: men’s 8-13, women’s 6-1

Weight: 6.5 oz (men’s 9.5)

MSRP: $84.99

Available: Fall 2011

Terra Plana VIVOBAREFOOT EVO

Terra Plana is no stranger to the barefoot market, having developed its first VIVOBAREFOOT line in 2004. This year they introduced four new barefoot athletic shoes. The Evo and Evo II are considered the high performance barefoot trainers. Most notable to trail runners is the protection the sole provides.

“While the Evo sole is only four mm, it is a patented puncture resistant VIVOBAREFOOT performance sole,” says U.S. Marketing Executive, Michelle Hinsvark. “It is made with a layer of DuraTex to keep the runners’ feet protected, along with latex rubber and TPU abrasion materials.”

A sweat-absorbing, antibacterial lining make this shoe especially easy to wear without socks for a truly barefoot feel.

Sizes: men’s 40-49, women’s 35-42

Weight: 8.2 oz (men's), 5.7 oz (women’s)

MSRP: $160

Available: Now


 

 

Other Lightweight Options

Although it may seem like everyone is talking about barefoot running, it doesn’t mean everyone is actually doing it or should be doing it. While minimal and barefoot footwear may work for some, it won’t for others.

For those who are looking to lighten up somewhat, but aren’t into wearing gloves on their feet, many traditional trail running companies now have lightweight options. These mean a lighter shoe with a less pronounced angle from heel to toe.


Altra Lone Peak trail runner.

Ahnu’s Sausalito and Haywards offer a lighter weight line that is recognizable by its old school street style.

Altra has a new trail runner, the Lone Peak, that feature a zero drop.

GoLite’s Nimble Lite is not barefoot or minimal, but a lighter shoe than heavy trail runners of the past.

Keen is debuting the 9-ounce A86, which has a super light PU midsole.

Montrail’s 7.4 ounce Rogue Racer is another option, designed with the help of trail running champ Max King.

Salomon is introducing the XR Crossmax, which is lighter weight, but still just as hard-gripping.

Saucony gets into the mix with its first truly lightweight trail shoe, the Peregrine. As does Brooks, with the new Cascadia.

Even companies like Vasque, who are known for heavy and highly protective hiking boots, are dropping weight. The Vasque Swoop and Medley offer minimal weight and reduced heel to toe differentiations.

 

Note: Even if the new lightweight and minimal trail options have you excited to hit the trail, don't jump in without examining your own injury history and easing into the use of minimal shoes. Barefoot footwear may not be everyone.

If you're thinking about joining the barefoot crowd, check out How to Run or Hike Barefoot on the Trail.

Filed under: Gear News

Related Content

Barefoot and Minimal Shoe Info and Reviews  |  Ahnu  |  Altra  |  Brooks  |  GoLite  |  Keen  |  Merrell  |  Montrail  |  New Balance  |  Salomon  |  Saucony  |  STEM Footwear  |  Terra Plana  |  Vasque  |  Vibram  |  ZEM

Comments

Jas
164 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
March 17, 2011 at 6:24 a.m. (EDT)

A notable shoe that's missing from this round-up is the Brooks Mach Spikeless running shoe. I came across it on the Zombierunner website. They sell the latest, Mach 12 version, which looks pretty funky -


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I think they've been around for a while as a niche product, being a de-spiked version of a cross country spike! A bonus is that they're pretty cheap compared to most 'barefoot' shoes (less is certainly more when it comes to minimal running shoe pricing!). Although they fit the minimal/barefoot runners needs very well- little cushioning, little or no heel to forefoot differential- I don't think Brooks are pushing them as a 'barefoot' shoe.

I'm UK based and they're certainly not being pushed at all over here, being virtually unheard of: the Mach 12 isn't even sold in the UK, as far as I know. What with the de-valued £ and import duty, there's no way I wanted to buy a pair from the US. I have, however, managed to find a UK eBay shop that sells Mach 7 & 8 spikeless shoes. I bought a pair of Mach 8 a few months ago and am really enjoying running in them.


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Mach 8 Spikeless

They are very light, but hardwearing, and provide a reasonable amount of protection from stones, etc underfoot. I don't use conventional running shoes at all now and haven't looked back.

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,148 forum posts
March 17, 2011 at 9:05 a.m. (EDT)

A bunch of these look to be only slightly different than manyshoes Puma has been making for many years.

denis daly
87 reviewer rep
1,057 forum posts
March 17, 2011 at 12:13 p.m. (EDT)

A bunch of these look to be only slightly different than manyshoes Puma has been making for many years.

 Thats true Puma has always used less padding in their design of running shoe's..The Brooks that Jas is pointing out is surpriseing because Brooks is well known for a heavy training shoe's..The style is more of a racer like Jas is refering to or called a "flat". Cross Country use's the same style but with spikes at the front that can be removed..

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
501 reviewer rep
2,990 forum posts
March 17, 2011 at 12:35 p.m. (EDT)

Salomon has a number of mountain running shoes. Their lightest ones, new for fall, are the Salomon Fellcross fell running shoes. I oogled them at OR. This is as minimal as Salomon goes.


fell-550.jpg

Jas
164 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
March 18, 2011 at 5:29 p.m. (EDT)

gonzan said:

A bunch of these look to be only slightly different than manyshoes Puma has been making for many years.

The minimal Puma shoes that I've seen in the UK have been in 'fashion' shops and are less suited for running because the uppers look like they would not breathe enough and/or hold too much water if used in wet weather. We Brits do seem to have a poor choice of sports shoes compared to in the US.

Alicia said:

Salomon has a number of mountain running shoes. Their lightest ones, new for fall, are the Salomon Fellcross fell running shoes. I oogled them at OR.

UK fell runners have had a good choice of shoes with a deep (usually studded) tread and little cushioning for a few years now. The Salomons are probably at the 'luxury' end of fell shoes, although I agree they're pretty minimal! The frustration for me has been the lack of minimal shoes suitable for frequent road use. It's great that this is changing.

dm1333
3 reviewer rep
170 forum posts
March 20, 2011 at 11:25 p.m. (EDT)

Who is going to review either the New Balance or Merrel offerings?  I've got Nike Frees but I'm not sure they are going to hold up well.  I actually went back to running in New Balance 410's because I pulled or strained a muscle in my calf and the Free's don't have as much cushioning in the forefoot. 

To be honest once you learn to land with a fore or mid foot strike I can't see spending $85-100 on the Nikes when I can get the New Balance shoes for about $50.

Jas
164 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
March 21, 2011 at 5:08 a.m. (EDT)

Nike Frees have got far too much heel-forefoot differential to be considered anything like a 'barefoot' shoe.

Mid or forefoot striking comes far more naturally when you use shoes with very little differential. The Inov-8 F-lite 230s and Brooks Spikeless I've been running in show very little heel wear.

If you're having to fight your shoe to achieve a forefoot strike, try a different shoe!

dm1333
3 reviewer rep
170 forum posts
March 22, 2011 at 8:52 p.m. (EDT)

Jas,

 

I'm not sure who you are talking to, but if it is me I'm not fighting my shoe to achieve a forefoot strike.  I mentioned the Frees because I have been running in them but I am more curious about the New Balance Minimus or whatever Merrel is calling their version. 

I disagree with you on whether or not Nike Frees are a minimalist shoe.  Sitting here, holding a Free in one hand and a Nike Tailwind in the other hand, it seems very obvious that the Nike is a minimalist shoe.  Having run in the Frees I can also vouch for the fact that they are not made with enough heel cushioning to run in with a heel strike.  Is there an actual definition of what is or isn't minimalist?

I also think that most people would be better served by running in something like the Frees for a while before they make the jump to something like the Vibrams or the Inov-8s.  I'm 45 and having been running with a heel strike since high school.  My legs and feet needed that intermediate step and the Frees were perfect for that.   Now that I have been doing it for a while I'm not even sure I need to keep buying expensive shoes like the Free when I can spend about 1/2 as much on New Balance 410's.  The 410's do have a pretty significant heel-forefoot differential but other than that they are basic as it gets.  No motion control, not a whole lot of cushioning, etc. 

I'd be curious to here what you or others out here think, especially of the idea of using something like the Frees as an intermediate steop.

Don

Jas
164 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
March 23, 2011 at 5:47 a.m. (EDT)

Don,

I used Frees a few years ago and always thought they looked to have a significant differential. I agree that they don't have much cushioning on the heel.

More recently I have run in Inov-8 320 and 230 F-lites and noticed a significant difference in wear pattern; the 230s showed much less heel wear. This difference came about without any conscious effort from me. I'd attributed it to the 230s being 'flatter', but perhaps the extra cushioning on the 320s also made a difference, as they allowed a comfortable heel strike.

However, it seems obvious to me that the thicker the heel, the more one has to try to achieve a heel or mid-foot strike and therefore thick-heeled shoes should be avoided. That's what I meant by 'having to fight your shoe' I know I'm far from alone in this view: Pose Running practitioners, the late Gordon Pirie, in his book, and many others share it. Whilst Frees are minimal in most respects, their heel isn't because it's pretty thick (and flared), whether or not it's very cushioned.

The main problem I had with my Frees was that they weren't very durable: it sounds like you've found this too. I would agree that there are better value options out there, whether or not you want a 'flat' heel.

Jas.

dm1333
3 reviewer rep
170 forum posts
March 24, 2011 at 12:35 p.m. (EDT)

Chas,

I agree with you on the heel height of the Frees.  I think we are looking at the minimalist/barefoot issue from different ends of the spectrum.  Compared to regular running shoes the Nikes are pretty minimalist, compared to other minimalist shoes the Nikes don't really stand out. 

Mine also don't seem real durable, the sole seems to be holding up fine but the uppers are starting to pull apart in a few places.  The biggest problem for me with finding a minimalist shoe is the distance between my town and the nearest running shoe store.  The closest two stores are about 1.5 hours away, the nearest store with a big selection of higher end shoes is 2.5 hours away.  I'm not sure if you have ever heard of Fleet Feet, it is a chain of stores that seems to be mainly in California.

I'd love to find a set of the New Balances or Merrels.  Luckily for me there is a good outdoor store about 1.5 hours away, they already carry the Vibrams and Merrel hiking boots so it might be pretty easy to order a set of Merrels.  Reading your posts on here has made me want to find something like the Minimus and they should be out in stores by now so maybe it will be me reviewing them here.

If anybody else is thinking about running in minimalist shoes I would recommend it.  After running with a heel strike nearly all my life and having plenty of episodes with shin pain (especially over the last three years) I took the plunge.  I have really been easing my way into this. 

Last fall shin pain made me stop running, again.  After a few weeks off I started walking on a gravel road in hiking sandals.  After a warm up I would run for a minute, walk for a few minutes, then run for a minute again.  During a 40-45 minute walk my run times started out at about 5 minutes total and slowly rose to around 20 minutes.  Once I was running for about 20 minutes straight I went ahead and bought the Nike Frees and started running on pavement and a treadmill.  I was up to over three miles three or four days a week and then pulled a muscle in my right leg.  That set me back a bit but I'm not back to three miles a day, three days a week.

This is the first time in years that I have been able to run that far, that many times a week without having any kind of pain in my shins.  I'm slower but that is an acceptable trade off. 

Jas
164 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
March 25, 2011 at 5:35 a.m. (EDT)

Don,

Sounds like you've suffered over the years!

I'm UK based and so haven't heard of Fleet Feet. I too am nowhere near a big running store.

I'm also not that well off and so have to be very careful with what I buy. One thing I've done several times now is to buy nearly new shoes off eBay (usually someone has bought some shoes, run in them once or twice and decided they don't fit). I get them cheap in the first place and if they don't work for me I sell them on for more-or-less what I paid for them.

In the UK Merrell approach shoes are sold in some fashion stores. The Trail glove has recently become available in a UK fashion shoe chain called Schuh. Is there any mileage in checking out US fashion chains that may be closer to you?

Jas.

dm1333
3 reviewer rep
170 forum posts
March 27, 2011 at 12:56 a.m. (EDT)

Jas,

My trip to the San Francisco Bay area is on hold for about a month so I probably won't be trying out the Minimus until May.  The town that I live in is very small, about 6000 people and there are no stores that carry running shoes.  About 1.5 hours from here are two stores, one is a large chain and one is an outdoor store or an outfitter.  They carry Merrel hiking boots, Vibrams and one or two different Inov-8 shoes.  They are also very open to trying new shoes and brands so I might be able to get the Minimust through them. 

I wouldn't say I've suffered but there were a few times when I was ready to quit running.  The barefoot/minimalist movement has given me hope and as long as I keep running 3 or 4 days a week I'm going to be happy.  I read back through this whole thread and it has really cemented my desire to try something like the Minimus.  I'm not a NB fan boy but the limited selection out here has really narrowed down my choices. 

It sounds like you prefer the Inov-8 230 F-lite, what advice do you have about them? 

Jas
164 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
March 27, 2011 at 11:30 a.m. (EDT)

Don,

I have a great deal of affection for my F-lite 320s, as they've been my ultra shoe of choice for the past two years. They're still more minimal than a mainstream shoe and have a lovely high toe box, so my big toenails stay intact over any distance. I ran the 95 mile, West Highland Way Race in them last year and didn't have any blisters or damage of any kind to my feet.

I bought the 230s for training and shorter races. I don't see any reason in principle why I couldn't do an ultra in them, except that the soles are quite soft, as well as thin, so I feel all the stones under my feet. I've run a trail marathon in them and didn't feel sore underfoot afterwards, but would imagine I would if I pushed them into ultra distance.

So, I do prefer the 230 as my everyday running shoe, but they have their limitations. They are a very low volume shoe: I wear mine without insoles because they're too tight across the tops of my feet otherwise. So don't be surprised if you find them an odd fit. Having said that, mine are '1st generation'; I think they've been tweaked by Inov-8 since (not just cosmetically), so you might find the fit more 'standard'.

One of the reasons I got the Brooks Spikeless is that I hoped they would have a slightly harder sole to protect my feet more. This does seem to be the case. They also have a very high toe box; a nice bonus. I shall be wearing them for my next ultra, an 80 mile (total) out-and-back in May, with the option of changing into my trusty 320s at the turnaround if they prove to be less comfortable than I thought.

Jas

dm1333
3 reviewer rep
170 forum posts
April 24, 2011 at 1:40 p.m. (EDT)

I just bought a pair of the Merrel Trailgloves on Friday.  I wont run in them until tomorrow but now I understand why Chas said that the Nike Free is not a minimalist shoe.  To people who have been raised on the latest high tech, heavily cushioned running shoes the Trailglove will feel more like a slipper than anything else.

I can also see how a shoe with no heel rise really helps with a fore foot strike.  I ran from my driveway down to the end of the street and back with these and they really do make it natural to land on your forefoot.  My one concern is with durability (6.4 ounces per shoe) but my bet is that they are more durable than they look.  I also tried out the New Balance Minimus, it feels a little different than the Trailglove because it does have some heel rise.  I went with the Merrels because a couple of online reviews said that people suffered some stone bruises with the Minimus. 

Tomorrow will be my first run in these shoes and my first run in 2 or 3 weeks.  An extremely tight and sore calf muscle kept me from running for a bit.  Extra mileage on my road bike loosened up my calf and kept me fit.  I'm glad I put in a fair amount of miles in the Free's and still think that the best way to transition into these shoes is to take an intermediate step and run in something like the Free.  Walking around in these shoes should also help with strengthening your calves, tendons and ligaments.  They also don't look quite as goofy as the Vibrams!

Jas
164 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
April 25, 2011 at 3:19 p.m. (EDT)

Hi Don,

I'm jealous of you with your new Trailgloves! I'm having to be really careful with my money at the moment, so I'll have to wait for a couple of months until my birthday to buy some!

Happy trails buddy.

Jas.

dm1333
3 reviewer rep
170 forum posts
April 25, 2011 at 4:22 p.m. (EDT)

Jas,

They felt pretty good!  I only ran 1.5 miles because I didn't want to push my calf but a couple of things were noticeable right off.  There is much less cushioning in the forefoot than in the Frees.  With no heel rise it was also natural to land on my forefoot.  With the Frees every once in a while it felt like I was dragging the heel on the ground.  That feeling was gone. 

I still wonder how durable these things are but my Merrel hiking boots are very well made so I have hope for these. 

Jas
164 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
May 20, 2011 at 4:58 a.m. (EDT)

Don,

I found a pair of Trail Gloves, second-hand but nearly new, on eBay and grabbed them on 'Buy it Now' immediately. The seller must have been really pleased, as they'd only been on a couple of hours!

I've been wearing them this week, including a six mile easy trail run. I've noticed several things.

Firstly, my 230s and Spikeless are minimal, but they ain't barefoot! The transition from them to Trail Gloves feels as big as that from standard, 'high heel lift' shoes to them. I could feel my calves being stretched walking about it the TGs. Strangely, I have found them more 'odd' to walk in than to run in, I think because walking still involves a heel strike regardless of shoe (and of course, nearly all shoes have a heel lift). My heels are sore from walking about on asphalt in the TGs, but I'll get used to them! I've decided that I will make life easier for myself if I have a second pair of barefoot shoes for day to day use to be fully accustomed to that type of footwear, so I've bought a cheap pair of boat shoe style Terra Plana shoes -

Terra-Plana-Oak-Shoes-Black-Oil-Suede.jp
I don't want to wear my Trail Gloves out with everyday use and they'll be filthy from muddy runs some of the time!

The fit, not just the sole is 'barefoot'. The wide, ergonomic forefoot allows the toes to splay. I should think this is key to getting your feet working fully.

My six mile run was a revelation! I felt like I was going really fast. It was a fast paced run, but I suspect this was largely due to many of my leg muscles being engaged in a way they never have before. It was intense in a way I'm not used to. I assume that as I get used to running like this, it will feel more normal.

It's taken me about two years to go from standard running shoes to now. I'm sure I could have gone a lot faster, but I also know that rushing straight into it would have been very tough, if not impossible. I can't believe that in 2009 I bought a pair of Brooks Cascadia, a trail shoe with high-end road shoe cushioning and thought they would be my perfect ultra trail shoe. I'm sure they're great if you want that you want, but I've come a long way!

Callahan
245 reviewer rep
1,469 forum posts
May 20, 2011 at 1:32 p.m. (EDT)

Always like seeing and hearing how lightweight gear works.

Always looking to lighten the load.

For e.g. http://www.gofastandlight.com/

Jas
164 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
May 21, 2011 at 8:16 a.m. (EDT)

Callahan said:

Always like seeing and hearing how lightweight gear works.

Always looking to lighten the load.

 You may find this interesting.

Jason.

dm1333
3 reviewer rep
170 forum posts
May 23, 2011 at 11:23 p.m. (EDT)

Jas,

I've noticed the same thing with the Trail Gloves.  The big toe box allows my feet and toes to flex like they were barefoot.  I probably ruin the effect a little by wearing socks but I want to avoid the Vibram Stink.  They also feel a little odd to me when walking because the heel is so narrow.  I feel a little wobbly. 

My running has been hit or miss (things out of my control) for the past several months but I am getting in at least two runs a week along with a lot of riding and Fit Deck done in the Trail Gloves.  My achilles tendons are longer now, after run tightness is decreasing and the arches of my feet are adapting to running in the Trail Gloves.  One thing I have noticed is that the bottom of my feet are sore sometimes, I think you have to be careful of stones, gravel, etc when running in these shoes.

The upside is that more and more frequently on my runs I forget about my form, speed, wheezy old lungs and find myself striding along just enjoying things.  Speed and distance are taking a back seat to enjoying my runs and reveling in the fact that my shins don't hurt.  Every once in a while my right calf feels tight and sore but all the riding is keeping me limber and loose.  Commuting by bike also means I spend less than $10 a week on gas

If anybody is considering barefoot running or minimalist shoes I highly recommend taking it in small increments.  Start with something like a Nike Free.  At first it will feel like a very minamalist shoe.  When compared to something like the Vibrams or Merrels it is an intermediate step.  I cant imagine going right from a highly cushioned shoe to something like the Ttrail Glove or Minimus unless you are a very fit runner who is logging a lot of miles every week.  Mere mortals like me should work into it gradually.

Don

dm1333
3 reviewer rep
170 forum posts
May 23, 2011 at 11:31 p.m. (EDT)

I just went back and read your old post where you talked about needing to be careful with your money.  Amen to that!!!  In the last three weeks I dropped $600 on vet bills for the dog, over a thousand on an emergency trip back home to visit my sick mother, my tires need to be replaced, I still owe $600 for the last college class I took, and on and on and on.  A hundred dollars for running shoes seems extravagent but running and cycling are my only stress reducers right now.

trailrun
0 reviewer rep
2 forum posts
May 24, 2011 at 4:20 a.m. (EDT)

I'm eyeing off these Inov8 Bare Grip 200. They say "made for barefoot running", 0mm differential, 200 grams. Still has big lugs on the bottom (but I'm looking for this), but the upper is really slipper-like and I'm keen to try a 0mm drop. Anyone tried them?


003-5032-lib.jpg

Jas
164 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
May 24, 2011 at 5:37 a.m. (EDT)

trailrun said:

I'm eyeing off these Inov8 Bare Grip 200. They say "made for barefoot running", 0mm differential, 200 grams. Still has big lugs on the bottom (but I'm looking for this), but the upper is really slipper-like and I'm keen to try a 0mm drop. Anyone tried them?

 Yes, I've tried a pair on in a shop. They feel great. I will probably get a pair at the end of the summer, when I will need those big lugs as the trails and races get muddier. If you're not going to use them for very muddy conditions I would be wary, as the soles will wear at an alarming rate! My current 'muddy' shoe is a Inov8 Mudroc 290, which has a less extreme sole: I lose chunks off the soles if I use these on fast, rocky paths,especially if they're steep ones I can descend at a 'falling with style' pace.

dm1333 said:

I cant imagine going right from a highly cushioned shoe to something like the Ttrail Glove or Minimus unless you are a very fit runner who is logging a lot of miles every week.  Mere mortals like me should work into it gradually.

I'm an ultra runner (did an 80 miler 10 days ago) who is used to minimal (but not 'barefoot') shoes, ie Brooks Mach Spikeless, and even I have found the Trail Gloves a huge change! I did 10 miles on Sunday, which I enjoyed immensely partly because the TGs engage all the muscles so well, and my lower legs are sore in a way that they never have been! This is from the extra use of the muscles, NOT from extra impact.

The Minimus is more like my Spikeless; 4mm rather than 0mm differential, and so should be less punishing for newcomers. If I was starting out now, I would go the whole hog with a true barefoot shoe (TG, Five Fingers), but start with occasional use and stick to my standard shoes the rest of the time, then build up the 'barefoot' shoe running gradually until the standard shoes were redundant. As it is, I'm still using my Spikeless a lot: I've got a trail marathon at the end of June and I think racing in the TGs would be a bit hardcore for that, but a couple more months down the line I should be able to use them for anything.

Jason.

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
501 reviewer rep
2,990 forum posts
May 25, 2011 at 8:16 p.m. (EDT)

Hi guys,

In case you missed it and are interested, I wanted to point out that we just published a companion piece to this article:

How to Run or Hike Barefoot on the Trail

By the way, Jas, I just signed up for my first ultra (barely at 50K) for this fall. I'll need to do some extra training and preparation.

FromSagetoSnow
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
3,325 reviewer rep
1,202 forum posts
August 16, 2011 at 10:25 a.m. (EDT)

Why is it bad to walk in flip=flop sandals which provide no arch support and risks stress fractures but its good to go barefoot?

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,148 forum posts
August 16, 2011 at 10:37 a.m. (EDT)

I am have not formed a solid opinion on the merits of barefoot walking for the modern user under most everyday use, which sees mostly hard surfaces.

As for the Flipflop question, if there is a real difference, I whink it would be in three ways: first, the minimal shoes I've seen do have arch support, and with flipflops, your toes are engaged partially in gripping the sandal which is not the case when barefoot or with minimalist shoes, and flipflops provide a false sense of support and protection. When barefoot or in minimalist shoes, the tendency is to actaully change the way you wallk or suffer the consequences of injury and bruising. I think the reports are saying this is not the case with flip flops, for some reason.

 

Jas
164 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
September 25, 2011 at 4:07 p.m. (EDT)

I've had my Trail Gloves for long enough now to write a review - the headline is that they are pretty impressive and I love running in them!

Danny Five Oh
0 reviewer rep
1 forum posts
October 3, 2011 at 12:50 p.m. (EDT)

For the larger foot sizes, choices are non existent.  It's the Trail Glove all the way.  I'm going to see if I can get a pair of the Altra Adams also, se if they fit.

Vibram do a 48, which is rarer the hen's teeth; and Vivo no longer do any shoes above a 47 (as of September 2011).  If you find a pair of Neos in 48-50, but them.  I've been trying for three months and went as far as emailing Vivo to ask if they could give me a list of shops that stocked the larger sizes, or took delviery of them.

New Balance - no.  Salomon XMax may work as I'm a US14.5, but it's bulkier than I would like.  The FellX looks great, but not made in larger sizes.  Brooks has some good shoes coming out, again, non in larger sizes.  Had high hopes for snagging a pair of Skora but again no larger sizes.

Looks like Merrell will be getting all my money.  Have got Trail Gloves and Sonic Gloves, and am going to order four or five pairs of each to stock up in case supply runs dry.

Jas
164 reviewer rep
13 forum posts
October 16, 2011 at 2:20 p.m. (EDT)

I've now got myself a pair of Inov-8 X-Talon 190s and posted a review.

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