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New Balance Minimus Trail
$100, 7.2 oz, www.newbalance.com
The Dirt. Designed with input from elite ultrarunner Anton Krupicka, the Minimus Trail is New Balance’s latest step toward barefoot running. With only a 4-millimeter drop from heel to toe and a super-soft nylon upper, the Minimus Trail feels like a slipper. Wrapping your arch, a stiff Vibram outsole supplies a surprising amount of midfoot support. It was extremely flexible during toe-off, and encouraged a forefoot strike. An outsole with a hexagonal tread pattern leaves vulnerable gaps between some forefoot lugs and the midsole. Though it offers great traction, a few testers sustained rock bruises.
Fit. The stretchy nylon upper hugs your midfoot and heel, with an extremely wide toebox so toes don’t feel restricted. This shoe offers the most comfortable barefoot simulation of all shoes we tested.
Best For. Runs like a stripped-down version of a racing flat. While the outsole’s stiffness and traction is substantial enough to handle uneven terrain, start with recovery, technique and strength-building runs.