Best Lightweight/Minimalist Shoes of ORSM 2010
January 5, 2011 by Bryon Powell · 36 Comments
Are you a fan of minimalist or lightweight trail running shoes? If so, here are some top models that will be coming to a store near you in the coming months that we saw at the 2010 summer Outdoor Retailer show. We previously took a look at the best general trail running shoes from the show and will looking at non-shoe highlights on Friday.
Saucony ProGrid Peregrine ($90)
Saucony launched the lightweight ProGrid Kinvara in the spring of 2010. Soon thereafter, trail runners such as Matt Carpenter were taking these nimble road shoes out onto the trail. Hitting the trails in a 7.7 ounce road shoe was interesting enough that iRunFar reviewed the Sauncony Kinvara as a trail shoe. Well, come early 2011, trail runners will be able to cruise singletrack in the Saucony Peregrine, a trail specific shoe made on the Kinvara’s last. To make the Peregrine trailworthy, Saucony added closed-meshed fabric to the upper, a gusseted tongue, and gaiter compatibility. At 9.1 ounces (258 grams), the Peregrine will feature a Memory Formaheel and a mere 4 mm heel-to-toe drop. No, this isn’t the lightest minimalist shoe nor is it the least structured minimal shoe, but we think it a Saucony representative nailed it when she said the Peregrine is “minimalism for the masses.”
New Balance Minimus ($100)
[As a testament to our tardiness, we'll cop to writing the following preview before we reviewed the New Balance Minimus Trail. So, yeah, we wrote this awhile ago!]
Even though many of you are quite excited, we’re not going to beat you over the heads again with the New Balance Minimus. We’ve already shared an interview with Anton Krupicka and Senior Designer Chris Wawrousek. There’s also an interview with Katherine Petrecca, who is managing the upcoming NB Minimus collection, on New Balance’s website. However, we’ll provide a quick reminder of what you have to look forward to next March.
The Minimus line will offer three models, one each for road running, trail running, and general wellness. The shoes promise to offer a “closer to barefoot experience” with no insole and minimal midsoles and outsoles. The Vibram outsoles aren’t like anything you’ve seen before. They’re special enough that new Balance hasn’t released a full image of the outsole yet. As for the midsoles, they will feature a 4mm heel-to-toe drop, which is half of that of the MT101. The amount of cushioning will vary by model with the least cushioning in the trail model. All the models will include a 1mm shock plate in the forefoot. The shoes are constructed on a new “natural last” that creates a roomy toe box for your feet to spread out.
There will be some significant variations among these shoes. For instance, each has a different stack height. Here are the heel/toe heights to each model. Wellness: 8/4; Trail: 9/5; Road: 11/7. While our notes might be wrong, we’ve got the Wellness at 6 ounces, the Trail at 7 ounces, and the road at 8.2 ounces. New Balance has posted images of the entire Minimus line are posted on Flickr.
When released in March, the shoes will only be available on shopnewbalance.com, which will provide instructions for the transition. The Minimus shoes will not be an everyday shoe for most runners.
Montrail Rogue Racer ($110)
The Rogue Racer has created more buzz than any other Montrail shoe in quite some time and for good reason. The Rogue Racer is not an evolution of anything in Montrail’s current, lineup. Instead, Montrail designed a lightweight (8.8 oz/250 g for US men’s 9), low-profile (20mm heel/10mm toe) trail shoe from the ground up with the help of trail running stud Max King. We’ve had a chance to review the Rogue Racer.
Inov-8 Evoskin ($60)
Not due until summer 2011, we got a sneak peak at the Evoskin for which Inov-8 really cranked up the security. This shoe is quite different from Vibram FiveFingers and Inov-8 is keen to keep this idea their own. Basically, the Evoskin is a silicon glove for your feet. There’s a bit of texture to the footbed and on the outsole, but other than that it’s an individually-toed, open-topped, silicon foot glove. The only additions are adjustable crisscrossing straps that go over the top of your feet and a tab at the back to help you pull the shoe on. There are small holes on the toes to prevent the Evoskin from becoming vacuumed onto your feet. While the silicon will help protect against road abrasions and uncomfortable temperatures, THESE ARE NOT MEANT FOR TRAIL RUNNING! Got it? Good. Early pre-production reviews note that the Evoskin is highly tactile, even more so than FiveFingers. A medium size will weigh in at 3.5 ounces (100 grams) and are expected to last roughly 200 miles.
Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 ($110)
Need a barely-there racing shoe that suits gnarly conditions? Well, how about that Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200, Inov-8’s first zero-arrow cushioned shoe. What does that mean? It means there’s no midsole and no cushioning. While there at it, there’s no heel-toe drop either. On the other hand, the shoes could tear up a bog and still have tread to spare. In fact, Inov-8 touts the Bare-Grip as “[i]deal for racing on any terrain and all off trail activities” The Bare-Grip 200 will have Inov-8s narrow Performance Fit. In all, a US men’s 9 weighs in at 7 ounces (200 grams). Sounds fun to us!
Is it just us or Inov-8’s Spring/Summer 2011 line one of the most innovative shoe lines in a while? Between Inov-8’s Fall/Winter 2010 releases, such as the X-Talon 190 and the F-Lite 195, that are currently available (Inov-8 wasn’t at winter OR) and the SS11 line, we learned about at least 10 models in 30 minutes!
Running Warehouse has a good preview of the Bare-Grip 200.
Merrell Trail Glove ($110)
Merrell worked closely with Vibram to develop a barefoot-style shoe. The result is a set of zero drop shoes that retain a functional outsole and a unified toebox (i.e., not five fingers). The Trail Glove model will weigh in at 6.45 ounces (183 g) for a US men’s 9. The heel and midsole are very narrowly cut, which should strongly encourage forefoot striking. There is a 4 mm EVA midsole throughout the length of the shoe to cushion some shocks as well as a 1 mm protection plate in the midfoot to provide push through protection. The interior of the shoe is quite soft and suspect we that they should be comfortable to run in sockless.
La Sportiva X County ($90)
Compared to the shoes above, the La Sportiva X Country is minimal in neither weight (9.95 oz/285 g) nor drop. However, it is least structured, lowest to the ground shoe we’ve ever seen from La Sportiva. The shoe features the proven outsole pattern of the Crosslite, but La Sportiva turned it up a notch by using its stickier Frixion XF rubber. Gone are the Crosslite’s torsional shank, pronation control wedge, and thickness from the midsole. The result is a low to the ground (15mm heel, 5 mm toe), well-lugged, grippy trail shoe that’d be great fell racing and other sub-ultra trail racing.
Call for Comments
Any of these shoes strike your fancy? If so, which and why?