Best Lightweight/Minimalist Shoes of ORSM 2010

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.”

Saucony Peregrine

Saucony Peregrine

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.

New Balance Minimus Trail

New Balance Minimus Trail

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.

Montrail Rogue Racer

Montrail 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 Evo-Skin

Inov-8 Evoskin

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!

Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200

Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200

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.

Merrell Trail Glove

Merrell Trail Glove

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.

La Sportiva X Country

La Sportiva X Country

Call for Comments
Any of these shoes strike your fancy? If so, which and why?

There are 35 comments

  1. Tyro

    I've been happy with the grippy treads on my Sportiva Crosslites but would love to try out the NB Minimus or the Merrel Trail Glove (especially after Barefoot University's very flattering review). I haven't been able to convince myself to buy shoes via mail order so I'll have to see which of these will come to a local store in the spring. :(

    I remember some hype about the Keen A86 a few months back which sounded like they were going to be slotted in this minimalist trail shoe category. Any news about them?

  2. nate

    Bryon,

    did you see the hi-tec infiniti shoes?? i have not had a chance to run in them but they seem to have a lot going for them (lightweight, vibram, cushioning, ion mask).

    1. Bryon Powell

      Nate,
      I didn't see Hi-Tec's Infinity shoes at OR. For all I know they could be great shoes, but I'm not sure if using Vibram (without knowing the functionality it's just a brand), having an ion mask, or even having cushioning make them better trail shoes. As for weight, I'd agree that lightweight is good. At 300 grams, the Hi-Tec V-Lite Infinity HPI is respectable and fall solidly in the middle of my trail shoe collection. I'm a bit worried about this disingenuous comparison on Hi-Tec's South African website: http://www.hi-tec.com/infinity/sa/competitors/. I'll swing by the Hi-Tec booth at the winter Outdoor Retailer show and see what I think.

      1. Travis Liles

        Nate,

        I've got a test pair. They are built very much like a road shoe with some trail flair. The Ion mask is basically what is used in place of fabric overlays. Instead of sewing on extra cloth to add structure and they have laminated rubber to create stability in the upper and anchor points for the laces.

        The midsole has dual density foam for some pronation control. However, both are pretty squishy.

        The vibram outsole is a stickier rubber than most and had what I would call a hybrid outsole design. Meaning that it has a tread pattern that is aggressive enough for most trails but could also work on the road too. Its not luggy enough for sloppy stuff.

        As far as the weight goes, I have a size 9 and I'm not sure about that 300 gram claim. I need to put in on a scale but just in general comparison to some of my other shoes that I know weigh around 300, its seems a bit heavier but not by a lot.

  3. Kevin

    I love my crosslites too but I notice the lack of grip on wet rocks and logs big time in stream crossings and on rainy days. Not so sure the x country really appeal too much to me but based on my feelings for my kinvaras those peregrines look nice. That said, if La Sportiva put the crosslite out with their stickier rubber, I'd skip the rest and go with that!

  4. Joel

    I run all my trail miles in New Balance 101s, and I'm really looking forward to trying out the Minimus trail shoe. My only complaint about the 101s–and I fear this will also be true of the Minimus–is the toe box isn't wide enough for me. It's not a deal-breaker, and I don't have the blistering problems that I did at first, but it's still enough to make me wish it was a bit wider.

    It's interesting the way that a shoe such as the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 can be a "D" width shoe, the same as the NB 101, and yet my toes can spread out nicely and comfortably in the Mizunos, and get blistered in the 101s.

    1. mleighp

      I also alternate between the NB101s and the Mizuno WU3, and have the identical experience. NB101's tweak my right small toe ever so slightly: not enough to blister, just enough to annoy. Otherwise, they're brilliant, and I had no problems in the JFK 50 or any run since. The Mizunos by contrast seem plenty roomy, as comfortable as bed slippers (which they sort of feel like).

      Bryon, this is a terrific article. What an amazing period of biomechanical experimentation we're living through!

      1. Tom Caughlan

        I've got a pair of the NB Minimus and have really enjoyed the differences between them and the 101s. Look for another full review/ re-visit about the Minimus in the near future.

        As far as the toebox goes, I think that they are a bit wider/ broader at the metatarsals than the 101s. However, depending on fit (socks/ no socks) you can run into some fit issues. This is a shoe I recommend trying on if you can. The Minimus is the first shoe since college track spikes which I have been able to wear barefoot!

        Great report Byron! I love geeking out on the new gear coming out!

  5. Hank

    Bryon,

    Did you happen to see the road minimus from New Balance? I'm really looking forward to this shoes release and I wanted to know if you had any thoughts on it. When is the release date by the way?

    1. Bryon Powell

      Hank,
      I saw, but don't have any distinct recollections about the Minimus Road. An iRunFar reviewer has a pair so you'll see a review here before too long. I believe the entire Mininus line will be released in March. Not sure on an exact date.

  6. jon

    was surprised the new ALTRA minimalist trail shoe debuting in Feb 2011 didn't make this list especially since that company seems to be focused and commited on minimal shoes both trail and road?

    1. Bryon Powell

      While I could have missed them, I don't recall Altra being at last summer's Outdoor Retailer show. This isn't a comprehensive list of forthcoming minimalist shoes, just shoes that I saw and was impressed by at the show.

      1. Hone

        I talked with Beckstead while I was in Utah a month or so ago and he showed me the Altra shoes. They are sweet! As soon as they get my size made I am for sure going to get a pair and try them out.

        Hopefully he will hook me up with a discount because of this shout-out! ha!

        1. Craig

          The official Altra release date is April now. You can pre-order now, however. I won't be doing that as I really want to be able to compare several of the new shoes coming out, but I will definitely be one of their first customers. Good luck to them, they are good guys.

  7. lx150+

    Can anyone speak to the amount of toe protection on the Peregrine. The shoe looks amazing (I currently run roads on the Kinvara) and just hope that they didn't skimp on the toe protection.

  8. Craig

    I'm a minimalist runner in the sense that I appreciate a smaller heel/toe drop. However, what bothers me a little bit with this new line is the lack of a rock plate in all of these shoes. I've worn the Crosslites, MT101s, Roclites, and Cascadias. Here in the Wasatch our trails are just way too rocky to handle a shoe that doesn't have a rock plate. While I loved the fit of my Crosslites, the lack of a rock plate resulted in me getting Cuboid Syndrome in my left foot. And while Roclites are my staple ultra shoe, even with their beefy tread I can feel sharp rocks through the sole.

    I guess I'm just a little disappointed with all of these new shoes because they tend to sacrifice protection for an ounce or two. And that's fine on the trails of CA or CO, but it just doesn't work well around here. I guess I'll just look forward to the new MT110.

      1. Brian

        Ah, gotcha. Thanks for the update while it lasted. Fantastic website Bryon, it is much appreciated all the hard work you must put in.

  9. Jacob

    hey bryon, just wanted to say i just ordered the new peregrines. they will be here next week. if you or your guys didn't get a pair to test out i'll share my opinions with you. i'm super duper excited to get them.

  10. antirabbit

    Please do Jacob! I just nabbed a pair of Roclite 295's but all my road running is done in the Kinvara.

    Please let us know what the protection is like?

  11. Jim

    All too much shoe for me. I'd love to see a reviewer's opinion of the huaraches from Invisible Shoes, even though I've already ordered mine and will be forming my own opinion in a 50k next month.

Post Your Thoughts