SHOES + CLOTHES TO TAKE YOU HIGHER 1. GoLite TaraLite Think of the Tara Lite as the barefoot shoe for runners still not convinced of the barefoot shoe hype. The Tara Lite is more of a hybrid between minimalist and traditional styles, combining a neutral heel, super light weight, and form-fitting mesh upper with some of the more traditional protection and support found in standard trail running shoes. The shoe also has GoLite’s “soft against the ground” outsole, with rubber that gives with the terrain underfoot and is stacked with hundreds of small, grippy lugs. $115; golite-footwear.com 2. Merrell Trail Glove Merrell has partnered with Vibram, producer of the popular minimalist shoe Five Fingers, to create an entire line of barefoot-inspired trail shoes. The new Barefoot Tech line takes the Five Fingers platform and adds a little more midsole cushioning and a synthetic leather and mesh upper that looks more like a traditional shoe, but still has all of the barefoot features many have come to love Five Fingers for. You get the same minimalist technology that moves the runner away from the heel strike to a softer mid-foot strike, but you don’t have to wiggle your toes into the Five Fingers’ “fingers.” Plus, you won’t have strangers staring at your feel like you’re an extra in The Hobbit. $110; merrell.com 3. Polarmax PMX TransDRY Polarmax recently partnered with Cotton Inc. to create the world’s first technical cotton t-shirt that wicks moisture away from the body like synthetic base layers, reducing fabric cling while cutting the drying process in half compared to regular cotton. The shirts are 100 percent cotton, but half of the weave has been treated with Polarmax’s PMX agent, while the other half of the weave has not. The base layers are as comfortable as your standard cotton tee, but they didn’t cling to the tester’s body after working up a sweat the way traditional cotton does. The shirts were considerably thicker than synthetic base layers or merino wool tees, making it difficult to wear them in the hottest temperatures. However, if you love the feel of cotton, this could be the base layer for you. $45; polarmax.com 4. Patagonia Air Flow T-Shirt Patagonia went the extra mile for breathable running performance with the new Air Flow—out this coming spring. It features intricately woven mesh for amazing ventilation and fast drying on long slogs. It also offers 15 SPF sun protection—a nice feature in such a lightweight shirt. $55; patagonia.com 5. Inov-8 195 Interested in minimalist running but still want foot protection? The 195 is the ideal shoe for transitioning to barefoot running. It’s also a celebrated racing flat worn by elite trail runners, including Mountain Runner of the Year Joe Gray. The lightest and fastest racing shoe on the market, Inov-8’s 195 keeps the foot close to the ground in a natural running position with only a 3-millimeter differential between forefoot and heel. $85; inov-8.com 6. Newton Running Momentum Newton Running continues to be a consistent innovator in the exploding natural running gait movement. The company’s high-end line of running shoes that enable an energy-efficient strike has now been taken to thetrails with the new Momentum. It features the same forefoot lugs that adjust your stride and minimize heel impact, but the sole has a little more grit for the rigors of off-road terrain. $139; newtonrunning.com 7. Salomon XT Advanced Skin 5 S-Lab The Advanced Skin is designed for ultra runners who need to carry extra hydration and nutrition on long training runs but don’t want to be saddled with a cumbersome backpack. Half vest and half pack, the Advanced Skin is made from stretchy materials that fit snugly around your shoulders and chest while still allowing a full range of motion. The front is stacked with small zipper pockets for gels and bars while the back houses a hydration bladder, emergency blanket, and pocket big enough for a light jacket. Unlike other running-specific packs, there was no pack “bounce” when running and no compromise in breathing economy. The Advanced Skin weighs 1.5 pounds with a full bladder. $180; salomonrunning.com EXPERT PICK “I’ve never been a handheld water bottle or backpack guy. Handhelds can alter your running economy and backpacks can affect your breathing. I like a fanny pack. In particular, I like the Ultimate Direction Access, a single-bottle waist pack. You can have the bottle uncorked, ready to drink on the fly. It’s easy to refill at a rest stop, and you can pack in a light jacket or nutrition. I was doing a 28-mile run recently and realized halfway up the trail I had forgotten the waist pack. I turned around and went back for it. That’s one of the only pieces of gear I’d turn around for.” —Josh Wheeler is a 22-year-old ultra running phenom who won the Stump Jump 50K, the Lookout Mountain 50 Miler, the Odyssey 40 Miler Rampage Run, and the Upchuck 50K in 2009.