1. La Sportiva Vertical K
La Sportiva is billing the Vertical K as a “mountain runner,” a lightweight trail racer that is far more flexible than anything the company has produced in the past. The shoe has La Sportiva’s Morphodynamic technology, a combination of super absorbant midsole and super sticky outsole that’s very light, yet somehow, surprisingly plush. Also noteworthy is the one piece upper with no tongue. All in, the shoe weighs 6.5 ounces, which would probably make it the lightest shoe in your closet. Look for it next spring.
2. Scarpa Blitz Boa
Minimalists need not read any further. This is the most cushioned trail runner Scarpa makes with a tri-density EVA midsole for plenty of shock absorption. It has a host of green features too (the shoe uses a lot of recycled materials) but the real story is the Blitz Boa System, the anti-lace lacing system. Crank the dial and the wires tighten uniformly across the top of the foot. If you’re not particular about your lacing pattern, you’ll love the simple efficiency of the Boa. If you like to micro-tune your laces, as many hard-core runners do, you may not dig the tension system. The shoes are plenty snug and our tester liked not having to stop mid-run to retie his shoes.
3. Brooks PureGrit
Brooks worked with Scott Jurek to develop this minimalist trail runner that has a one piece outsole with a concave shape, which “splays out to provide a more balanced lay-down,” according to Brooks. There’s a decent amount of cushioning in the midsole and a 4mm heel to forefoot drop, so these aren’t ultra-minimalist runners, more of a compromise for runners looking for minimalist mobility but traditional comfort. The shoe is topped off with a mesh and foam upper that hugs the foot. 8.9 ounces.
17. Luna Original Running Sandal
Inspired by the huarache sandals worn by the long-distance running Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyon, Luna brings runners as close to barefoot as possible without simply going shoeless. The Luna Original features a lightweight neoprene Vibram sole for ground grip and an optional leather footbed that’s recommended to absorb moisture. You can also choose between leather and elastic laces; the latter has a more secure fit.
16. Stem Survival Origins
Does the world need another minimalist shoe? That remains to be seen. But our anti-minimalist tester fell in love with these kicks immediately, testing them out in increasingly demanding situations, from a day in the gym, to a road run, to an ultra-technical run in the Smokies. Stem uses an air-injected rubber for their super-grippy six-millimeter-thick sole that handled the rockiest terrain our tester could throw at them. The shoes weigh in at just over 6 ounces, and are as flexible as a contortionist.
15. Inov-8 Road X 233
You want to dip your toes into the minimalist world, but you still want something that looks like a shoe. Then you want the Inov-8 Road X 233, the perfect transition shoe for runners seeking minimalist efficiency on the road. Weighing in at a scant 8 ounces, the Road X floats on your feet, enabling a quick turnover and smooth stride. Yet it can handle pavement pounding better than other minimalist offerings.