I've been keeping an eye on the barefoot running fad for awhile now. The Vibram Five-Finger shoes are in every outfitter I visit. Most of the large running shoe companies have some variant of a barefoot running / free running shoe. Unfortunately, most of them have been relatively uninteresting to me until recently.
I was excited about the looks of the Merrell Trail Glove ... until I tried them on. The fit was just odd with a very tight midsole & enough room in the toe box that I wouldn't need a bivy anymore. That's only a slight exaggeration. If your feet fit in these shoes I'm not saying you're weird - I'm just saying you have weird feet.
Ultimately, I tried on the New Balance Minimus and liked the fit. They have a minimal sole without being moccasins, the construction appears to be durable and well thought out and best of all... they're actually comfortable.
So, what's the best test for your maiden voyage with new minimalist shoes? The rockiest, sandiest place on the AT - the Grayson Highlands, of course! This was my first experience hiking in the area. I know from mountain biking that trails in the Virginia mountains are famous for their rock. These trails took it to an extreme, though.
|Caution - shoe & foot torture zone ahead!|
I was honestly surprised. The trail left my feet a little fatigued at the end of the day but it wasn't significantly worse than when I hike in my favorite Brooks Adrenalines. The grip and stability was fantastic and water shedding was better than anything I've worn. The combination of the Minimus shoes and my rusty, trusty WrightSock CoolMesh II socks made for the fastest drying footwear I've ever had on the trail. I have a knack for stuffing my foot in water where ever I find it so its a feature that doesn't go unappreciated.
|My feet are still dry here. Just give me a few seconds... I'll have a wet foot in no time.|