Barefoot trail running shoes have a whole host of demands to meet. Firstly they need to give what all minimalist shoes give, good ground feel and flexibility. But they also need to offer sufficient protection from rocks, pebbles, tree roots etc while you glide along at top speed.
Here are four of the best:
The V Trail Are a great offering from Vibram for anyone wanting to trail run. VFFs more generally tend to miss out due to lack of grip because of the desire to maintain groundfeel. This means going anywhere too muddy or on unstable ground can leave you slipping and sliding all over the place. The deep sole on these helps to address that. What you lose in ground feel you make up for with the extra grip. You will still get a lot of mud stuck between your toes but that’s one of the compromises you make with Vibrams, but you do get to wiggle your toes!
VivoBarefoot’s offering for trail running are an excellent option. They share many of the features common to VivoBarefoot’s range; a wide toe box, flexible upper, puncture proof sole, with added grip to meet the demands of the trail. There are two types, ones which are fully waterproof and ones which are not. Whether or not you want them to be waterproof is entirely personal preference. The waterproof ones are less breathable, the non-waterproof will generally dry out fairly quickly unless you’re running through a lot of water. When buying, check that you have the right size. You tend to need to go up a size with VivoBarefoot products. Also, some reviews suggest that the toe box on these can be narrow, so if you have hobbit feet, look elsewhere.
Tried and tested by Barefoot Ted himself on the Leadville Trail 100. The Leadville Gordo offers a 15mm sole. Much thicker that the standard Luna sole to provide protection from rocks and bumps. Because they are thicker, they will feel quite stiff when you first try them on. They will need a period of bedding in before they properly form to your feet, but once they do, as anyone who has owned a pair of Lunas, they will feel like part of your foot.
For added protection in the cold and wet you might want to get some Tabus to turn these into a full shoe.
The fourth version of New Balance’s minimalist trail shoe. The changes from the first iterations are significant, with developments in the sole to give better grip, developments in the upper material to give greater protection. This latest offering loses some of its minimalism in favour of comfort. This is more in the category of a tranisition shoe and would suit if you are moving to barefooting or just want something with extra support of comfort. Or if you want something that looks more like a normal shoe.