New Balance Minimus Trail Zero

Ever tried hammering down a rocky path in your bathroom slippers? Of course not. It would hurt. That’s what I kept thinking—this should hurt—while navigating a nasty downhill in the ultralight New Balance Minimus Trail Zero shoes. In fact, rather than painful, the run was freeing; I felt more agile than I had while wearing beefier shoes on the same trail a week earlier. That’s thanks to a Vibram outsole of linked rubber pods that wrap around rocks when pushed inward, diffusing force instead of cushioning it. The Zeros are the next generation of the tried-and-true Minimus, retooled with a roomier toe box, a tissue-thin upper, and that rock-defying outsole. But the craziest upgrade is what isn’t there: weight. At 4.5 ounces, they’re 40 percent lighter than the first version. Spend a couple days in these and you won’t go back to normal trail shoes. You might not go back to normal trails, either.

Brand: New Balance $105
From Outside Magazine, March 2012 Get the Latest Issue