Newton Running - BOCO AT (Pink/Black) - Footwear

Perfect Shoe For: Trail running, off-road, inclement weather
Weight: 9.6 oz
Heel Drop: 3mm

As a forewarning, I have an undying admiration for Newton Running and find it hard to find flaws in any of their shoes. They are the pioneers in forefoot running shoe design and we owe them a ton of gratitude for paving the way for many followers in this category.

What’s with the name?
The BOCO AT. Isn’t that like a veggie burger or something?

Ok stop, I love the name. Newton Running, like myself coincidentally, was born in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in a town called Boulder, Colorado (BoCo for short). Now picture the trails around Boulder, winding through the beautiful Flatirons, perhaps a bit snowy and ungroomed. What shoe would you want here? Of course, the BOCO All-Terrain.

Design
This is the only shoe in the Newton line-up specifically designed for off road conditions. This makes it one of their more substantial shoes, however with only a 3mm heel drop it is still plenty light enough.

The outsole features several rubber lugs on the forefoot that provide both traction and cushioning. For this model, they’ve actually extended the lugs around the sides and the toe to provide additional stability and protection for those uneven trails.

The upper really tells the story of what this shoe is made for. Most forefoot running shoes tend to feature a mesh upper that reduces the weight and provides a more free running feel. The BOCO AT has an all-weather upper that is water resistant and actually provides some warmth.

Performance
If you primarily run on trails, mud, or dirt this shoe will be your best friend. I can’t imagine a shoe getting much lighter than this, with as small of a heel drop, and still be able to handle challenging conditions. The extensive rubber lugs will probably do a disservice for you on the pavement however.

As I’ve said before, I’m generally a one-shoe-at-a-time guy. As much as I would love to have a shoe for every condition or running surface, my budget doesn’t allow it. This shoe is probably not an everyday shoe for the average runner.
But if you ever find yourself in the trails around BoCo, then you’ll know without any doubt what shoe to turn to.

Check them out on Zappos:
Newton Running BOCO AT Running Shoes


 

Perfect Shoe For: On-road, everyday, intermediate to experienced

Weight: 6.5 oz

Heel Drop: 4mm

I wish I had the chance to personally review all of the shoes featured on this website, but unfortunately that’s not exactly in the budget. So for now I’m able to do a new personal review every 500-800 miles or when I get the itch to try something new.

Since I really only run in one pair of shoes at a time, I look for an all-around, everyday shoe. Most of my running is on road, however I’ll do moderate training on crushed stone or grass.

Performance

The Minimus 10v2 is crazy light weight for having a 4mm drop. You can get in this weight-class with zero heel drop shoes but rarely in a shoe with some drop.  New Balance has eliminated all wasted weight on the upper and focused on providing a great outsole.

Vibram continues to supply the outsole for this shoe and is the real selling point. The cushioning is adequate in the forefoot and provides a great feel for the road. You’ll get enough traction on hardpacked trails, however New Balance makes a trail version of this shoe if you plan on doing any substantial trail running.

One downside to minimalist upper is performance in wet conditions. As the snow was melting here in Denver I decided to do a bit of training on a grass. Of course mesh does not provide a great water barrier so I quickly regretted that decision. There are shoes with more substantial uppers better suited for wet conditions.


Fitting

Many readers of this blog have contacted me looking for shoes with a wider forefoot area. In the past it was hard to identify good forefoot running shoes with this feature as we were stuck choosing from different racing flats.

Luckily, running shoe companies are designing shoes with different fit profiles to meet the demand of a diverse group of forefoot runners. This shoe has a standard heel width but an expanded forefoot width.   I noticed it immediately and almost felt that the shoe was too big when I first tried it on.

After walking around the house a few minutes I knew the size was right, it was just a different fit than I was used to. I was nervous about getting too much foot sliding once running but those concerns never materialized and I’m really liking the overall feel.

Of course, wide, narrow, and fit are all subjective words so the only way to know if this will work for you is to try. Go to your local running shoe store or buy from websites like Amazon or Zappos that offer excellent return policies.

I was able to get a great deal at Amazon here:New Balance Men’s MR10v2 Minimus Running Shoe

The trail version of the shoe can be found here:
New Balance – MT10V2 (Black/Silver) – Footwear

 

 

inov-8 - F-Lite 240 (Blue/Lime/Black) - Footwear

Perfect Shoe For: Trail running, Tough-Mudder Race, Everyday

Weight: 9.15 oz

Heel Drop: zero-6 mm

It’s never easy to find a minimalist running shoe that can be taken off-road without feeling every rock and stick through the forefoot. Inov-8 has found a way to keep this shoe light yet protective, making it perfect for your next trail, or off-trail run.

The innovation in this shoe is in the outsole.  Inov-8 uses 6 different types of outsoles depending on the use of the shoe.  This outsole falls into the “sticky” category which lends itself to maximum traction and performance. This is not their most durable outsole and given the hard terrain you’ll probably be running on, don’t expect this shoe to last much more than 600 miles.

Once you decide this is the shoe for you, your next task will be to decide on how much heel drop you want. The F-lite model comes in 3 different heel drops. Models 240 and 230 is a 6mm heel drop, model 195 is 3mm and model zero is, well no drop.  The model numbers are actually the weight in grams of a Men’s size 9. So logically a smaller heel drop will be your lightest

Knowing their target market, innov-8 has actually marked every one of their shoes with the heel drop.  Look for the arrows on the back of each shoe. Each arrow represents a 3mm drop. So the F-lite 240 pictured below with the 2 arrows has a 6mm drop.

Many runners feel this shoe fits a bit narrow and this is actually by design. The goal is to give each runner a snug fit so that there is no sliding within the shoe. The good news is that the mesh upper provides some flexibility for a wider foot. However, if you have a very wide foot, inov-8 makes other models that would probably be better.

Check out the reviews at our partner Zappos:

Men’s:
inov-8 – F-Lite 240 (Blue/Lime/Black) – Footwear

Women’s:
inov-8 – F-Lite 215 (Grape/Blue) – Footwear

 

Brooks is out with their new minimalist lineup branded as the “Brooks Pure Project.” I have been a supporter of Brooks for a while as they were one of the leaders in the forefoot running shoe categories. In fact, the Brooks Mach has been my go-to shoe for a while (probably putting over the 500 suggested miles on them by now). The Pure Project is of course a bit of a branding effort by the company, however there are some great shoes in the lineup.
Brooks - PureConnect 2 (Scuba Blue/Black/Jasmine Green/Silver/Anthracite) - Footwear
So how does a shoe gain admission into the Pure Project?  It takes a lightweight shoe with a flexible sole and of course a low-rise profile.  Those are all no-brainers for a forefoot running shoe.  So the real innovation here is in the new outsole called BioMoGo DNA. It solves the classic dilemma in minimalist running shoes of having too little cushion. This technology provides great connection to the running surface while still providing adequate cushioning for longer runs.  If that doesn’t sell you enough, the BioMoGo is completley biodegradable, decomposing 50 times faster than rubber based running shoes. For a full explanation of the technologies in these shoes, check out the PureProject on the Brooks website.

So let’s get into the shoes…

PureDrift is the most minimalist of them all. It has the lowest heel height of 1mm and it is the lightest weight at only 6oz. This shoe is perfect for runners who are used to minimal shoes but are looking for a bit more support than a racing flat.

PureConnect is a bit heavier than the PureDrift, weighing in at 8oz. It has essentially the same features PureDrift with just more of a substantial upper. This is still an extremely lightweight shoe however.

PureFlow provides even more cushioning but remains a great minimalist shoe with a toe to heal offset of only 4mm. This would be ideal for a runner still transitioning into a forefoot strike or for longer runs.

PureGrit is the specialized shoe in the collection designed primarily for trail running. The outsole sets this shoe apart providing better traction, durability and more surface area to tackle the demanding terrain.

All these shoes are in their second generation and from the looks of it are doing really well. As I always suggest, take a look a the previous generation for the same shoe at a great price.

 

New Balance is making it clearer than ever that they listen to their customers. Inspired by feedback from their hardcore running base (including me), New Balance has released a whole new line just for forefoot running. As many of you know, the end of my favorite shoe of all time was hard on me, however it appears New Balance has replaced it with something even more impressive. Their goal is to combine the best shoe technology with the newest barefoot running innovations.  Of course, the best source of barefoot running technology is Vibram.  Taking a similar path as the Merrell shoe featured recently, the Minimus line features soles made by Vibram.  This provides a light-weight base and provides a great feel underfoot.

The Minimus line is growing quickly with new models.  You can select between the road or trail version with the latter providing the extra traction to get you through the dirt.  I suggest starting out with MT20 (for men)/WT20 (for women) line.  These have cut the drop from heel to forefoot to only 4mm.  For those who have a bit more experience with forefoot running, you may want to wait until March 2012 for the Minimus Zero to be released.  This will be even lighter and feature zero drop from heel to forefoot.

Whether you decide to try these shoes or not, we can at least sit back and appreciate the fact that these companies are listening to their customers.

Check them out:
New Balance – Minimus MO10BK (Black/Blue) – Footwear

Women’s: 
New Balance – Minimus 20v2 Cross-Training (Women’s) – Deep Blue/Black/White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since this website tends to focus on all of the new developments in forefoot running, I wanted to take a step back and highlight a shoe that pioneered the minimalist shoe movement. Saucony has always been a company for runners and has developed many innovations over the years for forefoot runners. The Bullet was developed in 1985 specifically for field and track athletes. Today, Saucony is producing a replica of this original shoe for casual wear and light athletic activity. This is one shoe I have featured that might favor form over function, however it remains a great minimalist shoe. What it might lack in new technology, it makes up for in style.  So would I suggest these shoes for your next half marathon? No. But I’m pretty sure you’re not running all the time and these would make a great shoe for everyday activities. I’m told retro never goes out of style.  Check these out on Zappos:

Women’s:
Saucony Originals – Bullet (White/Blue) – Footwear

Men’s:
Saucony Originals – Bullet (Black/Silver) – Footwear