Light and with just enough cushioning to disperse shock, lightweight running shoes have come a long way since the minimalism boom nearly a decade ago.
You could say lightweight running shoes grew in popularity thanks to Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run, in which he renounced traditional running shoes for causing running-related injuries and wrote about the superhuman endurance of the Tarahumara, a Mexican tribe who ran long distances in thin-sandals. But it’s also true that lightweight shoes feel great, regardless of prescribed running philosophies, and are useful as everyday trainers and racing shoes.
Brands picked up on the lightweight train, and by 2011, companies launched new footwear—Brooks PureProject and New Balance’s MR890, for instance—to encourage natural gait without extra weight. The movement hit a few snags, but findings show there is world enough for both “minimalist” and “maximalist” footwear—as long as you start running at a judicious pace.
Down to a Science
The appeal of lightweight shoes is based on speedier running performance and biomechanical science. Brands have refined the lightweight running shoe by analyzing stride and gait, using impact measuring devices, and constructing sneakers to encourage natural form instead of correcting it.
Flexible knit uppers and thinner, bouncier midsoles, zero-drop platforms, and wider toe boxes are all innovations that have created the present-day lightweight trainer.
From Moderately Soft to Barefoot-Feel
Not all lightweight sneakers simulate barefoot running. Some shoes are moderately cushioned, making them ideal for runners who want to make the transition to minimalism, or for runners who want to go faster without sacrificing cushioning.
These road and trail shoes floated to the top of our lab data charts for weight as the lightest shoes in the bunch. Our wear-testers raved about how effortless the miles felt in these picks, and they loved the sensation of not being weighed down. We’re pretty sure you’ll love that, too.