Gear: Shoes for not-quite-barefoot running

Dislikes: None.

Price: $110. (616) 863-866-5500; http://www.merrell.com

Barely there lightweight

Somnio Nada: Stripped-down 4-ounce shoe with mesh upper and foam rubber sole.

Likes: A great "barefoot" street shoe — even better than Merrell's Trail Glove. So light it almost feels like you're wearing nothing (after all, they call it Nada). With a 6-mm midsole and no real structure, it's essentially a sock with a super-flat sole.

Dislikes: It's too delicate for off-road surfaces and won't last long on pavement either. Two small pieces of hard rubber at the ball of the foot and the heel aren't enough to prevent the foam-rubber bottom from wearing out very quickly. They should have been made with a thin Vibram sole.

Price: $80. (831) 688-7861; http://www.somniorunning.com

Not minimus enough

New Balance Minimus: A lightweight shoe designed to marry flat, barefoot positioning with a conventional feel.

Likes: It's light for a normal running shoe, at 81/2 ounces in size 91/2.

Dislikes: It's uncomfortable and has poor ground feel, due to an overpadded upper and thick, 3/4-inch sole made of soft rubber formed in odd hexagonal blocks. It made my normal barefoot-style gait clunky and unnatural. The heel is 4 mm higher than the forefoot, causing wearers to lean forward just a tad. This encourages a heel strike, which is anathema to the very idea of barefoot running. In fact, the sole has a hard-rubber impact patch on the heel, strange for a shoe designed to teach you to run with a "barefoot-style forefoot landing."

Price: $99.95. (800) 343-1395; wwwnewbalance.com

Wallack is the author of "Run for Life" and "Bike for Life."

roywallack@aol.com
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