Fat-soled sneakers protect feet during long-mileage runs and are trending for marathoners and ultramarathoners. You may call it a barefoot running backlash, but minimalist runner would note that thick-soled shoes still have problems. They can make wearers move unnaturally and may even lead to injury by increasing the chance of ankle rolls.

The Brooks Transcend works hard to offset this. Yes, it offers a deeper pocket, a tapered fit, and midsole guides that pads feet, but attention to design still enables an organic stride. We took it for about a dozen three-mile laps around Prospect Park in Brooklyn as well as on the interior dirt and wood chip (and, for two runs, snowy) horse trail. The Transcend holds its own on the asphalt – and it has a natural heel-to-toe roll that was on par with the kind of stride we have with the minimal Pureflow shoes, although it should be noted you don't have the same sort of feel for the ground. The dirt trail were a little more cumbersome with the shoes, but we plodded on without stumbling and felt like the padding would let us comfortably go further than a minimalist shoe would allow. [$160, brooksrunning.com]