The barefoot running movement is still alive and well, but in the (really) long-distance community, a backlash is brewing. The gear of choice for a growing number of ultrarunners is the max cushion running shoe, with thicker midsoles and taller stack heights to help absorb footstrike impact on rough trails or long runs. The beefy soles also act as an added defense to the knees of injury-plagued runners or those with a bit of extra weight.
Our current favorite max-cushioned trail shoe is the Hoka One One (pronounced "ho-kah onay onay") Stinson Trail. They have a high-volume midsole that places the wearer's feet 29mm above the ground while maintaining a 6mm heel to toe drop. Yet, the shoes' added height doesn't detract from their stability – the midsole and outsole spread outward to provide a stable platform, and the lightly rockered heel and toe facilitate a natural, rolling gait. At 12.2 ounces, they're much lighter than you'd expect and, thanks to a sectioned outsole, flex like a Mr. Olympia (they're tread is rather feeble, however). The result of all this? Padding that takes the pain out of a rocky area, with a midsole that rolls over small roots and other trail debris like a 29-inch mountain bike. They're light and responsive, with a sole that makes all the miles easier. [$160; hokaoneone.com]