While we’re fully aware of the term’s oxymoronic nature, barefoot running shoes have become an increasingly common sight at your local (or virtual) running store over the last few years. And like the human foot, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Vivobarefoot’s Stealth “barefoot running shoe” aims to provide that all-important lightweight naked experience, without inviting the kinds of stares you can get with, say, a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. You’ll have noticed, then, that the shoe itself looks pretty much like a regular running shoe, with the upper part combining a breathable mesh fabric (to keep your dogs spring fresh) and just enough design details to make them eye-catching for the right reasons.
Out on the run, these shoes provide excellent, immediate feedback from the ground. You can feel great detail about the surface you’re running on, and they naturally coerce you into a more forefooted strike. But it’s important to note that there’s also plenty of protection from rogue stones, dog mess, acorns, and other such enemies of exposed flesh that you might find out on the road. If you prefer to tick the miles off on the treadmill, then you are set because these shoes also lend themselves perfectly to the gym. When you’re running, the shoes encourage a comfortable straight-back position; when you’re lifting, the grippy sole keeps you steady.
If you’re transitioning from regular cushioned running shoes, the zero-millimeter heel drop might seem strange at first, but the Stealth feels just like a normal sneaker, so it won’t freak you out when you first put it on. This is worth knowing, because some barefoot shoes can take minimal to the extreme. The Stealth’s 3mm-thick sole and robust upper provide, however, enough comfort and support that you could wear it all day if you wanted to, and it’s a great introduction to zero-drop soles, since they’re versatile enough to be general all-rounders, too. [$135; vivobarefoot.com]