Minimalist runners can opt for extremely lightweight shoes. Now walkers can, too. Rockport’s truWALKzero, in wing tips for men ($140, Rockport.com) and sporty models for both sexes ($120), weigh about a pound a pair. New Balance’s Minimus Zero Life models ($90-$95, Newbalance.com), designed for “commuting to work, traveling, doing errands,” clock in at 6.3 ounces a pair for men, 4.3 ounces for women. Our manly feet put each brand to the test.
Rockport: Mesh and leather uppers, foam footbed cushioning, rubber pods on bottom for flexibility and grip.
New Balance: Mesh uppers, Velcro fasteners, ultrathin foam sole with a few rubber “lugs” for better traction and “protection.”
Rockport: Wing tips fit in a casual office. If you’re an undertaker, go for black-with-gray-sole. The brown model with prominent neon orange soles elicits comments like, “You’re wearing happy shoes!”
New Balance: Fine for casual Fridays at work and weekend walkabouts. The model with nearly fluorescent green soles means you’ll hear things like, “Look at that shoe!” and “You won’t get lost!”
Rockport: Like walking on a cloud, though you’ll feel a little more of the ground and get a little less support than with heavier, stiffer shoes. Your feet may turn in a bit; tight lacing helps.
New Balance: The sole is thinner than Rockport’s, so you’ll feel every pebble, twig and bump on the safety strip at the Metro platform. Feet noticeably turn in.
With both brands, you feel you’re padding about in bedroom slippers. You sail up stairs! At day’s end, when feet normally yearn to breathe free, your feet feel so comfortable YOU DO NOT WANT TO DE-SHOE!
Minimalist shoes offer less support and heel cushioning, cautions Jim Christina, a Maryland podiatrist and director of scientific affairs for the American Podiatric Medical Association. That’s not a problem for some soles but could lead to heel or ball-of-foot pain for others, or even the dreaded plantar fasciitis. Build up to longer walks, Christina suggests, and “back away if you start to notice problems.”