INOV-8 BARE-X LITE 150, $120
men’s: 5.3 oz. \ women’s: 4.8 oz.
Probably the closest you’ll ever get to a barefoot feel in a racing flat, the Bare-X Lite 150 certainly lives up to its name. With an extremely flexible zero-drop configuration (meaning the foot sits level in the shoe), the Bare-X Lite encourages you to land near the front of your foot and will fall into favor with lightweight runners who have efficient mechanics. Devoid of any additional arch or heel support, this isn’t a good option for heel strikers, overpronators or someone who is looking for a lot of cushion. The Bare-X Lite 150 has a one-piece upper that provides plenty of freedom around the midfoot and its speed-lacing system allows for some flexibility in regard to fit. Its smooth outsole performed well on dry ground, but slipped on wet surfaces. www.inov-8.com
NEW BALANCE RC 5000, $125
men’s: 3.2 oz. \ women’s: 2.5 oz.
Based on its fit, feel and aesthetics, the RC 5000 could almost pass as a track spike with its diamond-shaped outsole, ultra-lightweight construction and snug race-ready fit. Runners who’ve been training in minimalist shoes will enjoy this shoe’s barely-there feel and energetic ride thanks to the combination of lightweight, responsive materials in the midsole and outsole. One of the lightest racing flats on the market, it fits like a glove and the low heel-toe drop (4mm) caters to forefoot/midfoot strikers and enables a fast transition in the gait cycle. However, the shoe has an anticipated wear-life of only 200 miles, so it’s a shoe that might be best kept as a marquee racer and not a midweek speed workout shoe. www.newbalance.com