Seems like everyone has jumped on the barefoot or near barefoot bandwagon. And like any product category where there’s a fair amount of passion (some would call it “hype”), I enter the review process with enthusiasm and some heelthy skepticism. Would the near-zero drop shoes in question provide the promised benefits? And would my body prove able to withstand the extra pavement pounding required?

The answers to the above questions are definitely “yes.” The minimal road shoes in this test proved light weight, comfortable (with the promised minimal structure, flexibility and open toe boxes) and almost no-drop from heel to toe. And frankly this the lack of structure and cushioning wasn’t missed, at least not with me.

Here’s a quick rundown of the two shoes in the test:

inov-8 255 – inov-8 is a U.K.-based company that cut its teeth on the trail running scene. Their trail runners are well respected and built low to the ground. The company introduced a line of road trainers and racers this year and I had the chance to try inov-8’s beefiest – put air quotes around that adjective, ‘cause it’s definitely a minimalist shoe – the 255. See full review.

Saucony Mirage – The Mirage is the twin sister of last year’s popular Kinvara. It adds a few stability features but retains the minimal drop from heel to toe. Those features, however, make it more substantial than the inov-8 and a great transition shoe for those wanting to test the minimalist waters. See full review.

Are minimalist shoes for everyone, everyday? Absolutely not. I can’t say with a straight face, “I don’t know you but you’re running in too much shoe,” as I read somewhere recently. But do they have a place in your rotation? Or are they at least worth a try? Most definitely. And the above two shoes make for great options for trying or transitioning to a more minimalist ride.

Thanks for reading another outdoor gear review from GearGuide. And thanks to inov-8, Saucony and Mullen for providing product for these reviews. Written by Matt K.