It’s to be expected that with any new footwear trend, a lack of consensus among manufacturers can often muddy the waters for runners. Minimalist shoes are a prime example of this happening. Nothing is to stop a company from marketing a shoe as minimalist, when in fact, it might appear anything but when compared to other brands.

Clarification is clearly needed.Last fall, Running Times smartly wrote about the subject: “Many traditional training shoes put the foot 22-24mm off the ground in the heel and 10-15mm off the ground in the forefoot, and the difference between the two — typically 12-14mm in traditional training shoes — creates a forward-leaning slope, designed to reduce stress on the Achilles. Minimalist shoes trend toward being much more level (a 2-10mm slope) with the assumption that the runner will land on the midfoot and use the natural cushioning of the arch, thus the built-up heel only adds weight and gets in the way of an efficient stride.”

Several criteria should determine whether a minimalist running shoe fits this particular bill of goods of natural-style running:

1. An absence of a thick, rigid, overbuilt and unresponsive heel-crash pad that is found in a majority of conventional running shoes.

2. The use of lightweight material for the upper part of the shoe.

3. A flexible sole so your foot bends with the shoe, no matter the running surface– dirt, asphalt, grass, rocky trails. You want the foot to feel the ground.

4. There’s not much heel-to-toe height differential, also known as the drop (going barefoot gives you “zero drop.”)

5. The shoe is so lightweight that you might want to take it to the post office where they have an electronic scale for readings in ounces.

6. The footbed is relatively flat and contains little cushioning support.