These days I mostly run in very thin “barefoot” style shoes, but one of my favorite shoes that has helped me transition to this level (and one I still throw on once in a while) is the New Balance M730.
Compared to the Reebok Yourflex that I started on, the M730 is significantly tougher. It has seen roughly 3X the total distance of my Yourflex shoes, but the wear on the sole is a lot less. While my Yourflexes have nearly lost some of their “waffling”, the strike pads on the M730 are just slightly worn. They are placed in strategic locations in order to provide wear resistance and they just flat out work.
What you lose with the M730 is padding and cushioning and that’s not a bad thing. The idea is to move slowly towards a more true “barefoot” experience, and these give you a bit of play with that. If you heel strike it warns you but you don’t crush or bruise your heel. It is a quick and direct reminder to maintain proper form. Under foot you have right around a 1/2″ of padding, with about a half inch rise to the heel. These aren’t “zero rise” but they help you transition that direction.
The M730 is lightweight and breaths well. the interior is comfortable, though I recommend wearing thin socks with them (some people like to just wear them barefoot). There’s little to no arch support (good) and the heel pocket is tight, which keeps your foot wrapped well.
I have to say, the M730 is one of the best shoes I’ve worn, period, and in my experience is the best shoe I’ve tried out in the “mid-milist” category. It works well as a transitional shoe, it works well as a shoe to wear on very hot days (the slightly thicker bottom helps keep the asphalt from scorching your sole) and it even rocks as a casual sporty shoe. Best of all, the price is more than right. I got mine at Sports Authority for under $60. It is available on Amazon and in other places for similar prices, and in some cases (sizes/colors) even less. A bargain shoe, built right. I hope the other shoe companies are listening.
Score: 10/10 RAWRS (Would recommend, would buy again, you should get them!)
High: Light, airy, durable transition shoes for people moving into barefoot
Low: New Balance has discontinued the model, only available online and in select retailers with stock left 🙁