Since beginning my career in outdoor retail back in July of 2010, the barefoot/minimalist shoe market has blown up. There were some days where it seemed like all I did was fit people for Vibram FiveFingers. For many customers the door to running was being opened in a new, more natural way. I was both fascinated and skeptical.

I got back to running regularly in 2009. The credit goes to catharsis over fitness, albeit just slightly. I was in the worst work situation of my life and was going through what might best be described as a one-third life crisis. I was falling apart and not sure of much except this: I loved being in the woods and running made me feel like I was going somewhere at a time when I felt stuck. So I became a trail-runner — a very passionate one.

Many changes followed, including leaving a 12 year career and becoming Paddlesports Manager at Great Outdoor Provision Co. Now my trail-running has become a significant way to speak from experience with customers about what they should consider when it comes to footwear.

The recent return to natural running forms and experiences is a good one. While a lot of folks around me were jumping into the minimal experience with both feet (pun intended) I hung out on the sidelines. I was already a middle/forward foot striker and I was perfectly content with my Brooks Cascadias. What I was missing out on was the feel-response experience. I patiently held off, reading and processing the new and growing conversation about minimal shoes. By this time professors of biomechanics were weighing in on the discussion. That’s when I came across the Brooks PureProject.

The Brooks attitude toward minimal running mirrored my own. Instead of following the crowd and the hype, Brooks was patiently and thoughtfully considering what would be best for a runner’s body. Philosophically that meant a lot to me. Finally, this March I got my first pair of minimal shoes. The Brooks PureGrits. Just when I thought my run experience couldn’t get any better, it did.

The lightness of the shoe, paired with its soft 4mm midsole offset is like having nothing on. Yet the duo of BioMogo and Brooks DNA allow your foot to hug every root and rock without discomfort. The cushiony ride along with the Ideal Heal allows for an explosive kick with each step. Then the Toe Flex design allows for good push without stressing the toes. I have chronic metatarsal dislocation in my right foot, and this has alleviated it significantly.

Light, comfortable, and explosive. These are my top three adjectives for this shoe. I feel more nimble and confident moving through varied terrain and over rocks, roots, and the occasional fallen tree. I also have a greater sense of contact with the trail. These shoes bite and launch which translates into greater run-efficiency. If you’re a trail runner looking for a minimal shoes that doesn’t sacrifice on comfort and packs in a load of technical benefits, the PureGrits are the shoe for you.

My favorite way to start the day is to get in a trail run. For this southern boy the best thing on the menu is Grits…PureGrits.

By Zach Roberts, Trusty’s Paddlesports Manager in Greensboro and contributing editor of