The minimalist running craze has had an undeniable effect on the shoe industry. A few years ago the options for lightweight running shoes were few and far between, but today every major manufacturer has footwear that is designed to meet the needs of the minimalist runner. These options range from barely there barefoot offerings to only slightly more substantial shoes with a more traditional slant. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, but they are all incredibly light and flexible.
Recently I’ve had the opportunity to test a new entry into the minimalist running shoe market, with this latest design coming from ECCO. If you’re not familiar with the company, it offers a variety of high quality footwear options including everything from dress shoes and sandals to hiking boots and athletic gear. ECCO is planning to make a big splash in the running market in the months ahead, releasing shoes for a variety of distances on both the street and the trail. One of their first models in this impressive line-up is the new BIOM Lite Helion, their first truly minimalist running shoe.
As you would expect from a minimalist shoe, the Helion is incredibly lightweight, to the point that you barely even know that they are on your feet. They feature a zero-drop heel and a very thin sole that helps to keep runners more connected to the ground, while providing only the smallest of protection from impact and surface debris. The shoe has been constructed of highly breathable materials that help keep the feet cool and dry on longer runs. This not only aids in comfort, but also helps to prevent chafing and blistering too.
These shoes are designed to wrap snugly around the foot, creating an anatomically correct layer of protection from the rigors of the road. I found that while they felt comfortable from the first time I ran in them, I also had to put a few miles on them before they were truly broken in. Over time, the interior footpad molded itself nicely to foot, providing a higher level of comfort, while the entire shoe became more flexible and forgiving.
I ran in my pair of Helions with and without socks and actually found them to be more comfortable to wear barefoot. Without socks however, I did manage to rub a blister onto the top of my foot, although to be fair this is an issue I’ve had with similar shoes in the past as well. I actually feel this is more of an issue with the shape of my foot rather then the shoes themselves. The more I ran in the shoes, the less of an issue it became however.
As with other minimalist footwear that I’ve tried, the Helion provides a fantastic connection to the road. I found it absolutely sublime to run in these shoes and looked forward to putting them on each day. For me personally, there really is a magical element to running with very little between my feet and the pavement. But I will admit that I can only wear these types of shoes on shorter runs (generally less than five miles) or my feet do suffer from the impact. On longer runs I still revert back to more traditional shoes with thicker, heavier soles.
ECCO’s first entry into the minimalist market is a strong one, providing everything a runner could need in a shoe of this time. They are definitely lightweight, and yet at the same time, quite durable. They are also a nice mix of retro design with modern sensibilities, giving them a unique look all of their own. They also happen to be competitively priced at $140, although there are less expensive minimalist options available.
If you’re looking for a new lightweight shoe for your running needs, then the ECCO BIOM Lite Helion needs to be on your radar. Its a great entry into a market that is getting continually more crowded, although these stand out for their comfort and well high quality construction. If you get the opportunity, take ’em for a test run. I think you’ll find they make a great addition to your gear closet too.
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