Though its products look like something a toddler might wear, Vibram FiveFingers launched the boom in barefoot-style running. Once you've slipped into the company's glovelike TREKSPORTS, you'll understand why: They give you a feeling of complete liberation. Lightly padded with EVA foam (for protection from pebbles and sticks) and a rubber Vibram tread, they let feet and body slip into the natural rhythm of our ancestors. At some point, perhaps, today's traditional running shoes will be the ones getting strange looks. $100,

The Merrell TRAIL GLOVE is a slipper masquerading as a shoe. Its Vibram outsole is flexible and soft, and its upper holds your foot in place with a gentle embrace. It doesn't have much padding, but it's an ideal bridge to the ultra-minimalist FiveFingers (above)--or to actually going barefoot. $110,

If you're curious but not convinced about trying minimalist footwear, the MT101 by New Balance is the way to go. It's very much a traditional trail runner, with widely spaced lugs on the tread, a comfortable upper of mesh and synthetic leather, and a flexible plate in the foot to guard against rocks. But it's stripped of frills to keep the weight down to an extremely light 7.8 ounces. $75,