These are the shoes I have done the majority of my running in over the last 4 months (I don't think a review of XC flats or the five-fingers is necessary). I am lucky to get prodeal / free shoes due to my employment at the Auburn Running Company and therefore am not as financially restricted to try different shoes as I would be if paying retail price. The only shoes that interest me are low profile and lightweight. These shoes may not work for everyone as I am willing to make compromises with cushioning and protection in order to sit low and feel the trail. Noticeably absent are any of the Inov8 shoes (we don't have an account). Hopefully this is helpful for someone.New Balance 840 *****
Thin forefoot lets you feel the trail.
Aggressive tread dominates all trail conditions.
Comfortable midsole gives just enough support to feel good on long runs.
300 plus mile lifespan
Heel could sit a little lower (could be easily modified but it doesn’t bother me enough to warrant the effort).
New Balance 790 *** (discontinued)
Very lightweight; hardly even noticeable.
Low heel and great feel for trail.
Feel very similar to the 840s in many respects.
Traction is so-so in mud.
Foam is a little too soft for my liking.
Brooks T5 Racer **
Super lightweight road running flat.
Extremely soft foam doesn’t stand up well on any but the smoothest trails.
Not a bad shoe for fire roads or track workouts (no thank you).
La Sportive Skylite ****
Low profile with a stiff midsole (best midsole density on a low profile shoe) that holds up on long runs.
Sticky rubber outsole grips well but becomes irrelevant in the mud.
Stiff midsole is thicker then necessary (could manage to lose a mm or two up front and 2-4mm in the heel for better connection to trail).
Toecap irritates sensitive skin on top of toes (boo hoo).
Heavier then expected