Best Minimalist Running Shoes Reviewed and Tested
You may be in love with hiking, walking, jogging, working out, but that doesn’t have to be the case with your feet. In fact, we usually underestimate the importance of having quality running shoes. But, traditional running shoes will limit your range of motion, so there will be a lot of stress on your heels, which can cause some serious problems.
Our Top 3 Picks For Men
Our Top 3 Picks For Women
- Merrell Women's Vapor Glove 2 Barefoot Trail Running Shoe
- comfort and support
- Price: See Here
And that’s where minimalist running shoes come in. You may have noticed that these days everyone is talking about minimalist running shoes, with reason. Having a good pair will help you get the most out of physical activities because they will give your feet all the comfort, freedom and flexibility they need.
But, with all the models, sizes, and designs out there, choosing the best pair for you isn’t an easy task. Therefore, this article is a good place to start. We bring you ten best minimalist shoes and a buying guide to help you with making the right step in your life.
With a plethora of names and models in the minimalist shoe market, it can be tricky to choose a good pair of shoes for your needs. However, some brands offer good value for the money. These are, in our opinion, the top 10 choices on the market.
1. Vibram FiveFingers Men's SeeYa LS Polyester Running Shoe
Second, the comfort. With these shoes on, you’ll have a comfortable and breathable fit that will allow you to move with ease. Since an outsole features Minimum rubber thickness, you’ll have more flexibility, breathability, and comfort (compared to traditional running shoes). What’s more, a soft midsole reduces weight, so you won’t even notice you’re wearing these shoes.
Finally, the safety. This model looks great and feels great, but the safety is most important, right? Well, these shoes don’t compromise safety. Wearing them, you can fully enjoy outdoor activities, without worrying about stepping on a pebble. A Polyurethane Insole is stitched-in to protect your skin and foot tissue when going for a longer run. Also, a seamless collar will keep your feet safe from external debris, while giving you a snug fit. This is especially important to give you additional stability.
However, a slight concern is that this model is a bit small, so keep that in mind when ordering.
Whether you’re lifting weights, doing cardio, or jogging, these shoes will give you comfort and stability you need.
- Super comfortable
- Great flexibility
- Offers a "barefoot" feeling
- Good price value
- Sizes run smaller than usual
2. Merrell Men's Vapor Glove 2 Trail Running Shoe
What makes this model stand out is its versatility. Thanks to its design, these shoes can withstand all kinds of terrain. These shoes are a good choice for anyone who loves outdoor activities. This model will serve you well as a backup pair when you’re hiking. It is lightweight and won’t take up a lot of space in your backpack. Also, you won’t have to worry about crossing streams, as these shoes will dry fast.
The rubber sole is designed in such a way to give you a natural feel a lot of freedom. The sole features rubber mesh grooves, allowing each block to adjust separately to your foot. This will make your every step comfortable. Although the sole is thin, it will still give your feet protection against pebbles and harsh surfaces. In addition, sticky vibram outsole is great for traction, so you will move with confidence.
Another great thing about these shoes is their breathability. Featuring breathable mesh and thermoplastic polyurethane upper, these shoes won’t absorb the heat of your feet. In fact, you’ll have a nice, cool feel, even after wearing them for a whole day.
Lace-up vamp and pull-tab at counter make these shoes easy to put on. However, they will also definitely stay put, giving you stability. As for cleaning, you can wash them in the machine. If you need to clean them quickly, and don’t have a machine for that, wet wipes will do the trick.
Compared to the previous model that runs small, this one runs big. So, you might want to consider buying a full size down.
All in all, these shoes might be just what you need, if you’re looking for top notch comfort and a natural feel to follow you on your adventures into the wild.
- Super comfortable
- Attractive design
- Good price
- The sole is a bit too thin
3. New Balance Men's 10v4 Trail Shoe
Featuring a synthetic sole, this model is highly supportive and will provide a stable foundation for your feet. The lace-up closure really gives you a lot of support, and you wont have to worry about your foot moving while you run. In addition, you can adjust the laces any way you like, to maximize comfort and support.
Compared to previous models on the list, this one has the thickest sole. Because of this, these shoes are a good choice for rough surfaces. You can wear them when running in dirt and mud, and they will stay put. However, your movement might be a bit restricted, so your feet won’t have the entire “barefoot” feel. Nevertheless, , these shoes are lightweight and the heel to drop is to a certain extent natural.
As for comfort, you can wear the shoes for a lot of miles per day. They have padding to provide additional comfort for your feet.
As mentioned, these shoes look really great, and no doubt that your friends will secretly envy you. This model is available in two color combinations – black/red and grey/black. Whichever one you opt for, your shoes will grab attention wherever you go.
As for the downsides, these shoes are slippery on wet smooth surfaces, due to their sole. We don’t recommend wearing them on this kind of surfaces, because, obviously, they aren’t designed for them and you might fall and injure yourself. The last thing you need is an injury when preparing for a race or a track meet.
- Offer great support
- Very stable
- Best for moderate trail running
4. Nike Men's FS Lite Run 3 Running Shoe
This model is designed with versatility and comfort in mind. You can use them indoor and outdoor.
Why these shoes are so comfortable? Well, because they feature a rubber heel, lateral forefoot and toe to give you a perfect fit. A Rubber sole will prevent slipping, and will give you a nice and confident feel. In addition, a mid-sole is made to help you increase flexibility and support, making these shoes ideal for lateral movements. Great for sprinters who need to make sharp turns.
Since the exterior is made of special mesh synthetic fabrics, these shoes are lightweight and breathable. This is especially important if you’re going for a longer run, as you want your shoes to provide a nice air circulation. Even more important if you are: a) a marathon runner, and b) a marathon runner in very hot and humid areas.
As for the looks, you must admit that these shoes are really easy on the eyes. Whether you prefer more of a classic look, or you want to go with an eye-catching design, you will surely find something for you, since this model is available in more than 20 colors.
With all its great features, this model carries a hefty price tag. However, it is worth every penny, and in a long run, it is a wise investment.
On the downside, these running shoes feature a tongue that tends to twist. Of course, this is not a big deal, even though sometimes it may be irritating and distracting. Also, the shoes usually need a break-in period.
- Great arch support
- Good price value
- Not a good fit for people with wider feet
5. Tesla Men's Ultra Lightweight Running Shoes
What makes this model stand out from the crowd is its specialized dual structure design. Dual vent mesh construction will give your feet incredible breathability and movement. Because of that, they will keep your feet dry, so these shoes are great for running in the summer heat. However, when there isn’t any sunshine, you can also wear them. This leads to the next good thing about this model and that is a quick-dry function. Thanks to a hydrophobic vent-mesh, the shoes won’t soak up and they won’t retain water.
A flex groove sole and a hydro-grip outsole will provide you stability and traction making these shoes ideal for different kinds of terrains. Moreover, a cushioned insole will give you comfort, and will absorb the shock during your running.
Compared to the previous models on the list, this one is extremely durable, due to its unique flexible design. Best formulation of thermoplastic polymer and an EVA midsole only add up to the durability.
What you will appreciate about this model is its foldable heeltap that allows you to wear these shoes like slip-ons. No need to worry about the any change of the form and build of the shoes, since the heel tap is specially designed to prevent that.
On the downside, these shoes are a tad difficult to put on. Also, they will fit you better if you don’t wear socks.
Overall, this model is the best minimalist running shoes for anyone who doesn’t want to spend a fortune on a good pair of shoes. In addition, these shoes are great for various activities, including water activities and running.
- Great design
- Sizes are smaller than average
1. Merrell Women's Vapor Glove 2 Barefoot Trail Running Shoe
These shoes are made of textile, and feature breathable mesh lining, rubber sole, and integrated microfiber soft footbed. These materials are durable, comfortable, and lightweight. Plus, they provide increased flexibility and breathability. So, no more restrictions in movements and arch pain.
If you thought that you can’t make running more interesting, you are very wrong. The shoes have zero heel-to-toe drop and zero cushioning. This means that you will have that natural, barefoot feeling that will take your running to a whole another level.
In addition, these remarkable shoes will make your every step lighter, while giving your feet protection and stability. Now, we’ve mentioned that these shoes will give you both flexibility and stability and now you might be confused about this statement. What we meant is, these shoes have a rubber sole that is specially designed to adjust to your movement, and give you increased level of motions. On the other hand, the lace closure will keep your foot stable, giving it support.
If you think these shoes come in some boring colors, with a utilitarian design, you’ll be happy to hear that these shoes come in five color variations. Whether you love black, blue or red, these shoes will sweep you of your feet. Whichever one you opt for, these shoes will match perfectly with your clothes, and you’ll feel like a diva.
Best of all, your shoes will always look like new, since you can wash them. However, do keep in mind that you can do that only in cold water and then leave them to air dry.
As for the downside, you might want to think twice before taking these shoes to a rocky terrain, as they have a thin sole. While they can withstand harsh terrain for some time, after a couple of months they will show some signs of damage.
- Provides comfort and support
- Feature breathable mesh lining
- Rubber sole
- Integrated microfiber soft footbed
- Need to be careful when choosing your size
2. Vibram Women's KMD LS Cross Training Shoe
First, the design. These shoes look quite charming, don’t they? If you want to have attention grabbing shoes, these will definitely meet your desires. They come in four vivid colors to choose from, so you can turn walking or running into a more bright experience.
Apart from the look, these shoes are very comfortable. In fact, comfort is their selling point. Since there is separate space for each toe, your feet will have outstanding comfort and stability. This will especially come in handy in a longer run or a longer walk. You really will feel like you’re running barefoot, free as a bird!
Furthermore, zero drop and XS trek outsole will give your feet more flexibility, so there won’t be any pressure on your ankle and heel. Also, circular lug patter is designed to give you more grip during lateral movements. Thanks to this, you will move fast and with confidence.
Lastly, these shoes can be washed in the machine, in cold water. Make sure to let them air dry. You shouldn’t use a hair dryer because this may cause deformation to shoes, and you surely don’t want that.
Overall, these shoes are lightweight and one of the most comfortable minimalist shoes for women. With that in mind, they are ideal for wearing in spring and summer.
- Super "barefoot feel"
- Great design
- Great stability
- Super comfortable
- Sizes run smaller
3. Inov-8 F-lite 195 Cross-Training Shoe
With a 3 mm heel-to-toe drop, functional fit and design, these shoes provide superior ground feel, as well as more mobility (compared to standard shoes).
In addition, they feature meta-flex grove in the forefoot of the outsole, making your step more powerful and energetic. This is especially important if you love to add some rope climbing to your running workut. With these shoes on your side (or should we say on your feet), you will be fearless. However, safety is extremely important in these situations. Nevertheless, rest assured that you get maximum protection with these shoes. Toughened sticky rubber at the center of the outsole extends to the sides, providing better traction and more safety.
The best part is that these shoes are available in two fitting models: the one that is narrower, and the other that is ideal for wider feet. Whichever one you select, your foot will have enough space for toe splay but at the same time, there won’t be unwanted movements.
However, to be completely honest, it takes a some getting used to these shoes. Still, this model is great for giving your feet comfort and freedom while you’re in the gym, going for a walk, or doing rope climbing. No doubt that these shoes are good value for the money.
- Superior ground feel
- Super comfortable
- Great mobility
- Inner soles are not too stable and may slip
4. Brooks Women's Glycerin 14
Compared to other models on this list, this model won’t exactly give you that “natural” feel. However, it still falls into “best minimalist shoes” category. What makes this model stands out is its support. They have maximum cushioning and are specifically designed for use on the road. Therefore, they are made of superior materials to give your feet support and the stability they need, keeping them safe.
In addition, full-length Super DNA midsole and segmented Crash pad will give you superior energy return and will absorb impacting shock while you are running. This also means that transitions will be smoother so the pressure on your heel will be greatly decreased.
Soft blown rubber forefoot will make your moves lighter and comfortable. What also contributes to outstanding comfort is fully articulated outsole. Because of it, you will have more flexibility and your steps will be energetic.
Considering the design, these shoes look amazing. They come in eight colors and each one look terrific and is attention grabbing. You will love working out, running, or walking in these shoes, as they feel and look great.
As mentioned, these shoes are pricey. So, if you don’t want to buy a pair that costs an arm and a leg, this model isn’t for you. However, this model is definitely worth the money and will last you for months to come.
- Great cushioning
- Great price value
- Overall quality is not that great
5. Merrell Women's Bare Access Ultra Trail Running Shoe
With zero drop, protective toe cap, and synthetic mesh lining, these shoes are one of the best minimalist running shoes. First of all, the shoes won’t wear and tear as easily as any other shoe would, so no need to worry about that. They are designed with the road in mind, so durability is one of its advantages. In addition, the reflective synthetic overlays will make you noticeable in dim light, so you can run knowing you are safe.
Secondly, the shoes are comfortable and provide amazing grip. They won’t have that unpleasant smell, thanks to a breathable mesh lining. Also, cushioned insole and special mid sole make sure to give your feet responsiveness and comfort on various types of terrains. This is especially important for your heel and ankle, as there won’t be any stress on them.
Lastly, the shoes are washer friendly, meaning you can wash them in the machine, at cold temperature. However, try not to do that too often, since that may affect their quality and durability.
Since the shoes are supportive, they naturally have a stiffer sole than other minimalist models on the list.
All in all, this model is a good choice for people who stand for many hours every day, as well as for passionate runners and fitness enthusiasts.
- Great price value
- Protective toe cap
- All sizes are wider than normal
Things to Consider When Shopping for Minimalist Shoes
A good pair of minimalist running shoes can strengthen your feet, decrease the risk of injury, and make running fun and interesting. With that in mind, here are some things to consider before choosing the best pair for your needs.
But, first, let’s take a look at some terms that are widely used in the world of running shoes.
Heel to toe drop – refers to a difference between the height of the toe and the height of the heel. As mentioned, minimalist running shoes usually have a zero drop, while standard shoes have around 10 millimeters.
Flexibility – When it comes to flexibility, there are two types – longitudinal and torsional. When you press your shoe from the heel and toe, how much will it fold up? That’s longitudinal flexibility.
Torsional flexibility is how much you could twist the shoe when rotating the toe in one direction and the heel in the other.
Obviously, you want your shoes to give fit you properly. But, what does “proper fit” mean?
In contrast to traditional running shoes, there should not be additional space in the toes of minimalist shoes. In fact, heels and toes should fit tightly, providing your feet with comfort and freedom.
Also, your shoes should be flexible. You should be able to twist the shoe along an axis with ease as well as to bend it at the mid front.
Having a comfortable pair of shoes is extremely important, especially if you wear them every day. Running shoes that aren’t comfortable can cause pain in your feet, distracting you from training.
One of the reasons why people love minimalist running shoes is their comfort. They will give you top-notch comfort, so you can focus on giving your best while running, hiking, or walking. There are a plethora of models to choose from, so get a pair that will suit your feet the best.
Minimalist running shoes are supposed to be breathable and lightweight, giving your feet the flexibility they need. Another thing to pay attention to is whether your shoes can dry quickly when they are exposed to water.
Lastly, you want your shoes to be made of high-quality materials so that they can withstand all types of terrain and surfaces. This is especially important if you’re planning to use them for different outdoor activities.
Since minimalist shoes have a very thin sole, you might want to consider getting a model that provides protection from sharp objects, mud, and hot sand.
How easy you can put them on
Another thing to keep in mind is convenience. Do your shoes feature a lace system or strap closures? You probably don’t want to struggle each time when you want to put on your shoes.
Can you wash your shoes in the machine or not? What materials are they made from? How fast can you clean them? How fast can they dry? Taking care of your shoes should be fast and easy, and these questions will steer you in the right direction.
Sure, the looks aren’t everything but, let’s be honest here, you do care about the color and design of your shoes. Luckily, there is a wide variety of minimalist running shoes on the market. Some of them look classic, some of them are colorful, while others are unique. So, choose the pair that will allow you to run in style and that you will love.
However, comfort and a proper fit are more important than cool looking design, so if you have found a pair that is comfy and fit you great, but doesn’t look ravishing, we suggest you going with it.
You probably don’t want to spend a fortune on a good pair of running shoes. Well, guess what? You don’t have to. Minimalist running shoes come at different prices, and you certainly can find just what you need at a reasonable price. However, do keep in mind that with the price the quality also goes up. If you don’t want to use your running shoes every day, you can get some of the cheapest models on the market. However, if you do plan on wearing them every day, you might want to consider investing in a high-quality pair that will last you a long time.
Since minimalist running shoes differ from the traditional kind, there are some things that people want to know about them. Therefore, this part is dedicated to answering some of the most common questions about minimalist running shoes.
Q: Are there different types of minimalist shoes?
Yes, there are. There are two types of minimalist footwear: so-called barefoot shoes and minimalist running shoes.
1. Barefoot shoes
Obviously, barefoot shoes are specifically designed to give you a “barefoot experience” because they feature very, very thin and flexible soles, a zero drop from heel to toe, and they look more like gloves. Meaning, most of these shoes feature individual pods for toes. Therefore they allow for a wide range of motion. Even though these shoes feature thin soles, they still keep your feet safe from road debris.
2. Minimalist running shoes
This type is a hybrid of barefoot and traditional running shoes, giving you best of both worlds. They usually feature a thicker sole, providing more protection than barefoot shoes. As for the look, they are closer to regular running shoes, as they do not feature individual pods for every toe. Also, these shoes do not have zero drops, but they still offer minimal heel-to-toe decline. Because of that, these shoes allow for more natural landing.
Q: What is so special about these shoes? Can I wear traditional running shoes?
Of course, you can wear regular running shoes. However, you should probably know that regular heavily padded footwear keeps our feet in an unnatural position. The result? Increased risk of injuries.
According to Barefoot Running Research, a thick sole causes some problems:
1. Make Achilles tendon more exposed to injuries
Standard sneakers are designed in such a way that they create a constant downward incline. That means that your Achilles always pulled back a little and the tendon will shorten over time. Also, the tendon will be at a much greater risk of being injured.
2. Makes it impossible for your calf muscles to absorb the force of impact
When the stress is on the front and middle parts of the foot, your arch and calf muscles will absorb the cyclical jolts of running. Nevertheless, that is not the case with regular shoes. Regular running shoes have a thick sole to the heel. Because of that, the pressure will be on your heel.
As mentioned, minimalist shoes are flexible, feature a zero drop from heel to toe (whereas regular shoes feature 10-12mm drop) and have an extremely thin sole. All this will give your feet freedom of movement, and great comfort, letting you move in a proper way.
Q: Can I use them for other kinds of activities, besides running?
Thanks to their material, they are long lasting and comfortable, making them ideal for running, working out, doing yoga, walking, hiking, rafting, and even fishing.
Q: Can I use them to run in the winter?
You probably don’t want to do this. When your feet are numb from the cold, you can’t notice any damage that you might be causing to them. However, you can use these shoes in cold conditions when you want extra protection and coziness.
Hopefully, this article has provided you with enough information so that you can know pick a good pair of minimalist shoes for you.
Although all of the listed products are good value for the money, we’d still like to single out the number one best model, and that is the Vibrams five finger. This model has, everything one could ask for – comfort, stability, and breathability. Plus, they, are lightweight, and they come at a great price.
Well, the only thing left for us to say is: Enjoy your new shoes.