Best Maximalist Running Shoes Reviewed

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Although barefoot runners have been the focus recently, lately there has been a growing demand for the best maximalist running shoes among many runners.

Everyone has more or less heard of minimalist running shoes, thanks in part to Vibram Five Fingers which have become so popular in the last few years. But what exactly is a maximalist running shoe? If you’re already familiar bear with us.

Since 2011 the number of “maximalist” shoes has proliferated dramatically. That’s where we come in. We sifted through and found the gems, and so without further ado here are the ten best options reviewed and tested. Enjoy!

Our Top 3 Picks
Hoka One One Clifton
  • Hoka One One Clifton
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • 10 Degree Heel Bevel
  • Price: See Here
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Hoka One One Vanquish 2
  • Hoka One One Vanquish 2
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Early Stage Meta-Rocker
  • Price: See Here
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Merrell All Out Peak
  • Merrell All Out Peak
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • HyperWrap 360 Degree
  • Price: See Here
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Maximalist shoes are, not surprisingly, pretty well everything minimalist shoes aren’t. They’re bigger, often bulkier and tend to be wider as well. The main theory behind the maximalist is that they provide tons of support and cushioning without adding a bunch of extra weight. A hard theory to argue with, it would seem.

1. Hoka One One Clifton

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Although maximalist shoes tend to be bulky due to the amount of cushioning they provide, the Hoka One One Clifton remains fairly lightweight.
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Comfort / Stability
Comfort is where it's at with the HOka One One Clifton. It has a seamless design that helps prevents irritation, its full EVA Midsole provides great cushioning. and its 10 Degree Heel Bevel provides good heel-to-toe transitions. The upper Lyrca ComfortFrame is quite flexible, and its Early Stage Meta-Rocker provides a good amount of responsiveness.

Durability / Quality
Although there are some concerns about the construction of the shoes upper and outsole, there have been no reports of durability issues. This is a running shoe that will last a long time and is made with quality materials.

Cost or Value
The price of these running shoes varies from average to expensive in price.
Pros

Seamless design prevents irritation

Full EVA Midsole provides cushioning

10 Degree Heel Bevel provides good heel-to-toe transitions

Lyrca ComfortFrame is flexible

Early Stage Meta-Rocker provides responsiveness

Cons

Sizes may run narrow

Tongue tends to bunch up

2. Hoka One One Vanquish 2

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A highly cushioned, comfortable running shoe that absorbs shock and provides good responsiveness.
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Comfort / Stability
There's no doubt it will be comfortable. It has an enhanced midsole that is layered to provide comfort, it absorbs impact when your feet hit the ground, and its Early Stage Meta-Rocker Geometry provides good responsiveness. It has a web design that provides support, and its seamless design prevents irritation. The only drawback in comfort seems to come from the lack of breathability.

Durability / Quality
This is a highly durable and quality made running shoe that will last a long time.

Cost or Value
The price of the Hoka One One Vanquish 2 can be on the high end, but well worth it if you seek comfort, cushioning, and support.
Pros

Enhanced midsole layered provides comfort

Absorbs impact

Highly durable

Great traction

Early Stage Meta-Rocker Geometry provides good responsiveness

Web design provides support

Seamless design prevents irritation

Cons

Sizing may run narrow

Not as breathable as other shoes

3. Merrell All Out Peak

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A highly comfortable maximalist trail running shoe that provides a good amount of cushioning and stability while you run.
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Comfort / Stability
Most users of the Merrell All Out Peak were quite satisfied with the comfort and stability of this running shoe. They found it to be highly breathable, they liked its HyperWrap 360 Degree Fit System that provides good stability, and found the Uni-Fly midsole to absorb impact quite well. It also has reflective components that will allow others to see you more easily while you run, and its nylon arch shank provides a good amount of flexibility.

Durability / Quality
There were few to no reports of durability and quality issues of this running shoe. It has a TrailProtect technology that provides great underfoot protection, and a Vibram Megagrip Outsole that provides good traction.

Cost or value
This is a running shoe that can be quite pricey, but well worth the price for the extra protection on trails.
Pros

Highly breathable

Reflective components

HyperWrap 360 Degree Fit System provides good stability

TrailProtect technology provides great underfoot protection

Vibram Megagrip Outsole provides good traction

Uni-Fly midsole absorbs impact

Nylon arch shank provides flexibility

Cons

Sizes may run narrow

Can be seen as expensive

4. Skechers Go Run Ultra 2

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This is a running shoe that will provide great cushioning with its thick Resalyte foam, as well as absorb impact when your feet hit the ground.
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Comfort / Stability
Most runners found the Skechers Go Run Ultra 2 quite comfortable. It has a thick Resalyte foam that provides cushioning, its M-Strike technology absorbs impact when your feet hit the ground, and it has good flexibility. Its GOimpulse Sensors provide great traction, and it has good arch support.

Durability / Quality
The overall durability is mediocre. There are some reports of wear and tear of the midsole and outsole of this shoe.

Cost or Value
This is a running shoe that is quite affordable.
Pros

Resalyte foam provides cushioning

 M-Strike technology absorbs impact

Good flexibility

GOimpulse Sensors provide great traction

Provides good arch support

Affordable

Cons

Not as breathable as some would like

Durability issues with midsole and outsole

5. Hoka One One Valor

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A highly responsive running shoe that will breathe easily while absorbing shock while you run.
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Comfort / Stability
Most runners appreciated the comfort of the Hoka One One Valor, with just a few users commenting on the stiffness of it. It has a seamless design that prevents irritation, an EVA Midsole that provides great cushioning, and an Early Stage Meta-Rocker Geometry that provides great responsiveness. It is well ventilated allowing your feet to breathe easily while you run, its Lycra ComfortFrame provides a good amount of flexibility, and its Hoka Race-Lace System makes lacing easy. Additionally, it has an external heel counter that provides support.

Durability / Quality
There were only a few reports of durability issues which may have been the result of receiving a faulty shoe. Overall this is a highly durable and quality made running shoe. It has Hi-Abrasion Lightweight Rubber that provides good traction.

Cost or value
The price of this running shoe varies from average to expensive in cost depending on where you purchase it from.
Pros

Seamless design prevents irritation

EVA Midsole provides cushioning

Early Stage Meta-Rocker Geometry provides great responsiveness

Hi-Abrasion Lightweight Rubber provides good traction

Well ventilated

Lycra ComfortFrame provides flexibility

Hoka Race-Lace System makes lacing easy

External Heel Counter provides support

Cons

Toe box may run narrow

May feel a bit stiff

6. Brooks Transcend 2

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If you're reading Brooks’ promotional material for this shoe you’ll find a lot of hyperbolic language and I guess it only makes sense given the name “transcend”. We would say its curved heel allows for a springy toe off, its molded foam footbed contours to your feet and the bulk adds quite a bit of cushioning.
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Comfort / Stability
This is where pretty well all maximalist shoes are going to hang their hats, and the Brooks Transcend is no exception. Beyond the aforementioned footbed there is a segmented crash pad that makes heel to toe transitions as smooth as possible.

Durability / Quality
Brooks doesn’t make flaky products it’s as simple as that. That said, the exterior mesh has been shown to tear a bit here and there after heavy usage. This is not so much a quality issue as a usage one, but it’s something to be aware of.

Cost or value
Although these are not the highest priced trainers out there, they certainly aren’t the cheapest. They’re kind of in that sweet spot between high price and low quality and we like to stick to it.
Pros
  • Breathable mesh and synthetic upper materials
  • Plush tongue and collar, fits snugly and comfortably
  • Excellent for overpronators
  • Has blended earth-friendly BioMoGo and responsive Brooks DNA
  • Pressure Zones allow for smooth transitions
  • Double Omega Flex Grooves allow for natural range of motion
  • Seamless design prevents irritation
  • Guide Rails provide good support
Cons
  • Sizes may run small
  • Tearing mesh on the upper for some

7. Hoka One One Bondi 4

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The Bondi is layered with the company’s classic cushy midsole foam for a firmer, more structured (comfortable) ride. On the upper you’ve got a paper-thin, no-sew layer that offers excellent airflow and a seamless fit. This is a great starter with Hoka for runners who want to reap the benefits of added cushion, but are not ready to face up to the insane soft/bouncing feel of some of the earliest versions.
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Comfort / Stability
There simply is no question the comfort level of Hoka shoes. This soft cushy feel is what made them popular in the first place and led to so many others emulating them.If sized properly these should be one of the most comfortable shoes that you’ve ever put on your feet.

Durability / Quality
As a market standard Hoka has a pretty good reputation when it comes to quality. Depending on usage you can expect these shoes to last a good while without noticeable degradation of their condition.

Cost or value
With Hoka One One’s you will be paying a slight premium in the price. It’s our opinion that this slightly higher price range is fully justified. The value presented by a pair of shoes that cushion your joints and protect your feet from wear and tear to such a high degree are worth their weight in gold.
Pros
  • Blow rubber sole, with integrated grip system
  • A neutral running shoe, highly versatile 
  • Lycra comfort frame upper, with synthetic overlays
  • Sharp and sleek design
  • Oversized midsole, 2.5 times the volume of typical running shoes
  • TPU External Heel Counter provides support
  • 10 Deg Heel Bevel provides good transitions
  • Flat-waisted geometry provides good stability
Cons
  • The price is slightly higher than similar shoes
  • Tongue may cause friction
  • Sizes may run narrow

8. New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Boracay

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Boracay is a bit of an excotic name and its fitting for these trainers. If there ever were a pair of moon boots these are them. Flashy color scheme/design aside, the Boracay’s pack an impressive performance punch. Here you’ve got a form-fit, breathable mesh upper, with no-sew overlays wrapping your foot in all the right places. The result is a seamless fit.
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Comfort / Stability
A fresh foam midsole laid atop a blown-rubber outsole combine to give your foot a soft and well cushioned ride. Once you’ve adapted these shoes feel incredibly natural on your feet.


Durability / Quality
A few users found some issues with the durability of the outsole, but most likely this is a durable and quality made running shoe that will last about average time.

Cost or value
These shoes are a great value, and it often doesn’t take very much searching around to find your size and preferred color choice at well under or at a hundred dollars.
Pros
  • Blown rubber sole, buoyant and reactive
  • Sleek and fresh New Balance aesthetic
  • No-sew stripes along with reflective logo overlays
  • Multi-stretch air mesh upper, allows air to circulate freely
  • Fresh foam in the midsole, provides firm and comfortable platform
  • OrthoLite footbed to an additional layer of padding
Cons
  • Not ideal for runners needing a lot of arch support
  • Seem to have a few issues regarding the longevity of the outsole

9. Adidas Terrex Fast R GTX

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A comfortable trail running shoe that is highly breathable and provides a great amount of protection against sharp rocks and other terrain.
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Comfort / Stability
Aside from the rim of the shoe feeling a bit hard due to the plastic material used, this is a fairly comfortable running shoe. It is highly breathable and keeps sweat away, it has a molded OrthoLite sockliner that provides comfort, and its drawcord-style laces are secure, and fast to operate. Additionally, it has a AdiPrene+ midsole that absorbs shock when your feet hit the ground.

Durability / Quality
This is a highly durable and quality made running shoe that will last a long time. THe forefoot plate protects your foot in rugged terrain, and its Advanced Traxion outsole provides a great grip.

Cost or value
The price of the Adidas Terrex Fast R GTX can be quite expensive, but it does come with additional trail running perks.
Pros

Forefoot plate protects your foot rugged terrain

Advanced Traxion outsole provides great grip

Highly breathable

Molded OrthoLite sockliner  provides comfort

Drawcord-style laces are secure

AdiPrene+ midsole that absorbs shock

Cons

Sizes may run small

Rim of shoe is hard to some users

10. Altra Olympus 1.5

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Named after the tallest peak in the Wasatch Mountains, the Olympus 1.5’s are designed to get your to the top of your game. The newest iteration from Altra has an increased strength/durability to the exterior mesh. Along with that is a spacious toe box, a zero drop platform and ample cushioning on the sole to keep your feet protected in even the most trying of conditions. The outsole has specifically engineered lugs to dig in on up hills and stabilize on downgrades.
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Comfort / Stability
These trainers place your heel and forefoot the same distance from the ground which has the effect of lowering the impact of your stride. The large toe box allows your toes to rest in a natural position as well, which contributes to both comfort and stability.

Durability / Quality
One of the issues commonly cited with durability in respect to maximalist shoes is damage or wear to the mesh upper. This was potentially true about these shoes in the past, but Altra has listened to customer feedback and addressed this issue. Overall, there are no durability red flags here.

Cost or value
There is no denying that these shoes are in the upper middle class of pricing neighborhoods. They do however represent a good value on the basis of their longevity and performance.
Pros
  • Stack Height is a quite reasonable – 36 mm
  • Very light weight, – 12.2 oz in total
  • Upper made from abrasion resistant mesh and dries quickly and allows air in
  • Midsole comprised of dual density EVA and an A-bound layer as well
  • Has built in GaiterTrap Technology
  • Flexible, max-cushioned Zero Drop
  • FootShape™ toe box
  • A-Bound™ cushioning provides spring in your step
Cons
  • There is not a wide range of colors to choose from
  • Sizes may run big
  • They are a bit on the bulky side

The Hoka One Ones are considered by many as the original maximalist shoe, and the popularizer of the style. They became known around 2011 when a notable number of elite runners started winning races in them. Dave Mackey, an Ultramarathoner from Boulder, Colorado started wearing them, and had an absolute banner year (being named Ultrarunner of the Year that year). This is how it started, and as they say maximalist shoes have never looked back.


The Criteria We Used For Our Evaluation Of the Best Maximalist Running Shoes

We searched high and low among hundreds of reviews by runners to find which ones would be the best for maximalists. These are the key points we used when determining which ones would make our top 10 list:

lady-jogging

 Cushioning

When evaluating the best Maximalist running shoes cushioning is a big part. We want to make sure there is ample cushioning that will provide great comfort while you run.

Support

Some shoes provide more support that others. Typically, Maximalist shoes will have good arch support, because of the amount of cushioning they provide. We’ve gone through each of them to let you know if they have adequate support or could use more.

Flexibility

Maximalist shoes are for the most part bulky so finding ones that offer flexibility is essential. We want you to have the best maximalist running shoes that will allow your feet to move while you run.

Durability

A good pair of running shoes should last between 400 and 600 miles. We want you to know if these shoes meet that criteria as far as durability goes, or if they will likely wear earlier or last even longer?

Breathability

No one wants sweaty feet that will make your run uncomfortable so we’ve sifted through these maximalist running shoes to let you know which ones offer a good amount of breathability and which ones could be better.

Grip

The type of traction or grip you are looking for in a running shoe is typically dependent upon what type of conditions you intend to run in. Are you running on the road, trails, in the snow ect.? We break down the details so you can see which shoes are best for running on different types of surfaces.

Weight

Although maximalist running shoes do tend to run on the heavy or bulky side, we’ve sifted through and found ones that can be considered lightweight as well.

Other Important Factors To Consider When Selecting The Best Maximalist Running Shoes

There are many important factors to consider when choosing a maximalist running shoe. We will tell you the difference between maximalist and minimalist shoes, some of the pros and cons of maximalist running shoes, and some of the top reasons runners choose maximalist running shoes so that you can decide if they are right for you.

shoes-in-the-clouds
Flickr: xyz.photo [mostly off]

Pros

  •  Most provide an ample amount of shock absorption while you run
  • Comfort, and cushioning is superb
  • Great for long distance running
  • Great for overpronators

Cons

  • Requires less foot strength
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Don’t feel the ground when you run

 

Maximalist vs Minimalist

Minimalist running shoes provide minimal to no cushioning so you can feel the pavement when your feet hit the ground. These can take a while for your feet to adjust to. You will also benefit from using the muscles in your feet and ankles. Maximalist running shoes on the other hand, come complete with an ample amount of cushioning which allows for comfort especially on long runs. Whatever your choice it all comes down to foot type and preference.

Reasons to Wear Maximalist Running Shoes:

  1. You never seen to get enough comfort, but with Maximalist shoes you will
  2. Perfect for absorbing shock while you run
  3. Studies reveal you will have less injuries to your Achilles Tendon
  4. You have sensitive feet
  5. Stack height of them allows you to be taller
  6. You want to run in races that are above your ability
  7. Most offer plenty of room for the toes
  8. You suffer from lower back pain
  9. You have ankle problems
  10. You want to feel like you are running on clouds

lady-running

FAQ

Q. How much more cushioning is there in Maximalist shoes?

A.  The added amount of cushioning to the sole up to 2.5 times the volume of a standard running shoe.

Q. Are maximalist shoes only for ultrarunners?

A. They are used widely in long distance running such as marathons, and half marathons. However, others that seek a good amount of cushioning in running shoes or those that overpronate can also benefit from a maximalist running shoe.

Q. Are Maximalist shoes heavy?

A. Some are, but not all. They have tried to incorporate the lightest of materials so that they have a good amount of cushioning while remaining lightweight.

Q. Won’t you fall with them so high off the ground?

A. Most runners don’t have an issue with them.  In fact, companies make them 20 to 30 percent wider for stability.

Q. Does it make you a less efficient runner to wear Maximalist shoes?

A. There can be a little bit of sacrifice as far as efficiency goes, but you won’t have issues with muscle fatigue so it seems to be a substantial trade-off.


Here are some sources we used while conducting our Research:

Sources

  1. Athletico Physical Therapy, Minimalist Shoes vs. Maximalist Shoes, Physical therapy site, Jun 18, 2015
  2. fellrnr, Maximalist Shoes, Informational site,
  3. Channel News Asia, Maximalist vs minimalist running shoes: Which are better for you?, News website, Jul 10, 2015
  4. Brooklyn Active Mama, Maximalist vs. Minimalist: Which Running Shoe Are You?, Mom website, Jul 31, 2015
  5. Competitor , Sole Man: 12 Things About Maximalist Shoes , Running site, May 07, 2014
  6. Running Research Junkie, Minimalist vs Maximalist Running Shoes and Achilles Tendon Loads Minimalist vs Maximalist Running Shoes and Achilles Tendon Loads, Running informational site, Nov 10, 2015
  7. SocDoc, Fifteen Reasons to Wear a Maximalist Shoe, natural injury treatment & prevention for the athlete within,