Best Minimal Running Shoes Reviewed & Rated for Quality
Whether you’ve already found your natural stride and are looking for your next favorite pair of minimalist shoes or you’re thinking about transitioning to more minimalistic running, there’s a shoe on this list for you. Check out our best minimal running shoes top 10 list below!
In a Hurry? The test winner after 16 hrs of research
Breathable mesh and synthetic TPU coverage
Merrell Omni-FitTM lacing for a perfect fit
M SelectTM FRESH lining cuts down on odor
TrailProtectTM pad for under-foot protection
MBound midsole cushioning for support
Minimalist Running Shoes Reviews
1. Merrell Trail Glove 4
Breathable mesh and synthetic TPU coverage
Merrell Omni-FitTM lacing for a perfect fit
M SelectTM FRESH lining cuts down on odor
TrailProtectTM pad for under-foot protection
MBound midsole cushioning for support
Some users thought there was a little too much cushion for a true minimal shoe supporter
You’d be hard-pressed to find a list of the top minimalist running shoes without seeing a product from Merrell at the top, and these are the best of the best. All-in-all, these are a solid bet for most runners who are searching for good trail running shoes.Read more
It seems the latest version has transitioned from a wide toe box to one that is slightly narrower. This allows a little more flexability on different terrains and offers better arch support.
The newest version of Merrell’s Trail Glove has a little more in the sole than its predecessor, which may not sit well with those die-hard minimalistic runners. Although it adds some weight, it also adds more comfort.
Merrel improved the tread and lacing systems of the shoe, as well as adding thinner mesh. However, some reviews have reported the mesh being too thin and thus, wears out quickly.
Although the thinner mesh is less durable, it offers a better wicking experience and helps keep feet dry.
They aren’t super cheap, but taking into consideration the quality and reputation of the brand alone, I think that it’s safe to say they’re worth the price.
2. Topo Athletic ST-2
Lightweight mesh construction
Foot shape to help with natural splay
Designed with less seams
Runs small and narrow in the toes
The Topo Athletic ST-2 are great minimalist running shoes for those who aren’t used to minimalist running or who want a low-profile shoe with just a little extra padding. If you’re transitioning into minimalist running, definitely give these minimal running shoes a look.Read more
Although the sole isn’t the most durable, the grip is great and you can expect reliable traction even on wet surfaces. The roomy, foot-shaped toe box allows for natural movement and works perfectly in tandem with the shoe’s great flexibility.
Because of the minimalist design of these shoes, there is little in the way of stability, but the 16mm platform combined with the 0mm drop creates a comfortable middle ground between a regular running shoe and a barefoot running shoe.
The construction of these minimalist running shoes has a unique design that reduces the seams for a durable, lightweight shoe. The combination of mesh and synthetic material on top makes for decent durability, but the outsole is a little lacking, so these probably aren’t a good shoe to take with you on the trail.
They are soft enough to be worn without socks and have great ventilation that will keep your feet dry and cool.
Although at their highest price these minimal running shoes may be as much as 100$, at their lowest they can be below 50. So, depending on the style and size you get these can potentially be a very affordable minimalist shoe and one of the best minimalist running shoes you can get on the market today.
3. Altra One 2.5
A simple design with high performance
Good minimalistic shoe
Good shock absorbing
Light for speed
Good surface grip
Simple design ( but good ).
These minimalist running shoes are great for minimalistic features, the design allows for speed, good shock-absorbing capability and excellent flexibility and just the right amount of comfortable strategic cushion designed into the shoe.
Importantly, it is light and designed to allow you to go for speed.
For runners looking for simple noncomplex minimalist running shoes which give a great performance, read on and check this model.Read more
These minimalist running shoes feature a platform which is zero-drop, for toe freedom you get plenty of flexing space via the asymmetric overlay, stability is supported via the shoe structure working together with a well-designed lace-up system.
These minimal running shoes posses simplicity combined with just the right amount of needed shoe tech to ensure a light shoe which will give a consistently high performance.
Synthetics are known to give durability and this shoe is constructed from a combination of materials and fabrics which ensure FIT and stability along with durability.
These are not as moisture-wicking as some of the other entries so make sure you are wearing light socks.
The midsole is dual-layered EVA which comfortably absorbs impact and gives a nice confidence building balance, run enhancing flex grooves are designed into the shoe midsole area to promote omnidirectional maneuverability.
4. Merrell Bare Access Arc 4
Breathable mesh uppers
Available in multiple colors
Foot-shaped for natural splay
Vibram outsole with good traction
Durability issues reported by some
Sizing can be difficult to figure out
The Bare Access Arc 4 shoes from Merrell are a zero drop shoe with more cushion than other barefoot running options. They have the same great feel as minimalist running shoes with some extra support.Read more
Some report sizing issues here and there, but the foot-shape and the roomy toe box offer a great fit. The outsole is molded with Vibram treads that are designed to offer traction where you most need it.
They have an EVA midsole and a 8mm heel cushion which allows for great shock resistance without adding too much weight.
There are some who have had issues with the durability of the outsole on these minimal running shoes with the treads peeling away after only a short period of use, but for the most part, the construction holds up for track running.
With a combination of TPU and mesh lining for the uppers, these are very breathable minimalist running shoes.
The price tag on the Bare Access Arc 4 shoes has a bit of a range, but compared to other options on this list it’s a pretty middle of the road shoe. They offer a great minimalist running design and with a fairly consistent customer approval rating, they are probably worth the small investment.
5. Inov-8 x-Talon 212
Deep cleats great for all terrain running
Water-resistant DWR coating
Breathable and flexible
They run a bit narrow
Line up all of these, and Inov-8 x-Talon 212 minimal running shoes will surely stand out with their bright, vibrant colors and sleek design. If you’re looking to make a fashion statement pushing up dust behind you, then take a look at these.Read more
The stability is pretty good with these minimalist running shoes. They do really well with off-road terrain like that encountered in Spartan races, or other similar obstacle runs.
These are a little on the heavier side compared to other minimalist running shoes, but the added comfort makes up for it.
The sturdy durable construction and water-resistant coating really work well together to keep these shoes lasting, even after use in rough conditions that are experienced during off-road races.
The DWR coating does a great job of keeping the water out while keeping the material breathable.
The price, even on Amazon, is slightly higher than some other minimalist running shoes on this list. With that being said, it is important to look at the features, especially the cleated tread, then think about the type of running that you are involved in. If you tend to compete in races where these features would be an unbelievable benefit, then it seems that they are priced quite fairly.
6. Saucony Peregrine 7
Secure fitting upper
Durability is good
Stability is very good
Some runners question the price
These minimalist running shoes have undergone a lot of changes but still remain the favorite among many athletes. With a new outsole that is more durable and grippier in nature, everyone loves this shoe. The rock plate offers protection to the foot.Read more
They have amazing stability that is facilitated by the heel to toe drop of 4mm. This allow you to really feel the ground beneath you and make the most out of every step.
This model is also on the bigger side but is a great choice for those who prefer running off-road.
The design is very comfortable, and the wider toe box enhances the level of comfort when you put on these minimal running shoes. The fit is good while the upper section holds the foot with a snug.
Ankle padding is great with added cushioning that allows air to move freely throughout.
The shoes have a good price compared to their quality. They are well-performing minimalist running shoes. NOTE: Saucony, handles any issues of fit and comfort by taking the shoes and replacing them.
7. Brooks Pure Grit 6
If you have a high instep, the 3D rubber print may cause some discomfort
Price is a little high
The Pure Grit 6 minimalist running shoes have a few upgrades over the previous model. Still being mostly understated in style, Brooks did add some high-vis coloring to both the men's and women's lines. More importantly, the design has been significantly improved for a more comfortable and stable experience.Read more
The general consensus amongst reviewers is that changes in the design have significantly improved the comfort and stability of the shoe. These changes include a more flexible upper mesh and the tongue of the shoe is more flexible than the previous model
This shoe is very lightweight and reviewers report an added bonus to this shoe as well: a little pouch at the top of the tongue in which you can store your laces so that the possibility of stepping on them is minimized.
A 3D rubber print was added to the upper for durability, but people with a high instep reported that this was uncomfortable, however, if you have a low instep this should not be a problem.
The light mesh provides lots of wicking and easy airflow.
On the higher end of the price range, but with the improvements and overall quality, these minimalist running shoes may be the best bang for your buck.
8. Brooks Pure Cadence 6
A few runners question price though the price is not so high.
The 6th version of Brooks PureCadence are good stability minimalist running shoes, designed for running athletes who suffer from overpronation when in running motion. The minimalist running shoes have a heel drop of 4mm, with a natural feel of running. It has a wide upper section and is very lightweight, weighing around 8. Oz. This 6th edition of Pure Cadence has great stability and support that is lightweight.Read more
They are considered among the best minimalist running shoes, be it for a short sprint or a marathon race. These Brooks' minimalist running shoes will provide you with maximum comfortability and you won't have any pain in knees after running in them.
Extra cushioning is provided by the midsole that is made of the BioMogo DNA, which is very lightweight, yet comfortable.
Brooks is well praised for their durability. The outsole has a rubber that withstands very rough terrain, and experience very minimal cases of wear and tear after a long time of usage. This shoe speaks nothing short of high quality and durability.
The upper part of the shoe is characterized by a tongue that is padded for additional comfort to the feet but still allows plenty of air to flow in.
This shoe is well-priced for all it has to offer in terms of durability and comfort.
9. Vibram KSO EVO
Made from polyester fabric
Features XS Trek outsole
Comes with speed lacing
Available in many fun colors
Large, foot-shaped toe box for natural splay
Textured outsole for grip
Protective built in trail pad
Some may find them small
Not durable enough for the rough paths
As a minimalist runner, you really want to feel the ground underneath your feet, and Vibram has created a special running shoe that allows you to do just that with the KSO EVO. Although the rubber sole is less than 5 millimeters thick, it’s special design allows it to still absorb shock and lessen the stress on your knees.Read more
The XS Trek Outsole is made of rubber and features a unique serrated blade lug design that provides amazing grip and flexibility. These are great for any terrain including gravel, dirt, and sand.
These are not as light as some of the other entries on this list, but still far from being heavy. The soles add weight but also protect your feet.
The speed lacing feature helps keep the shoes sturdy and reduces wear while helping improve performance. They are easy to care for and can be machine washed.
Vibram made these minimalist running shoes from polyester fabric that is both very durable and breathable. Allowing air to circulate in your shoes is important for healthy feet!
These are a great choice for people who really want to feal everything, even between their toes. They are made from very durable materials and is considered a favorite among minimalist runners.
10. New Balance Men's MT10V1
Made from 100 percent synthetic mesh
Treated with antimicrobial
Specially-designed flex grooves
Features Acteva mid-soles
Sizes run small
Many found the shoes too narrow
If you are someone who prefers to take their minimalist shoes off track and really hit the unbeaten path. The outsoles are made of Vibram for extra durability and features flex grooves that are strategically placed to give you the best traction and grip for increased performance.Read more
The specially designed grips provide you with incredible off-road control and flexibility that not only improves performance but also ensures a safer run.
If you are going to run off-road, then you will likely encounter water, mud, and other materials that can weigh your shoes down. At 12 ounces, you’ll barely even feel these on your feet.
This features high-quality, lightweight foam supports that allow you to keep form and decrease the wear on your shoes. The Acteva midsole keeps your foot snug and steady as well.
The upper material is made from synthetic mesh for easy airflow and treated with antimicrobial in order to eliminate bad foot odor.
Although these are in the mid-price range, you can count on a great quality product from a name brand like New Balance.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
A minimalist shoe should have minimal weight.
This may go without saying but a minimalist running shoe shouldn't be very heavy. That would take away from the experience and whole point of the shoe. We chose products for this list with varying degrees of minimalism and support to make sure there was something for everyone. No matter what though, we focused on options that are lightweight. Obviously, this makes running easier because it takes less effort to raise and lower your leg with each stride but it also makes the transition to barefoot-style running easier and more seamless. If you're already wearing a lightweight pair of running shoes, that pair of shoes inherently has less structure and support than a pair of fully-featured shoes for a heavy over-pronator for example. This means that without being too conscious of it you're moving towards barefoot-style running with minimal to no shoes. Minimalist running shoes like the ones on this list are a sort of minimal ground for your transition. You can get used to running in lightweight shoes that put the onus of support on your natural foot structure, without going straight to barefoot running which could cause strain, discomfort, and possibly injury if you were to simply go to barefoot running right from traditional running shoes.
They may be more natural but you're still going to sweat.
Even though you're transitioning to a more natural running style it doesn't mean your entire body is going to start acting differently. You're still going to sweat for example and that's why we included this factor in our list of things that we looked closely at while choosing products for this list. This is an important factor because if your sweat isn't allowed to escape and dry in the outside air you're going to wind up running with a puddle of sweat in your minimalist running shoes, and even barring that extreme example, too much moisture inside your shoes can cause friction to build up and cause chafing, hot spots, and eventually the dreaded blisters. Fortunately, most minimalist running shoes are also inherently breathable because of the nature of their being lightweight. One way that shoe makers cut weight on a shoe while still maintaining an impact-absorbing outsole is by making the upper more lightweight and breathable. However, the products on this list definitely vary in the amount of air they let exit the shoe which is why we took a closer look at each product and gave it an individual score for this important factor.
Part of the transition to barefoot-style running is allowing your foot to relearn its natural range of motion.
Minimalist and barefoot running has come to be viewed as a more natural option because it allows your foot to use the natural design that it has evolved with instead of being cooped up in a tight office all day so to speak. Our ancestors evolved over 2.5 million years and they did plenty of running in order to hunt and escape predators, and while some of them had sandals, they definitely didn't have the constrictive, ultra-supportive boxes known as modern day running shoes. Despite this, they were highly effective runners. As we rethink things and more people become interested in ancestral living we can see that while modern shoes were meant to protect our feet, one unforeseen consequence of this was that they also totally changed the natural ability of our feet to move, stretch, walk, and run without protection. Having minimalist running shoes with good flexibility goes a long way towards helping your feet to relearn their natural movement patterns, so this was something we emphasized while choosing products for this list.
Unfortunately, this is a tradeoff when it comes to minimalist running shoes because of their Spartan construction. So products that are able to be long-lasting got extra high marks in this category.
Whether it's running shoes, automobiles, or just about any other product, durability often comes at the expense of light weight and vice versa. Minimalist running shoes, by their very nature, are lightweight. This is usually accomplished through the use of certain materials that are thin and light. But this also means that they're typically not very long-lasting. Runners who are into barefoot running and those who are making the transition need to understand that this is an unfortunate but inevitable trade-off they'll have to make in order to enjoy the benefits of more freedom of movement for your feet and a more natural stride. Shoe manufacturers are aware of the problem however and are constantly working on solutions and ways to make minimalist and barefoot style minimalist running shoes that are lightweight, encourage the natural movement of your foot, while also being tough and long-lasting. We gave higher scores to products that are able to find this equilibrium.
The right price for the best type of minimalist running shoes.
Selecting the right minimalist running shoes can become quite a daunting task when you realize just how many are on the market and how widely their price points can vary. Our research is geared to providing our readers with exactly what they can expect from their investment.
Not only does this ensure that you get what you pay for, but it also gives you the peace of mind knowing that you are getting what you need from the footwear. While there is value with higher priced minimalist running shoes, it’s important to perform due diligence and not compile a list of only the most expensive ones on the market. Our focus is on giving our readers choices that work the best for their activity and their wallet.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
There are some minimalistic designs that do offer more support than others, but how much is the real question some people might need to ask themselves. Lower profile designs look cooler, but are you sacrificing the support that your particular feet require?
If you're one of the lucky ones who don't nee a ton of specific support, or who deal with issues like plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and many other problems that require very specific support, then go for it.
If you do need that support, research the shoes you like well to make sure you won't be wearing something that may worsen any issue you might have.
The ground feel is certainly much better with less sole in between your feet and the earth but think about the terrain you're running on.
If you're going off-road, consider some protective features, an aggressive enough tread, and more durable material.
If you're sticking to the road or finished paths, the think about traction on those smoother surfaces. Also, keep in mind the distance. Will you need more protection from impact down the road?
Other Factors to Consider
One of the most important considerations when it comes to minimal running shoes is the terrain type. Unlike a wide variety of athletic footwear that can go from treadmill to non-technical trails without much thought or worry, minimal runners are not for that type of application. If you are going to be running out on trails, make a selection that offers protection from elements such as dust and water.
Minimal runners use far fewer materials than their counterparts, so dust and sand will get in quickly and negatively affect your run if you don’t choose a trail rated option. If you know for a fact that you will be doing both indoor and outdoor workouts, experts recommend buying two separate pairs of minimal running shoes to keep unnecessary injuries at bay.
The best part of wearing minimal footwear of any type is the level of freedom that you will experience while wearing them. You shouldn’t feel like you are wearing an uncomfortable or bulky pair of shoes.
Think about other pairs of shoes that you wear, do your toes feel “smashed”? If they do, you should consider an option that has been described by runners as possessing a roomy toe box. Luckily, our buying guide is packed with options that have the room that runners with wider feet need when they hit the trails or the road.
The goal is to feel as if you aren’t wearing shoes at all; this is what will transform your running experience. The gateway to this feeling is proper toe splay on contact.
Besides the increased feedback and quality muscle development that comes from running in minimal running shoes, another great benefit is how they encourage a change in your running form. In order to get the maximum amount correction, you must take your strides with more thought than with a standard running shoe.
Even seasoned runners were surprised with how subtle changes in their gait were achieved by running in minimalist running shoes. There will be almost no interference with the natural motion of your foot. Keep this in mind while hitting the road or the trail and you will be transitioning successfully in no time!
Frequently Asked Questions
q: I’m just getting started with minimalist running; what’s the most important consideration to make?
Patience. Simply put, don’t try to do too much, too soon. Experts agree that a reduction in weekly mileages coupled with gradual increments in intensity levels is the key to success with minimal running. Keep in mind that even seasoned runners experienced a significant transition period when switching to a minimal running shoe.
q: How do I find the right size of minimalist running shoes for my feet?
While most minimal running shoes run true to size and selecting your normal shoe size is a great starting point, we have noted those that run slightly smaller so that you can adjust. Just like any other type of footwear, it’s best to size your foot at the end of the day or after a strenuous workout so that you can take any amount of foot swelling into consideration when selecting your size.
q: What’s going to be the hardest thing to change in regards to my running style when switching to minimalist running shoes?
According to most runners, changing to a more efficient, forefoot-first stride is the hardest part of switching to minimal running. Most runners are actually unaware that there is anything off about their stride until they make the switch and experience it for themselves firsthand. The good news is that this will also be the best change that you can make for your runs. A more efficient stride will build endurance and prevent injuries. Minimal running has been described as “taking the training wheels off” for a reason, you don’t have the support and cushion that feature heavy running shoes offer.
q: I suffer from plantar fasciitis, should I still consider minimal running shoes?
Absolutely. Just do it with more caution and consideration. Heel pain, Achilles tendinitis, or any other issue can really slow you down and take away from the quality of your comfort. Just remember to stay away from zero drop options and consider a thin insole for additional protection. As long as you keep a healthy pace and respect your limits, you should be fine. Remember to always put safety first.
This was our approach when selecting the right pair of minimal running shoes. Remember that this type of footwear comes with a ton of benefits as long as you make a selection that is tailored to what fits you best. We hope this guide provided you with all the information you need when making your choice. Thanks for following along with us, and keep running!