9 Best Zero Drop Running Shoes – 2021 Buying Guide

Zero-drop running shoes offer minimal cushioning and leave your feet lying flat on a level surface. In theory, they're meant to simulate a barefoot running experience, forcing you to build up strong muscles in your feet, ankles, and legs.

But, like any shoe, not all models are created equal. It's important to test your shoes to ensure they fit and offer enough support regardless of whether you're looking to increase muscle strength.

Peruse our picks for the best zero-drop running shoes on the market before you make your next purchase.

Standout Picks

ALTRA Men's AL0A4VQT Torin 4.5 Plush
Many runners think that zero drop means no support like a barefoot running shoe. However, Torin 4.5 sets out to prove that’s not always the case. While it has a 0 mm zero, it is also packed with supportive stability features to provide you with extra cushioning. Users find this design comfortable, lightweight, and perfect for long journeys.
Merrell Men's Vapor Glove 5 Sneaker
If you are in the market for something lightweight and simple for road running or general training at the gym, the Vapor Glove 5 is a great choice. It boasts a low profile that sits low down on the foot, and it is composed of lightweight and easy materials that feel like you aren’t wearing anything at all!
Inov-8 Men Bare-XF 210 V3
Inov-8 makes great trail trainers, but they also like to dabble in urban running as well! What we liked most about the Bare-XF 210 V3 is that it boasts slim and lightweight features that offer you support while allowing your feet to really breathe.
ALTRA Superior 4.5
Looking for something to take off of the road and onto the trails? The Superior 4.5 from Alta provides users with excellent stability and range of motion when traversing uneven terrain. It is made from quality materials that hold up well over time, and a wide frame allows for natural toe splay inside of the sneaker.
Xero Shoes Speed Force
As the name suggests, this design from Xero Shoes is made for those that want to travel fast. However, many users have adopted this design as their go-to pair for a variety of workouts, such as weight training, CrossFit, or even just for running errands. It may cost a little bit more than most, but we feel that it is well worth it!
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New Balance Minimus MT10v1
The New Balance Minimus are designed to disappear on your feet. The wide toe box will allow your fingers to splay naturally and they can be worn without socks.
Inov-8 Terraclaw 250
Inov-8 is known for its incredible outdoor running shoes, and their Terraclaw 250 model does not disappoint! These barefoot running shoes are perfect for neutral runners and they are definitely built to last.
Amazon Link
Xero Shoes Prio
This option is great for runners looking for a good zero drop shoe for their running needs. The Xero Shoes Prio has all the features for support and durability and comfort that you need to feel great even during the longest runs and most intense of workouts!
Amazon Link
Nike Flex Fury 2
These are one of the more affordable running shoes on our list. The Nike zero drop shoes offer great features, are durable, and will keep your runs comfortable.
Amazon Link

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Breathability

Breathability depends on the material employed in the upper portion of the shoe.

The more breathable they are, the more they allow humidity and heat to escape, thus keeping your feet cool and dry. This is especially important in warmer climates and for people who have the tendency to sweat excessively. This is also important when it comes to the best low drop running shoes.

Protection

Many of the zero drop running shoes we evaluated are also minimalist running shoe designs that have very little cushioning or protection.

Many of the shoes on our list have very abbreviated toe caps or completely lack one. If you are prone to stubbing your toe then try to select a pair that is a bit burlier. However, not all zero drop shoes are minimalist designs. For example, Altra offers models with generous amounts of cushioning and plenty of protection.

Flexibility

The human foot is an incredibly complicated structure so it’s important to use a shoe that allows for its full range of motion.

Cushioning and burly overlays often impede flexibility so try to find a shoe that doesn’t sacrifice flexibility for easier manufacturing or durability. Furthermore, if you prefer more rigid shoes, then minimalistic shoes may not be the best option for you because they create a full range of motion, which can actually improve your agility and prevent injuries.

Outsole

Here we look at the thickness or thinness of the zero drop sneakers.

Many best 0 drop running shoes have thin soles while others–like Altra shoes–may have more cushioning. Thick running soles help to protect your knees and provide you with excellent shock absorption. Now, if you primarily run on soft trails then you may be able to get away with a thinner sole. Here it’s important to assess your personal goals and needs as a runner and choose a shoe that is in line with your lifestyle.

However, you may find that some flat sole running shoes can be just as protective as some thicker soled shoes and can offer just as smooth of a ride.

Durability

It’s important to consider durability because we all want a quality shoe we can rely on for as long as possible.

Here we look at the lacing system, the material the shoe is made of, how durable the outsole is, and how they stand when put to the test.

9 Best Zero Drop Running Shoes

1. Altra Torin 4.5 Plush

Where to buy
ALTRA Men's AL0A4VQT Torin 4.5 Plush
ALTRA Men's AL0A4VQT Torin 4.5 Plush
Amazon Link

Many runners think that zero drop means no support like a barefoot running shoe. However, Torin 4.5 sets out to prove that’s not always the case. While it has a 0 mm zero, it is also packed with supportive stability features to provide you with extra cushioning. Users find this design comfortable, lightweight, and perfect for long journeys.

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The most notable feature of this design is that it has a stack size of 28 mm. This means that it has 28 mm of space between your feet and the hard concrete that can really anger your lower back and joints. It's made from Altra’s proprietary Quantic midsole that offers excellent energy feedback without hindering your full range of motion.

Users also like that the upper provides padding in the heel and the tongue, and it is made from soft materials. The inside of the upper is made for a soft quilted knit that won’t rub your feet raw, even when worn all day long. The outside is composed of a durable mesh that promotes airflow and wicks away moisture from the surface.

If you are in the market for something that comes from a trusted brand and is made from materials built to last hundreds of miles, this is one of your best options. It provides runners with optimal comfort in its Quantic Midsole and is lightweight enough that it won’t weigh your down.

2. Merrell Vapor Glove 5

Where to buy
Merrell Men's Vapor Glove 5 Sneaker
Merrell Men's Vapor Glove 5 Sneaker
Amazon Link

If you are in the market for something lightweight and simple for road running or general training at the gym, the Vapor Glove 5 is a great choice. It boasts a low profile that sits low down on the foot, and it is composed of lightweight and easy materials that feel like you aren’t wearing anything at all!

Read more

The very first thing that we noticed about this zero drop shoe design is that it boasts a thin and breathable mesh upper with a unique and subtle mountain landscape design. Users love that this simple upper comes in a wide variety of subtle and eye-catching color options. It also boasts flat laces to help promote lockdown so it doesn’t shift around on your feet as you run.

The rubber outsole is composed of Vibram rubber that has gentle grooves to grip and is enhanced by a tacky film that is perfect for gripping slick sidewalks in the rain. It also has a Hyperlock TPU film heel counter that ensures that this design stays firmly in place on your foot without cutting off circulation.

This is a great option for those that are in the market for something that is lightweight and versatile, you will want to check out this updated design in the Vapor Glove line from Merrell. Due to the moisture-wicking and antibacterial treatment to the upper, you can even pop these trainers on without any socks!

3. Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3

Where to buy
Inov-8 Men Bare-XF 210 V3
Inov-8 Men Bare-XF 210 V3
Amazon Link

Inov-8 makes great trail trainers, but they also like to dabble in urban running as well! What we liked most about the Bare-XF 210 V3 is that it boasts slim and lightweight features that offer you support while allowing your feet to really breathe.

Read more

The thing that users love most about this design is that it has a super-wide frame that won’t hug your feet too hard. Users love that it has a wide toe box that won’t jam your toes. The mesh upper promotes airflow so that your feet stay cool and comfortable as well.

The outsole is composed of rubber that sticks to the pavement. It also has a very small amount of cushioning to absorb the impact from the ground without minimizing your full range of motion.

If you strictly stick to roadways and treadmills, this design is one of your best choices. It boasts a wide frame that won’t cramp your feet in tight spaces and allows a good deal of airflow to keep you cool and dry.

4. ALTRA Superior 4.5

Where to buy
ALTRA Superior 4.5
ALTRA Superior 4.5
Amazon Link

Looking for something to take off of the road and onto the trails? The Superior 4.5 from Alta provides users with excellent stability and range of motion when traversing uneven terrain. It is made from quality materials that hold up well over time, and a wide frame allows for natural toe splay inside of the sneaker.

Read more

The design of the Superior 4.5 is very minimalistic and is made for high speeds when off of the beaten path. It boasts very little cushioning in the midsole that allows you to really connect with the ground to ensure that you keep your footing. The treads on this design are a little deeper than most, which means that while it's perfect for trails, it may not be versatile enough to wear on roads or treadmills.

The upper of this design is a little bit different than what we have seen from other Altra options. The Superior 4.5 has a stiff and structured synthetic upper that is designed to keep mud, dirt, and water away from your feet. The downside of this design is that it means that hot air has no place to escape, resulting in hot feet.

If you are in the market for something that is composed of quality materials that can traverse any type of terrain and protect your feet, this is an excellent option. Users love that the wide frame allows their toes to spread out, which in turn improves balance. We also love that this option comes in a wide variety of bright and neutral color options.

5. Xero Shoes Speed Force

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Xero Shoes Speed Force
Xero Shoes Speed Force
Amazon Link

As the name suggests, this design from Xero Shoes is made for those that want to travel fast. However, many users have adopted this design as their go-to pair for a variety of workouts, such as weight training, CrossFit, or even just for running errands. It may cost a little bit more than most, but we feel that it is well worth it!

Read more

What makes this design stand out from the pack is that it is one of the most flexible options out there on the market. You can roll this trainer up into a ball and hold it in the palm of your hand. In fact, these are almost the lightest pair of trainers that are currently out there on the market.

Users love that the frame is wider than most trainers, which allows your foot to spread naturally inside. The upper is composed of a lightweight mesh material that wicks away moisture, and also helps to keep your feet high and dry on those hot summer days.

If you are in the market for something that is the perfect pair for your versatile workouts throughout the week, you can’t go wrong with Speed Force.

Amazon Link

6. New Balance Minimus MT10v1

Where to buy
New Balance Minimus MT10v1
New Balance Minimus MT10v1
Amazon Link

The New Balance Minimus are designed to disappear on your feet. The wide toe box will allow your fingers to splay naturally and they can be worn without socks.

Read more

The flexible synthetic mesh upper is breathable and lightweight. The New Balance Minimus can be worn comfortably with or without socks. The wide toe box has plenty of room for wider feet.

These running shoes will provide you with a good bit of protection. They are really pliable and allow for a full range of motion. The Vibram outsole provides minimal cushioning but an exceptional grip on slippery surfaces.

Although these are not the most durable zero drop running shoes on our list, you will find that they are definitely built to last.

7. Inov-8 Terraclaw 250

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Inov-8 Terraclaw 250
Inov-8 Terraclaw 250
Amazon Link

Inov-8 is known for its incredible outdoor running shoes, and their Terraclaw 250 model does not disappoint! These barefoot running shoes are perfect for neutral runners and they are definitely built to last.

Read more

When it comes to breathability, these shoes provide excellent ventilation. The upper is made of breathable mesh that allows for optimal airflow and water drainage. In terms of protection, they feature excellent traction and grip. They also effectively absorb shock—even though they don’t have a rock plate. However, it is important to note that they do have lugs so not having a rock plate does affect their overall comfort. Their secure fit will protect you from chafing and blisters.

The zero drop trail running shoes provide excellent flexibility for those of you who enjoy trail running. Their outsole features Metaflex grooves and their flexible RVA foam.

The outsole is made of Dual C-rubber—which makes them incredibly durable and built to last. They provide excellent grip and traction on trails and wet terrain thanks to their 5mm lugs. The platform on the forefoot is nice and wide as well and the outsole definitely provides excellent energy return.

Amazon Link

8. Xero Shoes Prio

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Xero Shoes Prio
Xero Shoes Prio
Amazon Link

This option is great for runners looking for a good zero drop shoe for their running needs. The Xero Shoes Prio has all the features for support and durability and comfort that you need to feel great even during the longest runs and most intense of workouts!

Read more

Their upper is tougher and not made of super breathable mesh and you can definitely feel it when it is really hot.

The inner and outer materials in the soles are designed to be supportive and cushion your feet with every step you take. Some users report the soles start to lose traction if you do a lot of rough terrain running but most find the Xero Shoes Prio a comfortable shoe.

In terms of flexibility, these zero drop sneakers are pretty pliable and allow for your natural stride. The outsole is designed to withstand different athletic activities so you can use them for more than just running.

The materials used in the Xero Shoes Prio are of high quality and hug your feet in comfort and support. The shoes are constructed to be durable and to hold up well.

Amazon Link

9. Nike Flex Fury 2

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Nike Flex Fury 2
Nike Flex Fury 2
Amazon Link

These are one of the more affordable running shoes on our list. The Nike zero drop shoes offer great features, are durable, and will keep your runs comfortable.

Read more

The breathability is up to par with most of the shoes on our list thanks to their upper mesh and flywire cables. They will keep your feet cool and dry and prevent overheating, no matter how far you are running. While you can rely on these shoes for daily protection, they aren’t going to offer you great protection anywhere off the road. Some users also experience chafing and blisters during their break-in period, so make sure to keep that in mind.

These zero drop trainers are comfortable, flexible, and supportive. They utilize dual-density midsoles that provide you with a custom fit by contouring the shape of your foot.

These 0 drop shoes are highly durable and made of high-quality materials. If you keep these on the road, they seem to hold up okay.

Amazon Link

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Join our private, growing community of passionate runners

Inside RunnerClick Pro, runners of all strengths come together to meet and support one another, get answers to burning questions, learn from experts, participate in personal challenges, and more.