Lightweight and close to the ground, minimalist running shoes let you truly feel the terrain and strike the ground naturally. When choosing the right shoe, considerations range from heel-to-toe drop to support and cushioning. We’ve rounded up and reviewed this year’s best minimalist running shoes to help you hit the ground running.
The Trail Glove 5 Eco Shoes is our top pick overall, as they ranked well in each category we tested. Keep in mind, finding the perfect minimalist shoes isn’t about our ratings or anyone else’s. It’s about which shoes fit best for you and how you will be using them.
Best all-around: Merrell Glove 5
Best affordable: Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO
Best for walking: Inov-8 Bare XF 210 V2
Best for trail running: Arc’teryx Norvan SL
Best for long-distance running: Saucony A9
Best for overpronation: On Cloud Running Shoes
Best All-Around Minimalist Running Shoes
Merrell Glove 5 Eco Shoes
Do your part for the environment and accelerate your fitness with the Merrell Glove 5 Eco shoes. Made with as much recycled material as possible, they are vegan-friendly and feature state-of-the-art technology. They’re top-notch in durability, comfort, and weight. Combining both minimalism and environmentalism, the Merrell Glove is our best all-around minimalist running shoe.
Feel supported with the BLOOM performance midsole foam made from 10% recycled algae. Grip firmly onto surfaces with the Vibram Ecodura outsole, made from 30% recycled materials. Finally, the minimalist design improves your foot’s natural stride.
|Merrell Glove 5 Eco Shoes|
Best Affordable Minimalist Running Shoes
Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO Shoes
Customers rave about the Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO Shoes, with the most “barefoot” design of all minimalist shoes. They’re fantastic in terms of flexibility, grip, and shock absorption. There might be a bit of a learning curve for those not used to this type of anatomical cut, but once you get used to them, these might become your favourite running shoes.
They comfortably wrap around your foot like a glove and are machine washable, which is extremely practical! The ultralight rubber outsole absorbs shock, and the heel reinforcement stabilizes the foot.
Keep in mind: there is no sponge sole to compensate for balance. However, the shoes do come equipped with an XS Trek rubber outsole and EVA foam insole, so they are very durable. In these shoes, your foot will continuously be moving to adjust to your body’s movements.
|Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO Shoes|
Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Walking
Inov-8 Bare XF 210 V2 Training Shoes
Get your essential walking shoes with the Inov-8 Bare XF 210 V2 trainers. Offering a reinforced design and excellent contact with the ground, these shoes are great in terms of stability, grip, and flexibility. The Rope-Tex rubber sole provides amazing grip along wet or dry surfaces.
There is also zero-slope or tilt so they follow the natural movements of your foot. The heel reinforcement provides great stability. Finally, the 3 mm footbed ensures your feet will have enough space to run comfortably and efficiently.
|Inov-8 Bare XF 210 V2 Training Shoes|
Best Minimalist Shoes for Trail Running
Arc’teryx Norvan SL Trail Running Shoes
If you’re looking for an aesthetically pleasing, supportive trail runner, check out the Arc’teryx Norvan SL Trail Running Shoes. The TPU mesh at the forefront offers protection, while the EVA foam midsole gives support. Feel stable on slippery terrain with the mega-grip Vibram outsole.
Thanks to the water-repellent lining and debris-shedding material, we found the Arc’teryx Norvan SL shoe ideal for the trail. Superlight, they also fold in on themselves and come with a strap for easy transport.
|Arc’teryx Norvan SL Trail Running Shoes|
Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Long-Distance Running
Saucony A9 Running Shoes
Fuel your need for speed with the Saucony A9 Running Shoes. These lightweight and responsive sneakers are as innovative as they are stylish. Feel supported and comfortable with the SSL EVA foam midsole. Grip onto surfaces comfortably with the PWRTRAC outsole.
Perhaps our favourite feature of this shoe is the 3D printed coatings on the soles of the shoes. These long-distance runners look elegant and provide dynamic adjustments as you run.
|Saucony A9 Running Shoes|
Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Overpronation
On Cloud Running Shoes
If you suffer from overpronation, or when your weight shifts to the inside of your sole, check out the On Cloud Running Shoes. These minimalist shoes provide excellent stability and a precise fit thanks to the moulded heel. A host of high-tech features make these shoes great for those who need more support.
The outsole made with Zero-Gravity foam and Cloud Tec technology provides more flexibility and cushioning than other minimalist shoes. Additionally, the reshaped cloud outsole ensures a better grip on a variety of surfaces. The speed board system transforms energy to help you run faster, longer. We also were impressed with the efficient lacing system, which allows the shoe to fit more precisely.
|On Cloud Running Shoes|
How to Choose Minimalist Running Shoes
Some of the vital elements to consider when choosing minimalist shoes are flexibility, weight, cushioning, motion control and stability devices, as well as heel-to-toe drop. Minimalist running shoes aim to have the least interference with the natural movement of the foot as possible. For this reason, you will see mostly lightweight, low-to-the-ground running shoes in this category.
One massive benefit of minimalist shoes is that they’ll adjust your running style. Whereas usually, people strike with their heel first, you’ll begin to land on your forefoot and midfoot. To adapt to your minimalist shoes, make sure your running style is relaxed and calm.
Finally, it’s essential to consider where you’ll be running: the road, the trail, or the gym, and buy shoes that fit accordingly.
Shoe sizing can be a complicated factor as our feet swell and shrink to different sizes during the day. We recommend trying a few different sizes and seeing which one fits most comfortably. We offer free shipping and easy returns to help you find your perfect fit.
Most people envision a lighter running shoe when shopping for a minimalist running shoe, and with good reason. They are usually lighter than traditional shoes, the heaviest being 11.5 ounces and the lightest being 4.4 ounces. Also, keep in mind that men’s shoes are generally heavier than women’s. The average minimalist shoe will be around 10 ounces.
Sole and Cushioning
Some people like a lot of cushioning to soften the blow of running, while others feel comfortable with less. Keep in mind that minimalist shoes require you to land on the balls of your feet, so there isn’t as much support for your foot. After a couple of months, however, your minimalist shoes will be broken in, and your body will have adjusted.
Some pointers when looking at minimalist running shoes are the type of grip and midsole. Vibram grip is durable and reliable for different kinds of surfaces. EVA foam is also very durable and helps to support your foot.
Although comfort is a huge factor when choosing shoes, style is also a consideration. Specific shoes have better aesthetics than others. For example, the Vibram FiveFingers could be considered less stylish than Merrell Glove 5 Eco shoes. There are also very sleek options like the Arc’teryx Norvan SL trail shoes, which are a classic favourite among runners.
FAQs for Minimalist Running Shoes
Are minimalist shoes good for running?
Minimalist shoes mimic running barefoot, like our ancestors used to run. If you’re willing to adjust to less protection from hazards and less cushioning, minimalist shoes will work for you. There is a trend towards minimalist shoes because they cause your feet to adjust to your movements. These adjustments improve the natural ability of the foot.
What are the benefits of minimalist running shoes?
By running barefoot, you develop a more stable balance and a lower arch. Traditional running shoes have a higher heel than minimalist shoes, so you’re always hitting the ground with your heel first. Heel striking puts a lot of pressure on your body. By transitioning to a minimalist shoe with a lower heel, the foot can move and flex appropriately with your movements.
What are the best minimalist shoes for flat feet?
If you’re a flat-footed runner, minimalist shoes are not recommended. Since flat-footed runners tend to overpronate, you can try shoes that accommodate for overpronation like the On Cloud Running Shoes. If you have a low arch, it’s best to find runners with more arch support until your foot feels stable enough to support itself.
How should minimalist running shoes fit?
According to experts, minimalist running shoes should fit like a glove. An option such as the Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO is an excellent example of a tight fit. When trying on your minimalist runners, make sure there’s no extra space between the toes and the heel.
Ready to hit the road?
With minimalist running shoes trending over the last years, there is no lack of options when it comes to finding your next minimalist sole mate. If you are thinking of getting your first pair, take the time to start out gradually so your feet can adjust to the shoes and this new way of running. We hope our reviews and information have helped shine a light on your choices. Have a great run!