The minimalist running shoe is lightweight and has minimal support, padding or other stability and structural features.
The minimalist shoe gives you the feel of running barefoot, the ground feedback and connection to the terrain, without exposing the sole to hazards like sharp rocks, glass or sticks, and twigs that can cut your foot and cause injury.
Here I review 17 of the best minimalist running shoes for 2019 and briefly go over what you should look out for before you choose barefoot-style running shoes.
I divide the minimalist running shoe recommendations into two categories – men’s and women’s.
I’ve include good minimalist running shoes for the trail and those that do better urban terrain such as pavement, asphalt and track surfaces. I also include shoes designed for race day and those suited for everyday training.
There is a little something for every minimalist shoe enthusiast here, so let’s get started.
How to Choose YOUR Best Pair of Minimalist Running Shoe
Balance between Protection and Ground Feel
Minimalist shoes strike a balance between not wearing anything on your feet while you run and wearing traditional cushioned, structured shoes.
You might like the idea of barefoot running, but the reality of the road or trail may be too much for the uninitiated foot.
Minimalist shoes offer protection from road and trail hazards while allowing you to feel the ground as you run.
Some minimalist shoes have soles as thin as 3mm, while still offering protection.
What is Stack Height All About?
While we are on the subject of the sole of the shoe, let’s talk about stack height. Stack height is the thickness on the sole and midsole combined.
Basically, the stack height determines how much shoe material is between the bottom of your foot and the ground you run on.
Minimalist shoes have a minimal stack height. Logically, the thinner the stack height, the more you will feel the terrain or road below.
Why are Minimalist Shoes 0 or Low Drop?
First, what is the drop?
The drop is the height difference between your heel and your toe. Think of high heels, they have a really steep drop.
Traditional running shoes also have a relatively high drop compared to other styles of athletic shoes.
It is not uncommon to see a 10mm or 15mm difference between the height of the heel and the height of the toe.
When your heel is higher than your toe, it pushes you forward and creates the sensation of moving forward faster.
A drop of any height is unnatural.
0 drop shoes allow your stride to be as nature intended. Most minimalist shoes have a 0 drop, and a few may have a modest drop of up to 4 mm.
Any higher than that and they probably are not true minimalist shoes.
Weight Problems: Minimalist Shoes Should Not Have One
Some traditional running shoes suffer from weight problems. The material used to add structure, cushion, arch support, stability, stride correction and all that add up.
Regarding weight limits, traditional running shoes are often much heavier than minimalist shoes.
A good pair of minimalist shoes should weigh below 10 oz or so.
What about Stability, Cushion, and Arch support?
Minimalist shoes, by design, offer little to no cushion, support or stability.
Since you are here reading about minimalist shoes I will assume you are interested in what are the benefits of using minimalist shoes with little to no cushion, support or stability.
Some benefits I have heard from those who use minimalist style shoes:
They help prevent ankle strain and sprains. Since you are lower to the ground using minimalist shoes, it is not as easy for your ankle to roll outward, causing injury.
They’re flexible allowing your foot to bend and curve around the bumps and dips in terrain. Traditional running shoes have stiff soles that will not allow you to feel all the variance.
Minimalist shoes have superior traction because of their flexibility; more of your foot is in contact with the ground.
Minimalist shoes usually feature a wide toe box, which allows your toes to splay out naturally. Traditional shoes may bend your toes inward and cause bunions or blisters, or even change your gait.
Minimalist shoes usually have no arch support. Proponents say that traditional arch support causes the muscles of the foot to get weak and lazy from disuse and minimalist shoes do not allow this.
So now that you know how minimalist shoes might benefit you, let’s take a look at the 17 best minimalist shoes for running.
TOP 17 Best Minimalist Running Shoes Reviewed 2019
Let’s start with the top 10 best minimalist running shoes for men.
Review: Arguably the most popular minimalist running shoe in 2019, the Merrell Glove 4 Trail runners deserve all the attention.
Minimalist shoes are not known for being durable, but these minimalist shoes do hold up quite well thanks to a sturdy rubber sole and high-quality material. It has a breezy mesh upper and a barely there 3mm insole as well as a rubber Vibram sole for excellent ground feedback.
Review: The Vibram V Trail runners work well on both trail and gravel, with the classic Vibram rubber sole you will feel the ground under your feet, while still benefiting from the protection and anti-slip properties the durable rubber provides.
These elite running shoes have aggressive treads that will not disappoint trail runners.
2mm antimicrobial insole.
Great for wet or dry conditions, anti-slip soles.
Rock stopping sole protection.
Soles wear unevenly on pavement and asphalt. Also, run small.
Review: The new barefoot running shoe from Xero, the Prio is a crowd pleaser. This barefoot minimalist style running shoe features a scant 2mm removable insole that keeps you in control of how barefoot a feel you get.
They can be worn with socks, or you can go barefoot in the Prio. Good for shorter distances and as everyday training shoes.
Huarache-style ankle straps secure the shoe in place if desired.
5ml Rubber sole is good for road and pavement.
Wide toe box for natural toe splay.
Shoe runs small, order up a size.
Minimalist urban terrain running shoes move you from the track to cityscape, to the gym with ease.
Review: The 5 fingered V Trail Runner is an ideal minimalist training and racing shoe for off road running. The rugged runner sole is super grippy, keeping you sure-footed in wet and dry conditions alike.
The soles are sturdy enough to prevent puncture from sharp rocks, and the multi directional lugs allow you to turn on a dime on even in the roughest trails.
Slim 2mm anti-microbial insole sock liner keeps the shoe odor-free.
Ultralight 6.4 oz shoe.
Polyester spandex upper hugs feet and keeps shoes secure.
The slider on the laces is hard to adjust, making it a pain to take on and off quickly.
The perfect balance of underfoot protection, while maintaining a true barefoot feel.
Review: Comfortable minimalist runner with a firmer sole for everyday training sums up the Vibram V-run shoe for women.
The sole of the V-run is made from V-lite shock absorbing material, XS Run material incorporated into the sole for grippiness, and MONT material is durable and firm and stable, even at low temperatures.
Just 4.8 oz, you will barely feel them on.
2mm removable anti-microbial insole, these can be worn barefoot.
Stiffer sole than other Vibrams.
Unpadded tongue exposes laces to the top of bare feet.
Fits like a glove, with a little more substance underfoot.
Review: This barefoot minimal running shoe is perfect for barefoot beginners and experienced runners alike. It is designed for city terrain, asphalt, pavement and track.
The shoe has an ultra-breathable hex mesh, new sew upper to keep your feet comfortable, cool and dry as you conquer your territory. The 3mm sole will give you the sensory feedback you need while still providing plenty of protection from ground hazards.
Pro5 Puncture resistant sole, 5x more puncture resistant than standard sole material.
Heat-melt over the breathable mesh adds stability without sewing or using stitches that can come apart.
3mm sole for ultimate underfoot feedback.
Comfortable, lightweight, breathable and plenty of protection from whatever hazards your soles encounter on your path.
Review: Low to the ground sole with an ultralight mesh upper make this minimalist shoe a good choice for urban terrain runners. The upper is a no-sew design for, no chafing or coming apart at the seams.
The shoe has a natural 0 drop for a gait nature intended, plus, the lacing system is offset, which is good news for those with high arches where normal case put pressure on the top of the foot.
Offset laces, no top of the foot pressure.
Antimicrobial insole, the shoe can be worn without socks.
IBR outsole is both protective and thin enough to give ground feedback.
Just 5.8 oz you barely know they are there.
Hard to get the sizing right.
Wide footbed, thin sturdy sole, super lightweight. Great all around minimalist running shoes.
These are the best minimalist running shoes I could find for 2019, but we aim to make updates continually, so be sure and check back.
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