Hate the feel of hot sweaty socks, marshmallow padding, and inflexible soles beneath your feet as you run?
If so, minimalist running shoes might be for you!
Bridging the gap between true barefoot running and traditional overly padded, inflexible running shoes are the minimalist running shoe.
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.
Merrell Men's Glove 4 Trail Runner
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.
- Not as “minimalist” as other Minimalist shoes because it does have some structure and a wedge of arch support.
- The toe box is narrower than the version 3 trail runner.
Perfect for gravel, trail and road alike. The most popular top rated minimalist running shoes.
Vibram Men's V Trail Runner
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.
- 6.4 oz.
- Great for wet or dry conditions, anti-slip soles.
- Rock stopping sole protection.
- Soles wear unevenly on pavement and asphalt. Also, run small.
Merrell Men's Bare Access Flex Running Shoe
Review: The Merrell bare access flex is a minimalist running shoe that goes from trail to road with ease. They are comfortable while still allowing your feet connection with the ground.
They do have some arch support, which not many minimalist shoes do, which is a plus if you like a minimalist feel with a little support.
- 0 Drop, 3mm insole, 7oz weight.
- Durable rubber sole with very good grip.
- TPU heel counter offers some ankle support.
- Runs large, especially wide toe area.
Topo Athletic ST-2 Running Shoes
Review: The Topo ST-2 running shoe is a minimal barefoot style shoe. It has a flexible upper with very minimal structure-in fact, you can fold the upper flat.
This shoe keeps your feet low to the ground, has a thin lightly cushioned midsole, and the sock-like folding upper to keep the shoe in place.
- Roomy toe box.
- Minimal shoe structure-shoe upper folds flat.
- Slightly cushioned midsole with a little arch support.
- Run wide and large, especially in the toe box.
Good minimalist running shoes, a barefoot ride with just a little support underfoot.
Nike Men's Free RN Flyknit 2017 Running Shoe
Review: This is a neutral running shoe with an 8mm drop, a soft minimalist sock like flyknit upper, a low profile sole and a sturdy rubber outsole.
The shoe provides minimal support, cushion, and arch support, making this a popular style for those who want a minimalist shoe without going completely barefoot and unprotected.
- Low Profile foam sole allows for plenty of ground feedback.
- An incredibly flexible outsole is one piece together with the sole made from injected foam.
- Rounded heel for a natural heel strike.
Feels like a sock with a bit of underfoot support and protection.
New Balance Men's MT10V1 Minimus Trail Running Shoe
Review: The New Balance MT10v1 is a light shoe at 7.4 oz.
This Neutral shoe has a slight 4mm drop and the well known Vibrams rubber outsole is famous for providing durability and excellent grip while not compromising your foots connection with the ground.
Plenty of underfoot feedback with this well liked minimalist trail running shoe.
- Long wearing Vibram rubber outsole.
- Lightweight support provided by a minimal style foam midsole.
- Midsole foot wrap keeps the shoe securely in place.
- This shoe tends to run both small and narrow.
Best minimalist running shoes for beginners, comfortable, popular and with just enough protection.
Mizuno Men's Wave Ekiden 11 Track Shoe
Review: These super light minimalist style racing flats weigh in at a mere 5.1 oz, demonstrating these shoes are built for performance.
This 5mm drop shoe is designed for track and road. As a minimalist racing shoe, they have very little support and cushion.
They have a newly redesigned sole, now with small rubber race spikes that grip track and road like no other.
- G3 outsole provides some stability and support.
- Small rubber spikes built into the outsole for excellent grip on track and road surfaces.
- Lightweight, glove-like upper.
New Balance Men's Hanzo Running Shoe
Review: This minimalist racing shoe has a low to the ground feel, with some heel cushion, a firm fore foot, and weighs in at 6.5 oz thanks to fantomFit foam combined with REV lite midsole foam.
These shoes offer comfort, good energy return and a modest 4mm drop to keep you moving. These road racers are ideal for 5k, 10k and marathon races.
- 6.5 oz weight, 4mm drop.
- Minimalist style mesh melt breathable upper.
- Minimalist Race day shoes, not trainers.
This Fast minimalist race day shoe is perfect for a 5k, 10k or marathon.
Review: This barefoot style running shoe makes a great alternative to Vibram 5 Finger shoes . This everyday city terrain running shoe is perfect for training.
The 3mm TPU sole allows you to feel the ground beneath your feet while maintaining durability and protecting your feet. Easily the best minimalist running shoes 2019 for everyday training.
- 3mm TPU sole made with pro 5, which is 5 times more puncture resistant than standard soles.
- Honeycomb V mesh heat fused, the no-sew upper is very breathable.
- Roomy toe box.
- The openings in the removable insole can be felt as you run.
So comfortable you won’t want to take them off, so minimal you may forget you have them on.
Xero Shoes TerraFlex Trail Running Shoe
Review: This barefoot style trail running shoe is a huge hit. It improves on the Popular Prio shoe because it has better traction and grip, and is more protective than the Prio barefoot trail runner.
The thin removable insole adds a little comfort, the rubber toe cap is there to maintain shoe integrity in rough terrain, and all of these features are made with vegan-friendly materials.
- True feel rubber sole offers your feet plenty of feedback from the trail.
- 3mm foam insole for a little comfort without being too much cushion.
- A lugged outsole, perfect for rugged trail terrain.
- This shoe runs small, its best to order one size up.
Best minimalist trail running shoes for men who want a barefoot style trail running trainer.
Now, finally, for women with the 7 best minimalist running shoes for women.
New Balance Women's WT10v1 Minimus Trail Running Shoe
Review: Probably one of the most popular barefoot-style minimalist shoes for women on the market, the WT1v1 from New balance has earned its loyal following.
The shoe features a rugged grippy Vibram outsole, an antimicrobial insole, so the shoe can be worn without socks, and a very airy mesh upper to keep your feet dry.
- Antimicrobial technology keeps the shoe odor free if used with bare feet.
- Flex grooves on the outsole built for trail and rocky terrain.
- Midfoot wrap strap keeps shoe snug and secure.
- Shoe runs small and fits snug, no room to add an insole.
Stylish and popular, the best women’s minimalist running shoes.
Xero Shoes Prio Running Shoe
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.
Vibram Women's V Trail Runner
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.
- Machine washable.
- 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.
Saucony Women's Endorphin Racer 2 Track Shoe
Review: This race day minimalist running shoe weights in at a mere 4 oz, thanks to a single layer of mesh on the upper and a thin “everrun” midsole.
The PWRTRAC sole, designed for urban landscape, is abrasion resistant and supplies sticky traction.
- Amazing 4 oz weight, with 0 drop.
- Flex film melt on mesh upper adds support and stability without adding weight.
- Responsive Erverrun midsole offers great energy return.
One of the lightest racers for women you will find.
Vibram Women's V-run Running Shoe
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.
- Breathable upper.
- 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.
SKORA Women's Phase-X Running Shoe
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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