The Best Minimalist Running Shoes To Help You Move More Freely

If you’re not a fan of all the padding and thick soles that some running shoes showcase, you may want to give minimalist shoes a try. The best minimalist running shoes you can find will let your feet, ankles, and legs do more work while taking the spotlight off of your shoes.

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Quick Look: Our Top Picks

If you’re currently running in a shoe that offers a lot of support, you can still try running in a minimalist shoe if you want. But, you should start off slowly. You don’t want to take your new shoes out of the box and head off on a 10-mile run. It can take months to transition to minimalist shoes, so if you’re considering using them for an upcoming race, you’d better get started.

Merrell Men’s Vapor Glove 2 Trail Running Shoe

Some runners have had issues with the outer fabric of the shoe starting to tear after a couple of months.

Vibram Men’s KSO EVO Shoe

If you’re a fan of shoes that look like a bare foot, you’ll like these Vibram shoes. While non-athletes might give you a second look or even laugh while you’re wearing these, your fellow runners will know exactly why you’re wearing these.

Pros

  • These soles are thin, but they still offer some shock absorbency too.

  • If these shoes get wet from your sweat or if you step in a puddle on your run, they’ll dry quickly.

  • These are zero-drop shoes.

  • These shoes are surprisingly odor-resistant, which is nice since you likely won’t be wearing socks with them.

  • They have a lace system that lets you adjust the tightness of the shoe without having to re-tie it every time you put it on.

Cons

  • It may take a little time to get used to the feeling of having material between your toes.

  • They run a bit small when it comes to sizing.

  • If your second toe is longer than your first or if you have long toes in general, you may have some discomfort with these shoes.

3. Vibram Women’s Bikila Evo Road Running Shoe

Vibram Women’s Bikila Evo Road Running Shoe

These shoes may not be the prettiest ones you’ll ever put on your feet, but they have a lot of features that fans of the minimalist running movement will appreciate. This brand and style of shoe is best for women who are running medium distances on the road.

Pros

  • They have a zero heel-to-toe drop.

  • They come in five colors, including three bright ones that will increase your visibility when you’re on the road.

  • They have an anti-microbial sock liner, so even though you may exercise without socks, your shoes won’t necessarily smell like it.

  • These soles are slightly thicker than many other Vibram shoes, which is good for runners who want to make a smaller step toward shoes with less padding and structure.

  • This shoe offers great grip and durability because of the megagrip rubber pods on the sole of the shoe.

  • The upper mesh part of the shoe means you’ll have some breathability with this shoe, which will help keep your feet cooler and dryer.

Cons

  • These run on the small side.

  • The shoes are narrow.

  • Some runners have had problems with these shoes not holding up past three or four months.

4. Merrell Women’s Bare Access Arc 4 Trail Running Shoe

Merrell Women’s Bare Access Arc 4 Trail Running Shoe

If you want to give minimalist running a try, but you aren’t crazy about the finger-like shoes some companies produce, you might be happier with the appearance of this Merrell shoe.

Pros

  • These don’t have drawstring closures like some minimalist shoes -- they have traditional laces which some runners may prefer.

  • The mesh lining offers air circulation to keep your foot cooler.

  • You can toss these shoes in the washing machine on the gentle cycle -- just make sure to let them air dry instead of putting them in the dryer.

  • These are a zero drop shoe and they offer slight heel cushioning as well.

  • They only weigh 5.8 ounces, which means you won’t be losing energy just by lifting your heavy shoes.

  • You’ll get your choice of five colors.

  • These offer great traction, even on wet surfaces.

  • No animal products are used for these shoes, which vegans should like.

Cons

  • These also run a bit on the narrow side.

  • Some runners have had issues with the sole coming unglued after several weeks of use.

  • You may want to size up a little with this shoe.

5. New Balance Women’s WT 10v1 Trail Running Shoe

https://www.amazon.com/New-Balance-Womens-Running-Tornado/dp/B01FSITQLC/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1498760791&sr=8-13&keywords=minimalist+running+shoes

If you want minimalist shoes that are appropriate for trails, you might want to consider this style of New Balance shoes.

Pros

  • These shoes have been given an antimicrobial treatment to cut back on funky foot odor.

  • You get three dark colors to choose from -- they won’t show the dirt and grass stains you can sometimes get from trail running.

  • They have a flexible outsole that has grooves to let you have great traction when you hit rockier trails.

  • These shoes have a lightweight foam to give you a little support and comfort so you don’t feel every single rock you step on.

  • The curve of this shoe will match your foot, giving you a comfortable segue into the world of minimalist running.

  • You can wear these either without socks or with thin socks.

  • These shoes are super flexible, so you’ll feel like you aren’t wearing any shoes at all.

Cons

  • Consider sizing up a half size or a full size since these run a bit small.

  • These also seem to be a bit narrow, even when barefoot.

  • These are pricier than some other minimalist shoes.

And the Winner Is …

Vibram makes great shoes and one of their best minimalist running shoes is the Bikila Evo.

While they may not be the most attractive shoes on this list, running isn’t a fashion show.

These shoes have a wonderful grip whether the pavement is dry or wet. You’ll get breathability, meaning your feet will feel cooler, which is important for those hot summer runs.

The anti-microbial sock liner will keep you covered in case you truly hate running while wearing socks. They won’t have much padding, so your legs and feet will get to flex and do more of the heavy lifting during your run.

Shannon Serpette
 

Shannon Serpette is an award-winning writer and avid runner. She ran her first 5k two years ago, and hasn’t stopped running since. She has completed a half marathon and recently earned her first Top 3 performance medal for her age category in a race.