If there’s one thing I’ve never really delved into, it would have to be minimalist running. Admittedly, the thought of running almost barefoot on hard surfaces freaked me out, though someone convinced me to get the best minimalist running shoes to start. That’s when you realize that minimalist running CAN work and has interesting benefits to reap!
So if you’re planning to begin minimalist running, you have to start gradually and with the RIGHT shoes. With that said, I did all the tests and research, so read on! I’ll be talking about the best minimalist running shoes for both men and women, as well as more to learn about the running style.
- 1 6 Best Minimalist Running Shoes For Men
- 1.1 1. The Breathable and Vegan-Friendly: Merrell’s Trail Glove Runner
- 1.2 2. The High-Tech and Grippy: Vibram V Trail Runner
- 1.3 3. The Comfortable and Stylish: ON Cloud Minimalist Running Shoes
- 1.4 4. The Strong and Superior: Altra Lone Peak Mid Neo Trail Running Shoes
- 1.5 5. The Well-Ventilated and Soft: Nike Free RN Flyknit Running Shoes
- 1.6 6. The Antimicrobial and Flexible: New Balance MT10V1 Minimus Trail Running Shoes
- 2 6 Best Minimalist Running Shoes For Women
- 2.1 1. The Natural and Low-Impact: Altra Lone Peak Trail Running Shoes
- 2.2 2. The Bright and Simple: Newton Running Fate Shoes
- 2.3 3. The Bare and Cooling: Merrell Bar Access Arch Trail Running Shoes
- 2.4 4. The Smooth and Comfortable: ON Running Cloud Mesh Trainers
- 2.5 5. The Snug and Lightweight: Merrell Vapor Glove Barefoot Trail Running Shoes
- 2.6 6. The Pain-Free and Ideal: Vibram V Running Shoe
- 3 About Minimalist Running
- 4 The Advantages of Using Minimalist Running Shoes
- 5 The Disadvantages of Using Minimalist Running Shoes
- 6 How to Choose the Best Minimalist Running Shoes
- 7 Tips on How to Begin Minimalist Running
- 8 Frequently Asked Questions on Minimalist Running
- 9 Wrapping It Up
6 Best Minimalist Running Shoes For Men
1. The Breathable and Vegan-Friendly: Merrell’s Trail Glove Runner
The Merrell Trail Glove Runner Shoes is my best choice for minimalist shoes because of its durability. It’s made for the minimalist trail runner because it has the adequate cushioning, still giving you the grounded feel. The shoes are equipped with a Trailprotect pad so you won’t experience pain from sharp rocks and the like.
Another feature I love most is its overall material, which is vegan-friendly and made for breathability in mind. It seems sturdy enough to withstand multiple intense runs anywhere I go. I highly recommend it for the extreme trail runners who want to begin minimalist running.
- Can be used for all trails and surfaces with Trailprotect pad
- Made of vegan-friendly materials for eco-friendliness
- Breathable and with a Vibram outsole for extra grip
- Durable and can withstand tough and intense runs
- You’ll need to break into it for a few days
- Has a weird lacing system, takes time to understand
2. The High-Tech and Grippy: Vibram V Trail Runner
Vibram is popularly known for their excellent shoe quality, having the amazing styles built for minimalist runners. This is because their shoes are built with a mix of polyester and Spandex, which makes it flexible without it feeling too painful if used on trails.
It protects your feet well because it’s enhanced with 3D cocoon technology unique to Vibram, which offers the best protection no matter where you run. Furthermore, it has an extremely strong outsole, which is used for amazing grip throughout your whole feet. It won’t slip nor would you feel any sharp objects sting you, just the cool ground.
- Made with quality spandex and polyester, built to last for long
- 3D Cocoon Technology for extreme underfoot protection
- Promotes natural movement around the feet
- Has antimicrobial properties to prevent odors
- Not the thinnest material for advanced minimalist runners
- A bit uncomfortable to use while going downhill
3. The Comfortable and Stylish: ON Cloud Minimalist Running Shoes
If you’re on a budget and still need something that works amazingly for minimalist running, I recommend ON Cloud. It’s not the most popular running shoe brand around, but I’m glad I got to try these out. They don’t feel like a cloud, of course, considering they’re made for minimalist running.
With that said though, they felt amazing with slight cushioning, perfect for beginners who are still getting into minimalist runs. Even with its cushioning, it promotes a healthier and more natural movement as you run. So if you’re planning to run on tracks and roads, this one’s for you.
- Durable for long runs and with lovely colors to choose from
- It comes at a more affordable price than others
- Comfortable cushioning but still encourages natural movements
- Not as light and airy compared to other minimalist shoes
- It’s only best for roads and tracks, not for the trails
4. The Strong and Superior: Altra Lone Peak Mid Neo Trail Running Shoes
Altra is one of the most popular shoe brands for minimalist and trail running, and the Lone Peak is no exception. While I consider it as a minimalist running shoe, I don’t feel the ground as much, and I notice I still land on my heels. However, I can’t deny that it still has space and design that allows my toes to spread out.
Because my toes feel freer to move, I have more stability as I run uphill or downhills. For its strength and excellent traction, I recommend it for the intense minimalist trail runner!
- It has good traction and grip on most hard trails
- The design allows toes to spread out for more relaxed and natural movement
- Amazing strength and durability to last for a long time
- It feels too thick to be a minimalist running shoe for some
- The material isn’t waterproof, which is crucial for trail runs
5. The Well-Ventilated and Soft: Nike Free RN Flyknit Running Shoes
Nike is well-known for its athletic products, but I haven’t seen good minimalist shoes from them. The Flyknit is the closest to it, having the lightweight feel AND thinner soles that have you feel the ground. It encourages me to run freely and more naturally, though not as much compared to the likes of Vibram.
What I do love most about it is its breathability and mesh material. It keeps my feet cool and well-ventilated even during the most intense of runs. Furthermore, I highly recommend it for the brand and style, which I’ll use (while looking great) in a LOT of runs this year.
- Versatile and can be used for runs AND other training
- Breathable and well-ventilated for hot days
- Can remove the outsole for orthotics
- Too padded for minimalist running, but can feel the ground a bit
- Not the best for wide feet, too narrow measurements
6. The Antimicrobial and Flexible: New Balance MT10V1 Minimus Trail Running Shoes
Do you plan on running on tough terrains and trails more? Then you’ll like the New Balance MT10V1 Minimus, a trail running shoe great for minimalist runners. What’s great about it is that it has the support and extra features that make it easy to maintain and run with.
For starters, it has an Acteva midsole and a thin cushion for beginners and trail runners. This lessens the pain or discomfort minimalist runners would usually feel when running on trails. Furthermore, it has the odor-resistant material which lessens the odor, great for those who deal with smelly feet.
- Has flex grooves outsoles for traction and good grip on trails
- Acteva midsole to shape your feet for better running posture
- The shaft is low-top from arch for good support
- Odor-resistant and reduces chances of your shoes smelling
- Shoes run small, need to order half a size up
- The horizontal strap goes over the shoe’s front, difficult to widen it
6 Best Minimalist Running Shoes For Women
1. The Natural and Low-Impact: Altra Lone Peak Trail Running Shoes
The Altra Lone Peak is made for minimalist runners who love the trail for its strength and resilience. It has a design that has your toes relax and spread out in comfort, a necessary feature for minimalist running! Because of that, it helps keep your feet stable as you go up or downhill, even during the tough terrains.
What makes this unique among the rest is its Fit4Her technology, which customizes its fit according to your shoe size. That way, you won’t have much of a problem with its size, fitting snugly and conforming to your feet’s weight as well.
- Custom-fit according to your foot size and width
- Designed for your toes to relax and position yourself naturally
- Encourages a low-impact form during runs for natural movement
- Made for trails, still has grounded feeling for minimalist runs
- May take some time getting used to the feel
- Doesn’t have a high enough arch for flat feet
2. The Bright and Simple: Newton Running Fate Shoes
The Newton Running Fate Shoes are one of the most affordable ones I appreciate. YES, you get what you pay for with running shoes, but this one still has great value. Granted, it’s a bit too padded for advanced minimalist runners, but enough for beginners.
With that said, I like its simple build. It comes without any of the frills, but still does its job in maintaining proper and natural posture as you run. If you’re a beginner minimalist runner on a budget, this one’s for you.
- Very strong and lightweight promotes natural running posture
- It comes at such an affordable price with good value
- Made with cute and bright colors great for night runs
- Mesh material for breathability and ventilation
- It has no arch support, not the best for flat feet
- Extra padding so you won’t get to feel the ground
3. The Bare and Cooling: Merrell Bar Access Arch Trail Running Shoes
Merrell is made for the trail and if you want the more grounded feel, you’ll like the Bare Access Arc. This trail running shoe has you feel the ground but still protects your feet from potential obstacles and pain.
It’s built with mesh and TPU upper, as well as the EVA sole and footbed for extra comfort wherever you run. All its materials are vegan-friendly, advantageous for anyone focusing on eco-friendliness. Besides this, it has reflective details for night running!
I recommend this for all beginner minimalist runners who love the trail.
- It has a larger toe box for wide or flat feet
- Has cushioning but soles aren’t too thick, great for minimalist runs
- Comes with high arch support to relieve pain and prevent injuries
- Runs big, so you need to order half a size down at least
- It will take a week or so to break the shoes in
4. The Smooth and Comfortable: ON Running Cloud Mesh Trainers
The ON Running Cloud Mesh Trainers are the best for beginners out there. Though considered as a men’s shoe, I love the dark shades and designs it has for women as well! It has the smooth and breathable fabrics and mesh, designed to help keep things comfortable despite feeling the ground during your runs.
I highly recommend it for the softer cushion and its cool designs. YES, it’s more cushioned than other minimalist shoes, but enough to get you started with your minimalist runs. Beginners will enjoy its looks and cushioning system before they transition to something thinner.
- Great arch support for plantar fasciitis and flat feet
- Help reduce soreness and protect your feet
- Many nice and colorful designs to choose from
- Too padded for advanced minimalist runners
- A bit more expensive compared to other shoes
5. The Snug and Lightweight: Merrell Vapor Glove Barefoot Trail Running Shoes
The Merrell Vapor Glove Trail Running Shoe does fit like a glove, keeping your feet snug and well-protected. It features the thinner yet sturdy material made to help you feel the ground without risk of injuring yourself from sharp objects and the like. It’s really mad for the barefoot-style trail runner, also having extremely breathable mesh material to feel like you aren’t wearing anything at all.
These are made for more advanced minimalist runners, especially if you run on tough terrains and trails!
- Close to barefoot-style running but with a thin layer of protection
- Made best for tough terrains to keep your feet blister-free
- Very breathable mesh upper
- Designed for natural running movement for better posture
- Has a very expensive price
- The upper lining isn’t as durable as its soles
6. The Pain-Free and Ideal: Vibram V Running Shoe
What I love about Vibram is its excellent quality in their minimalist shoes. It’s made with a unique toe design to encourage more natural movement around the area, which is important for better and pain-free movement. Besides this, it’s made with Vibram’s unique material, having the Vi-lite midsole and rubber outsole for comfort AND traction.
I also appreciate the fact that it’s made with a mix of stretchy mesh and polyester microfiber. It’s softer than most shoes but not as breathable. However, it’s bearable enough and I recommend it most for people already familiar with minimalist running for its thinner material.
- Comes with a convenient pull tab and cord for easy removal
- V-lite midsole and rubber outsole for comfort and grip
- Smooth fabric and good arch support for most runners
- Shoes run larger, you need to order half a size down
- Made best for intermediate minimalist runners, not beginners
About Minimalist Running
Minimalist running is running without shoes, or with shoes that have you feel the ground. It might seem very foreign to many, but it’s beneficial for ALL of us humans. This running style is now becoming more popular, loved by most people who have tried their hand at it (including me).
After all, our ancestors didn’t walk or run using running shoes as we have now. They ran barefoot, with us born to do the same! However, what makes it different is that we now run on different surfaces, having rocky roads and tracks, which affects the way we perform.
That’s where the minimalist running shoes come in to cushion the blow to an extent.
The Advantages of Using Minimalist Running Shoes
If minimalist running equates to running barefoot, why get shoes for it? These are the advantages of using minimalist running shoes to help you gauge if it’s worth a try:
Better Recovery Time
The typical running shoes cause your body to land on its heels, which is unnatural and can impair your balance. With minimalist running shoes, as long as you transition well, it can help avoid further stress from the heel shock. This prevents injuries and encourages better recovery from such injuries or the running burn!
Improved Running Economy
Running economy refers to the energy you need for a particular running velocity. It looks into the distance one can run when using certain amounts of energy.
For a better running economy, you need to reduce the energy used in braking, utilizing your oxygen consumption more. You can do this by increasing muscle stiffness, which can be improved with minimalist running shoes. This is because you land on your midfoot now, which produces more steps and enhances both storage and recovery of energy.
Strengthens Your Feet
Since you don’t lift your heels with minimalist or barefoot running shoes, it lessens the risk of Achilles tendinitis or calf strains. Minimalist runners report that their shoes increased their feet development and strength, with their muscles providing support around the arches.
That way, your muscles do NOT weaken and it also lessens chances of usual running injuries. It also helps with your posture as your body returns to a natural state when running, both upper and lower parts.
Maintain Natural Movements
One of the main reasons why people choose to begin minimalist running is for the natural movement. Runners who use regular shoes would produce heavy strides, which tire you out more.
Minimalist runners have shorter and quicker strides because you land on your midfoot, which is the natural movement. This makes it easier for you to keep going, enhancing both your speed and stamina.
The Disadvantages of Using Minimalist Running Shoes
- When you run, your body absorbs impact over eight times heavier than your body weight! Cushioning from running shoes help absorb some of that shock, which minimalist shoes can’t. This may lead to injuries from overusing your lower body
- Running shoes sometimes have stiff soles, which support and protect your plantar fascia. Without that support, minimalist shoes may pose a risk of plantar fasciitis
- It WILL take some time to go back to running the way you did with normal running shoes, taking months sometimes
- Not only are you prone to blisters at first, but minimalist shoes may not protect your feet as well as you need it to, especially from glass or trash around the streets
How to Choose the Best Minimalist Running Shoes
Not many people realize that to run well (whether “traditional” or as a minimalist), you have to have the correct footwear. But I know how confusing it must be selected from the many brands and shoe models available! With that said, it’s best to consider the following various important factors when selecting quality minimalist shoes for you:
What’s It Made Of?
There are different materials minimalist shoes are made of, such as:
- Silicone rubber is very thin and made best for training on tracks, not for the trail. I recommend this when running on soft surfaces, like grass
- Rubber composite has high-performance rubber and stretchable texture, which molds to your feet shape
- Synthetic materials are engineered to protect your feet well while still maintaining that grounded feel
Snug Size and Fit
You need to make sure that your shoes fit like a glove, securing your foot without TOO much extra space but without it feeling too tight and uncomfortable.
I recommend that you look at reviews, as some shoes are smaller or bigger despite it being your size. I also suggest that you try it on with your usual socks.
Do You Have Flat Feet?
If you have flat feet, then you’ll need better arch support and more stability to lessen the pain as you run. However, if you have under or overpronation, then you’ll require more side support to keep your feet comfortable.
Consider asking a medical professional for recommendations on what type of support you need for your minimalist running shoes.
Balance of Stability and Flexibility
Your chosen minimalist running shoe should have all the necessary features, not just one over the other. It should have a balance of various traits, such as good flexibility while still staying stable to ensure a safer run. It should also be lightweight and with a low drop, even having extra cushioning if you’re a beginner.
Good Grip For Most Surfaces
You can use your minimalist running shoes in most surfaces, such as trails or the field. With that said, you still have to make sure that it offers a better grip and traction as you run, which prevents any slips and falls. Rubber soles are your best bet when selecting minimalist rubber shoes to keep you running no matter where you go.
Breathability and Comfort
And of course, you’ll have to focus on your comfort as well, and not just through cushioning (if you’re a beginner). Minimalist running shoes should be lightweight AND made of breathable mesh material to allow your feet to breathe. It should also still keep your feet snug and protected from colder weather or puddles.
Tips on How to Begin Minimalist Running
You learned everything to know about minimalist running and the correct shoes to use, but how can you begin? Follow these five easy and effective tips to transition to minimalist running for a safe and fun time!
Slow and Steady Helps You
One of the worst mistakes many runners make is doing too much and going into it immediately. Minimalist running is different from using traditional shoes, you need to start gradually to prevent any pain and discouragement. I would transition my use of minimalist running shoes first (using it once or twice a week only for the first month) until I’m able to use the shoes in every run.
Always Stretch and Build Your Calf Strength
This is obvious, even for this who use traditional shoes! It’s important to stretch your entire body to prepare for a run, especially when you’re doing something new.
Besides that, build your calf strength, which helps improve your midfoot strike minimalist runners will now begin doing.
Practice Good Form
Your posture is extremely important, even more so than the running equipment you use. Be sure to practice and develop your running posture, with your shoes supporting that. Work on improving your cadence and the way you run, which prevents any injuries or discomfort.
Take Care Of Your Feet
Make sure that you look out for your feet as well and monitor it (and your body). Treat any blisters or small wounds immediately, also getting rest your feet and body need. After all, minimalist running can put your body to a shock for a while.
Practice By Walking Barefoot
I recommend that you begin walking around barefoot as much as possible, which also builds your foot strength. It also has you get used to running barefoot! You can try doing it at home if you can’t walk barefoot at work.
Learn more about minimalist running and how to begin with three easy and safe basic strides in this informative video:
Frequently Asked Questions on Minimalist Running
Besides what’s mentioned above, I want to share more on minimalist running! Here are other frequently asked questions related to it, asked by many readers and runners:
1. Can I run in the cold?
This depends on how your shoes are made since running in the cold is dangerous. If you want to run in the cold, then you’ll need minimalist shoes with good grip AND made of properties that still keep your feet warm. Do NOT run barefoot when it’s cold, as your feet would numb over, causing a lot of serious problems.
2. Who SHOULDN’T run in minimalist running shoes?
If you suffer from sensory loss around the feet shouldn’t run with minimalist shoes. They require specialized shoes to protect their feet. The same goes with those with foot deformities that affect their gait, or heavier individuals who will get shocked from heavier impact.
You should ask your doctor for advice before you begin running with minimalist shoes especially if you have certain conditions that affect your runs!
3. Where should I run?
Our feet are meant to run on harder surfaces, with our ancestors doing the same. However, you have to make sure that you run safely and on surfaces without any painful obstacles, like sharp rocks or trash lying around. Run-on clean and smoothly-paved surfaces like the track or developed roads and sidewalks, which prevent any injuries from what you may accidentally step on.
4. Will I have calloused feet after?
Honestly, expect that you WILL have calloused feet and blisters if you’re accustomed to running with traditional shoes. It will take time to adjust, especially if you’re still perfecting your form, reducing the friction on the ground and your feet. Give it a few weeks before the blisters and callouses disappear and your feet will be as smooth as it was before!
5. Can I add orthotics to my minimalist running shoes?
People shouldn’t add orthotics to their minimalist shoes, as it would defeat the concept and purpose of minimalist running. However, if you do need to add orthotic inserts, then I recommend that you get lighter minimalist shoes that are orthotic-friendly. This can help improve your biomechanics while still being able to go minimalist running.
Wrapping It Up
Minimalist running doesn’t need to be so intimidating with suitable shoes based on your individual needs. As long as you have good running shoes and acquaint yourself with how to properly begin minimalist running, you can reach your goals. Plus, your feet will thank you in the long run!
Of all the different types of minimalist running shoes tried and tested, I believe that the best one for men goes out to the Merrell Trail Glove Runner. It fits like a glove and as if you’re almost not wearing any shoe at all. Plus, it’s vegan-friendly with breathability in mind, huge considerations for many of us today.
As for women, I highly recommend the Altra Lone Peak Trail Running Shoe! It’s not exactly the absolute minimalist shoe, but it’s one of the comfiest. It encourages natural movement and relaxation without feeling any pain on the hard surfaces.
I hope this article on the best minimalist running shoes gave you an idea on what to invest in. So don’t wait any longer and begin looking into any of these shoes now!
If you have any questions or want to share your own experiences with minimalist running, then comment below. Your thoughts are much appreciated.