Our creative team in collaboration with professional sportspeople and highly-skilled podiatrists has researched the modern market of minimalist running shoes to find the best options for runners with different needs. So, each item of our top-10 is the winner in its category – all best of the best are gathered here in one list, just for you.
Minimalist running shoes have gained a wide popularity among runners these days. They are lightweight, comfortable; they guarantee a maximally natural (barefoot) in-shoe feel. But are they equally perfect for marathons and short races, people with normal feet and for those, who have some foot issues?
They’re not for everyone, but they might be for you.
So, if you want to buy an ideal minimalist running shoe that fits you personally, first figure out all “features” and “issues” of your feet. Are you an overpronator or have flat feet? Is the width normal or narrow? Any knee problems?
Also, don’t forget about the surface. Are you going to run outdoors or on a treadmill only? Or both?
As soon as you answer these questions, move towards our top-10 list to choose the perfect minimalist running shoes for you in 2018.
- Top 10 Best Minimalist Running Shoes
- Saucony Endorphin Racer 2 – Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Neutral Runners
- Inov-8 Terraclaw 220 – Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Road
- Mizuno Wave Hitogami 2 – Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Ultramarathon
- New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo – Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Flat Feet
- Newton MV3 – Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Wide Feet
- Nike Free Flyknit 4.0 – Best Minimalist Running Shoes for High Arches
- Vibram FiveFingers V-Trail – Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Treadmill
- Brooks Pure Cadence 6 – Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Over-Pronators
- On Cloud – Best Running Shoes for Heavy Runners with Wide Feet
- New Balance Minimus 10v4 – The Best Minimal Trail Running Shoes
- What Is A Minimalist Shoes?
- Is It Better For You To Run Barefoot?
- How to Choose the Best Minimalist Shoe?
Top 10 Best Minimalist Running Shoes
Saucony’s Endorphin Racer 2 was definitely built to go fast without weighing a runner down. Due to its minimalist zero heel-to-toe drop, this running shoe guarantees a good feel for the surface and protects the underfoot at the same time.
Comparing with the previous version of the Saucony Endorphin Racer, the second edition features only a single layer of mesh on the upper, which doesn’t add to the weight, but provides the foot with enough breathability and protection. Also, the midsole SSL EVA on the forefoot was replaced with an EVERUN, and the XT-LITE material with a PWRTRAC tacky rubber compound to improve this racing flat’s cushioning, responsiveness, traction, and durability.
Stuffed with up-to-date shoe technologies like EVERUN (for cushioning), FLEXFILM (for lightweight, seamless, and flexible feel), PWRTRAC (for traction and abrasion resistance), this racer is a good value for the money.
- Not true-to-size (get a half size bigger).
- Narrow toe box.
- The insoles are not removable.
- Not very durable on the lateral side.
Versatile, comfortable, and lightweight – what else can a runner dream about? Delivering an impressive grip and protection on a variety of surfaces, the Inov-8 Terraclaw 220 is meant to increase the performance on moderately technical trails.
Featuring the standard length and width, the Terraclaw 220 is a comfortable option for male and female sportspeople with medium and slightly wider feet.
The foot is kept cool, dry, and odor-free during the most exhausting races, which along with the lightweight minimalist construction of this shoe, makes it a favorite of most runners.
- Limited choice of colorways.
- Not appropriate for people with narrow and wide feet.
Mizuno Wave Hitogami 2 is not a 100% minimalist shoe – it has got a rather high drop (9 mm). However, if you’re looking for a minimalist shoe for long-distance races like an ultramarathon, tempo runs, or high-mileage training, this responsive support and lightweight comfort is exactly what you need.
Comparing with the previous version, this model has a more curved forefoot for better flexibility and toe spring. Also, it offers a cozier in-shoe feel due to the softer lining on the inside. Hitogami 2 really holds the foot down; it creates the responsiveness in the forefoot and the firmness in the ride – a good combo for picking up speed. The shoe is well-ventilated as well.
Are you on the edge between minimalist racers and regular running shoe? Mizuno Wave Hitogami 2 is the resolution! Still don’t believe? Check out all those great reviews on Amazon.
- Lack of color options.
- High drop.
- May need a break0in period.
- Issues with the durability of the upper are possible.
Why is the New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo so good for flat footed runners? – It’s not too minimalist (has a 4 mm drop), the sole is made of the Fresh Foam material, so that the shoe feels firmer and supports the foot against pronation, protects from injuries, and pushes your feet forward not to let them get tired quickly.
The mild stability, gradual and unobtrusive support, responsive ride, as well as good stretch and flexibility in right areas are packed into a rather attractive minimal design, which belongs to the lightweight category.
- Not true-to-size.
Today, it’s not a problem to find a shoe for speed races and short distance runs, but it is a problem to find such minimalist shoe for wide fit. And here it is – the resolution – the Newton MV3, available in different width, offering an impressive lightweight performance.
Minimalist design and 0 drop of this racer allow for a natural, efficient stride. The upper is made of well-ventilated mesh, which is also stretchable and supports the foot at the same time.
Energy release, responsive cushioning and shock absorption are offered thanks to midsole unit – it’s just meant for your easy pace.
- Issues with the outsole durability are possible.
- Lack of support in the heel.
The Nike Free Flyknit 4.0 is worthy to become a part of your running shoe arsenal, especially if you’re looking for a stylish minimalist running shoe for high arches (however, Nike Flyknit Racer also is a favorite of neutral runners).
The Flyknit Racer features narrow-to-medium width, allowing you to accustom the orthotics if needed. Cushioning, which is another essential of a running sneaker, is guaranteed by highly-responsive and lightweight midsole with full-length cushy foam. And, finally, great arch support and firm sole will make you feel super secure and comfy while doing the long-distance races in these stylish sneakers from Nike.
Nike Free Flyknit 4.0 is a catchy combo of perfect characteristics, wearing advantages, minimalism, and fantastic external design with an incredible amount of colorways available.
- High price.
- May feel a bit narrow.
- Issues with outsoles durability are possible.
Despite the Vibram’s FiveFingers V-Trail was designed as a multisurface minimalist running shoe, it’s not the best option for rocky roads and muddy areas, so the treadmill is an ideal space for these weirdos.
Megagrip compound on the outsole gives proper grip and durability, whatever the surface is. The 3D Coon technology delivers flexibility and steadiness. The midsole of this racer doesn’t consist of traditional foam units, however, it has a 2-mm EVA insole to soften the stride.
Polyester and Lycra, used in the upper, guarantee stretchy and breathable running experience, encouraging the natural movement of the feet.
- Look a bit weird.
- High price.
- Colors of the shoe may bleed and stain the foot.
- Require a break-in period.
- May feel a bit tight or narrow.
- Challenging on and off because of its unique foot-shaped design.
If you feel that your feet like roll inward when running, you need a pair of minimalist shoes that can handle overpronation. And Brooks Pure Cadence 6 is a decent choice.
Featuring a BioMogo DNA midsole, this sneaker gives the right amount of cushioning in the right areas of the foot. Also, the racer has a GuideRails technology, which significantly eases overpronating feet into a more secure position.
Unlike the previous version of the Brooks Pure Cadence, the 6th edition has a more subdued color scheme in shades of black and gray. Also, it’s more lightweight than its predecessor.
- Rather expensive.
- Issues with outsoles durability are possible.
- Not true-to-size (half size smaller).
- Feels a bit narrow in the mid-foot section.
- The stretchy laces are difficult to tighten.
The most unusual feature of this shoe is the midsole – it consists of separate “Clouds”, which are affixed to a flexible “speedboard”. These elements move individually to reduce the shock from every step. The separated nature of the On Cloud’s midsole makes it a great minimalist shoe for heavy runners, who usually have problems with finding an appropriate minimalist shoe.
Also, the On Cloud is available in different widths, so that you’re not gonna suffer from stiff and rubbing running sneakers again.
- Rather expensive.
- Durability issues are possible.
- Stones may become lodged in the tracks.
The New Balance Minimus 10v4 is a representative of the famous minimalist shoe family, loved by barefoot running fans. It’s close to the ground enough to let you feel every single step and control your speed and performance but still properly cushioned in the right places to keep your feet safe, preventing them from strains and injuries.
This model looks rather appealing, without sacrificing the durability of the upper, which is made of breathable and stretchable synthetic mesh. And the seamless construction invests in the stylish external design and the minimalist look of the racer.
RevLite foam technology is a high-quality material that runs the entire length of the New Balance Minimus 10v4. Its effect is enhanced due to the properly padded foam footbed on the inside of the shoe.
The perfect construction of this racer allows using it both on and off road – versatility would never hurt. If you want to take on the trails with ease and comfort, the lightweight minimalist Minimus 10v4 from the New Balance is exactly what you need.
- Not true-to-size.
- The platform is rather high as for the minimalist shoe.
- Lack of stability in the heel section.
- Narrow toe box may rub against the toes uncomfortably.
What Is A Minimalist Shoes?
Every time when you are going to take up some sport or any physical exercises, don’t forget about the importance of the shoes you’ll use. The necessity of the correct selection of sports footwear for running (as well as for all other exercises) has been proved by all doctors and sports instructors. However, sometimes it may be confusing to choose the best pair of running shoes from the variety of the same ones.
The name of minimalist shoes speaks for itself. Unfortunately, some misunderstanding with definitions occurs when people discuss what a minimalist shoe is. Before choosing the minimalist shoes for running, let‘s figure out the proper explanation of the minimalist shoes meaning.
Minimalist shoes are considered to be the ones, which provide minimal interference with the natural movement of the foot. The main aim of these shoes is to create possible running conditions, which closely resemble barefoot running. Thus, minimalist shoes are the shoes, possessing the following characteristics:
- high flexibility
- low heel to toe drop
- low weight
- low stack height
- the absence of motion control and stability devices
To define how minimalist shoes are there is such a notion as a “Minimalist Index”, which is able to score the degree of “minimalist shoes”, using the scale of 0 to 100. However, you don’t need to calculate the results for each pair of shoes by yourself. As a rule, all popular companies have a detailed review and description of all their shoes.
In general understanding, it’s possible to distinguish two groups or types of minimalist shoes:
- minimalist shoes
- barefoot shoes
Minimalist running shoes represent something in-between traditional running shoes and barefoot running shoes. While barefoot running shoes have no drop from heel to toe and arch support, minimalist running shoes are characterized by reduced drop from heel to toe, reduced cushioning and arch support. As for the toe box, it’s wide in barefoot running shoes to provide more space to the toes; toe box of minimalist running shoes is in-between barefoot and traditional ones.
Why is it better to choose minimalist shoes for running?
The usefulness of minimalist shoes for running is reflected in the fact that this type of running shoes may lead to the following results:
- the changing of your stride
- the reduction in your impact forces
- the lowering of different injury risks
Is It Better For You To Run Barefoot?
Before answering the question if it’s better to run barefoot, let’s consider the peculiarities, connected with running in shoes and without any footwear:
- the most important role of any type of shoes (including sports ones) is to protect our feet on some courses
- shoes give us more support
- during running shoes partially absorb the extra pressures, which can be created, for example, by highly arched feet
- sometimes running shoe over-supports our feet (our feet cannot do what they are designed to do)
- It’s evident that there are different opinions as for barefoot running and running in footwear. Is there any possible solution for those, who are engaged in the running process? Of course, yes – minimalist running shoes.
The main goal of all minimalist shoes for running is to allow more sensory contact for your feet on the ground, and, in addition, provide your feet with some protection from ground hazards and conditions. Apart from the advantages of using minimalist shoes when running, which were mentioned above, there are also some others:
- more flexibility when hitting the pavement or the trail (thin soles will help you to develop a better response while the elasticity will decrease foot fatigue)
- improved performance of a runner (less cushioning and independence from technical features provide better stability as well as more ground contact)
- decreased pressure from the body (as a rule, heel striking causes the high pressure from the body)
- less energy consumption (the lightness of minimalist running shoes reduces the use of energy compared to traditional running shoes, and encourages the natural foot springs and muscles to store and discharge energy)
Despite all the advantages of running in minimalist shoes, some people still ask if it’s better to run barefoot for them or not. Some experts think that if you haven’t had any difficulties or injuries and run regularly, you don’t have to follow the tendency to run barefoot. But if you suffer from such problems as shin splints or you don’t have a proper running style, then you should try to run barefoot. When you run barefoot (here we mean running in minimalist shoes), your alignment is better and you run more from your core.
How to Choose the Best Minimalist Shoe?
When it comes to the choice of the best minimalist shoes, it’s important to remember that the beauty of such shoes shouldn’t play any role at all here. You already know that running exercises demand more practical criteria for the selection of running shoes. As it was mentioned above, minimalist shoes for running have to have reduced cushioning, thin soles and lighter weight than other types of running shoes.
However, these are general characteristics, which are unlikely to help you to choose the ideal pair of minimalist running shoes. Thus, the following characteristics of best minimalist shoes for running should be taken into your consideration:
- heel to toe drop
- structure and motion control
It doesn’t matter what kind of running you prefer. In any case, the weight of your running shoes is very important. Platforms with the light weight don’t drag a runner down as well as facilitate minimalist running. It’s the best variant if your running shoes weigh less than 125 grams.
A low drop from heel to toe is very important for better ground contact. The ideal variant is when your running shoes have less than 1-millimeter heel to toe drop.
The structure of minimalist running shoes should be minimal to imitate barefoot running. The more technologies included in the shoes the less motion control is represented here.
It’s a really good variant when the sole of your shoes for barefoot running has less than 8-millimeter thickness. It’s enough for enhanced proprioception and balance, but good enough for absorbing shock.
The flexibility of good minimalist shoes should be of two types: the flexibility when you press from the heel and toe, and the one, which defines how much you can twist your shoes when turning your toe in one direction and the heel in another one.
The barefoot running is a very popular, it is considered to be more effective than running in traditional sports footwear. Unfortunately, for most people, such words as “barefoot running” are read literally. However, really effective and useful “barefoot running” doesn’t mean that you have to run without any footwear at all. Nowadays, a lot of footwear companies have developed perfect minimalist shoes for so-called “barefoot running”.
There is no one ideal minimalist running shoe that suits every runner’s needs, however, there are leaders in different categories of minimalist running sneakers.
It may become a great challenge to choose the right pair of minimalist running shoes, which will be suitable exactly for you. Although, having searched all the variety of shoes for running, we can say that there is no any ideal and universal variant of minimalist shoes for everybody. It’s up to you to decide what shoes are better to use when running. However, there are universal rules, which are suitable for everybody when choosing good footwear for running. Follow simple steps, and you’ll improve your running performance and results!