The minimalist shoes trend may not be at quite the frenzied pitch it reached a few years ago, but it’s still a worthwhile option if you’re looking for a different way to run. The slightly cooler minimalist shoes market of 2019 is easier to navigate and has a higher average quality than the booming market of a few years ago, making it easier to find the best minimalist shoes out there for your personal needs.

If you’re looking to get into minimal running and want to know which minimalist shoes are the best, we’re here to help you find the right pair of shoes for you and your needs, no matter how you’re used to running or how much experience you have with minimalist running practices. We’ve done all of the research and testing, so you don’t have to, narrowing down the market of minimalist running shoes to find the 10 best minimalist shoes out there in 2019 for you.

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  • Vibram outer sole
  • Odor resistant
  • Anti-microbially treated interior
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  • Durable rubber outer sole
  • Mesh upper
  • Zero drop
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  • Boost cushioned rubber soles
  • Breathable upper
  • Wide range of colors available

Below, you can find our minimalist shoes reviews, in which we break down the major features of our top 10 minimalist shoes to help you understand the unique strengths, weaknesses, and quirks of each pair of minimalist shoes on our list. Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently buy the right pair of minimalist shoes for your running needs, certain that you’re making the right decision.

View the Best Minimalist Shoes, Below.

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1. New Balance MT10V1 Minimus

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The New Balance MT10V1 Minimus minimalist shoes are sturdy, lightweight minimalist running shoes with a number of handy features to boost your comfort and running performance. The Vibram outer sole is designed for minimal slope between the heel and toe of the shoe, and features flex grooves for added traction and grip on rocky, rough trails.

The insole is supported with premium lightweight foam and has been treated with an antimicrobial treatment to reduce odor and the risk of foot infection from extensive, intense running. It’s worth noting that the sizes of the New Balance Minimus shoe tend to run a little on the small end, so take this into account when buying in order to achieve the best and most comfortable fit possible from this pair of minimalist shoes.

Why We Like It

  • Vibram outer sole
  • Odor resistant
  • Anti-microbially treated interior
  • 100% synthetic and mesh construction
  • Flex grooves for grip

Our Verdict

Lightweight and comfortable, the New Balance MT10V1 Minimus minimalist shoe offers great performance and a little more support than many minimalist shoes, making it a great beginner option for those just getting used to minimal running.

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2. Altra Lone Peak 3 Mid Neo Running Shoes

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The Altra Lone Peak 3 Mid Neo Running Shoes are minimalist shoes that are a little larger and more durable than many other types of minimalist running shoe. These minimalist shoes borrow liberally from the design cues of sturdy walking boots, featuring a stronger upper surface and minor ankle support for a sturdier, more supportive piece of footwear than most minimalist shoes.

The sole is made from a durable rubber with a heavily textured surface for strong grip on rough terrain, and the interior of the shoe’s base is made from EVA foam for comfort and strength. The most important minimalist feature of this shoe, however, is the zero drop from heel to toe, making this a completely flat shoe for minimalist running.

Why We Like It

  • Durable rubber outer sole
  • Mesh upper
  • Zero drop
  • EVA foam midsole
  • Strapless gaiter attachment points

Our Verdict

Durable and sturdy like a walking boot, but lightweight and natural like a barefoot shoe, the Altra Lone Peak 3 Mid Neo Running Shoes offer a great mid point between the two approaches to footwear.

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3. TSLA Knit Pattern Sports Running Shoes

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The TSLA Knit Pattern Sports Running Shoes are exceptionally lightweight and durable minimalist shoes designed for gym wear and running on flat urban or indoor surfaces. The sole is made from boost cushion rubber to reduce impact shocks without compromising on the sensory advantages of minimalist shoes, while the upper is made from breathable textile knit mesh, keeping your feet cool and comfortable even during longer and more intense runs.

These shoes are available in a range of vibrant and attractive colors, making it easy to find a pair to fit with whatever your running outfit may be and keeping you looking sharp while you run.

Why We Like It

  • Boost cushioned rubber soles
  • Breathable upper
  • Wide range of colors available
  • Lightweight
  • Flexible

Our Verdict

Brighter and more vibrant than many other brands of minimalist shoe, the TSLA Knit Pattern Sports Running Shoes are made from colorful knit mesh, making them vibrant, fun, and highly breathable.

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4. Xero Shoes Prio

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Lightweight and flexible, the Xero Shoes Prio minimalist running shoes are designed for high performance without cutting back on comfort or protection for your feet as you run. Designed with zero drop from heel to toe, these minimalist shoes keep your feet low to the ground, boosting your balance and agility beyond what’s possible from regular running shoes.

The soles of these minimalist shoes are made from FeelTrue flexible rubber, giving a high level of traction against the ground as well as impressive stimulation and feedback, letting you feel the surface beneath your feet clearly for maximized control and balance while you run. It’s worth noting that the sizes of the Xero Shoes Prio tend to run a little small, so buying half a size larger than your normal shoe size is recommended when considering a new pair of these minimalist shoes.

Why We Like It

  • Zero drop
  • FeelTrue flexible sole
  • Low to the ground
  • Lightweight
  • High traction sole

Our Verdict

Xero Shoes Prio minimalist shoes offer a great natural feel in your running experience while maintaining a relatively high level of protection. These are among the best minimalist shoes available.

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5. Vibram FiveFingers Kso Evo Fitness

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Disconcerting though their glove like five finger design may be, the Vibram FiveFingers Kso Evo Fitness minimalist shoes are well designed for maximizing the natural feel possible from barefoot minimalist running shoes. The separate toe pockets allow for more horizontal flexibility across your feet, increasing the benefits to your balance and sense of stability when running.

The flexible Vibram rubber sole offers good traction and exceptional flexibility, making this a great option for cross training, while the lightweight upper is comfortable and breathable even during intense exercise. In addition to this, all of the materials from which the Vibram Five Fingers Kso Evo Fitness running shoes are made are machine washable at cold temperatures, making this an exceptionally easy pair of minimalist shoes to maintain at peak performance.

Why We Like It

  • Five finger design
  • Flexible Vibram rubber sole
  • Light padding
  • Optimized for cross training
  • Machine washable

Our Verdict

An easy to maintain, high performance training shoe option, the Vibram FiveFingers Kso Evo Fitness minimalist shoes are a low pressure pair of CrossFit shoes that require minimal effort to look after and keep at their maximum performance.

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6. Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker

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Designed for hiking and walking as well as running, the Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker shoes are lightweight and flexible, offering a high level of versatility and high performance in a wide range of different applications. Its dual chevron sole shape offers excellent grip on a wide range of surfaces, while the thin, flexible FeelTrue rubber sole is, at 6mm in depth, thin enough to allow an excellent level of stimulation and sensory perception of the ground beneath your feet.

In addition to this, the insole can be fully removed to further reduce the barriers between your feet and the ground, giving further sensory advantages at the cost of a little comfort and padding. The uppers of the shoes are made from water resistant ballistic mesh to keep your feet cool but dry, while the toes are covered with a sturdy Tough Tech bumper to protect your toes from impact and injury while hiking on treacherous terrain.

Why We Like It

  • Lightweight
  • Zero drop
  • Water resistant
  • Tough toe bumper
  • Thin and flexible FeelTrue sole

Our Verdict

Simple and lightweight, the Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker minimalist shoes offer a naturalistic yet comfortable experience that makes them a great choice for walking on rough, difficult terrain in any environment.

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7. Nike Free Rn 2017

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While there is much debate over whether the Nike Free Rn 2017 even qualifies as a proper minimalist shoe, it is enough of a minimalist running shoe for our purposes. Offering a low drop sole for a more naturalistic posture, as well as lightweight construction, thin soles for sensory benefits, and a relatively wide toe box, the Nike Free Rn 2017 is built with a number of features typical of minimalist shoes.

These shoes also, however, feature a number of design traits more familiar from regular running shoes, such as a little more support and sturdier construction. These shoes are functionally a hybrid between the two styles of running shoes, offering the benefits of both in a package that’s great for entry level users who want to start reaping some of the benefits of minimalist running.

Why We Like It

  • Lightweight
  • Strong rubber sole
  • Breathable mesh upper
  • Comfortable padding
  • Durable construction

Our Verdict

A great halfway point between minimalist running shoes and more typical trainers, the Nike Free Rn 2017 offers several of the benefits of minimalist shoes in a sturdier and less unusual package.

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8. Saucony Kinvara 8 Runshield

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The Saucony Kinvara 8 Runshield is a distinctive and stylish minimalist shoe with bright, vibrantly colored soles that promise to stand out in any environment. As well as looking sharp, however, these minimalist shoes offer a number of high quality design features to boost your running performance on any surface from indoor floors to outdoor trail running.

The sole is made from sturdy rubber with excellent grip and traction for rougher surfaces, while the flex shell upper offers a high level of durability and breathability to keep your feet safe and comfortable while you run, as well as a water resistant coating to protect your feet from rain and other moisture hazards outdoors. This is a comfortable and protective pair of minimalist shoes for high running performance in any situation.

Why We Like It

  • Strong rubber sole
  • Low top
  • Water resistant upper
  • Cushioning EVERUN topsole
  • Internal compression straps

Our Verdict

Vibrant and flexible, the Saucony Kinvara 8 Runshield Running Shoe is a high performance minimalist shoe that’s great for running on any surface, offering good support and protection as well as a naturalistic running experience.

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9. Merrell Bare Access 4 Trail Running Shoes

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The Merrell Bare Access 4 Trail Running Shoes are high quality minimalist shoes designed for safety and security when running on rough surfaces and treacherous trails outdoors in any weather and visibility conditions. Featuring reflective details to increase your visibility in low light conditions, these shoes are great for outdoor running in poor conditions.

The strong, flexible Vibram rubber sole allows a high level of sensory feedback from the ground below your feet, as well as offering great traction for running on any surface. The midsole uses an M BOUND design to return as much energy as possible from impacts against the ground, boosting your speed and performance and helping you to run as smoothly and comfortably as possible.

Why We Like It

  • Vibram rubber sole
  • Reflective details
  • Zero drop
  • M BOUND energy returning midsole
  • Breathable upper

Our Verdict

A high performance outdoor trail running shoe, the Merrell Bare Access 4 Trail Running Shoes are excellent minimalist shoes for outdoor use, boosting your performance while helping to keep you and your feet safe from accidents while you run.

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10. VIVOBAREFOOT Primus Trail FG

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Durable and exceptionally lightweight, the VIVOBAREFOOT Primus Trail FG minimalist shoes are the closest to full barefoot shoes on our list. These minimalist shoes feature a sole that is strong yet flexible, allowing a high level of sensory feedback from the terrain beneath your feet and boosting your sense of balance and stability as you run. The lightweight mesh uppers are breathable for comfort when running, as well as being slightly waterproof.

They’re not fully waterproof shoes, but these minimalist shoes offer enough water resistance to keep you dry when splashed by a puddle, for example; more resistance than many other models of minimalist running shoe. These are more lightweight than most competing models of minimalist shoes, reducing the load on your feet and helping you to feel light, barefoot, and natural when you run.

Why We Like It

  • Sturdy off road sole
  • Breathable upper
  • Protective ankle collar
  • Light water resistance
  • Vegan construction

Our Verdict

The VIVOBAREFOOT Primus Trail FG minimalist shoes are exceptionally lightweight and stripped down, offering an almost barefoot running experience with almost no weighing down of your feet while you run.

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Minimalist Shoes Buyer’s Guide

Drop

Most minimalist shoes are described in terms of “drop,” but if you’re wondering what “drop” and specifically “zero drop” might mean, you’re not alone. Fortunately, it’s actually relatively simple to explain. Most pairs of running shoes feature a gradient from heel to toe in which the toe of the shoe is lower than the heel, often by approximately 10mm.

Minimalist shoes reduce this drop as far as possible, ranging from about 4mm of drop in larger and sturdier pairs of minimalist shoes to zero drop shoes and barefoot running shoes, which tend to be completely flat, with the toes resting at the same height as the heels. This changes your standing posture and running gait, providing the distinctive benefits of minimalist running shoes.

What are Minimalist Running Shoes?

Minimalist shoes are designed for a running or walking experience closer to that of running or walking barefoot. They are more lightweight than most running shoes and have thinner soles and reduced padding, allowing you to feel the ground beneath your feet more closely while still protecting your feet from injury. There are a number of different minimalist running shoe designs available, although most fall into two main categories.

Most commonly, there are regular minimalist running shoes. These have a minimal drop from heel to toe, sloping down only 4 to 8 mm from end to end, and have very little cushioning or arch support and reduced toe protection.
Alternatively, barefoot running shoes are available. Barefoot shoes offer an even more naturalistic running and walking experience with no drop whatsoever from heel to toe, and an even thinner sole.

They also have wider toe boxes to allow for more toe movement and flexibility. These are rarer designs than regular minimalist shoes, and often have individual toes shaped into the end of the shoes.

How to Run in Minimalist Shoes?

The experience of running in minimalist shoes can be unexpectedly different from that of running in regular running shoes, as the different construction and reduced padding can change everything from the feel of the ground beneath your feet to your gait as you run. The different running experience of minimalist shoes can take a while to get used to, but there are a few tips we can offer to help you acclimate to your new style of shoes as quickly as possible.

First, get used to how they feel on your feet. Walk around in your minimalist shoes for a while before you begin to run in order to help your feet get used to the shoes. Then, start by running on soft surfaces such as grass for a short distance. After that, it’s time to get used to running properly. Try to land on the balls of your feet rather than your heel for the best barefoot running gait.

Take shorter strides than you might be used to, and attempt to feel gentle and relaxed rather than like you’re pounding your feet down hard against the ground. It can take a while to get used to this and to let your muscles stretch properly and get used to the extra work, so start by running short distances before slowly and gradually working up to longer distances. Don’t be afraid to take things slowly and gently for a while!

What are the Benefits of Minimalist Running Shoes?

Minimalist running shoes give a more naturalistic running or walking experience closer to that of running or walking barefoot than to running in regular shoes. This gives more sensory contact between the foot and the ground, allowing you to feel the surface beneath your feet closely while still protecting your feet from damage and hazards.

Minimalist shoes can help to improve foot strength and arch functioning if worn regularly for running or walking, as the reduced support forces your muscles and ligaments to work harder as well as increasing your balance and sensory perception. They also encourage a different running gait that is more biomechanically efficient, boosting your running performance, especially in long distance running.

Expert Tip

Diving into minimalist running without proper precautions can lead to injury if you’re not careful. Always make sure you stretch properly before a run and start with short distances before easing slowly into longer runs.

Did you know?

There’s a wide range of different options available in between full-blown barefoot minimalist shoes and traditional trainers. If barefoot shoes aren’t for you, you may be able to find something in between that fits your needs better!

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