Best Minimalist Running Shoes

Did you know that barefoot running is still a thing in Kenya today? And by barefoot running, we mean no shoes at all. Did you also know that a certain Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia won the Olympic marathon running barefoot? Barefoot running today, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you must run while barefoot. With technological advances in the shoe wear industry, there are now more running shoes designed to make you feel as natural or as barefoot as possible on the road, on a trail and even while on a race. And if you’re thinking of transitioning from regular running to barefoot running, what you need is the best minimalist running shoes available in the market today.

Best Minimalist Running Shoes – Comparison Table

We’ve done the research, scouted the market and compared as many pairs of minimalist running shoes from different brands. Whether you’re cross-training, trail running or racing, we’ve found seven pairs of shoes that are the best in the minimalist footwear department. Below is a table of the best minimalist running shoes for a quick comparison:

Product Name
Vibram Men's Bikila EVOMesh/Rubber Sole4.3 oz.Zero drop
Nike Men's Free 5.0Synthetic/Mesh/Rubber Sole9.0 oz.8mm
New Balance Men's MX20BS4 Cross MinimusSynthetic/Synthetic Sole6.9 oz.4 mm drop
Mizuno Men's Wave Hitogami 2Synthetic/Synthetic Sole7.9 oz.8.9 mm
Merrell Men's Trail Glove 3Fabric/Synthetic/Rubber Sole7.0 oz.Zero drop
Inov-8 F-lite 195Synthetic/Rubber Sole7.0 oz.3 mm
Altra Men's Superior 2 Synthetic/Rubber Sole8.7 oz.Zero drop

We hope you will find our table of the best minimalist running shoes in March 2018 shown above helpful. We’ll now move on to the reviews of the shoes.


Vibram Men's Bikila EVO Road Running Shoe – Best Barefoot Running Shoes

Topping our list of the top minimalist running shoes is this innovative Vibram Bikila EVO Road Running Shoe. Developed by Vibram, a respectable and trusted brand that pioneered the first rubber sole on a pair of boots, it’s no surprise that the Bikila EVO is getting rave reviews from runners transitional from traditional to minimalist running. The new Vibram Bikila EVO has been redesigned with thinner but durable foam and less of the outsole rubber. This means that the running shoes is not only lighter but also more flexible. This is minimalist design at its fines.

You’ll enjoy the benefits of minimalist shoes experience a more natural run and better connection with your environment while still getting a bit more cushioning and comfort for your feet. It is a fine choice for neutral runners who love to run on the road.

  • Lighter than its predecessors
  • More flexible with a bit more cushioning
  • Quick lace up
  • Ideal for light trail runs
  • Size is a little off

Nike Men's Free 5.0 Running Shoe – Most Comfy Minimalist Running Shoes

Another pair that will make you enjoy running with minimalist shoes is the Nike Free 5.0 Running Shoe, which was previously named Free Run+ 3. If you’re looking for just the right combination of lightweight, comfort and cushioning, the Nike Free 5.0 is an excellent choice. While not as lightweight as other minimalist shoes, it may look bulkier but it doesn’t feel bulky at all. But what really sets this apart from other options and from previous Nike models is its bendy sole. It’s also flexible enough perfect for short runs, regular runs and walking. Because of its stylish design, the shoes are even great for casual wear.

  • More underfoot platform than previous models
  • Flexible and ultra-comfortable
  • Stylish design
  • Super lightweight
  • Not the best arch support

New Balance Men's MX20BS4 Cross Minimus Training – Best for Multi-Purpose Training

When it comes to minmalist shoes for men or women, one of the brands that always top the game is New Balance. The minimus shoes series, in particular, is very popular among barefoot runners. One of the new balance minimalist running shoes that has consistently maintained an impressive 4.3 rating on Amazon is the New Balance MX20BS4 Cross Minimus Training Shoe. There are even some minimalist shoe reviews for this pair that claims it’s better than other minimus shoes.

If you have heavy feet and you want to feel more natural as you cross train or run, this new balance minimalist shoes is one we recommend. While originally designed for cross-training, this minimus pair from New Balance can hold up to your minimalist running needs too. This means that you don’t really need two types of shoes for cross training and running.

  • Lightweight and low impact
  • Glove-like fit
  • Ideal for multi-purpose training and exercise
  • Some quality and durability issues
  • Not the best arch support
  • Small and narrow

Mizuno Men's Wave Hitogami 2 Running Shoe – Best for Long Distance Runs

Did you know that the predecessor to Mizuno Wave Hitogami 2 won the award for the Best Debut Award for 2014? It follows that the expectations are pretty high for the Wave 2. If we are only to look at many of the running shoe reviews 2016 for this newest Wave Hitogami, there are mixed opinions especially on the new upper. For those who loved the shoe, they really loved it.

To improve on the Wave Hitogami 1, this mizuno minimalist running shoe is more lightweight and breathable. It’s not the most minimalist compared with other barefoot shoes but it does offer better support, snappier toe-off and all in all comfortable feel. The Wave Hitogami is best for races and long distance runs.

  • Comfort and custom fit
  • Breathable design
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Ideal for races and distance runs
  • High drop
  • Only 4 colour options
  • Not the most stylish design

Merrell Men's Trail Glove 3 Minimal Trail Running Shoe – Most Minimalist Trail Running Shoes

If you’re looking for the best trail running shoes for men 2016 that’s also very minimalist in style, look no further than the Merrell Men’s Trail Glove 3. Designed with ultralight uppers, the merrell shoes will fit your feet like a glove. With incredible fit comes the best comfort while you’re hitting the road, the trail or any other exciting running terrains. Add to that the quick lacing system and you’ve got yourself a pal for all your trail and minimalist running exercises.

The merrell shoes is the not the most lightweight but it offers just the right balance of glove-like fit, excellent traction and impressive ground feeling. With zero drop, your feet gets as close to the ground as possible, which is what minimalist running is really about. The best part, it’s lightweight but it also offers sufficient cushioning compared with other minimal shoes.

  • Excellent and confident grip
  • Fits like a glove
  • Enhanced stability
  • Ultra-lightweight with zero drop
  • Too narrow for some users
  • Not ideal for wide feet
  • Sizing confusion

Inov-8 F-lite 195 Cross-Training Shoe – Best Minimalist Shoes for Advanced Runners

If you’re not new to barefoot minimalist running, the Inov-8 F-lite 195 Cross-Training Shoe is an advanced top minimalist shoes you can buy. While this is not originally designed for cross-training, the minimal shoes has gained popularity in the CrossFit world because of the natural movement it offers your foot. What sets it apart from other minimalist footwear is the support the sole offers. Even if you lift weights, perform extreme workouts or run, it will still be able to give you the support that you need.

It’s not all praises and positive minimalist shoe reviews for the Inov-8 F-lite 195 however. One of its drawbacks is when it comes to foot protection. Because the shoes is designed to be more lightweight, foot protection was compromised. This means that the shoe will wear out faster with constant use especially for cross training.

  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Wider fit available
  • Incredibly flexible and versatile
  • Ideal for advanced athletes and runners
  • Not the most durable
  • Poor foot protection

Altra Men's Superior 2 Running Shoe – Best Cushioned Minimalist Running Shoes

Love trail running and doing it the minimalist way? The Altra Superior 2 Running Shoe is an award-winning shoe for good reasons. Majority of trail running shoe reviews about the Altra Superior 2 only have good things to say. As this version has been updated, durability has been improved. But it’s really the combination of excellent cushioning and great traction that sets this pair apart from the competition. Of the number of zero drop running shoes in the market, this one is a favorite among trail and barefoot runners.

Living up to its name, the Altra Superior 2.0 has a lot of superior features to offer. From the fully cushioned zero drop platform to the TrailClaw outsole and Innerflex midsole, the running shoes was thoughtfully designed for runners who want the speed without compromising comfort. Whether you’re out hiking, off-road running or racing, the Altra Superior 2.0 delivers a natural experience you’ll barely feel you have any shoes on. This one we highly recommended if you’re looking for low profile and lightweight with the best cushioning.

  • Lightweight
  • Wide toe box
  • Great cushioning
  • Exceptional traction
  • Better durability
  • Sizing confusion
  • Too narrow on heel area

Best Minimalist Running Shoes - Buyer's Guide

While barefoot running is not something new, the minimalist running technique has gained impressive popularity in recent years. Along with the ride are barefoot minimalist shoes that exploded in the market and are currently dominating the running shoe industry. It’s no longer just about buying the best running shoes there is but more so about finding the best running-specific shoes to suit your minimal running needs.

In the case of barefoot running, what you need is the best minimalist running shoes that will offer perfect fit for your feet. There are two main types of minimalist footwear: barefoot running shoes and minimalist running shoes.

Why barefoot or minimalist running?

Before we get to the heart of shopping for a minimalist shoes for women or men, let’s first look at some of minimalist running benefits that may change the way you run. A Harvard study showed that barefoot running may allow runners to land more comfortably and safely as opposed to regular running where you wear the best trail running shoes, for instance, with cushioning, elevated heels and likely more weight.

With barefoot running training, the top minimalist shoes are lightweight with minimal cushion and are made in a way that it will provide minimal interference with your feet’s natural movement. This does not necessarily mean that you’ll run faster or you’ll experience less injury when you’re wearing barefoot minimalist shoewear but it does mean that you can enjoy running barefoot benefits like:

  • Develop a more natural gait
  • Learn to land on your forefoot rather than on the heel
  • Improve balance with proper barefoot running technique posture
  • Stay more in sync with your running environment

Like other sports, there are barefoot running pros and cons to consider. We’ve mentioned the pros above. As for the cons, it’s important to remember that transitioning to barefoot running exercises takes time and it’s not for everyone. The first time you wear a saucony minimalist shoes or a brooks minimalist shoes, for example, you’ll experience quite a shock on your feet.  It will get some getting used to before you can truly enjoy the benefits of minimalist shoes.

How to shop for a minimalist shoe?

Because minimalist running shoes for women and men are built differently than typical running shoes, there are also a set of different factors to look at when shopping for this type of running-specific minimalist footwear.

If we’re going to look at the best minimalist running shoes 2015, 2016 or even the previous years, there are common denominators that make an ideal minimalist running shoes. These factors include the following:


Ideally, the top minimalist running shoes should weigh less than 4.4 oz. and no more than 11.5 oz.

Stack height

In order to experience the most natural running experience, your minimalist footwear’s stack height, which is the sole thickness at the center of the heel, should be as minimal as possible. The ideal stack height is less than 8mm and no more than 32 mm.

Heel to toe drop

Most options in the top 10 minimalist running shoes list you’ll find in most minimalist blogs include pairs with heel to toe drop less than 1 millimeter and no more than 13mm. There are even pairs with zero drop.


There are two types of shoe flexibility to consider. One is the longitudinal flexibility which is the shoe’s flexibility when folded up from heel to toe. The other is torsional flexibility which is the level of flexibility when you twist the shoe.

Toe box

When you run, your feet usually bend in all directions. An ideal toe running shoes should let your feet do that. Look for a pair with wide toe box to allow stability, balance and of course, comfort.

At this point, there are no conclusive evidence that one factor may be more important than the other. For now, finding the right balance between the aforementioned factors is a good start.


From xero sandals to brooks minimalist running shoes, barefoot hiking shoes, merrell barefoot hiking shoes and the variety of men’s minimalist running shoes we’ve detailed above, there are plenty of choices available under the minimalist footwear category. There is no one best pair for everyone. When shopping, the most important thing to remember is to achieve what minimal shoes should offer in the first place and that is minimal interference with the natural movement of your feet. With that in mind, are you ready to buy your minimalist shoes and enjoy the benefits barefoot running?