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Best Minimalist Running Shoes: Choosing The Right Pair for Your Fitness Journey

Best Minimalist Running Shoe
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

First we learn to crawl, then walk, and eventually we’re running everywhere. In fact, some people do it as a regular part of their daily routine. However, there’s much to be said about running, especially when it comes to the comfort of our feet. And that means investing in running shoes that can get the job done.

But the market is flooded with overpriced, clunky shoes that weigh your feet down more than they actually help, and that’s why more and more people are turning to looking at the best minimalist running shoes in order to keep their feet comfortable.

Minimalist Running Shoe in action

So what do you look for in a pair? Confused by all the features, styles, and functionality of these special shoes? We’re here to make it easier for you to sort out so that you’re not walking in circles in the shoe store. We’ll discuss the features you should be looking for and recommend a few products for you to consider so that you’re aware of what’s out there during your shopping experience.

NameSupportCushionPrice
Tesla Men's ShoeLow SupportMid CushionCheck price on Amazon
INOV-8 Men's F-Lite 235Mid SupportHigh CushionCheck price on Amazon
Merrel Men's Vapor Glove 2 Running ShoeLow SupportLow CushionCheck price on Amazon
Vibram Men's KSO Evo Cross Training ShowLow SupportLow CushionCheck price on Amazon
Vibram Fivefingers Women's Running ShoeLow SupportMid CushionCheck price on Amazon
Under Armour Men's G Monza Running ShoesMid SupportHigh CushionCheck price on Amazon
New Balance Men's 10V4 Trail ShoeMid SupportMid CushionCheck price on Amazon
INOV-8 Men's F-Lite 195 Cross Training ShoeLow SupportLow CushionCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

Shopping for shoes isn’t easy, and it’s made even more difficult if you don’t know what you should be looking for. Materials, different arch supports, weight… it can all be very confusing. So let’s take a closer look at what qualities a great minimalist running shoe has and why these qualities should apply to the decision-making process.

Weight

Obviously the word minimalist should give you an idea of the expectations that come with these shoes. Weight will be one of the greatest factors here. So many shoes nowadays are bulky and protective, but inflexible and chunky.

Minimalist running shoe weight

Minimalist runners and athletes need a lighter shoe that is more about function than fashion. They don’t need neon or patterned material to enjoy a pair of shoes, they need something that feels like nothing to make them happy.

Minimalist runners are looking for a number of things but weight, by far, is one of the main considerations. Less is more in this case.

Outer Material

This plays a role with the weight of the shoe. Obviously, the material covering the majority of your foot can’t be heavy but it also needs to be flexible, breathable, and still protective enough to keep you from cuts and scrapes.

Many minimalist shoes are made with a combination of mesh, ventilation, and coverage when it comes to outer material. This is to aid the user in terms of weight, breathability, and safety. The more mesh, the more flexible and breathable the shoe is.

Minimalist running shoe outer material

This helps the shoe to mold to the foot during activity which is ideal when running. Ventilation helps maintain the temperature in the shoe by keeping it cool and allowing air to flow through to wick away too much moisture from sweating.

By using ventilation, it will keep your socks drier and your bare feet solidly in place. Coverage is based on how much material there is and where it is. Some will place more heavy coverage on the toe area for added protection. Some prefer the heel or the flex area between the toes and the rest of the foot. These areas see a lot of movement and might wear out more quickly.

Support

Support is a hot topic in any athletic shoe you choose to wear. That being said, when it comes to minimalist running shoes, in particular, it’s sometimes hard to find. While all shoes do their best to ensure the user’s feet will be covered by some material, they cannot always depend on a highly supportive material.

Minimalist Running Shoe support

These shoes would not be shoes you would want to be careless with while running on the trails. There is a much higher likelihood of a sprained ankle because these shoes are extremely low cut for the most part. However, this is to ensure foot flexibility and weightlessness.

Support will vary from one shoe to another but there are three main areas where the shoe will fall: high support will surround above the ankle, mid support will hit the ankle bone, and low support will be lower than the ankle bone.

Cushion

The cushion is another area where minimalist running shoes may lack. A lot of this will depend on what the sole material is made out of and what layers of cushion are featured inside the shoe. Three areas would include a high cushion, mid-cushion, and low cushion.

  • High cushion is where you will find the most added material to the insole. They may have some sort of gel or foam to ensure there is extra cushion and comfort.
  • Mid-cushion will be slightly less than high cushion. They may include one layer of a foam or gel that will help with the impact of each foot during strides but it won’t be the thickest.
  • Low-cushion is the far end of the spectrum. There may be little to no additional gel or foam and simply a layer of fabric between the rubber bottom and your foot. This will cause you to feel a lot more of what you are stepping on as your run or workout and are more likely to cause pain, but this will enable the shoe to be as lightweight as possible and give you a sense of oneness with the trail beneath you.

Minimalist Running Shoe Cushion

Each of these will give you an idea of how much give these shoes will have on the inside as you stride down the road or trail. This is an important consideration depending on what type of runner you are and you own biology. Some people need and prefer more cushion than others, while running nearly barefoot works for some people seamlessly.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Now that you’re aware of the various features you should look for when you’re comparison shopping for a minimalist shoe, it’s time to take a look at what customers are raving about. This is only a small list of some of the top rated products on the market, but they serve a great purpose in helping you know where to look.

Tesla Men’s ShoeTesla Men’s Shoe

Price: approximately $30

Weight: Approx. 5.5 ounces (depending on size)

Features: Breathable upper, lightweight, increased flexibility.

Best Use: Trail running, sports, outdoors, exercise & fitness

The Tesla Men’s Shoe comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. That being said, these shoes are very low around the ankle which is a loss of support but a gain in the full range-of-motion in the ankle.

This can help immensely when running on uneven terrain or bounding from rock to rock. They feature a durable EVA midsole which adds some durability to the shoe but also helps cushion your foot when pounding on rocks and hard surfaces. At the same time, the pair is also very resistant to dirt and stains, so that your shoe is always looking its best.

These shoes have hydro-grip outer soles the give excellent traction and balance on your long runs that will keep you from slipping or twisting an ankle. The outer material is a vented mesh to keep your foot cool and dry.

PROS:

  • Great support
  • Affordable
  • Comfortable

CONS:

  • Kind of flimsy
  • Falls apart after rigorous use

Related: If you’re interested in upgrading to a new model of this shoe, then you might want to give the Tesla BK31 a try. They lace up wonderfully, conform to the shape of your feet, and provide the same great support that previous models have given to runners in the past.

The cushioned zero-drop sole allows you to feel the terrain as if you were running barefooted, providing you with better stability and the ability to adjust to the dips and bumps in the ground so you know what you’re stepping on.

Check the price on Amazon

Inov-8 Men’s F-Lite 235Inov-8 Men’s F-Lite 235

Price: approximately $45.13 – $112.95

Weight: Approx. 8.5 ounces (depending on size)

Features: Rubber outsole increases grip, reinforced structure for rope climbing, zero drop, removable insole

Best Use: Running, trail running, sports, outdoors, exercise & fitness

The Inov-8 F-Lite 235 is pretty incredible. Its mid-range in support hits just at the ankle bone that will help keep your ankles safe and stable during the run. This will decrease injuries while still allowing you most of the flexible movement your ankle will need. It features a tough rubber sole and a super sticky outer sole rubber that makes its all-around gripping ability one of the best out there. One of the best features is the cushion inside the shoe.

It features a multi-directional meta-flex material and technology to give you enough cushion for your feet that you will feel the difference. You will notice it when you are turning quickly, bounding, or running on an uneven surface.

It is also important to note that this is on the heavy side of a minimalist shoe. It’s a little less like barefoot running, but the bottom of your foot won’t feel every rock and pebble you tramp on.

PROS:

  • Great cushioning
  • Increased flexibility
  • Very comfortable
  • High traction

CONS:

  • Correct sizing can be difficult

Related: Want a shoe with a bit more oomph? This INOV-8 Cross Trainer Shoe might be right up your alley; it’s light and supportive, while still boasting attractive colors that will make anyone take notice. These shoes are extremely durable, so you’ll get a lot of mileage out of them before they’ll need replacing. They’re great for weightlifting, rope climbs, burpees, and gymnastics.

Check the price on Amazon

Merrel Men’s Vapor Glove 2 Trail Running ShoeMerrell Men’s Vapor Glove 2 Trail Running Shoe

Price: approximately $54.55 – $85.00

Weight: Approx. 5.8 ounces (depending on size)

Features: Breathable upper, vibram outsole, M-select fresh feature keeps feet odor-free

Best Use: Running, trail running, outdoors, exercise & fitness

If you are looking for a good minimalist shoe, Merrel Men’s Vapor Glove 2 Trail Running Shoe is one of the best. At only about 5.8 ounces, depending on the size, this shoe is extremely light.

It has a synthetic and mesh outer material that will keep your feet dry and moisture-free, and is said to almost mold to your feet, creating a personal stride and freedom of movement.

They also have built in a special insole for this feature. The M Select Fresh insole absorbs the moisture and then keeps the odorous bacteria from reproducing, keeping your shoes fresh and clean longer.

The Vapor Glove 2 has Vibram rubber along the bottom to help gain traction on wet and dry surfaces alike. Overall, this is a solid pair of minimalist footwear that will get you through your fitness and outdoor activities.

PROS:

  • Available in a wide range of colors
  • Great stability and traction
  • Vegan
  • Very light

CONS:

  • Overall low quality of materials

Related: The worst thing about running shoes is when your laces come undone. You have to waste time stopping to tie them, which breaks your rhythm and causes your body to cool down when you need to keep going. Instead of bothering with this, the Lock Laces will keep your shoe on your feet without you having to tie them at all. They’re elastic, so they conform to the shape and size of your fit easily because they’re adjustable. They’re available in a wide range of colors to enhance your style.

Check the price on Amazon

Vibram Men’s KSO EVO Cross Training ShoeVibram Men’s KSO EVO Cross Training Shoe

Price: approximately $64.94 – $117.17

Weight: Approx. 4.9 ounces (depending on size)

Features: Speed lacing system, zero drop, vibram sole for traction, reinforced upper for protection

Best Use: Running, trail running, sports, outdoors, exercise & fitness

If you want a really genuine barefoot running experience, then these shoes are for you. The Vibram KSO EVO Cross Training Shoe literally becomes one with your foot, featuring the individual toe slots to maximize the feeling of running barefoot.

They have a slightly padded tongue to add cushion to the upper part of your foot, but that cushion is lacking underneath, giving you a true feeling of the trail beneath you. You are protected, however, by the tough and durable Vibram rubber that always features great traction.

The insole is not made for comfort, but rather for teaching. At less that five millimeters, the insole begins to teach the body correct running form while providing enough protection from the bottom to absorb the shock of the strides. All in all, this is a very reliable pair that delivers in terms of comfort and performance.

PROS:

  • Protection against ground-shock from running
  • Comfortable

CONS:

  • Takes some getting used to
  • Have to size up to get the right fit

Related: Although the point of minimalist shoes is to feel as barefoot as possible, there’s nothing wrong with keeping your feet protected from abrasions. This Fasot 6-pack of toe socks is perfect to pair with the above-mentioned product, as they’re perfect at wicking away sweat and keeping your feet dry. They’re also no-show, so you can still look stylish while out and about in your minimalist shoes.

Check the price on Amazon

Vibram Fivefingers Women’s Running ShoeVibram Fivefingers Women’s Running Shoe

Price: approximately $47.99 – $79.00

Weight: Approx. 9.5 ounces (depending on size)

Features: Breathable upper mesh, vibram sole, seamless collar to reduce irritation, polyurethane insole for protection

Best Use: Running, trail running, sports

The Vibram’s FiveFingers have been a sensation from the start, paving the way for minimalist running. This pair is no exception to the real and raw experience. With a synthetic and mesh outer material, there is just enough protection to satisfy the minimalist athlete but not enough to take away any sensation of the ground beneath them.

The mesh also adds significant air flow through the shoe, keeping the moisture at bay for the long run. With the patented and ultra-sticky Vibram rubber sole along the bottom and each of the toes, the grip is still as tough as ever.

They have mid-cushioning because they embedded a soft TPU midsole to add extra flexibility and thickness in the mid-foot range.

Another added feature, although this is a low support shoe with the collar falling lower than the ankle bone, they made the collar seamless as to stop and prevent irritation that may come with seams and tethers rubbing along the ankles.

PROS:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Reduced weight

CONS:

  • Must be paired with socks to avoid abrasion

Related: Ever wanted your kids to enjoy the experience of going barefoot without the risk of them cutting up their feet? Consider getting a pair of these Vibram Girl’s Alitza for your child. They have a wonderful, bright color scheme that will bring a smile to anyone’s face. They’re also quite comfortable, but be wary that this pair may not last long if your child is still in their growing stages.

Check the price on Amazon

Under Armour Men’s G Monza Running ShoesUnder Armour Men’s G Monza Running Shoes

Price: approximately $64.01 – $115.00

Weight: Approx. 8.0 ounces (depending on size)

Features: Heel lockdown, integrated midfoot structure, 4D foam footbed, Micro-G foam, high-abrasion EVA outsole

Best Use: Running, exercise & fitness

If you are looking to start your journey to minimalist running, the Under Armour Men’s G Monza Running Shoes would be a great first step, literally. It doesn’t completely give up the comfort and stability of a regular running shoe, but will give you a peek inside the world of minimalist running and what it’s all about.

With a mid support collar, this shoe falls right at the ankle bone for just enough support. The magic is really in the inside of the shoe.

Coming it at 8 ounces, this shoe is a bit heavier but the inside features molded 4D foam and full-length micro foam that conforms to your foot and is made to take those cushioned landings into springy take-offs. This helps your stride and will keep your foot protected. This shoe is great for training types of all disciplines along with your everyday running.

The Monza has lightweight, but high-abrasion tread on the bottom of the shoe in zones that find the most impact with the ground to create a durable, long-lasting shoe.

PROS:

  • Support without added weight
  • Durable
  • Breathable mesh
  • Remove shock from knees and ankles

CONS:

  • Rubber pads on the soles may peel off

Related: If you’re looking for a bit more support when it comes to running, consider the Under Armour Micro G Assert 6 Running Shoes. They’re available in a wide range of colors to suit your style, and provide the best in shock absorption to save your knees and lower back.

The durable leather overlays keep your foot in place to minimize any abrasions, and the upper is made of very supportive foam that will keep your feet breathing and ventilated so you’ll never have to deal with sweaty, smelly feet when you take your shoes off.

Check the price on Amazon

New Balance Men’s 10v4 Trail ShoeNew Balance Men’s 10v4 Trail Shoe

Price: approximately $69.10 – $132.19

Weight: Approx. 7.1 ounces (depending on size)

Features: Vibram outsoles, increased flexibility in upper material, 4mm heel-to-toe drop

Best Use: Running, trail running, sports, outdoors, exercise & fitness

New Balance has been coming out with great shoes for a long time. The New Balance Men’s 10v4 Trail Shoe is no different. They use the Vibram rubber for the outsole and bottom known for its superb traction on any terrain to start your workout off right.

They have a shoe that features very little stitches and seams to reduce rubbing and raw exposure that could cause blisters and calluses. This also helps reduce the weight to around 7 ounces, which is impressive for a mid support and mid-cushion shoe.

They have done extensive work to try and make this shoe supportive and minimal by working on a very specific insole pattern. They feature a 4 mm drop from heel to toe measured by the length of the whole foot pad which aids the runner in their stride and gait.

PROS:

  • Comfortable interior
  • Looks great
  • Very lightweight
  • Reduces surface impact
  • Can be worn with or without socks

CONS:

  • Toe box too narrow
  • Raised heel drop which reduced minimalist feel
  • Can feel a bit loose on the feet

Related: Why not invest in a pair of New Balance Women’s WT10V4 Trail Shoes for your partner so that they can go running with you? Nothing says togetherness like being able to go on runs, take on trails, and overcome challenges with someone at your side. These shoes are just as comfortable as the men’s version, and perform just as well, but are more accommodating to the slimmer shape of women’s feet.

Check the price on Amazon

Inov-8 Men’s F-Lite 195 Cross Training ShoeInov-8 Men’s F-Lite 195 Cross Training Shoe

Price: approximately $49.99 – $125.00

Weight: Approx. 8.5 ounces (depending on size)

Features: Rubber soles, 3mm heel-to-toe drop, Rope-tec protection for rope climbing, Shoc-zone midsole cushioning

Best Use: Running, trail running, sports, outdoors, exercise & fitness

Similar to their companion, the Inov-8 F-Lite 235, the F-Lite 195 Cross Training Shoe has some of its own good qualities as well. To begin, it’s a little heavier than some minimalist running shoes, especially considering the low cushion and low support it has.

However, this means that the weight is coming from the tough rubber bottom where you have a super-durable rubber sole for grip and stability.

They reduce some of the support and the cushion to help build a more natural style of running which forces you into your most natural stride, often helping form and reducing injuries over time. These also features a Rope-Tec reinforcement that delivers protection from burns when climbing ropes or other surfaces.

These shoes have a 3 mm toe drop from heel to toe which is ideal for a minimalist shoe. These make a great shoe all-around for training and running alike and are one of the shoes with the most versatility.

PROS:

  • Very comfortable
  • Stylish
  • Slightly wider toe box for better fit

CONS:

  • Runs small
  • Can be a bit flimsy after extended use

Related: Cross trainers can get the job done of just about any shoe, and not only do they protect your feet from shock and muscle strain, they also last a longer on those more rigorous workouts. The INOV-8 Men’s F-Lite 240 Cross Trainers will do the work for you so you won’t feel like you’re working out with a pair of bricks tied to your feet. These shoes allow for the natural flexing of the feet while you’re working out so that there are no pressure points along the soles or upper parts of your feet.

Check the price on Amazon

In Conclusion

Do you feel more adequately prepared for the next stage of your fitness project? With all that we’ve discussed here, you should have no problems finding the minimalist shoes that are not only comfortable, but will help you to work out as well. Whether you decide to go with one of the products we’ve mentioned above or with another product entirely, we hope that we’ve made the process a lot easier for you.

Choose your Minimalist Running Shoe

If you found this article helpful share it with friends. Have someone close to you that’s considering going minimal? Direct them here for more research or share your opinions with us. We’d love to hear from you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.

  • Sabrina Bell

    Vibram KSO Evo is most likely best for running on tread-mills and tracks, and possibly side-walks but I’m using them everywhere because I wanted the best ground feedback possible. I can feel the general texture difference of soil types underfoot, stones and uneven places, the edges of the boards in my dock, as well as the heat from the pavement.

  • Mark Foster

    There’s even a Vibram Fivefingers Running Shoe for women if you haven’t seen it yet. They offer quite an experience since they are lightweight. My girlfriend likens it to running around barefoot. But it has a great cushion and provides adequate protection.

  • Jack Wilcox

    Thought about going for the Vibram Fivefingers but ended up buying the Merrell Vapor’s instead. From what I’ve read, the Fivefingers probably offer a bit more freedom and are probably closer to the feeling of barefoot running, as you’ve said, but I just didn’t like the style of them. Felt great but I just felt very odd wearing them (my problem, I guess…)! Much more comfortable wearing a more conventional looking shoe.

  • Mark Foster

    I understand what you mean – it take’s a bit of getting used to. The first time I’ve tried the Vibram, it felt strange looking down on my feet and seeing my outlined toes! After the initial shock, however, I was running like mad! The sensation was different, like barefoot running, but with cushion. :o)

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