12 Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2021


Best Minimalist Running Shoes - Content

Less of Shoe Power, More of You Power―that’s what sets minimalist running shoes to skyrocket in popularity. Researchers have found out that gradual incorporation of minimalist shoes into daily running /training can strengthen runners' calves and muscles in the forefoot as well as improves their plantar flexor strength. They are shoes designed for runners who enjoy more ground feel―offering thin-cushioned heels, stiff soles, and arch support.

Whether you’re a sucker for minimalist running shoes or a newbie scratching head, this article is for you! Fervent testers in our team have tested a bunch of best-rated and highly raved minimalist running shoes in the market to help you find the best one as per your preferences and needs.

But before we dive in, let's check what features your minimalist running shoe should offer.

What to Look For in a Good Minimalist Running Shoe?

Fit: Minimalist running shoes should fit like a glove, and there should be no extra spaces.

Construction: The shoe should be breathable and the fabric should be machine washable.

Ground feel: Minimalist shoes should offer a nice ground feel with protection from hazards on the ground.

Comfort: After all, the shoe should feel comfortable no matter what terrain you hit.

New Balance Minimus TR

Best Minimalist Trail Running Shoes

New Balance Minimus TR - Men
For Men
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New Balance Minimus TR - Women
For Women
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Pros
  • ✔️ Trail yet road-ready
  • ✔️ Durable
  • ✔️ Super breathable
Cons
  • ❌ Thicker heels
  • ❌ Hard soles
Whom is it best for?
These minimalist running shoes are super recommended for runners hitting wet trails and hiking spots.


95

OVERALL SCORE

Weight 70%
Price 76%
Value for money 89%
Durability 90%

The lineage of New Balance Minimus TR has been among the most loved entry-level minimalist trail running shoes for ages. It features a slight 4mm drop and a stout midsole that flattens all the random bumps and shit on the ground.

Furthermore, there is a Vibram outsole with solid rugs (multidirectional) that offer amazing traction. One thing most of our testers appreciated was the lightweight upper that maintains outstanding breathability throughout. If you go from road to trail, there is enough versatility and a level of performance.

Must check them out because this one is highly recommended.



Merrell Vapor Glove 5

Best Women's Minimalist Running Shoes

Pros
  • ✔️ Breathable coverage
  • ✔️ Lightweight construction
  • ✔️ Versatile shoe
Cons
  • ❌ Flimsy upper
Whom is it best for?
These are an ideal option for minimalist runners looking for a solid trail/road running shoe.


84

OVERALL SCORE

Value for money 80%
Weight 90%
Price 89%
Durability 78%

Merrell Vapor Glove 5 are super versatile barefoot running shoes, very well known among female runners for their comfort, vegan-friendly construction, and women-specific barefoot feel. They feature a comfy snug fit, compression-molded CMEVA (responsive yet flexible) midsole, and a durable Vibram outsole for maximum support and traction.

Furthermore, there is a zero-drop heel that promotes a more natural running style, Merrel’s signature odor-reducing solution, and a perfect close-to-the-ground feel. These women’s minimalist running shoes are perfect to be taken for hiking, cross-training, road running, trail running, and walking around.

Note: They are slightly larger in size than the standard measurement, so we’d recommend checking the ½ size option to get the right length.



Skechers GOrun Ride 9

Best Men's Minimalist Running Shoes

Skechers GOrun Ride 9 - Men
For Men
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Pros
  • ✔️ Very lightweight
  • ✔️ Plush cushioning
  • ✔️ Runs fast
Cons
  • ❌ Less grippy
Whom is it best for?
These shoes are ideal for racers, for training, speed work, and even races.


89

OVERALL SCORE

Value for money 89%
Weight 90%
Price 89%
Durability 90%

For men looking for great value for money and high-performance lightweight barefoot running shoes, GOrun 9 from Skechers is a good option to look at. It is one of those handful pairs of best minimalist running shoes for road running in the market that offer a combination of plush cushioning and lighter weight. These are super lightweight trainers that can get you through harsh miles with quality runs.

The reason we chose them is the price like you can compare the performance & cushion of the shoe with Brooks Ghost or ASICS Cumulus, but with some $20 cheaper price tag. Our testers liked the soft yet springy cushy feel that doesn’t lose the ground feel.

Super worthwhile one to add to your rotation runs!



Altra Vanish R

Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Beginners

Altra Vanish R - Unisex
For Men
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Pros
  • ✔️ Lightweight construction
  • ✔️ Flexible
  • ✔️ Runs fast
Cons
  • ❌ Less durable
  • ❌ Runs small
Whom is it best for?
These shoes are perfect for barefoot nuts, looking to wear as less-shoes as possible on race day.


80

OVERALL SCORE

Value for money 85%
Weight 89%
Price 79%
Durability 70%

Beginners need to pick a shoe that they will be sticking to. Key features to check are comfort, fit, and performance. One such minimalist shoe (that is sure to impress all the beginners out there) is Vanis R from Altra! They offer plenty of room for toes to spread out, features durable exposed springy EVA with Propel Plate, have an overall lightweight and flexible construction, and grippy outsole with pods.

Our testers liked the balanced combination of cushioning, spring, ground feel, and smoothness in rides and oh―the speed though! Making the shoe fall perfect for racing and track workouts.

Note: They run a bit small, so we’d suggest going for a larger size.



Nike Free RN 5.0

Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Marathons

Nike Free RN 5.0 - Boys
For Men
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Nike Free RN 5.0 - Women
For Women
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Pros
  • ✔️ Breathable
  • ✔️ Stable ride
  • ✔️ Flexible forefoot
Cons
  • ❌ Non-durable outsole
Whom is it best for?
For barefoot runners who prefer wearing minimalist shoes for marathons, this is an ideal option.


81

OVERALL SCORE

Value for money 80%
Weight 86%
Price 90%
Durability 70%

Cushioning in a running shoe means more protection and more protection means fewer injuries, however, some runners still prefer running a marathon in minimalist running shoes. Well if you are one of them, Nike Free RN 5.0 is for you!

It is a daily trainer with minimalist features, making it perfect to be worn over 10K distances. Well, these shoes sit between 100% minimalist to foamy trainers, and the ground feel they offer is amazing.

Our testers love the fact that these shoes run true to size, are lightweight, breathable offering a secure lockdown. These aren't mainly marathon running shoes, but they are firm enough to be worn through marathons if you want.



Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2 GTX

Best Minimalist Winter Running Shoes

Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2 GTX - Men
For Men
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Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2 GTX - Women
For Women
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Pros
  • ✔️ Super comfortable
  • ✔️ Amazing grip
  • ✔️ Supportive construction
Cons
  • ❌ Expensive


81

OVERALL SCORE

Value for money 95%
Weight 90%
Price 60%
Durability 80%

If you’re a barefoot running fan and price is not an issue, you should check out Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2 GTX shoes. The reason we chose them best is their ultra-lightweight, comfortable, and breathable rain-ready Gore-Tex covering, making the shoe perfect for your all-around adventures.

One noticeable thing is the Vibram outsole with square-shaped ergonomic lugs that offer amazing traction on wet surfaces. They offer award-winning performance and comfort that you can expect for the price you’d pay.

Highly recommended!



Brooks Divide 2

Best Cushioned Minimalist Running Shoes

Brooks Divide 2 - men
For Men
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Brooks Divide 2 - women
For Women
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Pros
  • ✔️ Runs fast
  • ✔️ Lightweight
  • ✔️ Roomier toe-box
Cons
  • ❌ Less supportive
Whom is it best for?
These shoes are ideal for minimalist runners looking for a cushioned running shoes. These are perfect for fast-paced and high-mileage runs.


84

OVERALL SCORE

Value for money 80%
Weight 80%
Price 84%
Durability 92%

Want a shoe that runs fast (race ready), engineered with minimalism in mind? Meet the Brooks Divide 2 by Brooks. If you have tried their older version, you would be glad to find so much room in the forefoot which makes the shoe perfect for wide feet minimalist runners.

They feature a silicone Nav Band that hugs mid-foot, making the shoe flexible and stretchable for all foot types. The midsole is a bed of BioMoGo EVA foam + DNA gel that provides a secure and supportive feel, without the bulk. Our testers love the stability, softness, responsiveness, and the upper that put wide feet runners to rest.



Vibram FiveFingers V - Run

Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Flat Feet

Vibram FiveFingers V - Men
For Men
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Vibram FiveFingers V - Women
For Women
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Pros
  • ✔️ Solid outsoles
  • ✔️ Lightweight
  • ✔️ Breathable
Cons
  • ❌ Stinks
Whom is it best for?
These shoes are best for forefoot strikers and wide feet runners looking for versatile running yet minimalist hiking and workout shoes.


87

OVERALL SCORE

Value for money 88%
Weight 86%
Price 89%
Durability 85%

Want a minimalist running shoe that excels in toe freedom? Flat feet runners out there, you need to check out Vibram FiveFingers V - Run running shoes. The reason we chose them (among best-rated minimalist running shoes) best for flat feet runners is the midsole—the perfect blend of cushioning and durability to support the feet.

They are lightweight yet breathable with plenty of durability and support in the outsole for running on hard and scaly pavements. Our testers appreciated the shock-locking midsole that really helps prevent injuries and aids comfort during long runs.

Super recommended.




Brooks Launch GTS 8

Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Overpronators

Brooks Launch GTS 8 - Men
For Men
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Brooks Launch GTS 8 - Women
For Women
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Pros
  • ✔️ Responsive cushioning
  • ✔️ Light weight
  • ✔️ Stable shoes
Cons
  • ❌ Less breathable
Whom is it best for?
These are perfect for minimalist runners looking for a daily trainer and long-distance running shoes.


85

OVERALL SCORE

Value for money 80%
Weight 89%
Price 80%
Durability 93%

For overpronators looking for a low-profile minimalist shoe, Brooks Launch GTS 8 is sure to impress. The reason we chose this one best for overpronators is the overall stability and lightweight guide rails that offer a neutral feel to overpronators. The shoe features a bed (midsole) BioMoGo + DNA cushioning that adapts to the shape of your foot. A bunch of our teasers love the support the shoe provides without weighing the runner down.

Moreover, there are Omega Flex grooves in the outsole that give you amazing traction and longer life to the shoe.




Merrell Vapor Glove 5

Best Cheap Minimalist Running Shoes

Merrell Vapor Glove 5 - Men
For Men
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Merrell Vapor Glove 5 - Women
For Women
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Pros
  • ✔️ Lightweight construction
  • ✔️ Awesome barefoot-feel
  • ✔️ Flexible
Cons
  • ❌ Inconsistent grip
Whom is it best for?
These are perfect for trail yet road runners looking for a minimalist shoe with max ground feel and responsiveness.


86

OVERALL SCORE

Value for money 86%
Weight 90%
Price 90%
Durability 79%

Merrel Vapor Glove 5 is a cheap but durable minimalist trainer that retails only for $60 only.

These shoes cut thick stack heights and chunky cushioning to offer superior ground-feel and barefoot accuracy on roads and trails. Furthermore, there is a breathable ultra-light mesh upper, thin but durable outsole, wide toe box, snug heel pockets, awesome flexibility, and great ground feel.

Ground-feel suckers out there, this one's for you!



Best Rated Minimalist Running Shoes


Nike Free RN 5.0 2020

Best Nike Minimalist Running Shoes

Nike Free RN 5.0 - Boys
For Men
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Nike Free RN 5.0 - Women
For Women
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Pros
  • ✔️ Breathable
  • ✔️ Stable ride
  • ✔️ Flexible forefoot
Cons
  • ❌ Non-durable Outsole
Whom is it best for?
For barefoot runners who prefer wearing minimalist shoes for marathons, this is an ideal option.


81

OVERALL SCORE

Value for money 80%
Weight 86%
Price 90%
Durability 70%

Cushioning in a running shoe means more protection and more protection means fewer injuries, however, some runners still prefer running a marathon in minimalist running shoes. Well if you are one of them, Nike Free RN 5.0 is for you!

It is a daily trainer with minimalist features, making it perfect to be worn over 10K distances. Well, these shoes sit between 100% minimalist to foamy trainers, and the ground feel they offer is amazing. Our testers love the fact that these shoes run true to size, are lightweight, breathable offering a secure lockdown. These aren't mainly marathon running shoes, but they are firm enough to be worn through marathons if you want.




New Balance Minimus Prevail

Best New Balance Minimalist Running Shoes

New Balance Minimus Prevail - Men
For Men
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New Balance Minimus Prevail - Women
For Women
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Pros
  • ✔️ Stable yet supportive
  • ✔️ Breathable
  • ✔️ Lightweight construction
Cons
  • ❌ Floppy & clunky
Whom is it best for?
They are best for runners looking for cross-trainers for high-intensity circuit training, hiking, trail running and even for occasional road runs.


84

OVERALL SCORE

Value for money 80%
Weight 87%
Price 80%
Durability 90%

If you go from road to trail, New Balance Minimus Prevail shoes are something to check out. Their Minimus series are super known for their versatility, this one offers the same bells and whistles but with more stability. They offer a firm and responsive ride, lightweight feel, nice breathability, excellent ground traction and stability.


Conclusion


There isn’t one that fits all types of runners. What makes a shoe perfect for you depends on a bunch of factors including your foot shape, weight and experience level and personal preferences.

All of those variables mean the best shoes for you are different from the best shoes for someone else. With this in mind, this article covers 12 popular products that worked well for a bunch of avid runners in our team, so you can consider checking them out. Moreover, almost all of the manufacturers offer free returns, so you can try them with confidence.

Video Source: Andrew Folts

FAQs

Yes. Such shoes encourage blood flow and help to elongate and stretch the entire Plantar Fascia-Calf complex while relaxing the foot and arch muscles.