5 Best Minimalist Running Shoes

Are you looking for the best minimalist running shoes?

Then it means that you are looking for shoes that closely resemble barefoot running. They typically give you the feeling of running barefoot and do not have the weight of traditional running shoes. You will find they have reduced cushioning and have thinner soles than other running shoes.

  1. Are you looking for the best minimalist shoes on the market?
  2. Are you looking to take up running and you want to make sure that you have the best shoes for your feet?
  3. Do you need to replace your current running shoes with a pair that is more suited to you?

Minimalist Running Shoes

Vivobarefoot Men's Ra II [rating stars= "4.3"]
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Runner [rating stars= "4.5"]
New Balance 20v7 Minimus Cross Trainer [rating stars= "4.0"]
Inov-8 Women's Bare-XF 210 V2 Sneaker [rating stars= "4.4"]
Xero Shoes Z-Trail [rating stars= "3.7"]

This type of shoe allows you to feel the ground more whilst giving your feet the protection you need from the ground. Studies have shown that wearing minimalist shoes can help improve foot strength and arch function.

These shoes have a reduced heel-to-toe drop, no cushioning, and have little arch support. They are super flexible and can give you a great experience if you prefer the barefoot-run feel.

Some runners are more comfortable running closer to the ground. A minimalist shoe has a couple of characteristics that make it a good buy. A good pick is one that has a zero heel to toe drop. You want to get a flat shoe.

The overall height of the sole should be as thin as possible. Most traditional shoes are tapered and this is what you want to avoid in a minimalist shoe. The tapering in traditional shoes pushes the toes together and compromises the strength and quality of the shoe. The shoe is less agile.

In a Hurry

Are you in a hurry and not quite sure what to look for in a good pair of minimalist shoes? We can throw you a line and help you decide what is right for you. Look for a lightweight shoe, has the least amount of material and cushioning. Some say a good minimalist shoe can be compared to a great waiter. One who is seen but whose presence is not felt. You want to know that you are wearing the shoe, but it should not be cumbersome. There are many options available on the market.

Our Top Pick


Our Top Pick

We have picked out the top picks on the market. Our favorite is the Inov-8 Women’s Bare-XF 210 V2 Sneaker. It has a lot of room in the toe box, provides arch support, and runs true to size.

Round up of Minimalist Running Shoes

Vivobarefoot Men’s Ra II

If you want a lightweight shoe that is also waterproof, this is the one for you. The Ra II is made out of wild hide leather. The design is such that they are versatile shoes that can be used both in the workplace and for casual dressing. The soles and the upper part of the shoes are very flexible.

This is a shoe that allows your foot the freedom of movement that is unheard of by other brands. They are not only flexible but also breathable. If you like barefoot shoes, you are onto a winner. You will feel every single bit of movement as you go on your run. Although thin, you will find that the sole provides ample protection for your underfoot.

The insoles that come in these shoes are cork ones. They add to the protection that the soles provide. You can remove and replace the insoles as well. Vivobarefoot provides various insoles that you can choose from if these do not do it for you.

You will already know that this is one of our favorite brands. That is for good reasons. If you have not tried them already, I will encourage you to give them a shot. 


They are lightweight.

Both soles and upper are flexible.

They are barefoot shoes.

They come with a protective insole.

The design provides the versatility of use.

They are very comfortable.


The insoles can be slippery.

The soles can get worn quickly if used on tarred roads.


Merrell Trail Glove 4 Runner

Perhaps you are after a shoe from a brand that you recognize. A brand that has been producing incredible products for a decade. Merrell needs no introductions, so we shall move right on to the product. The Trail Glove 4 Runner is made entirely of textiles and synthetic materials.

It is a vegan-friendly product. The upper part of the shoe sits on top of a robust rubber sole. To add to this strength and further protect the bottom of your feet, Merrell has used their Trailprotect padding. This is ideal for uneven terrain where you are likely to run into all sorts of pointed objects. 

As you would expect from mesh lining, this one is highly breathable. This is an important feature when running. It ensures that your feet do not get too warm. Breathability always means that more air and moisture escapes, thus reducing the chances of developing a bad odor in running shoes.

Each shoe comes with a 3mm insole that makes sure that your underfoot is protected. The overall weight of these shoes is half a pound. That makes it a perfect shoe for runners after a minimalist shoe that will not hold them back. 

All things considered, the aesthetics of the shoes are adequate. They do not lack in any way. Neither is there anything that sets them apart from the rest? The sole is sturdy enough to protect your feet while remaining flexible enough to permit freedom of movement when you are running.  There is not much arch support to speak of, I am afraid. If that is a key feature for your needs, look elsewhere.


Provides great underfoot protection.

The shoes are lightweight.

There is ample room in the toe box.

They are made by a brand that we know and love.

You can get them in half sizes.

The soles are flexible.

They are fairly breathable.


There have been some concerns with the durability of the upper part.

The elastic strip on the tongue can be troublesome.


New Balance 20v7 Minimus Cross Trainer

New Balance is another brand that needs no introduction. It meets one of the key things that we look for in a minimalist shoe. The fewer moving parts that it has, the better. The upper part of the shoes is seamless. It is made out of nylon-infused yarn. There is a natural barrier that is created around your feet.

It provides ample protection for your feet as you get up and about. The upper part of the shoes’ flexibility makes it easier to use the shoes for other activities beyond running. It is fully knitted. You can use them in the gym and for other workouts as well. There is a mono mesh window on the shoes to help with ventilation. This is a key feature when it comes to long-distance running. 

The shape of the collar is asymmetrical. It allows the collar to wrap around your foot quite comfortably. This makes them feel more naturally fitted than other shoes do. The Vibram outsole provides good traction and grip when running. It is also ideal for strength training. The shaft of the shoes stretches all the way up to the low-top. In case you were wondering, the heel drop is only 4mm.


The shoes are lightweight.

The design is beautiful.

Provides a reasonable amount of arch support.

They are highly breathable.

The brand is one that we have grown to trust.

There is ample padding on the inside.


Sizing has been known to be occasionally off.

Not ideal for those with wide feet.


Inov-8 Women’s Bare-XF 210 V2 Sneaker 

As far as branding goes, not many can hold a torch to what Inov-8 has done. The name and the logo are both winners. That is neither here nor there. Let us consider the shoes.

The Bare-XF 210 V2 is the second iteration of the model. They took the feedback they received on the previous one and used it to direct this one’s manufacturing. On first impressions, I think they are onto a winner with this one.

Let us consider some of the key features. The upper part of the shoes is made out of textile and synthetic. They have rubber soles. Inov-8 designed these shoes with speed training in mind.

What that tells us is that there is an emphasis on traction as well as foot stability. The traction ensures that you do not fall over when running. The stability ensures that your foot is comfortable and does not slide within the shoes, leading to injury. 

The shaft of each shoe reaches the low-top from your arch. Considering the material that we have already mentioned, it will come as no surprise to you to note that the shoes are lightweight.

One of the key improvements from the previous version is breathability. The material used on the upper part is lighter than what was previously used. They have also ensured that the toe box has a lot of room. 

When you are running with these, you will notice that they bend and flex with your foot. They are not restrictive. This reduces your chances of getting injured due to a misstep when running. Your foot is permitted natural movement, which is important when you are running. 


There is a lot of room in the toe box.

Arch support is provided.

They have a somewhat barefoot feel to them.

The foot is allowed to tread unrestricted.

They run true to size.

The tread is great for traction. 

They are durable.


Quality control still leaves a lot to be desired.

The lace loops are particularly weak.


Xero Shoes Z-Trail

You can hardly go more minimalistic than sandals. Can you? The Xero Shoes Z-Trail are barefoot inspired. That means your feet are permitted the freedom of movement as well as the ability to feel the ground as you move. According to the manufacturers, these sandals are 76% thinner and lighter than their competitors.

The soles are made out of what Xero calls FeelTrue rubber. I would imagine a reference to the barefoot sort of feel you get when using the shoes. The entire thickness of the soles is 10mm. This makes them ideal for packing when constrained for space. They can also be rolled up if necessary. This does not affect the durability of the shoes in any way.

Suppose we had to highlight one key thing that makes the zero drop shoes such as these special. It would probably be how they allow you to maintain your natural posture. This reduces the risk of suffering from back pain that is linked to hunching.

No matter what conditions you use these shoes in, they perform quite well. You would probably have been able to deduce that they dry very fast if you walk through a water body or are caught in the rain when running.

The one concern that most people will have about running with sandals is whether they would hold up to their feet. You will be pleased to note that these will do just that.

They have Z-webbing that holds securely to your feet as you run. You probably do not need to be told that they are easy to put on and remove for the environmentally-conscious or those who stand for animal rights. You will love these. They are fully vegan.


They are impressively lightweight.

They run true to size and are a good fit.

They are zero drop shoes.

They have a barefoot feel to them.

The soles are water-resistant.

They are quick to dry.


The workmanship does not deliver durability.


Buyer’s Guide

If you are looking for minimalist shoes to suit your lifestyle, here are a few guiding factors.


The trick to a good minimalist shoe is to get one that is as close to the reality of walking or running barefoot. In light of this, you want to preserve your foot’s natural characteristics and what makes walking barefoot so great. Our feet are flexible. When we walk, the toes splay outward and grip the ground. This is how you gain some traction. 

The shoe that you get needs to be flexible enough to give you all these great features. Your midfoot and arch tension in your foot absorbs impact and powerfully rebound, heels spread out and create a solid platform to support your body weight. A good minimalist shoe will be flexible enough to recreate these features. Make sure your shoe is super flexible.

Heel-to-Toe Drop

This is the difference in the amount of cushioning the shoe has in the heel relative to the toe amount. Traditional shoes have a higher drop, which forces the foot forward. The perfect minimalist shoe will have zero drops.

This means your foot and heel are at the same level. This promotes a balanced running position. Remember that these are separate features when it comes to shoe design.

Stack Height

The lower the stack height, the better the shoe. This height measurement is usually taken at the center of the heel and does not include the insole’s depth, which can give a significant amount of cushioning. The smaller the stack height, the less the material between your foot and the ground. 


You want a shoe that serves its purpose without announcing its presence. The less material used, the lighter it will be. This means you will be able to get a more barefoot feel. Initially, the difference between traditional shoes and minimalist shoes can seem insignificant, but you will notice it repeatedly.

Like with luggage or anything you carry, the more you carry, the faster you tire and the less distance you cover. The same applies to minimalist shoes. The more your shoes weigh, the less you will get done. 


Minimalist shoes can provide you with that unique feel of running or walking barefoot. It is an amazing feeling that some traditional shoes can take away. We certainly hope that our top picks help you choose what will work best for you. Happy shopping!

Hi there. This is Clare. Dave and I manage this site. We are outdoor enthusiasts. Most of the content is about products that we love using or have researched.
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