The BEST Minimalist Running Shoes 

Running barefoot has been a cult movement since Christopher McDougall published Born to Run.

minimalist running shoes

As people have caught on the the cons of barefoot running training there are still has many positives that are utilized by runners, especially those who use the best minimalist running shoes.

Before we get to the meat of the article, here are a few important notes about running barefoot.

Yes, McDougall and that hippie down the street are correct that the human body was made to run barefoot. Where they are wrong, however, is that your human body is not made for barefoot running.

Growing up in the United States, it is likely you have been wearing shoes for 90% of your life since the day you could walk. While there is nothing wrong with that, it means your body is not made to run barefoot.

running with shoes

As the body can certainly adapt, running barefoot requires a lot of adaptation.

You’ll need thicker skin on your feet, increased bone density, stronger lower extremity muscles, and excellent running form. These, of course, will improve your running, but like all good things, they take time. So do not jump in to running 30 miles a week barefoot if you have never done it before.

Even after you have adapted to barefoot running, surfaces such as asphalt or concrete are a big no no!

Remember to never do more than 10% of your weekly mileage barefoot or you are asking for a stress fracture from the increased shock of running barefoot against the hard surfaces of the earth. 

Ease your way into barefoot walking benefits and barefoot running benefits with these minimalist running shoes.

Merrell Trail Glove 4

Many regard this shoe as one of the best minimalist shoes on the market. The shoe is 8oz with a 0 drop and, one of its most popular features, a Vibram sole.

Additionally, the mesh and TPU upper create a sock like fit. The shoe has all the benefits of barefoot running while protecting the foot, providing a bit of cushioning and support, and staying very comfortable.

Saucony Kinvara 8

With possibly the biggest cult following in the running world, the Saucony Kinvara is loved by many.

The only downside is it has a bit more shoe than most other minimalists options. However, this neutral shoe weighs only 7.9 oz. It does have a 4mm drop, more aggressive than most minimalist shoes, but way less so than other primary training shoes.

It also features Saucony’s new and highly thought of EVERRUN topsole to maximize energy return and cushioning in the midfoot.

Furthermore, the upper has Saucony’s FLEXFILM technology to provide structure and support for the foot. The Kinvara may not be the most minimalist shoe on the market, but it is an excellent choice for those with little experience barefoot running that want to stay healthy.

Brooks PureGrit 6 /PureFlow 7 

These shoes are incredibly similar, hence why they are put together. Think of the PureGrit as the PureFlow’s trail running brother.

-Both shoes are under 10oz (PureGrit is 9.6 and PureFlow is 7.5oz), but the PureGrit’s extra weight comes mostly from the extra attention on traction for off-road running.  

-Both shoes also have a 4mm drop and are made for neutral runners.

-They also both have a reputation for being extremely comfortable, probably due to Brooks’ BioMoGo DNA midsole cushioning and a rounded heel.

The PureGrit also has Omega Flex Grooves to increase flexibility in the forefoot, making it able to move around uneven trail conditions with ease. Like the Kinvara, both of these shoes have a little extra weight than true minimalist shoes, but unless you have a year or so experience in a similar shoe, we recommend running with one of these shoes for a while before going to a more minimalist shoe.

Vibram KSO EVO Cross

The KSO EVO Cross is the most minimalist shoe on this list. With that, keep in mind that if you do not ease into running in this type of shoe, you are likely to get injured very quickly.

The shoe weighs 4.9 oz, has 2mm of EVA insole and 3mm of rubber on the outsole. Giving the sole 5mm of cushion between foot and ground and a 0mm drop. Other than increasing the risk of injury due to a lack of cushioning, the biggest con of this shoe is how quickly it wears out.

Personally preferring shoes like the previous four shoes on this list; for a true minimalist run, the Vibram KSO EVO Cross is about as good as you’ll get without running barefoot.

Barefoot

Precious few individuals can actually get by doing the majority of their weekly mileage barefoot for an extended period of time without injury.

Barefoot running, then, is a way to supplement your training. 

Start with doing a few barefoot strides a week.

(100m sprint-like runs at 80-95% of your full speed, focusing on form, with plenty of rest in between)

Find a flat, level, and soft surface to do it on: a grassy soccer field is great.

Working up to a mile of barefoot running a week, then progress to no more than 10% of your weekly mileage.

This will allow you to get the benefits of stronger lower extremities, improved running form, and improved balance. Without the incredible risk of injury associated with running a significant amount of your weekly mileage barefoot: everything in moderation.

Lastly, the price of all of the “best minimalist running shoes” (except your feet, of course) is the price listed on their brand’s website. Most can be found on other sites for less money and all of them can be found in earlier versions for cheaper as well.

Stay posted for more articles and happy running!


By Hayden Cox..

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About the Author

Hayden Cox is a former NCAA DI athlete in Cross Country and Track. He has had the opportunity to work with 2x U.S. Olympian, Robert Gary, and a host of elite athletes at the collegiate and professional level. Hayden's ideal day consists of an early morning long run on a mountain trail followed by a giant bowl of pasta and a chocolate milkshake (just don't tell anyone about the milkshake!)

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