Minimalist Running Shoes – Comfort and Style for Performance

Running is a popular aerobic exercise that can be beneficial and fun, as long as you’ve got the right shoes.  We’re going to review minimalist running shoes and what they have to offer for your running routine.

Minimalist running shoes are supportive and sustainable through the use of less materials.  There are endless options that can meet your running needs.  From Asics to Saucony there are several popular minimalist running shoe brands that offer many different types of shoes for running “barefoot”.

Are you looking for a new pair of running shoes and want to learn more about minimalist running shoes?  Are your running shoes not meeting your needs anymore?

What are Minimalist Running Shoes?

Minimalist running shoes are made with less material, more sustainability, and still with the support needed for healthy running.  They’re part of the “less is more” principle followed by minimalists and can actually provide great support for your feet while you run. 

Minimalist running shoes - Minimalist Running Shoes - Gone Minimal
Minimalist running shoes

There are a few characteristics that make minimalist running shoes different from standard running shoes:

  1. Lower heel to toe drop
  2. Less cushioning
  3. Lighter weight

Because of these differences it’s important to gradually make the transition to minimalist running shoes to prevent injuries.  Therefore, start with spending more time barefoot to strengthen your feet, short running times, short distances, and work your way up for the best results.

Minimalist running shoes are made with less material, more sustainability, and still with the support needed for healthy running.

Benefits of Minimalist Running Shoes

Minimalist running shoes are designed to provide a more natural and minimalistic running experience. While the advantages can differ based on personal preferences and running techniques, here are some potential benefits of minimalist running shoes:

  1. Strengthening leg muscles
  2. Enhanced foot flexibility and mobility
  3. Promoting better running form
  4. Improved running efficiency
  5. Increased connection with your surroundings 

Minimalist Running Shoes for Women

Not all women have the same tastes when it comes to shoes, especially with running shoes. When it comes to minimalist running shoes for women, there are categories that have been tested and should be considered including natural feel, weight, versatility, traction, and durability.  Some of these running shoes are constructed for road or trail running, while some are made to feel barefoot. 

Minimalist running shoes for women come in pretty much every color in the rainbow, adding a little bit of fun to your run.  Try before you buy-and select the right type of shoes for the type of running you like to do and the comfort you need. According to researchers Francis and Johnson from Leeds Beckett University, and Whatman, Sheerin, and Hume from Auckland University of Technology, most running injuries occur at the knee or below, and knee injuries are more common in women. 

Minimalist Running Shoes for Men

Some men can be particular when it comes to the shoes they choose for running, and minimalist running shoes for men are able to fit that bill.  There are minimalist running shoes for men for road running, trail running, hiking, and cross-training. 

There may not be as many color options in minimalist running shoes for men, but there are some unisex shoes that come in several fun colors.  You’ll want to pick out the right type of shoes for your running style-and try them out before you buy them to make sure they’re comfortable.

Men's simple running shoe - Minimalist Running Shoes - Gone Minimal
Men’s simple running shoe

Popular Minimalist Running Shoe Brands

Whether it’s a minimalist brand or a mainstream brand, there are several to consider when choosing minimalist running shoes.  We’ve reviewed the most popular minimalist running shoe brands to help you make the right decision.

  1. Nike offers a few different types of barefoot running shoes and has been expanding their minimalist running shoe offerings.  There’s the Free RN lightweight for $100 that’s flexible and breathable.  There’s also the Free Flyknit for $120 that can be worn without socks.  For a lower price point there’s the Revolution series for $65 that has firm support and feels barefoot.
  2. Asics has several minimalist running shoes that come in a variety of colors.  The Noosa Tri for $128 is breathable and waterproof.  The Gel Fuji Racer for $110 drains well and is lightweight.  The Gel Blur 33 for $85 is very well cushioned and has a roomy toe box.
  3. Merrell has a wide selection of minimalist running shoes in several colors.  There’s the Trail Glove for $110 that mimics the human foot shape with additional support and thicker sole.  There’s also the Vapor Glove for $90 that feels barefoot and has 100% recycled laces.  They also offer kids’ running shoes for $50-$55.
  4. Altra is a younger brand (2009) of running shoes that has excellent options for men, women, and kids.  The Torin for $155 is versatile, lightweight, and luxuriously padded.  The Paradigm for $160 is a collaboration with Olympian Kara Goucher and is slimmer, supportive, and responsive.  The Superior for $120 is versatile and protective with removable StoneGuard.
  5. Saucony is a well-established running shoe brand with multiple reliable and colorful options.  The Fastwitch for $100 is lightweight, cushioned, and breathable.  The Virrata for $90 is very lightweight and sole-protective.  Then there’s the Endorphin Pro for $200 that’s smooth, cushioned, and breathable.
  6. Brooks is known as the expert in running shoes, and their products are raved about by avid runners.  The Levitate StealthFit for $150 is springy and adaptable for road running and customizable to your feet.  The Mach series for $90 is rubberized and ready for cross-country or racing.  The Ghost series for $140 are smooth and form-fitting to securely cushion your feet.
  7. New Balance is another well-established brand with several options for running.  The Minimus series for $130 is durable, supportive, and doesn’t require socks.  The Fresh Foam for $160 is comfortable and built for endurance, supportive and responsive. 
Minimalist running shoes in boxes - Minimalist Running Shoes - Gone Minimal
Minimalist running shoes in boxes

Types of Minimalist Running Shoes

According to researcher Irene S. Davis, PT, PhD at Spaulding National Running Center, minimalist running shoes have existed for about a few decades already but have become increasingly popular in recent years. There are also several different types of minimalist running shoes, tailored for the type of running you do.  Let’s review the different types.

Barefoot Minimalist Running Shoes

Barefoot minimalist running shoes generally have zero heel-to-toe drop, maintaining neutral foot position and giving you the “barefoot” running feel.  There’s still support and protection, but the shoes are more lightweight and flexible for a more natural feel.

Minimalist Trail Running Shoes

When running on trails, the ground tends to be more uneven and unpredictable with potential hazards for your feet.  Minimalist trail running shoes have this in mind with a supportive sole, while protecting your feet from rocks and uncertain terrain while still being lightweight.

Trail running in minimalist shoes - Minimalist Running Shoes - Gone Minimal
Trail running in minimalist shoes

Beginner Minimalist Running Shoes

If you’ve been running in standard running shoes for any period of time, there needs to be a transition to minimalist running shoes.  Beginner shoes help make that transition with a slightly thinner sole, a bit more lightweight body, and more flexibility.

Waterproof Minimalist Running Shoes

Waterproof minimalist running shoes are perfect for runners living in wet environments.  These offer a thicker outsole with zero heel-to-toe drop with flexibility and protection from water.  Still lightweight, these provide the sole support you need while keeping your feet dry.

Minimalist Winter Running Shoes

When you live in a cold environment and don’t want to give up running, there’s minimalist winter running shoes.  These are lightweight and supportive with zero heel-to-toe drop, but still enough to keep your feet warm and dry on the coldest run.

This video outlines 7 characteristics of minimalist running shoes to help guide your purchase decision.

Related Insights

Are minimalist running shoes bad?

Minimalist running shoes are not bad, but there is still potential for injuries.  If you’ve been running in standard shoes for a long time, you will need to transition slowly to minimalist running shoes to prevent some of these possible injuries.

Do elite runners use minimalist shoes?

Some elite runners use minimalist shoes, and some don’t.  It all boils down to personal preference as well as having the right amount of foot support while running.  Comfortable, supportive shoes equals more running!

Is minimalist running good for you?

Minimalist running is good for you when done right!  Taking the time to adapt to minimalist running shoes can prevent some injuries, then it’s like running barefoot! 

Top Qualities in Minimalist Running Shoes from Real People

I asked friends and family to list 3 qualities that they look for in a running shoe. Here is what they shared and what I learned from the poll, and the percentages of their responses.

Quality in Running ShoesTimes Selected
Arch support18%
Heel cushion14%
Qualities that real people look for in minimalist running shoes

Other Resources:

Choosing the right running shoes can be overwhelming with all of the brands and options available.  Consider the type of running you want to do, whether it’s road or trail or variety, and pick the minimalist running shoes built for that specifically.  With all of the price points and specifications you’re sure to find just the right shoes to fit your running needs!

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