Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2017

The best minimalist running shoes will challenge your entire body and allow you to experience a whole new side to running. What makes them so interesting to runners or all levels? Well, running nearly barefoot will help you develop more muscle strength which will definitely improve your overall performance when needed.

Best minimalist running shoes will make you more aware of your surroundings and even correct your running form. Choosing the best minimalist running shoes can be a bit tricky because there are so many different models out there and you need to find the one that will fit into your training routine perfectly. So it doesn’t matter if you run on trails or you prefer roads – our list will help you find the right pair.

1. Merrell Trail Glove 3

Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2017 | Merrell Trail Glove 3
  • Weight: 7oz / 199g
  • Soles: Vibram
  • Drop: 0mm

Merrell is a well-known brand in the running community and they always come up with innovative designs that are both unique and useful. Their Trail Glove line of running shoes is minimalist but also very comfortable.

Merrell Trail Glove 3 is the latest addition to their minimalist trail running shoes and it offers just enough contact with the ground. The sole is not too thick and you will get excellent shoes that have improved stability and support.

These minimalist trail running shoes have a tight fit that will help you a lot if you love running off the road. Your feet will move freely but you will also feel confident on more demanding terrain because they feature TrailProtect pad technology. The extra support underneath the arch is very important for runners of all levels.

What we like

  • The shoe is very lightweight
  • Excellent stability on all terrains
  • M-Select Fresh technology will keep these shoes well ventilated

What we don’t like

  • The sole is slightly stiffer than in older versions
  • The extra arch support might be uncomfortable for some runners

2. Merrell Vapor Glove 2

Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2017 | Merrell Vapor Glove 2
  • Weight: 5.8oz / 165g
  • Soles: Vibram
  • Drop: 0mm

Merrell Vapor Glove 2 features slightly futuristic design that add a new twist to the best minimalist running shoes for the trail. They do not have any arch support whatsoever so you will get the natural running feeling while your feet stabilize themselves and allow you to enjoy the surface as it is.

If you are not used to similar shoes, you definitely need to start running shorter distances with Vapor Glove 2 because the sole is very thin and you have to get familiar with them. Don’t worry about the longevity because the soles will not wear out easily.

Merrell included their groundbreaking M-Select Fresh technology in this model as well so they will not emit any odor even if you use these shoes on a daily basis. The upper part is made of mesh and thermoplastic polyurethane so your feet will feel comfortable on long trail runs.

What we like

  • High-quality soles that are durable
  • Can be used on both roads and trails
  • Super lightweight shoes that feel natural on your feet

What we don’t like

  • No arch support which might be a deal-breaker for some runners
  • You have to check the measurements because you might need a smaller size than usual

3. Nike Free Flyknit 4.0

Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2017 | Nike Free Flyknit 4.0
  • Weight: 8.2oz / 233g
  • Sole: Flex grooves
  • Drop: 7.5mm

With their revolutionary hexagonal soles, Nike Free Flyknit 4.0 managed to improve the flexibility of Nike's best minimalist running shoes and bring them to a whole new level. Nike as a brand is known for pushing the boundaries and exploring innovative technologies that help you improve your running so Flyknit 4.0 is an exceptional shoe many runners will love.

The woven upper part will fit exceptionally well and the ventilation is improved too. This shoe features Flywire cables which will allow you to tie Nike Free Flyknit 4.0 shoes perfectly around your feet.

These are one of the best minimalist running shoes for the beginners because they have the right amount of support as well as excellent stability. Keep in mind that heel-to-toe drop is 7.5mm. Nike Free Flyknit 4.0 might not be the best option for trails but they will perform exceptionally well on roads.

What we like

  • Hexagonal soles are flexible and very stable
  • They will fit you perfectly regardless of the shape of your feet
  • The shoes are light and will feel natural

What we don’t like

  • They are a bit pricey
  • The soles will wear out quicker

4. New Balance 20v5 Vibram Minimus

Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2017 | New Balance 20v5 Vibram Minimus
  • Weight: 6.9oz / 200g
  • Soles: Vibram
  • Drop: 4mm

New Balance made a spectacular return in the last couple of years and they are slowly becoming the top brand for running shoes worldwide. And they deserve to be featured on our list of best minimalist running shoes. Their 20v5 Vibram Minimus has a simple but effective design that gives them versatility and you can use them for both running and cross-training.

The sole is a bit thicker and not extremely flexible which put these minimalist running shoes somewhere in the middle when it comes to natural movement. However, the fit is good and the upper part is made impeccably – it has a tongue and laces that will keep your foot in place.

Since New Balance 20v5 Vibram Minimus do have slightly thicker soles, they will be incredibly useful for runners who are getting used to minimalist running shoes. And you can wear them when running on trails as well!

What we like

  • You can use these shoes on trails, roads, or in a gym
  • The asymmetrical lacing really holds your feet in place
  • Improved stability

What we don’t like

  • Soles are a little stiff, especially in the toe area
  • The sizing is slightly off - pay closer attention if you want to get the best fit

5. ASICS Gel-Fortius TR Cross

Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2017 | ASICS Gel-Fortius TR Cross
  • Weight: 9.4oz / 267g
  • Soles: Wet Grip
  • Drop: 0mm

While ASICS Gel-Fortius TR shoe has been designed for cross training, they can be very useful for runners who are looking for minimalist running shoes. The upper part of the shoe is made of mesh and leather so they are very durable.

The rubber sole is stable but it doesn’t have too much cushioning. Therefore, if you have never used minimalist shoes, these might feel a bit uncomfortable at first.

The overall design is slightly narrower so they can feel tight if you have wider feet. On the other hand, the combination of materials offers great protection and ventilation so ASICS Gel-Fortius TR is a solid minimalist trail running shoe that will keep your footing secure on uneven terrain.

What we like

  • Simple and straight-forward design
  • The leather material makes them resistant to tearing
  • Can be used for cross training and other activities

What we don’t like

  • Lack of cushioning for the beginners
  • Your feet might feel confined at first because the shoes are narrow

6. Inov-8 F-Lite 235-M

Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2017 | Inov-8 F-Lite 235-M
  • Weight: 8.2oz / 235g
  • Sole: Rope Tech 360
  • Drop: 0mm

Inov-8 is a famous brand in the CrossFit community but runners are slowly discovering their products. F-Lite 235-M are particularly interesting to minimalist running shoe enthusiasts who want high-quality running gear that is light and made to last.

The soles are very flexible and they feature Meta-Flex technology that provides you with a natural and safe running stride. The heel and the toe of the shoe are fortified and offer just the right amount of support.

The upper part is made of synthetic materials and it will fit your feet well. You will not feel tired at all and you can comfortably run longer distances in Inov-8 F-Lite 235-M.

What we like

  • The increased flexibility of the soles
  • They have a perfect amount of support
  • Improved stability on all terrains

What we don’t like

  • The fit around the ankle is a bit wider
  • The tongue is on a larger side

7. Vibram KSO EVO

Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2017 | Vibram KSO EVO
  • Weight: 4.9oz / 139g
  • Sole: Rubber
  • Drop: 2mm

If you want to experience the full barefoot running feeling, Vibram KSO EVO might be the shoe for you. It has five fingers that will keep your feet protected and safe while you are out there.

The material is synthetic and these minimalist running shoes dry quickly without any lingering odor. The tongue has a little bit of padding but it will not restrict your movement.

We absolutely love the speed lacing system and you can get a perfect lock as soon as you put Vibram KSO EVO shoes on. The XS Trek outsoles contact the ground in the most natural way so you can enjoy natural running to the maximum.

What we like

  • Speed lacing system really works well with this shoe
  • Natural contact with the surface
  • The materials are quite durable

What we don’t like

  • The sizing is a bit tricky with this model
  • The price might be too high for barefoot running shoes

8. Vivobarefoot Trail Freak

Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2017 | Vivobarefoot Trail Freak
  • Weight: 9.7oz / 274g
  • Sole: V-Trek
  • Drop: 0mm

Made exclusively for running on trails, these shoes have some amazing features that will keep you comfortable and safe while you are out there. The sole is very flexible and chevron-shape lugs will help you with the stability on any uneven surface.

The upper part is water resistant, features a breathable mesh, and bungee lacing will save you a lot of time because you can be ready for a run in just a couple of seconds. The ventilation is simply amazing because it will keep you warm when the temperatures drop down but will let the air flow when it is hot outside.

The fit is excellent and your stride will be confident in Vivobarefoot Trail Freak. We really like the reflective details that will make you visible in traffic.

What we like

  • Super flexible rubber sole
  • Breathable mesh that will make every run comfortable
  • They are water resistant

What we don’t like

  • The soles can wear out quickly
  • Narrow fit which might be a bit uncomfortable for wider feet

9. Mizuno Wave Universe 5

Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2017 | Mizuno Wave Universe 5
  • Weight: 2.9oz / 83g
  • Sole: Synthetic
  • Drop: 2.1mm

Mizuno has a long tradition of making exquisite running shoes and they are favored by both professional runners and complete beginners. Wave Universe 5 is an updated version of their minimalist running shoes and they truly are exceptional.

They weight next to nothing while providing you with just the right amount of support. The mesh is incredibly thin but strong enough to keep your feet in place.

This means that the shoes are very airy and breathable but you can wash them quickly as soon as you notice any odor. We also have to mention that even though they are thin, the soles will not wear out easily.

What we like

  • Excellent performance on a road
  • Longevity of the soles is astonishing
  • Light materials

What we don’t like

  • The tongue might move to the side while running
  • The ventilation is good but you will notice a slight odor after some time

10. Altra One 2.5 Running Shoe

Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2017 | Altra One 2.5 Running Shoe
  • Weight: 6.6oz / 188g
  • Sole: Rubber
  • Drop: 2mm

Altra One 2.5 are best minimalist running shoes for complete beginners who want to get into barefoot running. Their soles are slightly thicker so if you are not ready to go out there without a good amount of cushioning, these might be for you.

Inner flex technology makes these minimalist running shoes extra flexible. The toe box is spacious and comfortable so Altra One 2.5 will fit both wider and narrower feet.

The upper part is made of synthetic materials which are thin and airy. You will be able to contact the ground better and stay stable because the support is amazing with this model.

What we like

  • Durable and the soles do not show signs of wear quickly
  • They are light, comfortable, and flexible
  • Useful on both roads and trails

What we don’t like

  • The tongue can get in the way sometimes
  • The position of the laces is a bit off and you might struggle to get a tight fit

How to choose best minimalist running shoes

Training in minimalist running shoes is certainly a new experience. So if you are unfamiliar with this type of gear, here are a couple of things you should look for:

Weight of the shoes

Best minimalist running shoes are supposed to give you the feeling of running barefoot. They need to feel almost like socks. Therefore, the weight is quite important.

The build

Minimalist running shoes do have fewer materials and some of them might feel a bit simple. Make sure they feel well-constructed and firm. Some soles can wear out quicker than the others, depending on the construction and the shape.

The location

Some minimalist running shoes can be used on roads only. But if you are a trail runner, you should train in them as well. Look for shoes that offer extra features such as being resistant to water and extra breathability.

Level of experience

If you are new to minimalist running shoes, you need to give yourself some time to get used to running in shoes that have a lower drop. If you are not comfortable yet, try finding a model that has at least 2mm of the heel-to-toe drop.

Advantages of best minimalist running shoes

While minimalist running shoes might look uncomfortable to some runners, they do have plenty of benefits that will help you out in your fitness journey:

No heel first

A large number of runners do have improper form and they tend to hit the ground with their heel first. And hit it hard. This can lead to many injuries that will keep you from achieving your running goals. Minimalist running shoes will help you run naturally and you will have the perfect running form.

Stronger muscles

If you stick to running in minimalist running shoes, you will see a huge difference in your foot flexibility. Your Achilles will become stronger and your stride will be impeccable so you will not get injured easily.

More trails

Running in minimalist shoes can be a bit tricky so the best way to ease into it is to forget the concrete and hit the trails in the first couple of weeks. Running in nature will make you more observant and in sync with your surrounds.


Even though there are some amazing running shoes on our list, Merrell Trail Glove 3 is a winner. Merrell created a durable shoe that feels very high-quality. While it might be primarily made for trails, these shoes can perform well on concrete too.

And not to forget that they are very light and feel almost like a sock. Merrell Trail Glove 3 can be used by beginners because it does have a low drop but there is still a bit of additional support in the middle of the shoe. They are versatile and will last you for miles and miles so Merrell Trail Glove 3 can be considered to be one of the best minimalist running shoes in the market right now.

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