10 Best Minimalist Running Shoes 2021

In our guide below, we’ll help you find the best minimalist running shoes and give you a few tips that will help you understand what to look for as you compare and contrast brands.

Whether you’re new to minimalist running or if you have experience and you’re looking for a new pair of shoes, we have a mix of the top choices for you below.

If You’re a Beginner

Here are a few tips for those of you who are new to minimalist running:

  • Transition Slowly. It’s really important that you don’t rush right in. It’s the complete opposite of the running style you’re used to (heel to toe) and you’ll be using different muscles than you normally do, so make sure you begin gradually.

It’s definitely in your best interests to get some advice from an experienced minimalist runner.

  • Hold Off On The Shoes. Before you slip on the minimalist or barefoot shoes, practice completely barefoot. Stand on a variety surfaces in your bare feet (grass, dirt, gravel, pavement) and then incorporate a little barefoot walking in there.

From there, you’ll slowly introduce running.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of the new foot strike (forefoot or midfoot), then you’ll be ready to incorporate the appropriate minimalist running shoes.

  • Socks. You might wonder if it’s necessary to wear socks when you run in this type of shoe. Some prefer to wear them and others don’t, so it’s really up to you.

Remember that socks help absorb the brunt of your sweat and you can take them off and wash them when you’re done.

If you prefer not to wear socks, make sure the shoes are easy to wash so that you keep your feet clean and hygienic.

Top 10 Minimalist Running Shoes Table

PictureNameForPriceRating (1-5)
Rating (1-5)
81aoPA4W0vL. SP1101. Merrell Women's Bare Access Arc 4 Trail Running ShoeWomen$$4.5
81lg%2BMr51FL. SP1102. Vivobarefoot Women's Evo Pure Running ShoeWomen$$4.5
711379jHvNL. SP1103. Tesla Men's Trail Running Minimalist Barefoot Athletic Shoe BK30Men$4.4
81is1H6UIXL. SP1104. Merrell Men's Trail Glove 3 Minimal Trail Running ShoeMen$$4.4
81kuF2qMz8L. SP1105. Merrell Women's Vapor Glove 2 Barefoot Trail Running Women$$4.4
81kJeB0oR L. SP1106. New Balance Men's MX20BS4 Cross Minimus Training Shoe Men$$4.3
81rJ9rAwsEL. SP1107. Vibram Women's Bikila Evo Road Running ShoeWomen$$$4.3
61pZ6vn0uML. SP1108. Nike Women's Free 1.0 Cross Bionic Running ShoesWomen$$4.3
51zgfN1yBmL. SP1109. Vibram FiveFingers Mens SeeYa LS Polyester Running ShoeMen$$4.0
81zNkG2sU0L. SP11010. Vivobarefoot Men's Ultra II Sport ShoeMen$$4.0

Minimalist vs Barefoot

What’s the difference here?

  • Minimalist running shoes are similar in shape to the traditional running shoes, only they’re stripped down to the bare basics. Minimal cushioning, minimal support and minimal protection.

They’re very flexible, the soles are thin and they don’t have much of a heel-toe drop (between 4-8 mm). The design encourages you to strike with your midfoot or forefoot rather than the heel.

  • Barefoot running shoes are like a glove for your feet. They let you get as close to natural running as possible without you actually having to touch your skin to the ground.

Vibram makes some of the best barefoot running shoes that we’ve tried and you’ll find a few on our list above (numbers 7 and 9). These aren’t for everyone. Severe overpronators might find that the lack of arch support is too much for them.

Men’s and Women’s Shoes

You’ll find that the sizing for minimalist shoes typically works well on both men’s and women’s feet. Some women find minimalist running shoes that are targeted for men to work great for their feet, and vice versa, so if you find a pair that you like, just refer to the sizing guide to find something that will fit you.

Most are unisex.

3 Best Minimalist Running Shoes Reviews

1. Merrell Bare Access Arc 4

81aoPA4W0vL. SP500

Many of you interested in the best minimalist running shoes probably plan on doing a bit (or a lot) of trail running. If that’s the case, then we recommend you check out Merrell’s Arc 4 shoes.

These are minimalist shoes with a 0mm drop, 8mm heel cushion and 2 mm lug depth (which means that the tread on the bottom of the shoes is 2mm in height), providing you with excellent grip and superb durability. There are actually no lugs under the arch of your foot so that your feet can flex more naturally as you run. A very comfortable and natural feeling.

If you’re a neutral pronator who likes to feel the earth beneath your feet but you’re not quite interested in a pair of barefoot shoes, then we definitely recommend these. Very comfortable to wear and no break in time required. Just put them on and go.

2. Vivobarefoot Evo Pure

81lg%2BMr51FL. SP500

Vivobarefoot is an Italian brand that takes your feet back to the bare basics of running.

This would be a great alternative for those of you who can’t stand the idea individual toe pockets (like gloves for your feet) yet who still want a minimal running shoe.

It features a breathable mesh upper, a 3mm thick sole, Dri-Lex Performance lining and a honeycomb tread pattern that provides you with traction and control both on and off road.

Being a European brand, you may need to double check the sizing (they tend to run a little small), but those who wear them love how flexible and lightweight they are.

3. Tesla Trail Running Minimalist BK30

711379jHvNL. SP500

Guys, this is a great pair of trail running shoes that you might like to try.

They have a 0 mm heel-to-toe drop, very thin midsole (only 2mm thick) and an arched footbed for those of you who need a little more support in this area.

Again, if you hate the individual toe pockets and you want a barefoot shoe, these are perfect. They mesh uppers are simple, breathable and help wick moisture away from your feet if you sweat.

They’re pretty good for the price range but not top of the line. We’d recommend them as an entry-level trail running shoe for those of you who aren’t sure about the whole minimalist technique yet.

If you wear them out and still like minimalist running, then you can upgrade to a more serious pair like the Vibrams.

An experienced runner and an active mom, Kelly is the research expert behind runninggearlab.com When you don't find Kelly training for her next 10k or 5k race you'll find her reading reviews and testing the latest running watch.

      Running Gear Lab