TOP 18 Best Minimalist Running Shoes Reviewed 2021 + Buying Guide

Jeff Baldelli
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Over the past few years, the minimalist running shoe trend has taken off. There are hundreds of minimalist shoes for you to choose from.

But which ones are worthy of your dollars and have what it takes to put in some long miles?

This comprehensive guide includes a buyer’s guide and reviews by experts and runners themselves of the top shoes for endurance, training, and recovery.

NameCategoryProduct
Merrell Men's Trail Glove 4 RunnerBest OverallMerrell Men's Trail Glove 4 Runner
New Balance Women's WT10v1 Minimus Trail Running ShoeBudget PickNew Balance Women's WT10v1 Minimus Trail Running Shoe
Vibram Women's V Trail RunnerUpgrade PickVibram Women's V Trail Runner

1. Merrell Men's Trail Glove 4 Runner

Our rating: 9 / 10

Merrell Men's Trail Glove 4 Runner

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Pros:

  • Breathable mesh upper.
  • Anti-odor technology.
  • Removable footbeds and cushioned insole.
  • DuraCage reinforced heel cup for stability.
  • Heel and forefoot protection.
  • Vibram Megagrip Lite outsole.
  • Adaptive traction lugs.

Cons:

  • Runs wider than others.
  • Not good for heel strikers.
  • Narrow in width, not suited for wide feet.
  • A bit heavy.

Merrell is known to cater to the outdoor enthusiast and outdoorsman. They have a wide range of shoes for walking, hiking, running, and other outdoor activities.

Merrell Men's Trail Glove 4 Running shoes are a perfect combination of sleek design and functionality. They come with minimal styling and a low profile design that is lightweight and comfortable to wear and run in for hours. They are also very versatile as they can be used with in both running and training sessions.

These shoes are made using a combination of materials: mesh fabric, synthetic fabrics and synthetic sole. This combination makes the shoes breathable, which is very important in hot and humid weather.

2. Vibram Men's V Trail Runner

Our rating: 9 / 10

Vibram Men's V Trail Runner

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Pros:

  • Waterproof with a rubber toe cap
  • Excellent traction, hence they are a favorite for all kinds of outdoor sports
  • Moderately breathable
  • Material is non-abrasive
  • Durable
  • Excellent price point

Cons:

  • Not the best shoe for overpronators or heavier runners
  • Not as light as other minimalist shoes
  • Not the most supportive shoe
  • Slight heel slippage

Update: The V-Trail is the latest version of the Vibram Trail Shoe that is even further improved to keep up with the competition.

Like all of the Vibram models, this shoe is designed for use on trails and other outdoorsy environments. We consider it to be the best shoe for minimalist trails.

The shoe is now even lighter than before at 6.7 ounces.

3. Xero Shoes TerraFlex

Our rating: 8 / 10

Xero Shoes TerraFlex

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Pros:

  • Lightweight and comfortable.
  • No-sew material.
  • Zero drop.
  • Amazing shoe traction.
  • Upper is organic hemp.
  • Eco-friendly.
  • Awesome lightweight stitching.
  • User-friendly zipper home.
  • Looks great!
  • Storage room for small items with strap.

Cons:

  • Run a little narrow.
  • Not good on wet surfaces.
  • Not good for rough terrains.
  • Could be more durable.
  • Fabric may stretch out over time.

Comfortable and Free!

The no-sew material in the body of the Xero Shoes TerraFlex Trail Running and Hiking Shoe is designed to wrap your foot comfortably and evenly. It will then reduce the pressure on any one area at any given time. This gives the shoe a natural feel, since it is one with your foot.

These are the perfect minimalistrunning shoes, especially for people new to the barefoot category of running. It has a great clean look that you will love.

4. New Balance Men's Hanzo Running Shoe

Our rating: 8 / 10

New Balance Men's Hanzo Running Shoe

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Pros:

  • Supportive heel cradle
  • Responsive with a lot of cushion
  • Good for road running and indoor workouts
  • Excellent value running shoe

New Balance has a long history of making quality running shoes, and the Men’s New Balance Hanzo is a great example of that. They are a stable, supportive, lightweight shoe that is perfect for running on the road or for short runs off-road.

The shoes are built on a low-to-the-ground platform that pairs well with a responsive midsole designed for stability. The outsole features a deep wave that provides plenty of traction for most surfaces. Debris is prevented from entering the shoes thanks to the gusseted tongue and the debris shield design at the back of the shoe.

5. Vibram Women's V Running Shoe

Our rating: 8 / 10

Vibram Women's V Running Shoe

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Pros:

  • Secure lace locks
  • Thick, cushioned midsole
  • Great for wider feet
  • Really pretty pattern designs
  • Velcro and elastic tighteners
  • Good traction on the sole
  • Works for moderate to heavy runners

Cons:

  • Little flex in the sole
  • Can feel a bit stiff
  • Not good for super narrow feet

This shoe is a great option for women who have wider feet. It has two Velcro straps that help to lock your foot in place.

It also has a mesh upper and is made from breathable material to keep your foot cool and dry even in hot weather. As an added bonus, the color design is just gorgeous!

These shoes are good for moderate to moderate heavy runners and will support you in your CrossFit training. They are not good for really intense or heavy runners.

6. New Balance Men's MT10V1 Minimus Trail Running Shoe

Our rating: 8 / 10

New Balance Men's MT10V1 Minimus Trail Running Shoe

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Pros:

  • Toe Design.
  • Soft midsole.
  • Moderate cushioning.
  • Granular outsole.
  • Eco-friendly.
  • Local production.

Cons:

  • Long Term Durability.
  • Elongated Heel.
  • Imperfect Finishing.
  • Overly-Soft.

The New Balance 10V1 is a trail running shoe that has a lot of outstanding features. It is lightweight and is one of the best-performing trail shoes for men. The shoes are lightweight and have a good toe design and an excellent cushioning.

This shoe gives the runner a comfortable and stable experience. The mesh uppers help the shoe to remain cooler.

The skin-friendly sticky rubber outsole also supports a better grip. The outsole is durable, abrasion resistant and provides durability and traction while running.

7. Xero Shoes Prio

Our rating: 8 / 10

Xero Shoes Prio

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Pros:

  • Very comfortable
  • Looks great

Cons:

  • Plastic material, you should be careful with them.

This is a typically a lightweight trail running shoe that is great for barefoot running. It features our forefoot-striking specific Gecko Flex sole that is great for running on a comfortable and natural way. It is made from a comfortable zero-drop EVA X-Grip outsole made with an organic compound.

It also has lightweight rubber outsole, so you can wear this shoe to a variety of activities. The rubber is environmental-friendly, so you don’t have to worry about any pollution issues. And you can wash this shoe with clean water.

This minimalist shoe is also very lightweight, so you can wear it for long distances. The breathable mesh upper is a very lightweight material. The shoe weighs about 10 oz. This is a very comfortable shoe.

8. Altra Women's Solstice Sneaker

Our rating: 8 / 10

Altra Women's Solstice Sneaker

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Pros:

  • Provides maximum comfort.
  • Great for long walks/runs to work.
  • Altra shoes are highly recommended by experts.
  • Additional layers of cushion.
  • Best minimalist running shoes for trail and pavement running.
  • Good for people with flat feet.

Cons:

  • Requires a longer break in period.
  • Runs a bit small, but most reviewers suggest sizing a half size up.
  • A little loose, and not as much support as expected.
  • Fewer color choices than other running shoes.

The Altra Solstice is a true minimalist running shoe. As an Altra, it doesn�۪t have a ton of cushioning. It is, however, a lightweight shoe with a mesh upper that will keep your feet cool during the summer months and dry during the rainy season. As with all Altra shoes, this shoe runs on the narrow side. If you find that most women�۪s shoes run on the wider side, you may want to opt for a different running shoe.

The shoe is extremely lightweight without feeling flimsy. You can even wear it when not running, and it makes a great manner shoe. The cushioned footbed does have added cushion and is removable so that if you prefer even more cushion, you can add your own.

9. Merrell Women's Vapor Glove 2

Our rating: 7 / 10

Merrell Women's Vapor Glove 2

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Pros:

  • Vibram Megagrip bottom
  • uppers are secure and flexible
  • Firm ground traction that is very responsive
  • Very lightweight
  • Mesh ventilation
  • Quickfit lacing system
  • Half sizes are worth a try

Cons:

  • Not good for people with wide feet.
  • Fit is dependent on arch height and natural foot shape.

The women’s Vapor Glove 2 is the fourth version of Merrell’s flagship glove-like running shoe. As expected with an update, the shoe keeps everything that was great about the original and adds even more comfort and performance.

The Vapor Glove 2 combines Merrell’s signature barefoot cushioning with a glove-like feel so you barely notice that you’re wearing shoes. It also has a protective plate and a Vibram Megagrip underfoot, so your foot stays put if you happen to hit the road.

The quickFit lacing system allows you to effortlessly tie the shoes in seconds without struggling with laces.

10. Mizuno Wave Ekiden Running Shoe

Our rating: 7 / 10

Mizuno Wave Ekiden Running Shoe

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Pros:

  • Extremely durable and supportive
  • Breathable fabric and synthetic
  • Breathable
  • Multi-direction tread
  • Outsole durability is decent
  • No insole
  • Great for stability
  • No hot spots
  • Lightweight
  • Zero-drop

Cons:

  • Very, very long break-in period
  • Laces can dig into your ankle
  • Some people don’t care for the fit
  • Difficult to quickly tug them on and off

First up, the Mizuno Wave Ekiden Running Shoe. The Wave Ekiden is an affordable, durable shoe with plenty of stability and durability that will serve the needs of many runners.

The sole of the Ekiden is made of a durable rubber compound that is durable enough to withstand the abuse it will receive over time. The mesh is also durable and protects your feet and toes from rocks and other debris that may be on the roads and trails you run on.

The lack of leather or insole does make it easier to get into the shoe quickly. The laces feel reassuring and provide a nice mid-foot wrap. The top of the shoe is breathable and offers nice support for the top of your foot and ankle.

11. Nike Men's Free Rn Flyknit 2017 Trail Running Shoes

Our rating: 7 / 10

Nike Men's Free Rn Flyknit 2017 Trail Running Shoes

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Pros:

  • Comfort
  • Ventilation
  • Versatile
  • Responsive
  • High quality with reasonable price
  • Cushion
  • Weight
  • Good support
  • Hugs your feet well
  • Comfortable in all terrains

Cons:

  • So-so grip
  • Sweaty
  • A bit stiff at first
  • A bit narrow
  • Heavy

These are some of the best men running shoes on the market. And I have been using them for almost a year now. I love the cushioned feeling, great breathability, lightweight, and comfortable.

Even though they are breathable and lightweight, I still feel them a bit heavy, maybe I have developed used to heavy shoes so I don't feel the weight as much as before.

I have been using these shoes about 4 times a week and they are very responsive. I only play for an hour and I can run for 8-10 miles with no problem and no pain.

12. Vivobarefoot Men's Primus Lite Running Trainer Shoe

Our rating: 6 / 10

Vivobarefoot Men's Primus Lite Running Trainer Shoe

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Pros:

  • Quality materials and construction.
  • Very breathable upper.
  • Full lacing system for a snug fit.
  • Lateral rubber toe protection.
  • Good for mild support.
  • 0.3 lb. weight.
  • Water-based, eco-friendly dyes.
  • Vegan-friendly.
  • Recyclable and vegan-friendly packaging.

Cons:

  • The sole is too thin to provide robust support.
  • Some reviewers complain that the laces are too short.

This leather running shoe is highly versatile and can be used for any activity where you want to be sparing with your turnout. The Primus Lite is made with a very breathable, vegan-friendly mesh/polyester upper that does not chafe or cause any irritation against the leg.

The foot bed uses a sensitive foot-friendly microfiber to enhance comfort. The shoe gives the foot a semi-supple feeling without sacrificing any of the support it needs. Trotters were excited by both the comfort and stylish looks of this shoe, which they say is great for weight-training or everyday use.

Bottom line: If you want to regularly run short distances, then this is a classy shoe that gives you great bang for your buck.

13. Vibram Women's V Trail Runner

Our rating: 6 / 10

Vibram Women's V Trail Runner

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Pros:

  • Wide toe box
  • Lightweight
  • Excellent grip on wet surfaces
  • Cushioning midsole
  • Provides good arch support.

Cons:

  • The sole wears out and starts separating from the collar of the shoe.

This is one of the most popular minimalist shoes on the market. And for good reason-they feature a wide forefoot with plenty of space for toes. They also have a wide ankle collar for plenty of support. If you need arch support, the midsole is also padded.

The Vibram Trail Runner is also known to have a great grip on wet surfaces and longer treads on the bottom. So, if you live in a rainy climate, you won’t slip and slide around while running.

These shoes are suitable for both men and women and you can buy them in a ton of different colors and designs. An added bonus is that if you live near water, you can purchase the waterproof version.

14. New Balance Women's WT10v1 Minimus Trail Running Shoe

Our rating: 6 / 10

New Balance Women's WT10v1 Minimus Trail Running Shoe

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Pros:

  • Waterproof
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Durable
  • Supportive
  • Great for narrow/average-width feet
  • Perfect fit
  • Durable
  • Comfort

Cons:

  • Heavy/boots
  • Looking ugly
  • Plastic look
  • Running
  • Sports

New Balance Collabored with Vibram to make this shoe. That is a very good combination. The mixture is fantastic; Vibram XS Grip 2 technology and FantomFit upper. That combination makes a shoe that will help you with strides in all conditions that you run in.

The New Balance Women's WT10v1's are very durable. Also, you can run in these shoes. Plus, it has a very comfortable fit. So, you can wear them at the gym, around the house, or to run errands. You can wear them on your runs. It is best used for light trails. Also, with the sturdy sole, you get good traction on slippery surfaces.

15. Saucony Women's Endorphin Racer 2 Track Shoe

Our rating: 5 / 10

Saucony Women's Endorphin Racer 2 Track Shoe

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Pros:

  • Very stylish lightweight design
  • Vibrant color combinations
  • Contains a fully-cushioned heel for better comfort
  • Not too bright around the dusk and dawn
  • Price is decent for its performance
  • Not designed for speed training
  • Ran small
  • Could be better for longer distance training

Saucony has been a household name in the running community for a long time and has not disappointed with the Endorphin Racer 2. It is a lightweight running shoe that is the perfect first shoe for someone just starting out or someone who is looking for a good treadmill shoe.

The Endorphin racer comes in multiple vibrant colors so they are not boring. They are also perfect for joggers that wear their headphone to the gym as they allow you to hear your music well.

The Saucony Endorphin Racer 2 is a great choice for a light cardio shoe for anyone looking for a nice lightweight shoe with minimal cushioning. It is not designed for any running over 5 miles or speed training, but it is great for a basic daily running or gym shoe.

16. Topo Athletic Men's ST-2 Running Shoe Navy/Black 11

Our rating: 4 / 10

Topo Athletic Men's ST-2 Running Shoe Navy/Black 11

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Pros:

  • Made from synthetic and mesh fabrics.
  • Lightweight and ventilated.
  • Sturdy internal stitching and reinforced toe box.
  • Very comfortable out of the box.

Cons:

  • Not flexible in the arch; best for the zero drop runner.
  • This is certainly one of the top shoes that excels even among the high-end running shoes.

It provides excellent support because of its construction. With the great combination of materials of synthetic and mesh, the shoe is lightweight, ventilated, and has a strong mid-sole.

Its design also provides good traction on trail or pavement. The shoe only weighs about 6.8 ounces, so it’s great for runs. It’s super comfortable, making it best for long distance running.

17. Vivobarefoot Stealth Ii

Our rating: 4 / 10

Vivobarefoot Stealth Ii

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Pros:

  • Zero drop (same heel-to-toe drop as barefoot runners)
  • Unlined (can breathe)
  • Barefoot feel without the pain (Super flexible, so you still get that "barefoot" feel and movement)
  • Great for minimalist or light runners hoping to lighten their foot strike
  • Great support (better than other minimalist shoes)
  • Comfortable (natural padding and breathability)
  • Cushy insole (EVA)
  • Lightweight (only 13 oz.)
  • Great arch support
  • Many colors to choose from

Cons:

  • Padding not for heavy runners
  • Can be tricky to get on and off at first
  • Runners with large bunions may have to go up a size
  • If you have heel pain, consider rotating shoes from training to race day
  • Takes some getting used to before you get "hooked on them"

7.5

If you are a woman looking for a shoe with a barefoot movement that will support you in the same manner as it does barefoot runners, the Vivobarefoot Stealth are an excellent option.

It doesn’t have a padded mesh upper like so many minimalist shoes and flips flops.

18. Merrell Bare Access Flex Men 7 Black

Our rating: 4 / 10

Merrell Bare Access Flex Men 7 Black

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Pros:

  • The cool mesh upper is comfortable
  • The shoe breathes well and dries quickly
  • The fit is wide and true to size
  • The minimalist shoe has an attractive design
  • It has a wide toe box with molded, padded footbed
  • Vibram outsole material is durable
  • The shoe works well for walking as well as hiking
  • It's lightweight at 8.2 ounces

Cons:

  • It lacks arch support
  • It is a low-top sneaker

If you want a slip-on water shoe with a functional sole, this is one of the most attractive options on the market in the category. The upper is made of a unique mesh. The shoe lacks arch support, but it is a true minimalist shoe.

The first few outings, you will likely experience a small brief period of blistering as the shoe stretches. Which also means, you will have to give that heel a little bit of time to break in before you go tackling any super long distance or rough terrain.

If you are looking for a great minimalist running shoe that can double as your leisure sneaker as well, this is a great option to consider. If you hike, walk, or even run you will enjoy the Bare Access Flex.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best minimalist running shoe?

Minimalist running shoes create a natural foot strike because they are built on the foundation of when our ancestors would run – barefoot.

Today, we do not run barefoot, but running shoes are still over padded and over cushioned so they are bulkier, heavier, and take longer to break in than a running shoe that has a dramatically minimalistic sole.

Minimalist running shoes create a natural foot strike because they are built on the foundation of when our ancestors would run – barefoot. They have minimal cushioning between the foot and the ground so you get a light on your feet feeling that actually helps you to run faster, longer, healthier, and happier.

What brand of running shoes last longest?

Nike is well known for its cushioning. It is popular with long-distance runners. With its high, cushioned heel and a wider toe profile, they are extremely comfortable to wear.

Converse is my favorite maker of minimalist running shoes. They have wonderful arch support that can prevent your joints and lower back from pain. Converse shoes are also rubber-tipped, lightweight, and flexible. Just slip on a pair and you are good to go.

Saucony’s shoes are often for the heavy-duty runners. It has exceptional shock aboarmtion system that can help your feet and legs last longer. They are also breathable and lightweight.

What are the best running shoes 2021?

Good running shoes will improve comfort, efficiency and performance, leading to better running economy. A good energy price saves you time (you go faster for the same energy cost) and improves your success rate (saving energy lets you repeat the same pace for a longer distance before getting tired.

The right running shoes for you are the ones that fit you well, that you can run in comfortably, and that let you run efficiently. As long as they are minimalist running shoes, all running shoes will get the job done.

Is it better to buy running shoes bigger or smaller?

A lot of times if you are in between sizes it is better to try and get a size smaller that is just a little bit big than a shoe that is a little too small. That is because the insides of your running shoes will all be caving in around your feet if your shoes are too small.

The big issue is not only getting a boot that is too small but make sure it has ample toe room. Many of the minimalist shoes are very narrow. If you are a wide shoe person you might want to shy away from a lot of them.

Conclusion

Running is a popular form of exercise you can do at home, and it is great for your cardiovascular system. You can go for a nice, brisk walk or slowly jog around the block. Either way, running has benefits, from strengthening your bones to improving your fitness.

If you are a runner, it is important to select the best shoes for the job. Like the best shoes for working out, there are many models available. Because not all shoes are made equal, it is important to find the perfect shoes for you. These shoes can make a huge difference in how you are able to do activities every day.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Merrell Men's Trail Glove 4 RunnerBest OverallMerrell Men's Trail Glove 4 Runner
New Balance Women's WT10v1 Minimus Trail Running ShoeBudget PickNew Balance Women's WT10v1 Minimus Trail Running Shoe
Vibram Women's V Trail RunnerUpgrade PickVibram Women's V Trail Runner