Did you know that barefoot running is still a thing in Kenya today? And by barefoot running, we mean no shoes at all. Did you also know that a certain Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia won the Olympic marathon running barefoot?

Barefoot running today, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you must run while barefoot. With technological advances in the shoe wear industry, there are now running shoes designed to make you feel as natural or as barefoot as possible on the road, on a trail and even while on a race.

And if you’re thinking of transitioning from regular running to barefoot running, what you need is the best minimalist running shoes available on the market today.

7 Best Minimalist Running Shoes For 2018

We’ve done the research, scouted the market and compared as many pairs of minimalist running shoes from different brands. Below is a table of the best minimalist running shoes for a quick comparison:

Product Name
Material
 Weight
Drop 
Vibram Men's Bikila EVOMesh/Rubber Sole4.3 oz.Zero drop
Nike Men's Free 5.0Synthetic/Mesh/Rubber Sole9.0 oz.8mm
New Balance Men's MX20BS4 Synthetic/Synthetic Sole6.9 oz.4 mm drop
Mizuno Men's Wave Hitogami 2Synthetic/Synthetic Sole7.9 oz.8.9 mm
Merrell Men's Trail Glove 3Fabric/Synthetic/Rubber Sole7.0 oz.Zero drop
Inov-8 F-lite 195Synthetic/Rubber Sole7.0 oz.3 mm
Altra Men's Superior 2Synthetic/Rubber Sole8.7 oz.Zero drop

We hope you will find our table of the best minimalist running shoes for 2018 shown above helpful. We’ll now move on to the reviews of the shoes.

Vibram Men’s Bikila EVO – Best Barefoot Running Shoes

best minimalist running shoes 2018

Topping our list of the top minimalist running shoes is this innovative Vibram Bikila EVO running shoe. Developed by Vibram, a respectable and trusted brand that pioneered the first rubber sole on a pair of boots, it’s no surprise that the Bikila EVO is getting rave reviews from runners transitional from traditional to minimalist running.

The new Vibram Bikila EVO has been redesigned with thinner but durable foam and less of the outsole rubber. This means that the running shoes are not only lighter but also more flexible.

This is minimalist design at its fines.

You’ll enjoy the benefits of minimalist shoes and experience a more natural run and better connection with your environment while still getting a bit more cushioning and comfort for your feet.

It is a fine choice for neutral runners who love to run on the road.

What We Liked

  • Lighter than its predecessors
  • More flexible with a bit more cushioning
  • Quick lace up
  • Ideal for light trail runs

What We Didn’t Like

  • Size is a little off

Nike Men’s Free 5.0 – Most Comfy Minimalist Running Shoes

best zero drop running shoes

Another pair that will make you enjoy running with minimalist shoes is the Nike Free 5.0 running shoe, which was previously named Free Run+ 3. If you’re looking for just the right combination of lightweight, comfort and cushioning, the Nike Free 5.0 is an excellent choice.

While not as lightweight as other minimalist shoes, it may look bulkier but it doesn’t feel bulky at all. What really sets this apart from other options and from previous Nike models is its bendy sole. It’s also flexible, perfect for short runs, regular runs, and walking.

Because of its stylish design, the shoes are even great for casual wear.

What We Liked

  • More underfoot platform than previous models
  • Flexible and ultra-comfortable
  • Stylish design
  • Super lightweight

What We Didn’t Like

  • Not the best arch support

New Balance Men’s MX20BS4 – Best for Multi-Purpose Training

zero drop shoes with cushioning

When it comes to minimalist shoes for men or women, one of the brands that always top the game is New Balance. The minimus shoe series, in particular, is very popular among barefoot runners.

One of their minimalist running shoes that have consistently maintained impressive ratings on Amazon is the New Balance MX20BS4 running shoes.

If you have heavy feet and you want to feel more natural as you cross train or run, these minimalist shoes from New Balance is one we recommend.

Another plus about these shoes is that they were originally designed for cross-training. This means that you don’t really need two types of shoes for cross training and running.

What We Liked

  • Lightweight and low impact
  • Glove-like fit
  • Ideal for multi-purpose training and exercise

What We Didn’t Like

  • Some quality and durability issues
  • Not the best arch support
  • Small and narrow

Mizuno Men’s Wave Hitogami 2 – Best for Long Distance Runs

minimalist casual shoes

Mizuno has won many different awards for their amazing shoes, and the Men’s Wave Hotogami 2 is no difference! With many great reviews on Amazon, you can’t really go wrong with these.

These running shoes are very lightweight and breathable, which makes it a great option for minimalist runners. It’s not the best shoes for minimalist runners on our list but compared with other barefoot shoes it does offer better support, snappier toe-off and all in all comfortable feel.

The Wave Hitogami is best for races and long distance runs.

So if you’re on the edge between regular running and minimalist running, this is your best bet.

What We Liked

  • Comfort and custom fit
  • Breathable design
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Ideal for races and distance runs

What We Didn’t Like

  • High drop
  • Only 4 colour options
  • Not the most stylish design

Merrell Men’s Trail Glove 3 – Most Minimalist Trail Running Shoes

minimalist shoes for everyday use

If you’re looking for the best trail running shoes for men in 2018 that’s also very minimalist in style, look no further than the Merrell Men’s Trail Glove 3. Designed with ultralight uppers, the shoes will fit your feet like a glove.

With incredible fit comes the best comfort while you’re hitting the road, the trail or any other exciting running terrains. For another bonus, they also feature a quick lacing system, how amazing is that?

The Merrell shoes are not the most lightweight but it offers just the right balance of glove-like fit, excellent traction and impressive ground feeling.

With zero drop, your feet gets as close to the ground as possible, which is what minimalist running is really about. The best part, although it’s lightweight it also offers sufficient cushioning compared with other minimal shoes.

What We Liked

  • Excellent and confident grip
  • Fits like a glove
  • Enhanced stability
  • Ultra-lightweight with zero drop

What We Didn’t Like

  • Too narrow for some users
  • Not ideal for wide feet
  • Sizing confusion

Inov-8 F-lite 195 – Best Minimalist Shoes for Advanced Runners

zero drop shoes plantar fasciitis

If you’re not new to barefoot minimalist running, the Inov-8 F-lite 195 cross-training shoe is an advanced top minimalist shoe you can buy. While this is not originally designed for cross-training, the minimal shoes has gained popularity in the CrossFit world because of the natural movement it offers your foot.

What sets it apart from other minimalist footwear is the support the sole offers. Even if you lift weights, perform extreme workouts or run, it will still be able to give you the support that you need.

One of its drawbacks is when it comes to foot protection. Because the shoes is designed to be more lightweight, foot protection was compromised. This means that the shoe will wear out faster with constant use especially for cross training.

What We Liked

  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Wider fit available
  • Incredibly flexible and versatile
  • Ideal for advanced athletes and runners

What We Didn’t Like

  • Not the most durable
  • Poor foot protection

Altra Men’s Superior 2 – Best Cushioned Minimalist Running Shoes

minimalist shoes for the office

Love trail running and doing it the minimalist way? The Altra Superior 2 running shoe is an award-winning shoe for good reasons.

It’s really the combination of excellent cushioning and great traction that sets this pair apart from the competition. Of the number of zero drop running shoes in the market, this one is a favorite among trail and barefoot runners.

Living up to its name, the Altra Superior 2 has a lot of superior features to offer. From the fully cushioned zero drop platform to the TrailClaw outsole and Innerflex midsole, these running shoes were thoughtfully designed for runners who want the speed without compromising comfort.

Whether you’re out hiking, off-road running or racing, the Altra Superior 2 delivers a natural experience and you’ll barely feel that you have any shoes on.

This one we highly recommended if you’re looking for low profile and lightweight with the best cushioning.

What We Liked

  • Lightweight
  • Wide toe box
  • Great cushioning
  • Exceptional traction
  • Better durability

What We Didn’t Like

  • Sizing confusion
  • Too narrow on heel area

Best Minimalist Running Shoes – Buyer’s Guide

While barefoot running is not something new, the minimalist running technique has gained impressive popularity in recent years. Along with the ride are barefoot minimalist shoes that exploded in the market and are currently dominating the running shoe industry.

It’s no longer just about buying the best running shoes there is but more so about finding the best running shoes specific to suit your minimal running needs.

In the case of barefoot running, what you need is the best minimalist running shoes that will offer the perfect fit for your feet. There are two main types of minimalist footwear: barefoot running shoes and minimalist running shoes.

Why barefoot or minimalist running?

Before we get to the heart of shopping for a minimalist shoe for women or men, let’s first look at some of the minimalist running benefits that may change the way you run.

A Harvard study showed that barefoot running may allow runners to land more comfortably and safely as opposed to regular running where you wear the best trail running shoes, for instance, with cushioning, elevated heels and likely more weight.

With barefoot running training, the top minimalist shoes are lightweight with minimal cushion and are made in a way that it will provide minimal interference with your feet’s natural movement.

This does not necessarily mean that you’ll run faster or you’ll experience less injury when you’re wearing barefoot minimalist shoewear but it does mean that you can enjoy running barefoot benefits like:

  • Develop a more natural gait
  • Learn to land on your forefoot rather than on the heel
  • Improve balance with proper barefoot running technique posture
  • Stay more in sync with your running environment

Like other sports, there are barefoot running pros and cons to consider. We’ve mentioned the pros above. As for the cons, it’s important to remember that transitioning to barefoot running exercises takes time and it’s not for everyone.

The first time you wear minimalist shoes you’ll experience quite a shock on your feet.  It will get some getting used to before you can truly enjoy the benefits of minimalist shoes.

How to shop for a minimalist shoe?

Because minimalist running shoes for women and men are built differently than typical running shoes, there are also a set of different factors to look at when shopping for this type of footwear. These factors include the following:

Weight

Ideally, the top minimalist running shoes should weigh less than 4.4 oz. and no more than 11.5 oz.

Stack height

In order to experience the most natural running experience, your minimalist footwear’s stack height, which is the sole thickness at the center of the heel, should be as minimal as possible. The ideal stack height is less than 8mm and no more than 32 mm.

Heel to toe drop

Most options include pairs with a heel-to-toe drop less than 1 millimeter and no more than 13mm. There are even pairs with zero drop.

Flexibility

There are two types of shoe flexibility to consider. One is the longitudinal flexibility which is the shoe’s flexibility when folded up from heel-to-toe. The other is torsional flexibility which is the level of flexibility when you twist the shoe.

Toe box

When you run, your feet usually bend in all directions. An ideal toe running shoes should let your feet do that. Look for a pair with wide toe box to allow stability, balance and of course, comfort.

At this point, there is no conclusive evidence that one factor may be more important than the other. For now, finding the right balance between the aforementioned factors is a good start.

Conclusion

There are plenty of choices available in the minimalist footwear category, and no shoe is the perfect match for everyone.

When shopping, the most important thing to remember is to achieve what minimal shoes should offer in the first place and that is minimal interference with the natural movement of your feet.

With that in mind, are you ready to buy your minimalist shoes and enjoy the benefits of barefoot running?