Sometimes it can feel like every running shoe you look at has some unnecessary bits stuck to it for no good reason. We’ve covered all manner of minimalist sneakers here before. Oh sure, the advertiser will insist they are helping you reach new feats of running glory. But let’s face it, most of these great features are absolutely useless. When it comes to running, you already have the best technology out there, your feet. What a good pair of runners should do is help you make the most of what you have. Your shoes should add some protection, some structure, and optimize your natural movement. Which is why I always recommend finding a good pair of minimalist running shoes. And, while I love barefoot runners, they’re not for everyone, and sometimes I even like to switch it up. So here is my list of excellent minimalist running shoes for men and women.
1. Vivobarefoot – Primus Lite III Men’s Running Shoes
You have probably seen Allbirds pop up several times on all of your social media feeds. That’s because the Kiwi company, now only six-years-old, went for a direct to consumer approach instead of dealing with retailers. They’re also a certified B-corp and make their shoes using sustainable methods. Of course, that’s all well and good, but they also happen to make great-looking shoes. These runners are made from fibres harvested from FSC® Certified eucalyptus trees, which are then knitted into a unique one-piece upper, that’s flexible, lightweight, and incredibly breathable. Perfect for keeping your feet cozy on your runs.
And, being proper Kiwis, they’ve included their signature ZQ Merino wool along the heel counter to centre, support, and lock your foot in place. Clean lines, comfortable, and eco friendly. What more could you want?
- Durable And Breathable Tree Material
- Supportive Dual-Density Sugarcane Midsole
- Designed For Maximum Energy Return
- Brand: Allbirds
- Model: Tree Dashers
- Sizes: 8 to 14
With these minimalist trail-runners, Whitin has provided your feet with precisely what they need, space! The extra-wide toe box allows your digits to naturally spread out as your foot flexes with the ground. The natural rubber sole gives you the right amount of protection and yet still allows you to feel the terrain. These shoes also come with a sock-liner to keep your foot extra snug. However, it can be removed if you want an even more authentic barefoot run experience.
- A wide toe box
- Produced using animal-free products and processes
- Removable sock-liner (insole)
- Brand: Whitin
- Model: Minimalist Trail Runner
- Sizes: 8 to 14
3. New Balance – Men’s Fresh Foam Roav V1 Running Shoe
Just because you want clean lines and minimalist style in a runner, doesn’t mean you want to jog around feeling like you’re wearing no shoes at all. Enter, the New Balance Fresh Foam Roav V1. These guys will make you feel like you’re running on a cloud. Also, New Balance strategically-designed the ultra heel to hug the back of your foot for a much more supportive fit. Still, their design is simple and abstains from any of the flashy accoutrements that many shoemakers seem to want to stick on these days.
- Fresh Foam midsole
- Durability in high-wear areas
- Ultra Heel design for a snug fit
- Brand: New Balance
- Model: Fresh Foam Roav V1
- Sizes: 7 to 18 (Wide-sizes available)
4. VIBRAM – V-Run Men’s
Vibram’s are the shoes you make fun of until you try a pair. Designed like gloves for your feet, these minimalist sneaks separate your toes, which allows them to move naturally as they hit the ground. And while you probably wouldn’t wear them out with friends, if you’re a serious runner, buying running shoes should be all about, well, running. While the V-Runs are a dedicated barefoot runner, they are also quite comfortable. The sole employs their VI-LITE technology, which is ultra-lightweight, and yet still provides shock absorption for maximum energy conservation. Not to mention, the soft, perforated uppers offer maximum breathability to keep your tootsies happy on your runs.
- Anti-Microbial Drilex Sockliner
- True barefoot running experience
- Brand: Vibram
- Model: V-RUN
- Sizes: 38 to 50
5. Adidas – Men’s Lite Racer Adapt Running Shoe
One of the best ways to build yourself a minimalist shoe is to simply get rid of stuff. And at first glance, with the Lite Racer, it seems Adidas deleted a lot of things. However, with this shoe, they actually took a completely different approach. The plan here was to start with a sock and kit it out for performance, just enough, that you had the most comfortable shoe possible. The stretch-mesh upper is incredibly breathable and hugs to your foot. The addition of the reinforced top-band adds an extra layer of fit. And the Cloudfoam midsole provides step-in comfort and delivers superior cushioning, whether you’re out for an intense run or a casual stroll.
- Rubber sole
- Boot-style opening
- Stretch mesh upper
- Brand: Adidas
- Model: Lite Racer
- Sizes: 6.5 to 14
6. York Athletics – The Frank Running Sneaker (Unisex)
There was something very cool about the seventies’ interpretation of minimalism. (Although they may not have been calling it that at the time.) These classic-looking sneakers by York take the very best of the lunar-landing era and update it for the current period. So while the look is very retro, the finished product is all modern running shoe technology. The full-grain leather cage is containing a custom-engineered air-mesh upper. While the rubber outsole with roll-up toe provides for considerable traction and durability.
- Durable rubber outsole for traction
- Custom engineered air-mesh upper with full-grain leather cage
- Nylon heel pull tab for easy access
- Brand: York Athletics
- Model: The Frank
- Sizes: 5 to 13 (Women 6.5 to 14.5)
7. Mizuno – Men’s Wave Inspire 16 Waveknit Running Shoe
Oddly enough, these sneakers look like a bit of a nineties’ throwback. And to be honest, I can get behind that sort of revival. The nineties were a great time for shoes (Reebok Pumps, anyone!). That said, these Mizunos are pretty loaded with new innovations. They’re equipped with the new Mizuno Wave®. This plate disperses energy from your foot as it impacts the ground to a broader area providing a stable platform and a superior cushioning. The WAVEKNIT upper construction offers both stretch and support for dynamic, natural movement.
- Premium Sockliner
- Mizuno Wave® plate disperses energy
- Stable platform with a superior cushioning
- Brand: Mizuno
- Model: WAVE INSPIRE 16
- Sizes: 7 to 16
8. New Balance – Women’s FuelCore Nergize V1 Cross Trainer
While these are road-runners of the highest pedigree, you could be forgiven if you decided to keep them as your everyday kicks. The minimalistic styling pairs seamlessly with almost any outfit. Jeans, dresses, shorts, it almost seems a shame to only wear them pounding the pavement with no one around to appreciate them. The cloth upper portion is lightweight and breathable, while inside the shoe is a memory foam insole for ultimate comfort. And of course, the rubber sole is comfortable, supportive, and low-profile. Whether you’re thinking form or function, this shoe just works.
- NB Comfort Insert Memory Sole
- REVlite cushioning
- Easy on, easy off sneaker
- Brand: New Balance
- Model: FuelCore Nergize V1
- Sizes: 5 to 12 (some wide sizes available)
9. Allbirds – Women’s Tree Dashers
Yes, these are made by the Kiwi B-Corp that’s been overloading your social media feeds with ads, every time you logon. Of course, this is because they’ve gone with a direct-to-consumer model that allows them to avoid middlemen, markups, or overhead. And yet they still manage to design and produce innovative quality footwear. Just how innovative, you ask? These adorable runners are made from fibres harvested from FSC® Certified eucalyptus trees and knitted into a unique one-piece upper, that’s flexible, lightweight, and incredibly breathable. Making them perfect for keeping your feet cozy on your runs. Moreover, being proper Kiwis, they’ve included their signature ZQ Merino wool along the heel counter to centre, support, and lock your foot in place. Clean lines, comfortable, and eco friendly.
- Designed For Maximum Energy Return
- Machine Washable
- Minimizes Odor
- Brand: Allbirds
- Model: Women’s Tree Dashers
- Sizes: 5 to 11
10. Vibram – V-TRAIL 2.0 Women’s
Serious runners only. Trust me, these are not the sort of shoes you toss on to walk about the neighbourhood unless you really to be the one everyone talks about (and not in a good way). That said, take these kicks trail-running, and you will understand why people buy them. A minimalist, barefoot-runner with separated toes, allows your feet to read the ground. Not only that, but your toes are also able to splay and grapple with the road the way they were designed to. After you get used to running in these, regular runners are going to feel restrictive. Of course, keep in mind, these shoes are going to take some getting used to off the get-go. You may notice the muscles in your arches and calves are bit sore as they get used to working in the way they’re supposed to.
- Megagrip outsole compound for grip wet and dry
- Protective 3D Cocoon mesh is woven into the outsole
- Polyester fabric upper material
- Brand: Vibram
- Model: V-TRAIL 2.0
11. Inov-8 – Women’s Bare-XF 210 V2 Sneaker
Just because you want to go minimalist with your runners, does not mean you can’t have a bit of flash. Or in the case of these Inov-8’s in bright orange, a lot of flash! These shoes are perfect modern runners. They have a wide toe box, flexible construction, and a barefoot sole, with no unnecessary adornments. The flex groove technology in the outsole allows natural flexing in the forefoot, meaning you can do perfect standing calf raises with zero resistance. The patented sticky rubber compound on the zero-drop sole is designed with maximum surface area coverage between the foot and ground to keep you steady. And you could consider the bright orange colouring an extra safety feature. Especially if you run during the dark o’clock hours of morning or evening.
- Comes with 3mm and 6mm insoles
- Wide toe box that allows your toes to spread out naturally
- Patented sticky rubber compound
- Brand: Inov-8
- Model: Bare-XF 210 V2
- Sizes: 5.5 to 10
12. Merrell – Women’s Vapor Glove 5 Trail Runner
The Vapor Glove 5 takes minimalism to the next level. Available in three colourways, with clean lines, and nothing extra. This barefoot runner has a zero-drop sole, meaning it’s close as you can get to running barefoot, without, well, actually running barefoot. The entire shoe is designed to let your feet do what they do best. The toe box allows for maximum splay, which helps you to stabilize and sharpen the muscles in your foot. The textile upper portion fits snug to lockout trail debris. And the Vibram-made sole shields the bottom of your feet from the harsh realities of road stones.
Like with the men’s version, the women’s version of the Vapor Glove 5 improves upon fit and provides for better abrasion resistance to keep your feet nice and happy.
- Vibram-made rubber sole
- Sustainable manufacturing
- Brand: Merrell
- Model: Vapor Glove 5
- Sizes: 5 to 11
13. Vivo Barefoot – Primus Lite III Women’s
It’s hard not to love the products that Vivobarefoot is putting out these days. If you’re looking for casual shoes, they look great. New boots, they’ve got fabulous options there too. Need a solid pair of ballerina flats, Vivo’s are amazing. However, when it comes to runners that are expected to perform, they go above and beyond. With the Primus Lite III, you get Vivo’s durable hex-mesh upper, constructed with support and stretch zones to assure responsive foot control and an adaptive fit. Not to mention their signature 3-mm barefoot sole for maximum sensory feedback and minimum interference. And, these particular ones are made using Animal-free materials and recycled plastic. They are practically eco-warriors. Oh, and they look fantastic.
- Signature 4mm barefoot sole
- Breathable, durable, and stretchy mesh upper
- Brand: Vivo Barefoot
- Model: Primus Lite III Womens
- Available sizes: 4-12