As of late, running shoe brands have gone all-in on foam and cushioning. When you lace up, it can feel like you’re strapping rockets to your feet: Kicks have rocker designs that propel you forward and a substantial amount of foam not unlike something you’d find on an astronaut (Nike’s ZoomX was conceptualized from a foam used in aerospace innovation). But some guys don’t want all that tech separating their feet from the ground. If that sounds like you, you need minimalist shoes.
Minimalist sneaks straddle the line between running barefoot (which we don’t recommend) and wearing maximalist sneakers, as they’re designed to offer minimal interference with the natural movement of your feet. They don’t aim to correct pronation or alter your stride for greater efficiency.
They still offer protection from the elements and varying degrees of support, but if you’re new to minimalist running shoes, start by walking or doing a short run, then work your way up to longer efforts. Here are the top minimalist running shoes you can shop now.
1. Merrell Vapor Glove 5
Crank out your next run or interval track workout in Merrell’s most minimalist shoe. A new release for 2021, the Vapor Glove 5 mimics the shape of your foot, creating a sock-like fit and feel. Chose from grey, black, or red.
2. Xero Shoes Prio Running and Fitness Shoe
Get protection without compromising ground feedback in this ultralight sneaker: a men’s size 9 only weighs 7.6 ounces per shoe. It’s made with the same durable Feel True Rubber as the brand’s acclaimed Z-Trek sandal.[$90; xeroshoes.com]
3. Vibram FiveFingers V-Trail 2.0
If you’re all about running in the woods, crank out those uphill slogs and downhill descents with ease. If you love the natural feel of barefoot running, these are veritable Cadillacs. We’re partial to the blue colorway, so you don’t lose track of your own feet in the elements.[From $78; vibram.com]
4. Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
This iteration of Vivobarefoot’s Primus Lite shoe boasts a reduced carbon footprint, while still featuring the design innovations you need and expect from this popular minimalist footwear brand. Shaped like your foot to allow for a more natural experience while you run, they’re lightweight, thin-soled, and almost stylish enough to wear to happy hour drinks. Almost.[$145; vivobarefoot.com]
5. On Cloudflow
Out July 8, this performance running sneaker is suited for road runs, sprint sessions, and even marathons. Of note, the shoe features the brand’s Speedboard and Helion superfoams for plush landings. In addition, the Cloudtec outsole features grip rubber compounds with an enhanced traction design. FYI: Twenty percent of the shoe is made from recycled materials.[$140; on-running.com]
6. Altra Solstice XT
This cross-trainer is suitable for both long runs and pumping iron at the gym with a sleek design. But what sets these sneakers apart for us is the “FootShape” toe box. It lets all your digits spread out for improved stability on runs.[$110; altrarunning.com]
7. Brooks Mach 19 Spikeless
The rubber spike plates on these add plenty of grip whether cross-country running or doing sprints on a track. The sneaker’s minimalist design doesn’t weigh you down; the snug fit just feels like an extension of your feet.[$90; brooksrunning.com]
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