The Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Men, According to a Running Coach

Maximize your run with the New Balance Men's Minimus 10 V1 Trail Running Shoes

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Minimalist shoes have skyrocketed in popularity because they offer characteristics you don't see in their standard running counterpart. By replacing a traditional elevated running heel with minimal padding, an ultra-thin sole, flexible material, a wide toe box, and minimal arch support, minimalist shoes’ lacking protection ironically promotes ankle support and strength. 

Reviewed & Approved

With superior comfort, traction, and durability, the New Balance Men's Minimus 10 V1 Trail Running Shoes is our best overall choice for men. For a budget-friendly pick, we’d recommend looking into the SAGUARO Barefoot Gym Walking Trail Beach Hiking Water Shoes.

The lack of cushioning on these shoes allows a runner to safely mimic a barefoot stride, and can offer a biomechanical advantage that simultaneously reduces injury risk. And while they promote a more natural running form, minimalist shoes aren’t restricted to this quintessential exercise—they’re also great for hiking, trail running, and even cross-training.

When purchasing minimalist shoes, it’s important to consider factors like budget, heel-to-toe drop preference, and running style. We evaluated minimalist shoes from top brands for these features.

Here are the best minimalist shoes on the market, according to a running coach.

Best Overall: New Balance Men's Minimus 10 V1 Trail Running Shoes

4.7
New Balance

 Amazon

The New Balance Men's MT10V1 Minimus trail running shoe is our top pick because it's a lightweight, well-rounded minimalist shoe. The Minimus gets the overall best on this list for its superior comfort, traction, ground feel, foot protection, and durability. Whether you like running on roads, hiking on trails, or competing in obstacle course races, this versatile shoe offers the right traction and support for different terrain and activities.

The shoe features premium foam support and a midfoot wrap to help keep your foot stable and comfortable. The wide forefoot and large Vibram hexagonal treads on the outsole give you outstanding grip. They’re comfortable right out of the box, unlike some other minimalist shoes that require a break-in period.

They come in sizes 5 to 14, in both regular and wide width. They are available in various trendy color combinations.

Best Budget: SAGUARO Mens Womens Barefoot Gym Walking Trail Beach Hiking Water Shoes

SAGUARO Mens Womens Barefoot Gym Walking Trail Beach Hiking Water Shoes

Courtesy of Amazon

If you’re interested in minimalist shoes but want to start with an affordable entry point, the SAGUARO Mens Womens Barefoot Water Shoes are a good bet. The shoe is breathable, flexible, and comfortable, built with a lump lug-designed rubber outsole for superior grip and durability. Super lightweight, the low top features a draw-string tie system, making the shoe easy to put on and take off.

Complete with a nicely padded insert, it's flexible, lightweight, and durable. Durable soles make the shoes suitable for running, walking, gym, fitness, training, jogging, biking, and camping. Those who’ve worn them say they hold up over time, despite races, hiking, and other workouts. 

This unisex shoe is available in sizes 5.5 Women/4 Men through 15 Women/13.5 Men. It comes in 18 different bold and playful colors.

Best for Trail Running: Xero Shoes Mesa Trail - Men's Lightweight Barefoot-Inspired

Xero Shoes Mesa Trail - Men's Lightweight Barefoot-Inspired

Courtesy of Amazon

Built with the flexibility to support natural foot motion, the Xero Shoes Mesa Trail - Men's Lightweight Barefoot-Inspired Running Shoe comes with an embedded BareFoam layer for extra comfort. Even if you like running on rugged trails, the lugged FeelTrue rubber sole protects your feet from sharp rocks and rough terrain and improves your stability on uneven ground. 

Many runners feel these are ideal shoes for those aiming to transition to barefoot running. The lightweight roomy toe box eliminates any toe compression when landing.

Wide and breathable, they are stretchy in the midfoot but tight enough at the top to keep feet from sliding. The shoes come in sizes 6.5 to 15 in a variety of earth-toned colors.

Best for Hiking: ALTRA Men's AL0A4VQB Superior 4.5 Trail Running Shoe

ALTRA Men's AL0A4VQB Superior 4.5 Trail Running Shoe

Courtesy of Amazon

Overall, the Altra Men's AL0A4VQB Superior 4.5 Trail Running Shoe has a great shape. It has extensive FootShape toe boxes, allowing toes to splay for natural foot positioning and comfort. Sleeker rounded heels make for agile handling over varying terrain, perfect for hiking.

Suppose you want a firmer midsole to protect your feet from rocks even more. In this case, you can take advantage of the shoe's Removable StoneGuard. These shoes work well against all the elements as they feature improved drainage for creek-crossing expeditions and rainy-day runs.

Redesigned knit uppers provide increased durability and breathability and a locked-in fit. Zero Drop platforms place your heel and forefoot at the same distance from the ground for natural alignment and low-impact landing.

They come in sizes 7 to 15 and in various colors.

Best for Cross Training: Xero Shoes Speed Force - Men's Barefoot, Minimalist, Lightweight Running Shoe

Xero Shoes Speed Force - Men's Barefoot, Minimalist, Lightweight Running Shoe

Courtesy of Amazon

Initially made for racing, athletes can also use Speed Force for other endurance activities, whether hiking, trail running, CrossFit, lifting, working out, or daily wear. Since many runners hit the roads and trails at all hours, a reflective heel and midfoot straps help them stay visible. 

Perfect for travel, since you can use it for almost everything, they are foldable, flexible, and won't add bulk or weight to your luggage. They are available in sizes 6.5 to 15 in black, blue, and red.

Best Unisex: WateLves Men's and Women's Minimalist Trail Runner

WateLves Men's and Women's Minimalist Trail Runner

Courtesy of Amazon

These shoes are described as amphibious shoes that are built to optimize your activities, whether on land or water. You can use them for surfing, canyoning, kayaking, camping, zip-lining, beach visiting, traveling, and more.

Constructed with an anti-slip rubber outsole with a unique motif, the shoe increases the friction and track adhesion, preventing slipping near water or on rugged terrain.

These minimalist shoes have rubber soles, providing comfort through a foam arch-support insert in the shoe. The unisex shoes are available in sizes from 5.5 Women/4 Men through 14.5 Women/13 Men. They come in ten vibrant solids and bold color combinations.

Best Vegan: Tadeevo Bliss Vegan Blue Minimalist Shoes

Minimalist Shoe

With breathable construction, flexibility, and zero drops, the Tadeevo Bliss Vegan Blue Minimalist Shoes meet many of the minimalist shoe requirements. Built for the conscious walker and runner, they can be used for sprinting, hiking, and everyday tasks. The sole pattern allows you to maintain a good grip on uneven or slick terrain.

Featuring a leafy design, the material is notably soft. Sewed soles guarantee high durability. All materials used to build the shoe are vegan-friendly, free of animal products, by-products, or animal-derived ingredients. 

The shoes come in European sizes 37 to 47, which roughly translates to U.S. sizes 6 to 13.

Final Verdict

For the essential features and support you want in a minimalist shoe, look no further than the New Balance Men's MT10V1 Minimus Trail Running Shoe. It's lightweight, delivering traction and support from rugged terrains to slippery surfaces.

If you're new to the “barefoot” feel, consider taking baby steps with the budget-friendly SAGUARO Mens Womens Barefoot Gym Walking Trail Beach Hiking Water Shoes. You feel like you're barefoot without stones and sticks jabbing into your underfoot. Lightweight, breathable, and flexible, it earns its mark for a quality beginner shoe that will introduce you to the minimalist world. 

What to Look for in a Minimalist Running Shoe for Men

Budget

A minimalist running shoe can cost more than a standard running shoe, even though the shoe offers less material and cushioning. If you're new to the minimalist running shoe experience, research the store's return policy. Certain running stores will allow you to return used shoes and exchange them for a different pair or receive a full cash or credit return. You get to try out the shoes and see if minimalist running shoes are for you, without a steep financial investment.

Heel-to-Toe Drop Preference

Although running shoes often feature a “heel-to-toe drop” of approximately .40 inches, minimalist shoes usually have less than .31 inches. Some minimalist shoes, referred to as “zero-drop” shoes, have no drop at all, which means your heel and forefoot are at the same level, imitating the same feel as when you’re barefoot. You should try out a few pairs to discover what heel-to-toe drop level you prefer.

Running Style

If you've experienced injuries when running, or have stability issues, high or low arches, or a history of plantar fasciitis, you should try minimalist running shoes on a trial basis. You might find that the minimalist running shoe doesn't support your running form. But if you haven't had these issues, using a minimalist shoe may actually benefit your form and make you a stronger runner.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do running shoes last?

    According to the American Heart Association, you should replace your shoes every 300 to 500 miles to avoid the wear that contributes to injuries (such as plantar fasciitis). Depending on how often you run, this may mean replacing your shoes every six to eight months.

    After a few months of using a new pair, begin inspecting your shoes after long runs. Look for any tearing of the cushioning and make sure the laces can still pull tight. If you notice any fraying or rips, you should switch to new shoes right away.

  • Are running shoes good for walking?

    You can wear running shoes for walking, although you should skip minimalist shoes when walking. You use more of your feet when walking, from the ball to the heel, and minimalist shoes aren't as protective of walking form. You don't have that rapid, quick turnover you do in running.

  • How do you clean running shoes?

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends these steps for keeping your shoes clean:

    • Use a cleaning wipe that contains about 70% alcohol. Wipe down the shoes and leave the alcohol on them (don't wipe dry) to make sure the moisture has enough time to clean and kill any bacteria. Don't forget to clean the soles as well.
    • If you don't have any cleaning wipes available, use a solution of 70% alcohol and 30% water and spray it over your shoes. You can then wipe them with a washcloth.
    • Allow your shoes to air dry. Some shoes are machine-washable (check the care label, or the manufacturer's website), but none should go in the dryer.
  • Can I wear running shoes when hiking?

    You can wear running shoes when hiking, but you should stick to hiking shoes or boots if the terrain is rocky or slippery or during inclement weather.

    Minimalist shoes could cause discomfort on a trail, as you'll feel the rocks and dirt, and this could lead to injuries on the bottom of your feet. However, some minimalist shoes are designed with tougher soles for trail running and hiking.

  • How do I know if a running shoe fits?

    The American Heart Association recommends professional fitting when you buy running shoes. You can get this done by an orthopedist or at a specialty running store, where the staff is trained to evaluate both your feet and your running gait to match you with the right pair of shoes.

    Buy a size larger than what you wear in your everyday shoes. This allows your feet room to swell as you run. (This also helps stave off the dreaded black toenail.)

    Always try on a shoe before buying (or make sure you can return it) so you check if it is comfortable for you. Don't a shoe simply based on its construction, design, or style.

  • What are the benefits of minimalist running shoes?

    Fans of these shoes appreciate their light weight, which helps them feel the ground, encouraging a low-impact gait. A lighter shoe also means less weight to carry on your feet while you run, though the trade-off is less cushioning. 

  • How many miles are recommended in minimalist running shoes?

    Because minimalist shoes change the feel of your run, you should build up to using them. Start with a short run and time in 10% to 20% increments each week. Before a marathon, make sure you can run at least 20 miles in minimalist shoes without any pain, blistering, or bleeding. Once you can accomplish this, you can keep running in the minimalist shoes for as long as they continue to feel comfortable.

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

Christine Luff has been with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training (TNT) running team in New York City for more than 15 years, coaching thousands of runners who participate in races across the country, including the New York City Marathon. She also trains individual runners to achieve their fastest time in anything from a 5K distance to a full marathon.

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3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Heart Association. Preventing injury during your workout.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doffing PPE: disinfect your shoes.

  3. American Heart Association. What to wear when you work out.