The 7 Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Men of 2021, According to an Expert

Less is more with these top-performers

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Our Top Picks
This extremely versatile shoe offers the right traction and support for various surfaces and activities.
The shoe is breathable, flexible, and comfortable, built with a lump lug-designed rubber outsole for superior grip.
These shoes allow runners to feel the ground without sacrificing the protection needed from rocks and other elements.
Sleeker rounded heels make for agile handling over varying terrain, perfect for hiking.
Best for Cross Training:
Xero Running Shoe at Amazon
Since many runners hit the roads and trails at all hours, a reflective heel and midfoot straps help them stay visible.
Constructed with an anti-slip rubber outsole, the shoe increases friction and track adhesion, preventing slipping.
All materials used to build the shoe are vegan-friendly, free of animal products, by-products, or animal-derived ingredients.

Minimalist shoes have taken off in popularity in the last few years because they offer characteristics you don't see in standard running shoes. There's no elevated heel in minimalist shoes, and features include minimal padding, ultra-thin sole, flexible material, wide toe box, and minimal arch support. Because minimalist shoes are constructed without the standard protective features seen in regular running shoes, some experts feel minimalist shoes actually promote ankle support and strength.

While 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

Fans of these shoes appreciate the lightweight quality, 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, which is great, though the trade-off is less cushioning. 

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

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

New Balance

If you’re looking for a lightweight, well-rounded minimalist shoe, look no further than the New Balance Men's MT10V1 Minimus trail running 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

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

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

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

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

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. 

Was this page helpful?