10 Great Minimalist Athletic Shoes for Men


Minimalist Athletic Shoes for Every Activity

Men's Minimalist Footwear
Laura Williams

Minimalist shoes—shoes with little in the way of padding or support and little to no difference in height between the toe and heel—are a growing segment of the shoe industry. While not appropriate for everyone, this style of shoes' flexible soles help promote a more natural running or walking gait that strengthens the smaller muscles of the foot and ankle, promoting balance and coordination. 

The good news is, these "zero drop" shoes aren't just for runners. There's a whole movement afoot (pun intended), that has made minimalist shoes available across sports and activities—even for casual wear during the day. Check out these 10 great minimalist athletic shoes for men. 


Casual Play: Vibram FiveFingers CVT-Hemp

Vibram FiveFingers CVT-Hemp
Vibram FiveFingers

Admittedly, wearing shoes with "five fingers" takes a little getting used to... and you're sure to get a few comments from the peanut gallery about your unusual footwear. But the comfort and flexibility Vibram FiveFingers offers its customers is hard to beat, and these CVT-Hemp shoes ($100) are the perfect pair to wear while walking your dog or playing frisbee with friends. You can even fold the heel forward and wear them as a slip-on clog. 


Casual Work: Vivobarefoot Aqua II

Vivobarefoot Aqua II

Assuming your workplace allows casual attire, Vivobarefoot's AQUA II ($180) offers the perfect function-meets-fashion minimalist shoe that pairs easily with chinos and a button-down. The stitched-leather upper and laced design give the shoes a classic look, but the highly flexible sole puts the Aqua in a league of its own. 


Water Sports: Vibram FiveFingers Signa

Vibram FiveFingers Signa
Vibram FiveFingers

Surfers, paddleboarders, and kayakers all know the challenge of water sports—you want your feet free so you can use your toes for grip, but stepping on slick and jagged rocks while barefoot isn't exactly a day in the park (even if it is, technically, a day in the park).

The FiveFingers Signa ($80) offers the best of both worlds, giving your toes the ability to move independently for balance and grip while offering the guard and traction to navigate riverbeds and lake shores.


All Purpose Shoe: Kigo Drive

Kigo Drive

The Kigo Drive ($75) is a minimalist shoe you can literally wear everywhere. The black-on-black colorway looks clean enough to pair with slacks at work, but is actually designed to withstand all types of athletic activity—walking, running, hiking and cycling, just to name a few. Taking them out of the box, you may be thrown by the almost sock-like feel of the uppers, but the comfy material lends itself to wearability, while the durable soles protect your feet from hazards of everyday life.

This "cradle to cradle" footwear is developed with a combination of recycled, recyclable and upcyclable materials, so you can feel as good as you look when wearing it.


Sandals: Earth Runners Circadian X 8mm

Earth Runners Circadian X
Earth Runners

The Earth Runners Circadian X 8mm sandal ($101) offers the incredible grip, durability and ground feel of the original Circadian X design while adding 2 millimeters of padding to maximize protection without sacrificing proprioception. 

You might wonder whether it's worth buying a pair of sandals (sandals!) for a hundred bucks, but these aren't your everyday flip-flop. These shoes are designed to withstand any outdoor application, including hiking, running and general wear. Plus, a locking buckle secures the laces in place while holding the heel strap up to offer unparalleled support, especially during downhill activities. 


Hiking and Outdoors: Vivobarefoot Tracker

Vivobarefoot Tracker

Speaking of outdoors... if you need a true hiking boot to hold up to significant climbing and tough terrain, there's a minimalist shoe for that. The Vivobarefoot Tracker ($240) is a serious off-road master. For starters, the waterproof Hydroguard lining keeps your feet dry, no matter the outdoor conditions. Add to that the premium leather with rip stop Nylon trimmings for added durability... and it's plain ol' good looks, and you've got a boot you can take anywhere. 

Do you see how the boot rolls up? While the uppers may look just like the best and brightest in traditional hiking innovation, the sole remains flexible and minimalist, offering superior grip and protection without sacrificing ground feel. 


Gym Activities: Skora Phase

Skora Phase Men's

The Skora Phase ($110) is one of those minimalist shoes that flirts with the line between "cushioned minimalist" and "uncushioned minimalist," making it a great cross-training shoe for days at the gym. The sole is slightly thicker than some minimalist options, which makes it appropriate for everything from treadmill running to CrossFit-style functional training. 


Transitional Running Shoe: Vibram FiveFingers Bikila EVO

Vibram FiveFingers Bikila Evo
Vibram FiveFingers

There's no denying that the minimalist shoe trend started with running. If you're a runner looking to transition to a natural running gait with a minimalist shoe, the FiveFingers Bikila EVO ($120) is a good place to start. The "toe-fingers" (as I like to call them) enable each toe to move independently as you adjust to a mid- to forefoot strike, while the shoe's sole offers greater stability and support than some minimalist alternatives. 


Road Running: Vivobarefoot Stealth II Winterproof

Vivobarefoot Stealth

If you're a runner, you know the importance of buying shoes that can stand up to the weather. And while the Vivobarefoot Stealth II Winterproof shoes ($160) have "winterproof" right there in the name, I prefer to call them "weatherproof." 

The shoes feature Outlast Lining and Hydrophobic Mesh to protect your feet from rain and slush, and they come with additional inserts you can use when the ground is particularly chilly. Like other Vivobarefoot shoes, these bad boys have serious sole flexibility and ground feel with a wide toebox perfect for toe movement and response. 


Hardcore Minimalist: Soft Star DYO Moc3 Run Amoc

If you've officially transitioned to minimalist footwear and you think it's time to take things up a notch, Soft Star has you covered with the DYO Moc3 Run Amoc "foot glove" ($125).

So no, this isn't really a shoe. It's more or less a highly technical sock that helps protect your feet from injury without interfering with natural movement. Composed of perforated leather and a durable hybrid Vibram sole, it weighs less than five ounces and offers reflective strips for nighttime safety. 

And if you're looking at these things thinking, "Are they really appropriate for running?" The answer is, "Yes." Not only were they designed for runners, but they can easily withstand moderate trail running, as long as the user has taken the time to transition to minimalist footwear. 

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