Minimalist Shoe Rankings

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Fall-Winter 2012 Minimalist Shoe Buying Guide

After wear testing over 150 minimalist shoes (or barefoot-style shoes or barefoot shoes or minimal shoes or whatever you want to call them), it is still very confusing for someone to choose a pair individually. Minimal shoes are highly individualized and subjective. But the following are key elements:

  • wide toe box
  • low stack height (15mm or lower preferred)
  • low heel-to-toe drop (6mm or lower preferred)
  • lightweight (7.0 ounces or less preferred)
  • flexible outsole preferred
  • sockless wear preferred

For those with narrow feet, wide toe box shoes can cause problems. I have sized up a full size for some models and they were too big so I can simulate the impact. For those running on gnarly trails, you might want a built-in or removable rock plate. Some of you may prefer slight or more cushioning. It does not matter as long as it is working for you and you are not injured. But I highly recommend that a shoe at least meet those key elements.

Based on my preferences and the range of situations I have encountered myself and my tight group of wear testers, from injury to transitioning to advanced minimalist running, I have enough confidence that after seconds of putting on a pair of minimalist shoe (any category), I can tell immediately on either extreme:  great minimal shoe or no-go (too close to traditional shoes). Those that belong in between will require lengthy testing but those usually end up being so-so.

Remember, shoes are only one piece of the solution to sustainable and injury-free running. Personally, running form is primary and shoes are secondary. Hopefully my two plus years of wear testing of over 150 minimal shoes will help you filter out some shoes to try out with minimum hassles. Some quick notes:

  • I have yet to find a 5.0 stars shoe but I can guarantee you that 2013 will produce at least 3 to 5 shoes that will get that ranking based on early prototypes and 2013-2014 roadmaps that I have seen.
  • A 4.5 stars shoe is an almost perfect shoe with two or more improvements needed to make it a 5.0 stars shoe.
  • Avoid any shoe rated 2.5 stars or less.
  • Each shoe is given a single type (road or trail or golf etc.) but most can be used for multiple purposes. Road running shoes work fine on most non-technical trails. And you can run with some golf shoes!

We have also recently published our Fall-Winter 2012 Minimalist Shoe Buying Guide with a focus on the new shoes just launched.

Wear Tested Minimalist Shoe Ranking

Sort By Brands | Sort By Ranking | Sort By Type

 Adidas adipure Adapt Road 
 Adidas adipure Gazelle Road 
 Adidas adipure Motion Road 
 Altra 3Sum Road 
 Altra Adam Road 
 Altra Delilah Road 
 Altra Eve Road 
 Altra Instinct Road 
 Altra Intuition Road 
 Altra One Road 
 Altra Samson Road 
 Altra Superior Trail 
 Barefooters Classic Casual 
 BodyGlove 3T Barefoot Water 
 Born2Run Road Road 
 Brooks Green Silence Road 
 Brooks Pure Connect Road 
 Brooks Pure Drift Road 
 Brooks Pure Grit Trail 
 Columbia Ravenous Lite Trail 
 Crocs Hover Casual 
 Cushe Baja Mocc WP Casual 
 Cushe Shucoon Mocc Casual 
 Cushe Wild Run Casual 
 Fila Skele-toes Casual 
 GoLite Amp Lite Trail 
 GoLite Jam Lite Casual 
 GoLite Tara Lite Trail 
 GoLite TR63 Trail 
 Inov-8 Bare Grip 200 Trail 
 Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 Road 
 Inov-8 Evo Skin Water 
 Inov-8 Road-X 222 Road 
 Inov-8 Road-X 233 Road 
 Inov-8 Road-X Lite 155 Road 
 Inov-8 TrailRoc 235 Trail 
 Inov-8 TrailRoc 255 Trail 
 Inov-8 X-talon 190 Trail 
 Invisible Shoes FeelTrue Road 
 K-Swiss Blade Foot Run Road 
 K-Swiss K-RUUZ Road 
 Karhu Flow Fulcrum Ride Road 
 Kigo Edge Road 
 La Sportiva Vertical K Trail 
 Lems Boulder Boot Trail 
 Lems Mariner Casual 
 Lems Origins Casual 
 Lems Primal 2 Casual 
 Li-Ning USA Fremont Road 
 Lizard Kross Trail 
 Merrell Bare Access 2 Road 
 Merrell Dash Glove Road 
 Merrell Lithe Glove Trail 
 Merrell Mix Master 2 Trail 
 Merrell Pace Glove Trail 
 Merrell Road Glove Road 
 Merrell Road Glove 2 Road 
 Merrell Sonic Glove Trail 
 Merrell Tough Glove Road 
 Merrell Trail Glove Trail 
 Merrell Trail Glove 2 Trail 
 Merrell True Glove Trail 
 Merrell Vapor Glove Road 
 Mizuno Wave Levitas Road 
 Mizuno Wave Universe 4 Road 
 Montrail Rogue Fly Trail 
 Montrail Rogue Racer Trail 
 New Balance HI-REZ Road 
 New Balance Minimus 10 v2 Road 
 New Balance Minimus 10 v2 Trail Trail 
 New Balance Minimus Road Road 
 New Balance Minimus Trail Trail 
 New Balance Minimus Trainer Fitness 
 New Balance Minimus Wellness Casual 
 New Balance Minimus Zero Road Road 
 New Balance Minimus Zero Trail Trail 
 New Balance Minimus Zero Wellness Casual 
 New Balance MT 110 Trail 
 New Balance RC 1400 Road 
 New Balance RC 5000 Road 
 New Balance XC 900 Trail 
 Newton Distancia Road 
 Nike Free 3.0 V4 Road 
 Nike Free Run+ 2 Road 
 On Running CloudRacer Road 
 On Running CloudSurfer Road 
 OTZ-1 Low Leather Casual 
 OTZ-300GMS Casual 
 Patagonia Advocate Moc Casual 
 Patagonia Loulu Casual 
 Patagonia Pau Casual 
 Puma Complete TFX Jump 2 Pro Trail 
 Puma evoSPEED Runner Road 
 Puma FAAS 250 Trail Trail 
 Puma FAAS 350 S Road 
 Puma TFX Sprint 3 Trail 
 Rockport truWalk Zero Casual 
 Salomon Sense Trail 
 Saucony Endorphin MD3 Trail 
 Saucony Hattori Road 
 Saucony Kinvara 2 Road 
 Saucony Mirage Road 
 Saucony Peregrine Trail 
 Sazzi Decimal Casual 
 Sazzi Digit Casual 
 Skechers GObionic Road 
 Skechers GObionic Trail Trail 
 Skechers GOrun Road 
 Skechers GOwalk Casual 
 Somnio NADA Road 
 Somnio Runaissance 2 Road 
 Sperry Topsider SON-R Water 
 TESHUB Twitch 1.0 Fitness 
 Teva Gnarkosi Water 
 Teva Nilch Road 
 Teva Sphere Speed Road 
 Teva Zilch Road 
 TRUE linkswear Phx Golf 
 TRUE linkswear Sensei Golf 
 TRUE linkswear Tour Golf 
 UnderArmour Charge RC Road 
 UnderArmour Charge RC Storm Trail 
 Vibram Five Fingers KSO Road 
 Vibram Five Fingers Lontra Trail 
 Vibram Five Fingers SeeYa Road 
 Vibram Five Fingers SeeYa LS Road 
 Vibram Five Fingers Speed Road 
 Vibram Five Fingers Speed XC Trail 
 Vibram Five Fingers Spyridon Trail 
 Vibram Five Fingers Spyridon LS Trail 
 VIVOBAREFOOT Breatho Trail Trail 
 VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trail Trail 
 ZEMgear 360 Road 
 ZEMgear Round Toe Lo/Hi Road 
 ZEMgear Split Toe Lo/Hi Road 
 ZEMgear Terra Road 
 Zoot Sports Ultra Speed Gomez Road 


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