Our feet are quite literally the foundation of everything we do, so it’s important to shod them appropriately. Choosing the best minimalist running shoes for your foot type and running style is a vital step in getting started with natural running.
Types of Minimalist Running Shoes
Lightweight running shoes are not all alike. In fact, each shoe falls along a continuum of minimalism, so you can really choose the level of support, cushioning, and protection that are right for you. You may want to start with a shoe that is built with more support and cushioning and later transition to an even lighter, thinner shoe as your muscles become more accustomed to running on less.
Running shoes from the minimalist end of the spectrum can be broken into two basic types with the following general characteristics:
Minimalist Running Shoes
- Lightweight, thinly padded upper
- Thinly cushioned insole, possibly with some arch support
- Outsole with some shock absorption material, possibly a sole plate for increased rigidity and protection
- Limited heel drop
Barefoot Running Shoes
- Extremely lightweight, little or no padding in the upper
- No insole or unpadded fabric insole, no arch support
- Outsole just a layer of rubber, no extra cushioning
- Zero heel drop
Minimalist Shoes for Different Types of Terrain
Shoe types also vary depending on the terrain they are intended for. Road running shoes may have some strategic cushioning to help absorb some of the impact of running on a hard flat surface such as pavement or concrete. Some trail running shoes on the other hand, have plastic sole plates to reduce the pain from stepping on pointy objects such as roots, sticks, and rocks.
Think about where you do most of your running and choose your shoes appropriately. Or buy two different shoes if you do a mix of road and trail running.
If you’ve started looking at minimalist running shoes, you have most likely seen shoes that have individual toe pockets for each toe, such as the popular Vibram Five Fingers. Toed shoes like these may look funny, but they can give your feet slightly more freedom of movement and are among some of the most spartan barefoot shoes. One drawback of toe shoes is that debris can get caught between your toes and cause discomfort until it can be manually removed. If you decide to wear socks with your running shoes, you will most likely want to get toed socks such as those by Injinji for the best comfort.
More traditional minimalist shoes pretty much all have extra wide toe boxes, so you’ll still have room for your toes to splay out, but won’t draw as many looks from passersby. In the end, toes or no toes is a matter of personal preference.
The Best Minimalist Running Shoes for You
Your feet, how you run, and what feels right are unique to you. Consider how much support and cushioning you want or need, where you do your running, and how you feel about toed shoes. Then try out several different brands and models of shoes to find out what works for you. That’s really what choosing the best minimalist running shoes is all about. Follow these guidelines and you will be well on your way to starting your minimalist running journey on the right foot.