Best Minimalist Running Shoes of 2013

Best Minimalist Running Shoes of 2013

Here’s a summary of our Best Minimalist Running Shoes of 2013, conducted by Donald Buraglio.

Merrell Barefoot Ascend Glove

 1Merrell Ascend Glove

The Merrell Ascend Glove is best for dedicated trail runners who are almost-but-not-all-the-way minimalists, or minimalist runners who need increased comfort for extended trail days or highly technical conditions. The latest entry in Merrell’s Barefoot running series is a slightly bolstered version of the company’s flagship Trail Glove, with slightly more cushioning, a more aggressive outsole, and a rock plate for increased comfort on technical trails. Retail Price: $120. Gear Institute Rating: 85

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez

1New Balance Hi-Rez

Simply put, the New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez is the most minimal shoe New Balance has ever created. The New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez is best for barefoot devotees and experienced minimalist runners who want pure biomechanics and proprioception with a moderate amount of protection. The HI-REZ can also be the proverbial “training tool” for standard footwear users to try in very small doses. Retail Price: $120. Gear Institute Rating: 84

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

Topo Athletic RR and RT

1Topo-Athletic-RR-and-RT

The first running shoe offerings from Topo Athletic, a highly buzzed-about new company founded by Tony Post, former CEO of Vibram USA. The RT is an everyday trainer, and the RR is a lighter high-performance option with a new Boa lacing system. The Topos are best for predominant road runners who want a lightweight, flexible shoe that allows natural biomechanics, but also prefer adequate midsole cushioning for a similar level of comfort and protection as traditional trainers. Retail Price: RR $130; RT $100. Gear Institute Rating: 85

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

Skora Phase

1Skora Phase Stock

The Skora Phase is a lighter, more affordable version of Skora’s flagship Form shoe, featuring a low, zero-drop platform and flexible construction, designed primarily for road running but suitable for moderate off-road use as well. The Skora Phase is best for experienced natural-form runners looking for a high-performance road trainer or race day shoe, or high-mileage runners who like a small measure of cushioning on long training days. Retail Price: $110. Gear Institute Rating: 84

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

VivoBarefoot Evo Lite

1Vivobarefoot Evo Lite

The VivoBarefoot Evo Lite is a completely flat (0-mm drop), completely flexible, ultraminimalist running shoe, suitable for high-mileage on road or trail. VivoBarefoot Evo Lite is best for dedicated minimalist runners who want a durable, all-purpose running shoe that can handle all but the most rugged or sloppy surfaces. Retail Price: $130. Gear Institute Rating: 84

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

Vibram FiveFingers EL-X

1Vibram-EL-X

The lightest and lowest shoe in Vibram’s already light and low FiveFingers lineup, the EL-X features a stretchy thin mesh upper and durable rubber outsole, suitable for a wide variety of uses. Best for all-the-way committed minimalist runners, general Cross Fit or floor workout activity, outdoor yoga, or all-purpose outdoor use. Retail Price: $75. Gear Institute Rating: 92

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

Inov-8 Trailroc 150

1inov-8-Trailroc-150

The most minimalist trail shoe to date from a company known for specializing in low and lightweight performance shoes, the Trailroc 150 has zero drop from heel to toe and an aggressively lugged outsole for dedicated off-road use. Best for seasoned barefoot runners who want to run as light and close to the ground as possible while taking on the most challenging off-road terrain. Retail Price: $100. Gear Institute Rating: 86

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove 2

1Merrell-Barefoot-Trail-Glove-2

If you were a fan of the original Trail Glove, you’re sure to love the Trail Glove 2 as well. Best for dedicated trail runners, through-hikers, or minimalist outdoor enthusiasts looking for a low ride with modest cushioning and protective features for high-demand off-road activity. A refinement of Merrell’s wildly successful debut trail running and general-purpose outdoor activity shoe, with a zero-drop midsole and moderate protective features. All of the vital specs remain from the original, with primarily aesthetic and comfort improvements. Retail Price: $110. Gear Institute Rating: 85

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

Merrell Barefoot Road Glove 2

1Merrell-Barefoot-Road--Glove-2

The second generation of Merrell’s flagship minimalist road running shoe, the Barefoot Road 2 is built on a zero-drop platform with moderate cushioning and protection for high-mileage or high-intensity use. Best for runners who are past the “transitional” stage and want the next step closer to minimalist running, or those looking for a natural running shoe that can spend equal time on roads and trails. Retail Price: $100. Gear Institute Rating: 72

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

Merrell Barefoot Vapor Glove

1Merrell Barefoot Vapor Glove

This is the most purely minimal running shoe in Merrell’s lineup, built super low and lightweight but durable enough for most high-demand use. Dedicated minimalists will find a lot to love about the Vapor Glove, and will be able to use it for a wide variety of conditions. There’s just enough shoe to provide a bit of protection and comfort, and nothing else to get in your way – basically, it’s what minimalism is meant to be. Retail Price: $80. Gear Institute Rating: 92

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

New Balance Minimus 10v2 Trail

1New Balance Minimus 10v2

Here’s a lighter, sleeker update to the first generation Minimus 10 Trail that features some minor design tweaks geared at comfort and lighter weight, but maintains all the performance features of the previous version. New Balance had a winner on its hands with the first generation Minimus Trail shoe, and the 2013 version provides improvements in weight and comfort without compromising performance. It’s an attractive middle ground between minimalism and high intensity demands. Experienced minimalists will find them perfectly adequate for a mountain 100-miler, but it’s probably best suited for racing shorter trail distances from 10K to 50K. Retail Price: $110. Gear Institute Rating: 86

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

Brooks Pure Drift

1Brooks Pure Drift

The most minimal shoe in the Brooks Pure Project line, the Pure Drift works much better as a transitional 4mm drop shoe than a zero-drop shoe for true minimalist runners. It’s a super-lightweight, highly flexible road trainer with moderate (14mm) stack height and capability of adjusting the heel-to-toe drop from 4mm to zero thanks to a removable insole. Retail Price: $100. Gear Institute Rating: 75

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

New Balance Minimus 10v2 Road

1New Balance Minimus Road 10v2

Although it’s promoted as a minimalist shoe, the Minimus 10v2 Road is more properly considered a transitional shoe based on its stack height and 4mm heel to toe drop. Its light weight and overall comfort provide a nice ride, but long-term durability of the outsole area may be questionable with high mileage use. It’s a lightweight follow-up to the first generation Minimus 10 Road shoe. Whereas New Balance merely tweaked the second generation Minimus 10 Trail this spring, the Road version is an almost complete overhaul, and utilizes many design aspects from the company’s Road Zero shoe. Retail Price: $110. Gear Institute Rating: 76

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

ZemGear Terra Barefoot Running

1ZemGear Terra

The ZemGear Terra is a 5.5-oz minimalist fitness shoe with Tabi-style split-toe last, composed of a stretch Lycra upper and durable rubber outsole. In addition to having many general fitness applications, ZEM’s Terra performs quite well as an all-conditions running shoe. The Terra is pure minimalism: there’s nothing transitional and very little protective about it. This is great news if you’re an experienced minimalist, but should be used cautiously by beginners. Retail Price: $70. Gear Institute Rating: 88

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.

Vibram Five Fingers Lontra

1Vibram Five Fingers Lontra

The Lontra is a winterized version of Vibram’s popular minimalist running shoe, featuring weather-resistant uppers and a rugged outsole that are built with sloppy winter trail running in mind. If you love FiveFingers but hate the way your toes easily get cold or soggy in winter conditions, the Lontra gives you all the protection you need to make it through the winter. They’re more cumbersome to use than other FiveFingers models, but maintain all the design and performance features that make this footwear so fun to wear. Retail Price: $150. Gear Institute Rating: 83

To read the full report, check out our Best Minimalist Running Shoes Test.