The best minimalist running shoes you’ll ever need

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.
– Henry David Thoreau

This post might end up poking the bear a bit. And that’s okay. But my intention as always is just to get folks thinking a little differently.

I love running and I’ve been running ever since I could walk. I mean really, my walk when you can run and get there faster! Not that speed is the only thrill of running. Truth be told I’m not the fastest tortoise out there, and yes, I said tortoise. In the race between the tortoise and the hare, it’ll be the other tortoises that win ahead of me 🙂

Anyway, I’m digressing. You want me to tell you which is the best minimalist running shoe out there. Well, the quick answer to that my dear friends is your feet. Didn’t you used to run barefooted in your backyard as a kid? Well, maybe if you’re younger than me you didn’t because your mother put the fear of thorns and rusty nails in you.

Well, actually that’s what happened to my brother. He got a nail in the foot from running around, thing is he had shoes on. Nevertheless, that put a quick end to our running barefooted outside. So you might think I’m being facetious when I say the best minimalist running shoes are the soles of your feet. But I’m not. Though granted, I do appreciate the fact that running barefoot is not necessarily a viable option anymore.

However, I encourage you to try it somewhere safe. I really like running barefooted along the beach. You’ll appreciate how unfit you actually are if you just go for a short 5km run in skin clad feet. You’ll ache and complain at the tendons and ligaments you’ve been giving a free ride to all these years as they now reawaken under duress.

Okay, so I hear your bellyaching ;), running barefooted on the highways and byways of North America is not an option. So what really is the best minimalist running shoe that is actually a running shoe. You’re thinking I’m going to say the V word aren’t you? Vibram? Well yes and no. Vibrams fivefingers shoes are all the rage in barefoot running circles. But you’ll not hear that from me.

Amongst barefoot running shoes there seems to be no shoe more worthy of cult-like status than the Vibram family of running shoes with their cute little toes all splayed nicely together. But friends, I have problems with these Vibram barefoot running shoes. And not just the Vibrams but others like them like too.

Not only do you look silly wearing these shoes with toes which shouldn’t be disconcerting anyway, because you’re out running, but I have found other problems with them too. The first of which is who’s foot was this shoe designed for? Seriously, that’s an honest question. They weren’t designed for my feet, I’d know because no one came and took a mould of my foot and made a shoe from it.

Because of that, these shoes aren’t necessarily good for your feet. I know that they’ve come up with all sorts of great scientific and pseudo-scientific studies and reasons why these shoes are better than the feet that God gave you, but I don’t buy it. Remember, 9 out of 10 doctors used to smoke Camel and recommended it too.

I find these shoes are too rigid and they don’t allow for the natural splaying of your feet as you run and as your feet swell during the day. That’s the first problem.

The second problem I have is that your feet stink. Nobody likes toe cheez. And you’ve got a factory running over time their Charlie. Unless you can find and buy special 5 toed socks you’re gonna start reeking. And I’ve heard folks complain about socks slipping in the Vibram running shoes. I don’t have any problem with foot odour in my regular running shoes.

And lastly I’m talking about money. Money that’s too tight to mention. Well not really, but this blog is about living lightly and sucking the marrow from life. You’re gonna pay a cool Benjamin or so for being the cool kid with achey feet in their Vibrams. Don’t do it. Or if you want to spend a Benjamin on a pair of minimalist running shoes then I recommend New Balance Minimus.

These New Balance MT10 minimal trail running shoes are a better bet for your dollars. They’re light weight with a thin sole but they have a decent toe box for your feet to splay and stretch naturally.

Now I’m a fan of New Balance running shoes over other brands because they seem to fit my feet best. They have roomy toe boxes which I like, and which I recommend so that your feet can stretch and swell without being constricted. However, I’m not really recommending New Balance running shoes or any particular brand of minimal running shoe for this post.

I said the best minimalist running shoes are your own feet. And I stand by that. But for second place and probably the best choice for minimal running is to find a cheap pair of running shoes from WalMart or your local sport’s store. In fact if you’re going to buy a pair of minimal running shoes from a running store then do yourself a favour and buy last years model. You’ll save a few bucks.

Running shoes nowadays are well made and if you’re looking to get that minimal running experience then buy a cheap pair of running shoes from a cheap retailer. They sole is likely to be less padded but more than adequate for what you need. The last pair of running shoes I bought only cost me around thirty bucks and they’ve lasted so far just as long as more expensive running shoes I’ve bought before.

We’ve been sold a bill of goods folks that don’t live up to the hype with these year flavour of the week minimal running shoes with cutesy little toes.

Think things through. Think for yourself and save some money and buy some cheap running shoes that will work just fine for your minimalist running trails. Obviously if you’ve got serious foot or arch problems then running is likely a problem for you.

But for those of us who can run and like to run, buying five toed running shoes ‘cos that’s what the cool kids do is not going to make you run faster. It’s not going to make you run harder or more fit either. What it will do, is make your running shorter because you’ll have less time to run because you’re having to work harder to pay for them fancy fandangled new shoes. See what Thoreau said up above.


  1. Wow– great timing on this blog as far as I’m concerned. I was being swayed by the 5-toed shoes and was waiting for some common sense opinions about them. I can’t run barefoot — ouchy! — but I agree about the 30-dollar running shoes. They are working just fine!
    Thanks for a great blog–I Tweeted!

  2. Thanks Ellen,
    Sometimes we just need to step back a moment and think about whether we really need a product or not.

  3. I run barefooted, [walk to chores] in the house and am forever getting sharp things in my feet or stepping on little rocks because i cant get the men in my life to 1. take their boots off before coming inside, or 2. clean the floors.
    I will still forever be truly barefooted as much as i can 😀
    I really enjoyed your article.

  4. Yeah, it’s amazing how soft our feet are when we’re used to wearing shoes all day. Not saying that running barefoot or being barefoot all the time is appropriate. There are some real health concerns to being barefooted outdoors in our urban environment.

    But trying to go barefoot once in a while or running in cheaper shoes… well, let’s just keep thinking out of the box a bit 😉

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