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By Brian O’Connor, Endurance Sports Media Group

Over the past few years, a growing number of runners have started questioning the current paradigm of running shoes. They want lighter, more flexible shoes that allow them more freedom of movement and mimic barefoot running. The answer? Minimalist running shoes. These are shoes that weigh less than 10 ounces, are made with extremely flexible materials, and have a heel-to-toe drop (the difference between the height of the heel and the height of the toe) of 4mm or less.

There are a number of brands producing shoes within this emerging minimalist category, with more styles in the works for upcoming seasons. We tested just a few of the most interesting minimalist running shoes on the market today.


Weight: Men’s 7.9 oz. | Women’s
7.0 oz.
Heel Drop: 0mm
Price: $125

The BASE is an innovative, groundbreaking shoe from the upstart SKORA shoe company out of Portland, OR. The extremely light model features a zero heel-to-toe drop, a wide toe box, thin soles, and an innovative outsole. The R01 System, as dubbed by SKORA, allows the unique outsole to adapt and flex to different anatomical portions of the foot: High-abrasion rubber is added in impact zones along the mid and forefoot, and fortified rubber zig-zags throughout the rest of the shoe’s bottom. Paired with an innovative offset lacing system and mesh upper, the BASE provides a solid entry by a new company into the burgeoning minimalist market.

Nike Free 3.0

Weight: Men’s 7.2 oz. | Women’s 5.8 oz.
Heel Drop: 4mm
Price: $100

The Nike Free 3.0 is the latest iteration of the popular trainer, offering lightweight, adaptive response and excellent grip on varied surfaces. The newest Free features a two-panel mesh upper for a snug, secure fit. The shoe’s compression-molded EVA midsole, along with the unique tiled outsole pattern, provides flexibility and responsive running. Weighing a svelte 7.2 ounces, the Free 3.0 offers a moderate amount of cushioning for runners looking to transition to a minimalist shoe — all while keeping a slim profile. The efficient, diamond-pattern design of the Free’s upper creates a breathable, comfortable run no matter the distance under foot.

K-Swiss Cali-Mari

Men’s: 7.5 oz. | Women’s: 6.5 oz.
Heel Drop: 0mm
Price: $80

The Cali-Mari is K-Swiss’ latest minimalist model, which boasts a barefoot feel bolstered by its zero-drop form and the inclusion of the company’s new Vertical Tubes Technology — an outsole that uses individual vertical cylinders for shock absorption and push-off. The Cali-Mari features a wide toe box for maximum foot movement, along with outsole cylinders of varying shapes to help mirror the absorption zones on the foot. With a 14mm profile throughout the forefoot and heel, the Cali-Mari provides cushioning within a minimalist-feeling shoe. Newcomers to minimalism will no doubt appreciate the cushion and feel of the shoe, making it a viable transitional shoe for many.

Saucony Hattori LC

Weight: Men 4.4 oz. | Women 4.0 oz.
Heel Drop: 0mm
Price: $90

The newly revamped Saucony Hattori builds upon the strengths of the previous model without adding weight or bulkiness on a remarkably barefoot-feeling shoe. With a glove-like fit, the Hattori allows for a responsive and flexible experience. The flex groove in the back of the shoe also allows for additional traction underfoot. Cushioning, where included, is done so tactically and in contact-prone areas of the foot. These features allow the Hattori to provide a pleasant minimalist experience — protecting the foot from debris and unnecessary shock without too much cushioning or weight.

Merrell Road Glove

Weight: Men’s 7.0 oz. | Women’s 6.0 oz.
Heel Drop: 0mm
Price: $110

The Merrell Road Glove provides a next-to-nothing minimalist feel with excellent treads, a lightweight upper, and a barely-there feel for running on nearly any surface. The Road Glove provides barefoot strobe construction, allowing the foot to move and contour around uneven surfaces. The sturdy Vibram outsole offers durable support, particularly around the reinforced toebox. Matched with a lightweight and breathable Dri-Lex footbed, the Road Glove offers a fantastically light upper to go alongside its rugged-yet-unobtrusive outsole. The Road Glove provides a well-crafted, intuitively designed minimalist feel in a decidedly rugged shoe.

Skechers GOrun

Weight: Men’s 6.9 oz | Women’s 4.9 oz.
Heel Drop: 4mm
Price: $80

The Skechers GOrun is an ultra lightweight trainer (6.9 oz., men’s size 9) aimed at the growing minimalist running shoe market. What sets the GOrun apart from other minimalist shoes on the market is what Skechers calls M-Strike technology, which is a curve along the insole to promote a mid-foot strike. The shoe has a very flexible forefoot, and contours easily to various road surfaces. Torsionally, the shoe twists and turns with similar ease, and has absolutely no heel counter. All of this flexibility, along with the shoe’s heel-to-toe drop of 4mm, should translate to good ground feel on the run.


About the Author

Brian O’Connor is a writer and editor focused on running, fitness and sports medicine from NYC. He is a long-time contributor to www.runningshoesguru.com, focusing on the minimalist shoe market along with technological advances within shoe design.

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