In this review, our third annual look at minimalist shoes, we examine this growing category and feature seven new shoes and one updated model for you to consider. In deciding what a minimalist shoe is, we use the following ranges: a minimal heel-to-forefoot drop (five millimeters or less); minimal support (can fold down the heel of the upper or pinch the sides of the heel together) and little sole structure (should be able to twist torsionally with little resistance); and light in weight (under ten ounces for a men’s size 11). Shoes that satisfy at least two of these three characteristics are classified as minimalist. Your use of minimalist shoes will be determined by your fitness and preferences, but all runners can benefit from the use of a minimalist shoe for at least some of their running.
The Pure Drift is a new shoe in Brooks’ Pure Project line. The Drift splits the difference between the original Pure’s 4mm geometry and zero-drop by featuring an insole with a 4mm drop atop a fabric-covered Strobel board, so zero-drop can be reached by simply removing the insole. The upper is open mesh with a few midfoot overlays and the familiar Navband to secure the midfoot while flexing with it. The midsole features flex grooves in a traditional placement (but deeper) and two “Toe Flex” grooves that allow the metatarsals freedom, both laterally and longitudinally. The outersole is a zigzag ribbon of rubber that runs from the big toe under the metatarsals and down the lateral side to the heel, which provides a little more durability. The Pure Drift earned honors as our Best Minimalist Shoe for Winter 2013.
Heel/Forefoot Drop 0mm Sizes Men 7–13, 14; Women 5–12 Weight 7.2 oz. (men’s 11); 6.1 oz. (women’s 8)
The adiPure Adapt is the most minimal of the adidas adiPure line. The shoe’s elastic materials conform to the foot and flex as it moves. The upper is a stretchy, bootie-like construction—almost like a sock—completely covered with rubbery overlays that provide a hint of structure without getting in the way. Though the midsole is the lowest in the adidas running line with a stack height of 15mm and a drop of 4mm, it is a bit more than one might expect from the very minimal nature of the shoe. Deep flex grooves and a forefoot-only outersole provide a flexible, responsive ride and a measure of protection without sacrificing the feedback desired in a minimalist shoe.
Heel/Forefoot Drop 4mm Sizes Men 7–13, 14, 15; Women 5–12 Weight 5.3 oz. (men’s 11); 4.1 oz. (women’s 8)
The Torin is a new shoe to the Altra line, a young brand that has taken solid root in the minimalist market. The brand’s aesthetics take a step forward with this model, now packaging its roomy toe-box and foot-friendly shape in a sleeker design. The upper is open mesh with welded overlays and saddle-like, ghilley lacing across the midfoot to securely wrap the foot for performance. The midsole has a generous 28mm stack height (15mm in the midsole) combined with the familiar Altra zero-drop geometry to provide the benefits of a minimalist shoe with just enough cushioning. The segmented carbon outersole allows good flexibility and traction without weighing things down. The result is a daily trainer with zero-drop geometry.
Heel/Forefoot Drop 0mm Sizes Men 8–13, 14, 15; Women 5.5, 6.5–11, 12 Weight 9.6 oz. (men’s 11); 8.4 oz. (women’s 8)
The New Balance Minimus 10 Trail has its first update as a tested veteran and the approach taken in Round 1 continues here: pair 4mm geometry with a relatively low stack height and use thin materials in the upper to keep the weight down. The upper is an open mesh similar to the previous edition, the revised forefoot strap has been slightly repositioned for comfort, and the tongue is now a traditional construction, although it’s partially anchored to allow the shoe to fit more foot shapes. The midsole is virtually the same as before: a thin layer of foam with a 4mm heel-to-toe drop that offers just enough protection to feel like a shoe but also provides adequate feedback. The Vibram outersole now features hexagon-like connections of rubber between the actual hexagon-shaped treads from Round 1 to offer better traction, durability, and protection.
Heel/Forefoot Drop 4mm Sizes Men 6–13, 14, 15; Women 6–11 Weight 7.1 oz. (men’s 11); 6.0 oz. (women’s 8)
The Virrata derives its name from the Finnish verb “to flow,” an apt description of the performance of this light and flexible shoe. The upper is a micromesh with well-placed, welded overlays to secure the foot. Though thin, it doesn’t feel skimpy but, rather, racer-like light. The midsole is the same rubbery compound used in both the Kinvara and the Mirage, providing a resilient and responsive ride, with deep flex grooves making for an ultra-flexible sole. The majority of the outersole is toughened EVA with some carbon rubber on the highest-wear areas, particularly at the extremes of heel and toe, to improve traction at touch-down and toe-off. The Virrata brings cushioning, flexibility, and zero-drop geometry to everyday running.
Heel/Forefoot Drop 0mm Sizes Men 6–13, 14, 15; Women 6–11 Weight 6.9 oz. (men’s 11); 6.2 oz. (women’s 8)
The GoBionic joins the GoRunRide in Skechers’ growing minimal running shoe line. The GoBionic fine tunes some features while employing the best of what works in the Ride. The soft and breathable synthetic upper is suitable for sockless wear. Supportive, sueded overlays give a little structure to the well-ventilated mesh. The midsole features zero-drop geometry with a comfortable 16mm stack height and a flexible design, allowing the foot to flex as needed. The entire outersole is segmented into numerous pods of toughened EVA and carbon rubber in the high-wear portions at heel, toe, and select spots between. The result is a flexible and protective shoe that fits well without breaking the bank.
Heel/Forefoot Drop 0mm Sizes Men 6.5–12, 13, 14; Women 5–10, 11 Weight 6.2 oz. (men’s 11); 5.3 oz.(women’s 8)
Mizuno introduces its EVO line of two minimalist shoes with its characteristic twist. Though they differ somewhat—one aims at performance while the EVO Cursoris is a bit more plush—both have the same zero-drop geometry and lightweight approach. It’s light with a roomy forefoot and 12mm of foam underfoot. The upper is open airmesh in the forefoot (vamp) with smaller mesh on the heel (rear quarter). The midsole is Mizuno’s durable AP foam, which has a toughened skin in the areas where it’s exposed to the road. A visible insert under the metatarsals provides a slightly softer feel underfoot, and the overall shape encourages midfoot striking and a snappy toeoff. The Wave technology is provided by both shaping the forefoot insert and running the length of the midsole. For durability, the outersole is a sparse forefoot-only treatment of carbon rubber.
Heel/Forefoot Drop 0mm Sizes Men 6–13, 14, 15; Women 6–11 Weight 7.5 oz. (men’s 11); 5.5 oz. (women’s 8)
The Maliko is named after a bay on the island of Maui and this shoe’s suitability in both wet and dry situations is just the beginning of that inspiration. Another notable feature of the Maliko is its split toe construction (the big toe is separated from its brethren), which increases the power and agility of your stride by providing better balance. The upper is a tough, closed mesh with welded supports, a wrapped arch, and swept heel cup of thin TPU with drainage ports under the arch in case you’re running through water. Monosock construction hugs the foot, while thin laces and a quick-snugging lace-lock complete the fit. There’s no midsole to speak of—the EVA Strobel board and removable EVA arch pad in the heel handle those duties—allowing a zero-drop or very mild ramp angle options. The outersole is durable carbon rubber, effectively textured to grip in wet conditions.
Heel/Forefoot Drop 0mm Sizes Men 7–12, 13; Women 5, 6–10, 11 Weight 7.3 oz. (men’s 11); 6.2 oz. (women’s 8)