Best Minimal and Low-Drop Running Shoes

11 Best Minimal and Low-Drop Running Shoes

Although they tend to have less cushioning than other athletic shoes, minimal and low-drop running shoes have several advantages that make them popular among runners. Because these shoes have a lower heel-to-toe ramp angle, you can enjoy a more natural gait, strengthening your feet in the process. Fans of these shoes also claim that the low-drop design encourages better form and reduces the risk of injury. While minimalist running isn't for everyone, runners who want to give it a try should consider this list of the best minimal running shoes currently on the market.

Number 11

Hoka One One Challenger ATR

Hoka One One Challenger ATR

Hoka One One is known for its cushioned, maximalist designs, but it also has plenty to offer low-drop enthusiasts. The Challenger 4 ATR doesn't offer as much support as its predecessor. Instead, it treats runners to a more lightweight structure, accompanied with EVA foam in the midsole and a double mesh upper. The design is also great at repelling water, and it includes a roomy toe box that allows for a natural splay. The Challenger 4 ATR has a 5mm heel-toe drop.

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Number 10

Brooks PureCadence

Brooks PureCadence

Brooks has managed to pack plenty of features into this low-drop road runner. The Woven Air upper keeps the shoe light yet snug, and the Omega Flex Grooves allow your foot to maintain its flexibility. The PureCadence 7's Dual Toe Flex splits your big toe from the rest of your foot. The result is an increase in balance and an easier push-off at the start of each run. These features, combined with a drop of 4mm, allow you to enjoy an overall natural gait. Take note though: If you're looking for a huge variety of color options, this shoe might not be for you.

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Number 9

Altra Instinct

Altra Instinct

Altra's shoes incorporate what the brand likes to call a Zero Drop platform. If the name isn’t a dead giveaway, the term means that your heel and forefoot will rest on an entirely level surface. It's a design that appeals to runners who want to do away with the heel-toe ramp altogether. The Instinct 4.5 has a few features to ensure a comfortable run as well. The bottom of the shoe is completely outfitted in rubber, so there's plenty of protection for your soles. Altra has also added grooves to the side of the midsole, with the intent of enhancing the platform's flexibility. The mesh upper is soft, the tongue is padded, and the toe box is roomy. It's safe to say Altra designed these for both speed and comfort.

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Number 8

Altra Superior

Altra Superior

Get used to seeing Altra shoes on this list. The brand's Zero Drop allows it to create some of the best men's minimal running shoes, and even some models specifically for women. The Superior 3.5, of course, has that famous level platform, but this shoe also aspires to be heavy-duty footwear. The outsole's DuraTread enhances your traction wherever you go; the shoe's lugs keep you stable even if you decide to hit the trails. Keeping with the rugged theme, the upper is durable and quick to dry. These features don't detract from the shoe's breathability or lightweight design.

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Number 7

Hoka One One Tracer

Hoka One One Tracer

Hoka One One has another low-drop option, and, just in case the Challenger 4 ATR wasn't low enough for you, this one features a 4mm heel drop. The Tracer 2 is slightly heavier than the original Tracer, but with the men's version weighing in at 7.7 ounces, it's still an incredibly light shoe. Expect a firm forefoot complemented by a springy heel. The design is intended to give you an impressive push off the starting line without sacrificing comfort down the road. A thick collar furthers enhances an already comfy design, and rubber on the outsole guards against wear and tear, making these some of the best minimal shoes for running.

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Number 6

Altra Escalante

Altra Escalante

You didn't forget about Altra, did you? The Escalante 1.5 has a sleek look, but beneath that cool design is a familiar feature. Yes, the Zero Drop platform is here, and this time it's accompanied by Altra Ego cushioning. This plush material offers impressive rebound, so each step you take feels energized. If you flip the shoe over, you'll find a footprint design with lots of grooves to increase your traction. Between the quick-drying upper and those grooves, you can feel secure running on wet terrain in some of the best minimal running shoes for women and men.

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Number 5

Altra Olympus

Altra Olympus

Altra's neutral running shoe features a broad heel for stability, as well as Vibram MegaGrip on the outsole for enhanced traction. Clearly, these aspire to be the best minimal trail running shoes, so you shouldn't be surprised to find durable, quick-drying mesh on the upper. The Olympus 3.0 also has a four-point gaiter trap, so you can easily put a gaiter on to prevent pebbles, dirt, and other debris from ruining your run. Wondering if Altra's famous Zero Drop platform makes a return in this shoe model? Of course it does.

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Number 4

Merrell Trail Glove

Merrell Trail Glove

In case you were wondering, Altra isn't the only brand that knows how to create the best zero drop running shoes. Merrell's Trail Glove 4 keeps your foot completely level, and a mesh lining promotes breathability. An anti-microbial agent is also present. It works in combination with the breathable mesh to create a healthy, sanitary environment for your feet as you work up a sweat during hard runs. You won't find much ankle support on this shoe, but it's very light, durable, and flexible. Runners with wide feet will be happy with this shoe; the toe box is very roomy. These features, along with high responsiveness, put the Trail Glove 4 on the list of best zero drop running shoes.

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Number 3

Topo Fli-Lyte

Topo Fli-Lyte

Although it's not a zero-drop shoe, Topo's Fli-Lyte 2 manages to earn recognition as one of the best cushioned minimal running shoes. Its upper is more durable than its predecessor's upper, but it remains flexible and responsive. The shoe has a roomy toe box, so your toes can work their magic uninterrupted. Funky color options are a big highlight here. Expect to grab plenty of attention no matter which design you decide on. The Fli-Lyte 2 has a 3mm drop.

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Number 2

Altra Intuition

Altra Intuition

Remember the Altra Instinct 4.5? The Altra Intution 4.5 is its sister shoe. A comfortable toe box and EVA foam in the midsole ensure the Intuition 4.5 is just as comfortable as its brother. The shoe also has a secondary cushion that's composed of bouncy, recycled material. Altra refers to this as the A-Bound. As you should expect, the Intuition 4.5 is several ounces lighter than the Instinct 4.5. These minimal shoes have a Zero Drop platform.

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Number 1

Merrell Vapor Glove

Merrell Vapor Glove

On a list that's mostly dominated by Altra's Zero Drop offerings, Merrell's Vapor Glove 3 still emerges as the best minimal running shoes. How can that be? Well, the Vapor Glove 3 goes all in when it comes to a minimal design. The men's version is 6.1 ounces, and the women's version is an eye-popping 4.6 ounces. They're barely there! Despite the super light structure, the shoe has good traction and padding on the bottom to protect your feet during runs. Thermoplastic urethane strengthens the mesh upper, and the shoe has no drop in its platform. This is a shoe for runners who are already certain they love minimal running shoes.

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