The Spectrum of Minimalist Running Shoes

by Jason Fitzgerald

You didn’t think I’d host a Minimalist Running Blog Carnival and not add my own post, did you?! Of course not. To cap off this week’s focus on minimalism, I recorded a video looking at my own minimalist running shoes and the casual shoes I wear.

Each shoe in the lineup offers different characteristics of a typical minimalist shoe: low weight, small heel-toe drop, less support, minimal upper, and a low sole. My goal is to provide you with more insight in how I pick my own minimalist shoes so you can find what’s best for you.

Every shoe you wear should have a purpose. You shouldn’t wear the same shoe for a long run that you do for an interval workout. Wearing different running shoes can help you avoid injuries by stressing your feet and legs in slightly different ways. In my interview with Pete Larson, he agrees and believes it’s one of the reasons he’s stayed healthy.

It’s a complex subject and there’s a lot of science behind why minimalist running shoes may be helpful in preventing injuries. My hope is to distill that for you into some actionable lessons that you can apply directly to your training.

Minimalist Running Shoes Mentioned:

ASICS Speedstar - This is the first shoe mentioned in the video and the model I wear for the majority of my mileage. I’ve worn several versions of it as it’s been updated through the years and they’ve all been fantastic (with the exception of the previous model before this current one).

Adidas Adizero Mana - I’ve had several Adizero models over the last three years and I’ve loved them all. The Mana is a bit more shoe than several of the other types of Adizero’s, but it fits my needs well. It has a more firm ride than the Speedstar, so it may be a bit more uncomfortable if you’re not used to that or do all of your training on roads.

ASICS Hyper Speed - This shoe is low to the ground, a bit on the firmer side, and fast. I wear this shoe for some workouts and most road races up to the half-marathon distance. I’ve even worn the Hyper Speeds on several very short runs when I’m looking for a real minimalist training stimulus.

Sanuk Sandal ShoeSanuks are a great alternative to sneakers when you want to stay casual but it’s too cold for a pair of real sandals. Constructed with a thin piece of fabric over a sandal sole, you’ll feel like you’re wearing sandals without exposing your toes to the elements. Drawback: people think you’re wearing slippers.

Sperry Top Sider - My favorite semi-dress shoe of all time. You can wear them to work, you can wear them to the beach, and you can wear them out to the bar. Super light, flexible, low to the ground, and fashionable – highly recommended.

Driving loafers - These are a bit more old school and formal, but definitely appropriate for most work environments. Instead of those bulky dress shoes, these types of loafers have a low heel-toe drop and are very flexible. You’ll be using your feet and lower leg muscles a lot more than in typical shoes.

For other casual shoe options, check out Terra Plana dress shoes. They’re expensive, but I’ve only heard positive reviews. Consider them an investment. They also offer the EVO line of minimalist running shoes, which I’m hoping to review soon.

Bottom Line: What to wear is highly individualized, so you have to experiment with what you like and what works for you. Never start running a significant amount of mileage in a minimalist running shoe without first getting used to that new stress gradually. Used properly, minimalist running shoes can be a great training tool for injury prevention and form improvement.

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