The Best Minimalist Barefoot Running Shoes in Australia for 2024

Finding the perfect pair of minimalist shoes that not only replicate the feeling of running and walking barefoot but also look the part, is no easy task.

There is a wide range of different minimalist styles and designs to choose from.

In this article, we’ll review the top 5 minimalist shoes that deliver in terms of performance and comfort.

Our top pick: Merrell Trail Glove 6

Merrell’s Trail Glove is a high-quality minimalist shoe designed for trail running.

The Trail Glove provides a very secure fit and keeps the foot well-supported during movement.

They feature a EVA foam insole for extra support and comfort and are constructed from recycled materials.

Pros
  • Secure fit
  • Good grip for trail running
  • Stylish                                                        
Cons
  • Expensive                                                        

​​​​Vibram Fivefingers V-Trail 2.0 

​When it comes to designing and constructing minimalist shoes, Vibram is one of the biggest companies around.

The Fivefingers V-Trail 2.0 is their latest minimalist trail shoe which has Vibram’s unique foot-shaped design.

The shoe is very comfortable and breathable – a very important characteristic for trail running.

Even more importantly, the shoe provides a great amount of grip – even on slick or slippery surfaces. 

Pros
  • Comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Very grippy                                             
Cons
  • Takes time to break in                                                        

Xero ​​​​Prio

The Xero Prio is top of the list, and for good reason too. The shoe is not only lightweight, but it is also very roomy and comfortable – a characteristic that can often be hard to find with minimalist shoes.

Its design allows the wearer to really feel connected to the ground and replicates the feel of “natural” walking or running. 

Pros
  • Incredibly light
  • Roomy and comfortable
  • Connected to the ground                      
Cons
  • The design is not very eye-catching                                                         

Topo ST-4

​The most noticeable aspect of the Topo ST-4 is the cushioning which, although minimal, provides maximum comfort for the wearer.

Additionally, the shoe is highly durable and can withstand the stresses of running well.

The shoe also has a wide toe box which enables free movement of the toes. 

Pros
  • Highly comfortable
  • Durable
  • Feel to move the toes                           
Cons
  • Less responsive than other shoes             

Altra Vanish-R

​Finally, we have the Altra Vanish-R, another lightweight and highly flexible option for running.

The shoes fit very snug around the foot which not only provides comfort but also keeps the foot secure while running.

Once again, the shoe is great for feeling the ground and maintaining control as you move.

Finally, the shoe is great value for money. 

Pros
  • Lightweight and flexible
  • Connected to the ground
  • Cost-effective                                          
Cons
  • Thin tongue can be uncomfortable

Minimalist Running shoe Buyer’s Guide 

Before selecting a pair of shoes, it’s important to take time and consider whether or not this specific shoe is the right fit.

Before we look at these considerations, let’s firstly assess the purpose of the minimalist running shoe.

The Purpose Of Minimalist Footwear

When it comes to shoes, comfort is everything. As a result, over the years, more and more cushioning has been added to shoes to increase the degree of comfort experienced by the wearer.

While this cushioning can certainly help to increase comfort, the belief is that this may have a detrimental effect on the body. The cushioning serves as a shock absorber and therefore the body is not being exposed to as many forces.

It has also been suggested that many trainers, which have an elevated heel, alter one’s movement mechanics in a negative and unnatural way.

The minimalist shoe, however, is designed to replicate barefoot movement as closely as possible. These shoes are therefore highly flexible, lightweight, have limited cushioning and little heel lift.

The benefits of replicating barefoot movement are two-fold.

  1. Firstly, so that the muscles of the feet engage properly. Studies have shown minimalist shoes to be effective at improving the strength of the foot muscles.
  2. And secondly, to improve how the body moves thus reducing the risk of injury and promoting performance.

Shoe Use

It’s important to consider the reason for which you are buying the shoe. There are minimalist shoes for running, gym workouts, and even minimalist leather shoes for the office! Make sure you select the pair that matches your needs.

If you are purchasing them for the sole purpose of running, exercise caution. Throwing out your standard running shoe immediately in favour of the minimalist shoe can cause problems. 

If you’ve run in the same pair of running trainers for a prolonged period of time, your body will have adapted and become accustomed to running with the level of support that the trainers provide.

Therefore, it’s important to gradually phase out your old running shoes to allow your body time to adapt to the new minimalist shoes.

Shoe Comfort And Durability

The biggest obstacle with minimalist shoes is to find a pair that are truly comfortable.

As mentioned, there is very little cushioning or padding within the shoe in order to replicate the feel of barefoot movement which can impact the level of comfort.  

Secondly, minimalist shoes do tend to be very simple in design and construction. It is important that the shoe has been constructed using high-quality materials which will last for a long time and can deal with the constant foot strike when walking or running.

Poorly made shoes will have a short lifespan and may end up splitting and breaking down rather quickly.

Shoe Design And Style

There are a number of shoe designs and styles to choose from. For example, one of the more distinctive and memorable shoes on the market is the Vibram Five Fingers which is very much like a glove for the foot.

There is also a wide range of “standard” shoes which look very much like typically running trainers – simply without the same amount of padding and cushioning.

The type of minimalist shoe you choose is entirely dependent on personal preference – however, once again it is important to consider your own training and needs when selecting a specific shoe.

Verdict

There is absolutely no doubt that wearing minimalist shoes can be of great benefit – specifically in terms of improving foot strength.

While there are a number of excellent minimalist running shoes, the Merrell Trail Glove is second to none and therefore makes a superb choice for those serious about running or for those looking to move to a minimalist shoe. 

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Chris Stone - Personal Trainer

Chris Stone is a Personal Trainer and Fitness writer who lives and works in Edinburgh, Scotland. During his time in the Health and Fitness Industry, he has worked at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, spent time in North America coaching and directing football camps and now runs his own Personal Training business in the Scottish capital. He is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to help others improve their well-being through personal training and fitness writing. You can find out more about Chris at thewellbeingpt.com.