BEST Forefoot Strike Running Shoes

Looking for the best forefoot strike running shoes? You’ve came to the right place! Running shoes for forefoot runners should be zero dropped or as close to being flat as possible –this allows your heel to completely lower to the ground when you run forefooted, allowing the Achilles tendon to store more elastic energy needed for optimal running efficiency. And, as a rule of thumb, barefoot-inspired running shoes for forefoot running improve running performance due to their reduced mass (Divert et al., 2008; Franz et al., 2012). Therefore, the lighter, the better. Makes perfect sense.

Forefoot Strike Running Shoes

Another benefit of minimalist running shoes is that they promote greater plantar flexor activity in the foot, helping aid in a forefoot strike (Warne & Warrington, 2014) and a shorter stride during running (Bonacci et al., 2013). Collectively, this shortens the brake period, resulting in less impact on the knee.

No Cushion Running Shoes
Like minimalist running shoes, minimalist running sandals deliver results we can all point to for bolstering foot strength, improving balance control and helps pull the strings on bringing together safer biomechanical outputs.

One thing most runners love most about minimalist running shoes is that they feel more comfortable than standard running shoes. For example, Fuller et al. 2016 discovered that runners with the best running economy wore minimalist shoes, but also had the highest level of perceived comfort as compared with running in standard running footwear. The reason minimalist shoes work best: they feel natural and move with your foot instead of restricting it. And, the barefoot-feel of most minimalist running shoes helps you feel the ground and guide your forefoot strike, the most comfortable way to run.

Lightest Barefoot Running Shoes
If you prefer some under-foot cushioning, I would recommend the Altra Esclanate. The Escalante are structurally-condusive for forefoot running, giving more horsepower to your stride.

I firmly believe that running shoes can make you, or break you when it comes to maintaining the proper forefoot running technique. This is why it’s vital to choose the proper minimalist running shoe!

Below is my minimalist running shoe guide for forefoot runners where I have listed my favorite forefoot running shoes that I feel best closely approximate barefoot running and are most suited to help you maintain optimal forefoot running mechanics and stay injury free.

Best Forefoot Strike Running Shoes
My all-time favorite barefoot-like shoe for forefoot running is the Vibram KSO EVOs! The Vibrams have a dual-purpose: they help strengthen your feet and the paper-thin outsole may foster better, more reflexive responses that go into developing low-impact mechanical skills which in turn, may help advantage your injury prevention efforts. When you can feel the ground, you’ll have greater control, so you aren’t moving aggressively and recklessly!

Forefoot Strike Running Shoes

Vibram Five Fingers

Bikila LS – 4 mm thin rubber outsole packs enough durability for the marathon; very grippy tread that provides lots of traction for wet and icy running surfaces as well as the trails.

SeeYa LS – Super thin, barefoot forefoot running shoe for the trails, roads and treadmill.

Spyridon LS – Has more cushioning than most Vibram barefoot running shoes; intended for road and trail running and running on wet surfaces.

KSO – Most versatile barefoot running shoe from Vibram and was voted the most comfortable, too.

KSO EVO – For cooler conditions; intended for both road and trail running.

Trek Ascent LR – Made for serious mountainous, rugged trail runs, especially in the winter.

KMD EVO – Thicker outsole; made for trail running and also great for mud obstacle races, such as the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder.

Bikila EVO – Long distance barefoot running shoe that handles all terrains.

Jaya – A leather upper, women’s only barefoot running shoe that is strapless and lace-less and can be worn in the water and winter.

KMD Sport LS (KomodoSport LS) – Great for speed-work; running short distances; stitch-free inner makes it super comfy to be worn without socks.

V-Run – An upgraded version of the Bikila; great for long distances; has a little more padding in the midfoot; upper is super stretchy.

Spyridon MR Elite – Made for serious long distance trail runners, the MR Elite is durable for rocky trails, is great for beach running, the marathon and obstacle course races. The stitching is very durable and the upper is very secure, wraps nicely around your foot, keeping dirt and small pebbles out.


Ultra – Extremely lightweight; made for long distance running and water sports.

Motus – The Motus has more cushioning than most Vivobarefoot running shoes and Vibram FiveFinger running shoes, but is still a commonsense approach to improve foot health and function because it gives good ground-feel. Its great for running long distances on the roads and grips well when running on grass.

Achilles Running Sandal – Barefoot running sandal for wider feet.

One M (Men) and L (Ladies) – More minimal than the Merrell Vapor Glove; made for road racing on concrete, gravel, mud and snow; great for mud obstacle course races.

Stealth – For running on smoother surfaces, such as the road, track or treadmill.

Evo Pure – Wide toe-box, great for road racing any terrain.

Stealth 2 WP – Winter proof barefoot running shoe with a 3mm thin, grippy outsole for wet surfaces.

Evo Lite – Great for all-weather conditions and any terrain; comes with a light removable insole.

Stealth II – One of the more barefoot-feeling shoes by Vivobarefoot; zero drop; good for long distance running on the roads/track; breathes well, great for the summer.

Eclipse – If you are looking for a barefoot minimalist running sandal, the Eclipse is a great choice; 5 mm thin outsole that is puncture-resistant and grips well to any terrain; total flexibility –it can be rolled into a ball; great for trail and road running as well as running on wet surfaces.

Primus Road –  If you like the EVO Pure, you’ll love the Primus Road. It has a 3 mm outsole and is super breathable with its see-through upper mesh, and the shoe is perfectly designed for running on the roads.


Bare-XF 210 – Zero drop, extremely versatile; great for Tough Mudders and Spartan Races.

Bare-XF 260 – Perfect for not only forefoot running, but is commonly used for weight-lifting as well.

Luna Sandals

The Original Luna’s – Super comfortable barefoot running sandal; provides lots of traction with its “monkey grip” Vibram 7 mm rubber outsole; handles running on the roads and moderate trails.

Xero Shoes

Amuri Cloud – Ultra thin barefoot running sandal that is super-easy to strap up!

Amuri Z-Trek – an ultra-sport barefoot running sandal without the bothersome toe strap!

Amuri Venture – High performance barefoot running sandal that comes already laced (like all sandals from Xero Shoes) and is made for ultra-marathons.


Vapor Glove – Great for both road and off-road running; breathable and super lightweight.

Trail Glove 3 – Robust trail running shoe tough enough for punishing rocky paths.


Tesla has a running shoe that feels very similar to the Merrell Vapor Glove. It also looks just like the Vapor Glove, too.


G4 – Another barefoot running shoe alternative to the Vibram  FiveFingers and keeps your feet pleasantly warm in the snow.

X8 – Another thermal shoe that’ll keep your feet toasty in the winter; thicker outsole, so you don’t feel any gravel on your feel.

G Hi – This shoe was made for forefoot running with having one of the thinnest outsoles (2 mm thin) that is incredibly durable for any terrain, so you know exactly where to land on your forefoot when you run. Also, the design of the shoe keeps debris out. The neoprene upper not only keeps your feet dry, but warm, too. This really is a multi-purpose barefoot shoe.


GEL-Fortius TR – This is an all-purpose barefoot running shoe; great for cross-training: climbing, dead-lifting; great for the trails.

Piranha Sp4 – A minimalist shoe with a little under-foot protection; super lightweight, great for racing and distance and super comfortable.


Wave EVO Levitas – Super breathable, tremendously light, durable zero-drop outsole, built for long distance running.

Wave Universe 5 – No heel, feather-light, racing flat.


Nike Free 1.0 Cross Bionic – This is the only Nike barefoot running shoe that is suitable for forefoot running that is more minimalistic than the Free 3.0s and 5.0s which have been linked to injury in runners.


Fit – D-width toe-box, roomy, great for ultra-running.

Phase-X – Thick outsole, durable for ultra-marathons, wide toe-box.

Form – For long hard runs; wide toe-box; overall shape accommodates the foot’s naturally anatomy.

Base – The Base is one of the flatter running shoes by Skora, having a 1 mm heel-to-toe differential. It’s also perfect for wide feet because of its M-width toe box, which is crucial for stability.

Pearl Izumi

Pearl Izumi does not have a lot of minimalist running shoes, but they do have the EM Road N 0 which is a great forefoot strike strength builder and is great for any run that is short, long and super long.


Saucony is another brand that needs to make more minimalist shoes in addition to their Hattori LC, which is a more cushioned version of the Merrell Vapor Glove.

More From Run Forefoot:

Aching Pain in Knee When Running

Benefits of the Barefoot Running Technique

Ligament Damage in the Ankle From Running

Inner Ankle Pain When Running


Bonacci, J., Saunders, P. U., Hicks, A., Rantalainen, T., Vicenzino, B. T., & Spratford, W. (2013). Running in a minimalist and lightweight shoe is not the same as running barefoot: A biomechanical study. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 47, 387 – 392. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2012-091837

Divert, C., Mornieux, G., Freychat, P., Baly, L., Mayer, F., & Belli, A. (2008).Barefoot-Shod running differences: Shoe or mass effect? International Journal of Sports Medicine, 29, 512 – 518. doi:10.1055/s-2007-989233.

Franz, J. R., Wierzbinski, C. M., & Kram, R. (2012). Metabolic cost of running barefoot versus shod: Is lighter better? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 44, 1519 – 1525. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182514a88.

Fuller et al. Effects of a minimalist shoe on running economy and 5-km running performance. J Sports Sci, 2016; 34:18, 1740-1745.

Warne, J., & Warrington, G. D. (2014). Four-week habituation to simulated barefoot running improves running economy when compared with shod running. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 24, 563 – 568. doi:10.1111/sms.12032

Bretta Riches

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches


  1. Thanks for the blog and generous info. I’m wondering if you could narrow your favorite down to 1-3, on the purists/functionality side of things.

  2. No Altra? I was born a forefoot runner. Short for my height but faster than the taller girls. It wasn’t until I married that my husband pointed out to me that I am wasting energy going up and down so much and that I shouldn’t be running on my “toes” but from heel to toe. I pushed myself to run heel to toe (awkward for me) then three years later read forefoot running was okay to do and switched back after I had already acclimated to heel toe running. Anyway, much older now and need the cushioning in the forefoot area. So, I just purchased the Altra Escalante and I really like them. Have you tried them? More for people that are forefoot strikers but not barefoot runners perhaps.

  3. Have you had any experience with the Topo Athletic ST-2 shoe? Looks wise it seems to be resemble the Altra Escalante, you are wearing above. The St-2 is listed as being a flexible shoe with a close to the ground feel. For now I need a shoe with as much flexibility with some cushion until I can transition out of the brick like, over cushioned, not so flexible shoes, that are doing nothing to help me excel in running. Thank you for all of the great info. I love your website.

  4. Hello,
    Which size you must have buy the shoes…for example the Vapor gloves
    1 size bigger?


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