Reviews of the Best Zero Drop Running Shoes

You’ve come to the right place for the most thorough reviews on the best zero drop running shoes.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand what zero drop running shoes, also referred to as barefoot running shoes or minimalist running shoes are, and why they’re incredibly necessary for running and foot health!

Review of the Best Barefoot Running Shoes

Barefoot running shoes are functional footwear because they meet the functional needs of the feet by having a thin, flat, flexible and wide design that’s fully intended to mimic being barefoot.

The importance of these features is to improve the shape and functional strength of the feet by engaging the feet independently, which also enhances circulation and nerve connectivity throughout the foot and ankle. What is more, this renewed foot strength allows you to adapt to new levels of training, more quickly!

Review of the Best Zero Drop Running Shoes
The Sockwa X8 (left) and the Vibram KSO EVO (right) are examples of barefoot shoes that provide the sensory input needed to engage optimal forefoot running mechanics while directly strengthening all aspects of the foot!

Better yet, the paper-thin sole allows you to feel the ground more fully, enabling deep nerve stimulation in the foot, which not only strengthens nerve supply in the foot, it also enhances sensory communication throughout the body. The big advantage of this is it activates reflexive and neuromuscular responses that engage functional movement patterns, such as forefoot striking, safer knee mechanics and sturdier balance when running. Bottom line, you gotta feel the ground in order for good biomechanics to come!

Without further ado, below is my growing list of the best barefoot running shoes that closely approximates barefoot running and therefore, works best at revitalizing foot health while optimizing your forefoot running form!


Primals – The SoftStar Primal’s are the widest barefoot shoe out there and should really receive all the hype thanks to the shoes maximum durability, functionality and versatility! The Primal’s handle exceptionally well in dry and wet, cold conditions on paved streets and other hard surfaces, and are also a great off-road option! You can also customize the shoe to whatever colours you want! Read my full review here!

Moc3 – Like the Primals, the Moc3 is incredibly wide, giving a new degree of openness than most barefoot shoes. The Moc3 is incredibly soft inside and out, and thinner than the Primals, sitting on a 2mm thin Vibram rubber sole that’s specially cut to move seamlessly with your foot. The sole also grips well on off-road terrain, such as gravel roads, heavy rocky and pea gravel paths, dirt trails and grass. Read my full review here!

Xero Shoes

HFS – Sits on a 5-mm durable outsole thats backed by a 5000-mile warranty, the HFS is an excellent road, trail and treadmill running shoe for any distance, but is also exceptional for walking, any form of cross-training and for everyday casual wear. Read my full review here!

Prio – The Prio is one of Xero’s wider barefoot shoes, and is perfect for running fast or slow as well as for high or low mileage runs (5km to ultra-marathons) on hard surfaces or on dusty or hard-packed semi to very technical trails in wet and dry conditions! Read my full review here!

Zelen –  One of the lightest, thinnest and widest barefoot shoes out of the Xero Shoes lineup, the Zelen performs best when running in hot, dry conditions, but is also full of versatility that goes beyond running! Read my full review here!

Z-TrailIf you liked the Z-Trek sandals, you’ll love the Z-Trail which is a more protective version of the Z-Trek. The Z-Trail is a great choice for long runs, power hiking or walking on the roads, soft trails, dirt surfaces, the track and on other forms of smooth terrain. The Z Trail is also wonderful for walking long distances on packed earth, sand, semi-technical terrain as well as crossing streams, weight lifting, yoga, and causal, everyday wear! Read my full review here!

Amuri CloudThe Amuri Cloud is one of the most cushy, protective barefoot running sandals out there, sitting on a 6-mm, traction-oriented sole, the Cloud lets you run safely on wet pavement and softer trails. The Cloud is also a big performer for climbing dry or wet rocks, swimming and rafting. Read my full review here!

Vibram Five Fingers

V-Aqua – The ultimate go-to water shoe, the V-Aqua makes you feel incredibly buoyant in the water because the shoes sole and upper is fully perforated which quickly sheds water and sand to prevent the shoe from getting heavy and sloppy. But what is more, the combination of comfort and traction makes the shoe ideal for walking, hiking or running on beaten paths, too! Read my full review here! 

V-Alpha Trail – The V-Alpha Trail is a slightly warmer version of the Bikila LS and performs very well in marshes, swamplands, wetlands, rivers as well as on grass, rocks, boulders, logs and any type of dirt surface. The shoe performs just as well on the roads and are perfect for biking, weightlifting, bouldering, rock climbing, swimming, gardening, squat and dead lifting and for all-day casual use. Read my full review here!

KSO Classic – Most versatile barefoot running shoe from Vibram and was voted the most comfortable, too! Read my full review here!

KSO EVO – A softer, lighter, more flexible version of the KSO Classic, that is great for cooler conditions and for road and trail running. Read my full review here!

V-Run – An upgraded version of the Bikila that is more durable and protective for longer distances. The upper is also super perforated, allowing water to drain very quick! Read my full review here!

Trek Ascent LR – Recommended for those who desire more underfoot cushioning or want a barefoot shoe for the winter, the Trek Ascent LR is made for serious mountainous trail running/walking/hiking, especially in the winter. Read my full review here!

KMD EVO – Recommended for those who want more underfoot cushioning, the KMD EVO is a high performance shoe that is a solid choice for mud obstacle course races, endurance trail running and road marathons. Read my full review here!

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

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. Read my full review here!

Vi-BThe super light n’ airy Vibram Vi-B barefoot shoe is one of the lightest foot coverings that can handle more walking, hiking, running and swimming miles! Read my full review here!

V-TrailThe Vibram V Trail barefoot running shoes are a winter trail running shoe built to impressively handle frigidly cold, slippery, sloppy, muddy conditions, making the shoe an excellent choice for helping you excel at any OCR event! Read my full review here!


Fast I – This ultra wide and flat barefoot shoe delivers a softer ride that feels light, nimble and fast over any distance on any terrain! The outstanding breathability of the shoe also makes you feel like you can run forever in the hottest weather! Read my full review here!


Escalante – If you prefer a much cushier ride for the roads, the Altra Escalante will be your cushy companion, especially for the winter because they’ll keep your feet warm in the coldest of temperatures, even at -23F! Despite the thicker cushioning, the Escalante is still zero-drop and the underfoot-feel somehow feels more barefoot than not! Read my full review here!

Review of the Best Zero Drop Running Shoes
The Altra Escalante’s are my go-to barefoot running shoe for extreme winter conditions because they keep my feet toasty warm regardless of how cold it is AND I strap on winter wearable-spikes to the underfoot for the most confident ride over ice.


Tracker Decon Low FG2This four-season barefoot trail shoe is made for serious mountainous terrain but is just as perfect for everyday casual jaunts! Read my full review here! 

Ultra – Extremely lightweight; made for long distance running and water sports. Read my full review here!

Motus – The Motus is more cushioned than most Vivobarefoot shoes, but still provides enough ground-feel for gait correction. The Motus is great for running long distances on the roads and grips well when running on grass. Read my full review here!

Achilles Running Sandal – Barefoot running sandal for wider feet and performs admirably well in obstacle course races. Read my full review here!

One  – More minimal than the Merrell Vapor Glove; made for road racing on concrete, gravel, mud and snow; great for mud obstacle course races. Read my full review here!

Stealth – For running on smoother surfaces, such as the road, track or treadmill. Read my full review here!

Evo Pure – Wide toe-box, super thin, super sleek n’ stylish and excellent for off-road and road racing. Read my full review here!

Stealth 2 WP – Winter proof barefoot running shoe with a 3mm thin, grippy outsole for wet surfaces. Read my full review here!

Evo Lite – Perfect for all-weather conditions and for running on any terrain; comes with a light, removable insole. Read my full review here!

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. Read my full review here!

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. Read my full review here!


Bare-XF 210 – The Bare-XF 210 has a barefoot-fist design with a traction-oriented sole made for obstacle course races, road and trail running, cross fit and is equally exceptional for every day, casual wear.

Bare-XF 260 The Bare-XF 260 is an excellent weightlifting, crossfit and obstacle course racing shoe that is responsive and durable enough for long runs on the roads. You’ll also love that the meshy, stretchy upper creates an airy seal thats easily ajusted with the Velcro closure, really anchoring you down to the sole without any pressure points!


Free 1.0 Cross Bionic The Cross Bionic is Nikes only pure barefoot shoe that fits the bill for being an everyday, versatile trainer that’s both road and trail-ready! Read more here!


Merrell Trail Glove 5 – Trail Glove 5 is a better choice for minimalist runners who prefer moderate cushioning for a smoother ride on rocky, harsh, beat-up paths. Despite its improved, added durability, the Trail Glove 5 is still a lighter, more flexible update from the previous Trail Gloves! Read my full review here!


One of the softest, most nimble and agile zero drop minimalist shoes I’ve ever had is the TadeEVO. Not only do they look superb as a casual shoe, the TadeEVO is a solid choice for road running of all distances. The dense closed-mesh on the sidewalls of the shoe coupled with the leather velour framing, gives the upper durably sturdy construction that delivers good rock and thermal protection and gives a snug fit throughout. Additionally, the 5-mm thin rubber sole is flexible and bendy thus functional, but is sticky which improves grip on wet slick roads.


Primal 2 – A beastly long distance road and trail running minimalist shoe, the Primal 2s can also tackle treacherous rocky terrain in dry and wet conditions. But, despite all the added protection and durability, the Lems Primal 2 are thin enough to keep you fully dialled into your forefoot running form. Read my full review here!

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.

Best Running Shoes for Forefoot Runners
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.

Xero Shoes Sandals

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.

NEW Trail running and hiking shoe -- TerraFlex by Xero Shoes


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.

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.

Nimble Toes

Nimble Toes – Designed in collaboration with world renowned running technique coach, Lee Saxby, the Nimble Toes are Vivobarefoot on steroids as the Nimble Toes have a more meatier upper and outsole that does a nice job at providing rock protection more fully, while delivering the right amount of ground-feel necessary to uphold a barefoot-like stride on pavement. Like a true minimalist running shoe, the Nimbles Toes are low to the ground, wide in the front, but the most appreciated aspect of the shoe is its robust 4-mm thin Vibram rubber outsole which puts enough rubber in contact with the ground to firmly grip the pavement and guards against any rocks and twigs on you may step on.

Water Socks

For a more cost-effective alternative to the minimalist forefoot running shoes listed above, you can always check out Walmart, Target, athletic stores and Amazon that sell water socks, which are definitely a cheaper way in accessing the sensory input that can give you the mechanical help you need and can renew your capacity to keep your feet strong in a sustainable way.

Best Running Shoes for Forefoot Runners
Water socks are just as compatible as most barefoot running shoes, whereby the continuous stream of sensory feedback you get from the thin outsole, automatically activates a wide range of reflexes in the lower leg in ways that help you re-capitalize on better movement efficiency and mechanical effectiveness and should be part of the solution in reviving foot strength and function.

FeelGrounds – If you’re on the hunt for a more casual, fancier, formal-looking minimalist shoe for nights out on the town, long walks or light treks off-road or long days at the office, the FeelGrounds minimalist shoes go above and beyond delivering on all that. The FeelGrounds have a timeless style and were crafted with functionality and all-day comfort in mind. Built on a wide and thin 5-mm rubber platform that is super bendy and promotes a wider range of toe splay at the front and spreading of the metatarsal heads, the FeelGrounds are essentially anatomically-shaped and ergonomically-friendly, enabling the feet to work on their own, making the shoe an excellent foot-strengthening tool!

Last but not least, 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.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you’ll also love my YouTube channel: here, where I provide more underlying evidence of the importance of barefoot running in how it can help speed things forward in terms of mechanical improvements and performance gains! You can also follow me on Facebook: here, where you can enjoy good discussions about barefoot running, minimalist running and minimalist running shoe reviews!

If you’d like, you can support Run Forefoot by shopping at the following, and be sure to bookmark the links:


Lems Shoes:


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You can also show support and help keep Run Forefoot going even stronger by making a donation in any amount of your choosing:

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

"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?


  5. When was this list posted? Most of the shoes specifically listed don’t seem to be available anymore. Searches on the manufacturers’ web sites turn up only other models than those referenced here. Very few exceptions

  6. Heya i’m foor the primary time here. I fouund this board and
    I in finding It truly helpful & it helped me out a lot.
    I’m hoping to provide one thing again and help others such as you helped me.

  7. I have a passion for shoes so I have a site about them, when I came here I understood the effects of running shoes

  8. I had issues with Five Fingers as my toes are quite long. (My GF calls them lobster claws!) I have two pairs and both are a chore to put on and chafe between my toes. Not the fault of the shoes — I DO like them! — but weren’t the best fit for me.

    Got Skinners… Problem solved!

  9. any thoughts of experience with Softstar? I’ve found myself comparing everything I
    else to their primal runamoc.

    I’d like to find someone making a heel-less, only forefoot, half shoe, as well. just got funsies

  10. any thoughts or experience with Softstar? I’ve found myself comparing everything
    else to their primal runamoc.

    I’d like to find someone making a heel-less, only forefoot, half shoe, as well. just for funsies

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