For those needing a brief history lesson, before the era of overblown, puff-shoed “Maximalism” running footwear, we were mired in a period ruled by people who went by monikers that started with “Barefoot.” There was palpable hostility toward those who ran in shoes with more than a 4mm heel-to-toe differential. Runners who landed on the back side of their feet were practically discriminated against, and those who landed on their forefeet called it “natural running.” Minimalists pontificated with religious fervor, and the movement gained cult-like followers.
And then the Minimalists got injured.
Nowadays, we understand that there is value in each extreme, and that a runner may benefit from having shoes with little and big stack heights, using them throughout their training cycle to stimulate and excite the feet and lower legs or, alternatively, allow for easy recovery.
The following three companies have kept a steady hand when it comes to Minimalism, and have new shoes that carry on the devotion to a low drop, a wide toe box and minimal underfoot cushioning and protection to embrace forefoot running.
 Vivobarefoot Stealth II, $135
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 0mm
For the authentic Minimalist experience, the Stealth II is raw enough for a naked feeling with Vivobarefoot’s patented, ultra-thin, puncture-resistant layer that keeps you close to the ground without getting jabbed by it. The breathable mesh upper is heat fused to avoid any abrasive stitching—meaning no socks are necessary, should you want to take your minimalism one step further.
 Merrell Bare Access Flex, $90
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 0mm
Possibly because Minimalists tend to enjoy running barefoot, Merrell has integrated antimicrobial technology into the Bare Access Flex. This hybrid shoe is versatile for most any surface and it has the lug pattern, slip-resistant traction, integrated EVA footbed and flexibility to pull off performance on and off the road. The heel of the Bare Access Flex is built for snug security on ascents and descents alike.
 New Balance Minimus Trail 10v1, $115
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 4mm
New Balance resurrected what feels like the original Minimus Trail yet with fresh, antimicrobial upper materials, a Vibram outsole for rugged traction and functional flex grooves for sock-like movement with the foot. The toe box is wide enough for full forefoot splay, but the midfoot stays secure with a great hold.