Minimal Racing Flats
Brooks Pure Connect 2
As the consummate modern lightweight trainer, the snug-fitting Pure Connect 2 has a lightweight, low-to-the-ground feel and crazy-agile demeanor that make it ideal for tempo runs, fartleks and other fast workouts. The features that make this shoe most compelling are its anatomical shape, reduced heel, energetic semi-firm midsole foam and glove-like fit that is enhanced by a mid-foot elastic support band. A unique, split-toe groove enables more natural big-toe movement, while the new one-piece upper creates a wrap-like fit. Although there isn’t much cushioning underfoot, testers raved about the relatively soft ride for such a minimal ride feel. Most suggested this shoe was one of the snuggest-fitting models they tested and appreciated how that translated to efficient energy return.
7.2 oz, 6.4 oz / 4mm heel-toe drop
“This is the best shoe I’ve ever owned. It feels like a natural part of my foot.”
Inov-8 Road-X 233
Fast, flexible and light, the Road-X 233 feels footloose and fancy-free. Ideal as a long-distance racer or a speed workout fiend, it’s extremely flexible and lacks any type of supportive device to get in the way of natural foot movement. Inov-8 has gone to great lengths to create a softer feeling underfoot in some of its shoes, including this model. A slightly softer midsole foam and more forgiving outsole rubber create a more intimate connection to the ground while maintaining enough semi-firm footing for performance-oriented running. The additional softness was very noticeable (and appreciated) and, combined with the sleek profile and low-to-the-ground feel, cues up an agile, efficient vibe at any pace.
8.2 oz, 6.7 oz / 6mm heel-toe drop
“I was pleasantly surprised by how responsive and grippy the Road X-233 was. It transitions smoothly and sticks to any surface like glue.”
Merrell Barefoot Run Road Glove 2
This less-is-more minimalist trainer offers only a slight amount of cushioning and protection for runners seeking an intimate connection with the ground. The new version has been updated slightly with a more supportive upper and Vibram rubber outsole, but the decidedly firm ride and natural-flexing performance are very similar. It also carries over the same zero-drop profile. Although most of our testers were concerned about the lack of material underfoot if using this shoe regularly, several said they appreciated the roomy toe box, high arch and lightweight, barely-there feel.
7.2 oz.; 6.1 oz. / 0mm heel-toe drop
“Despite feeling soft and cushy, it was very bouncy. I felt quick and nimble in it.”
Mizuno EVO Levitas
Mizuno went way outside the box in its first modern approach to minimalism. Named after the Latin word for “light,” the Levitas serves up a low-to-the-ground sensation that is much softer and more forgiving than many other zero-drop options. The ride, which is enhanced by a Wave plate in the forefoot, feels more like that of a responsive lightweight trainer than a barely there minimalist shoe, with slightly more cushioning and protection than other shoes this close to the ground. A few testers thought this shoe fit narrow in the mid-foot but also runs about a half-size large, given the ample width and length of the toe box.
6.1 oz, 5.1 oz / 0mm heel-toe drop
“The sole isn’t spongy but still softens concrete for a barefoot-on-grass feel.”
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