Going for a run is not only great for body, but great for the mind as well. However, in order to get the most out of your run, you need the right shoes. As more and more people are turning away from the bulky, high-cushioned running shoes that were once popular, the lightweight, minimalist shoes are becoming more and more popular. Whether you’re just looking to go for a light jog around your neighborhood, train for a race, or challenge yourself on mountain and forested trails, you will definitely need a lightweight pair of running shoes.
Lightweight running shoes affords the user with several benefits, including better protection for your feet, added breathability, form correction, improved speed, and maximum comfort. Lighter shoes also have the ability to make you a more efficient runner, which is the main reason why their popularity has soared in recent years.
A lighter shoe means you are carrying less weight every time you pick up your feet, meaning you expend less energy to run the same distance you would in heavier shoes. The average running shoe weighs about 11.3 ounces.
We’ve spent hours researching and testing different brands to come up with our list of the 12 best lightweight running shoes.
Starting out our list is a strong contender for the best lightweight running shoe on the market, the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Pursuit. The super comfortable shoe features a very soft insole and the seamless, non-irritating upper just further adds to its comfort. Most of the shoe is constructed from a lightweight mesh that allows your feet to breathe while running. The mesh, combined with the bootie construction, give the shoe a second skin-like feel, almost making it feel like you’re just wearing socks. Unlike socks though, these running shoes have a single-piece foam midsole that provides superb cushioning, with most of it being focused in the heel area. The midsole and snug fit work together to give the user full support that’s hard to beat from heel to toe. Not to mention, it’s available in a wide variety of colors, so you can pick one that suits your personal taste.
Adidas went above and beyond with this edition of the Ultraboost shoe in order to provide runners with a shoe that can give a five star performance on any terrain. The outsole is constructed from the same material used to make many car tires, Continental rubber. Needless to say, it’s very durable, but the carefully designed tread is what really gains traction on all terrains, even snowy trails. The midsole cushioning is incredibly responsive and gives just as much energy to you as you give to it, thanks to the springy EVA foam and boost technology. Some people say 27 mm of foam in a midsole is too much, but others love the soft, somewhat squishy feeling it provides. The upper of the Ultraboost All Terrain was designed with movement and comfort in mind, made from a water repellant knit material that conforms to your foot and provides targeted support. It’s hard to beat a shoe this good, but we still have a few more shoes that try.
With tons of rave-worthy shoes, it was hard to pick just a couple of shoes from Nike that would make the list, but there was no way the Nike Air VaporMax FlyKnit 2 could get cut from the running. It’s the latest installment in Nike’s famous Air Max technology, and weighing just nine ounces, is one of their lightest shoes yet. This shoe wows with lightweight support that you can really feel. Flywire technology is utilized to hug your foot, giving it a snug, lightweight feel, and keeping it stable for your entire run. The upper is constructed from lightweight, breathable flyknit fabric that provides both comfort and support during even the longest runs. The flyknit design is also good for environment, with the equivalent of six plastic bottles being used in every pair, although you wouldn’t be able to tell by just looking at these simple yet stylish shoes. But the real magic of this shoe is its famous Air-Sole, the revolutionary Nike innovation that changed what people thought an outsole could be. The durable outsole features individual pods of air that offer super lightweight cushioning and flexibility throughout the shoe.
It’s no surprise Nike has more than one pair of superb lightweight running shoes. After all, they’ve been a top name in the shoe game for decades and have built up quite an impressive reputation. The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35 is another impressive shoe to come from Nike’s innovation, featuring a slanted heel for an optimized initial touchdown and transition, flywire cables that provide support and stability by wrapping the midfoot and arch, and a breathable yet snug mesh upper. The Pegasus 35 has a somewhat large drop, 10 mm, which is worth keeping in mind whether you’re a heel striker or you’d rather something more minimalist. Unlike many other running shoes, the Air Zoom Pegasus 35 is also customizable, both in fit and color, coming in four different fits, including narrow, regular, wide, and extra wide. This eliminates the chance of ending up stuck with a shoe with a great reputation but a too tight or too wide fit. There are 12 default color schemes to choose from, but you can also design your own from scratch.
The Hoka One One Cavu is a bolt, yet simple shoe that is extremely versatile, allowing the user to use it in many different settings. It’s best for road running, but the smart cushioning and internal reinforcements provide comfort and protection that you can take on just about any terrain. With moderate cushioning, it is the perfect medium for people who are looking to eventually transition to a minimalist shoe. Despite its heavy appearance, the Cavu weighs just 8.2 ounces and is ideal for rear striker runners. The heel of the shoe is designed to be softer in the heel area and firm in the forefoot to help heel strikers avoid hurting themselves and get a good push forward. Some people find the transition from soft to firm to be abrupt, but still incredibly useful and practically unnoticeable after the first few runs. Despite its stylish and comfortable, almost plush, design, what really matters is the durability test, which the Cavu passes with flying colors.
On sets the bar high with the Cloudflash shoe, with smart Swedish engineering that is hard to find anywhere else. Although they have quite the impressive lineup, the Cloudflash may be their masterpiece, with full foot support and a cleverly engineered outsole. The Cloudflash’s upper is made from extremely lightweight nano-mesh, which may sound flimsy, but actually provides amazing stability and support with the strategically placed overlays. The nano-mesh also allows for a comfortable, breathable running experience, devoid of any hot spots. However, the hallmark of this shoe is its unique outsole that is both an outsole and midsole in one. Instead of the typical foam midsole that is common with running shoes, the Cloudflash features an outsole made up of several rubber pods, which not only cuts down on the weight of the shoe but also gives the user a little more bounce and forward momentum. These shoes aren’t ideal for everyday running, but are perfect for races and other situations in which speed is the most important thing.
The Altra Solstice has the potential to take your running game to the next level, with more than a few highly desirable features. This Altra innovation features a zero drop platform that aligns the heel and and forefoot for a low impact running experience. This also makes it just as good for cross-training as road and trail running. Although not much emphasis is placed on cushioning, this minimalist shoe still provides outstanding comfort and support thanks to the breathable mesh upper and extra supportive mesh in the heel and midfoot areas. Rounding out this shoe is the durable high abrasion EVA midsole and exposed EVA outsole with Footpod technology that allows for a smooth, natural gait. An added bonus is the unique 3D printed pattern on the upper that you won’t find anywhere else and the extremely stylish color schemes it is available in. The Solstice checks off all the boxes of what a running shoe should be, from versatility, to style, comfort, and durability, making it an overall very impressive shoe.
There’s no mistaking the La Sportiva VK for any other shoe due to its incredibly unique design, it quite literally says La Sportiva loud and clear. Although it isn’t available in different colors, we’ve yet to find anyone who doesn’t love the bold black and yellow configuration it comes in. The allure of this shoe goes beyond just its physical appearance, though. It also features a seamless knitted upper that goes above and beyond to provide comfort and breathability. La Sportiva VK is perfect for hiking and mountain trail racing, giving the user more protection from the elements that many other shoes just can’t provide. The integrated rock guard at the forefoot and unique v-shaped tread on the outsole help provide superior protection to combat the risk of injury and allow you to get traction anywhere and scale rough or uneven surfaces. Meanwhile, the thin yet firm compression molded MEMlex EVA midsole provides superior support along the way, without weighing you down.
Inov-8 really outdid themselves when they created the X-Talon 230, one of the best running shoes on the market today. It was carefully designed to make running on all surfaces as easy and enjoyable as possible, with unique Powerflow and midsole technology that takes the pressure off of you and the strain off your muscles with enhanced shock absorption. The X-Talon 230 is meant to grip onto any surface and allow the super to gain traction even in wet conditions or on soft terrain, such as wet trails or mud. The outsole is fashioned from sticky grip rubber and features unmissable 8 mm studs, both of which play a big part in this shoe’s unparalleled traction. The outsole also features a meta-plate, which is a rock plate that is thin, but durable enough to keep any jagged rocks from bothering your feet. While this shoe can be used on hard, level surfaces such as roads and sidewalks, it is really best for off-road adventures and obstacle courses. Lastly, the X-Talon 230 is not too flashy and is the perfect low-profile shoe for those who prioritize function and reliability over style.
Athletes in search of the best running shoes money can buy often turn to Asics GEL-Kayano 25 due to its superior quality, construction, and comfort. The Gel technology used throughout this shoe is remarkable and one-of-a-kind, offering better shock absorption and efficient stride. One of its most impressive features is its FlyteFoam Lyte technology in the midsole that allows for full bounce back while still being significantly lighter than standard EVA foam. The GEL-Kayano 25 also features an incredibly useful impact guidance system and guidance line that provides foot stability and a seamless turnover. The Jacquard mesh upper and internal fit system give the user exceptional support and a snug yet flexible fit that can adapt to the foot’s movements. This shoe is especially good for overpronators who are looking to improve their gait. The Dynamic DuoMax system is another supportive aspect of this shoe, which is essentially a dual-density midsole wedge that helps correct overpronation. The GEL-Kayano 25 delivers on all fronts and never fails to impress.
Vibram spared no expense and didn’t cut any corners while making the KSO EVO. This exceptional shoe is very different than all the other ones we’ve looked at thus far because of its five finger, or rather five toe, design. This minimalist shoe is designed to fit your foot almost like a glove. This shoe lacks the typical midsole, making it one of the lightest shoes you’ll find, weighing a mere 4.9 ounces. Both the upper and outsole of the KSO EVO are very thin, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s made from cheap materials. The 5 mm thick outsole was specially designed to be flexible, durable, and superior for gripping and gaining traction, especially in wet settings. Meanwhile, the polyester upper grips your foot and provides a well-rounded support system, all while still giving the user that second-skin feel that so many people are after. Some people even forget they’re wearing shoes! If you’ve never worn a very minimalist shoe such as the KSO EVO, it may it may not be right for you right away since it doesn’t provide the same kind of support as traditional running shoes. Insead, start with a good transitional shoe, with a thin midsole, such as the Hoka One One Cavu.
As the latest innovation in their Wave Rider line, the Mizuno Wave Rider 22 improves on its predecessors to make an exemplary shoe. The Wave Rider 22 prioritizes comfort but doesn’t sacrifice any durability or performance aspects. The upper is made from a super soft, breathable two-layer mesh that offers an optimized fit to a variety of foot shapes. The midsole cushioning is softer than most, giving users a bouncier ride and making them great for everyday running and training. It is far from minimalist, with plenty of midsole cushioning to absorb the shock and take the strain off of your feet. Mizuno already has more than a few impressive shoes under their belt, but the Wave Rider 22 may just be the standard by which all other running shoes should be compared, we’ll let you be the judge.