11 Great Minimalist Athletic Shoes for Women

Minimalist Shoes for Every Athletic Activity

Women's Minimalist Collage

Are you ready to go minimalist?  This footwear trend isn't just for runners. Cyclists, yogis and gym-goers can all embrace the trend toward the minimalist athletic shoes that offer protection without excessive padding or support. Check out these 11 great shoes perfect for the active woman who wants to embrace a more natural gait and foot movement during exercise. 

More: 10 Great Minimalist Athletic Shoes for Men

Casual Work: Jambu Spin Too

Spin Too

In fairness, there are lots of "minimalist" day-to-day shoes already on the women's shoe market. They're called ballet flats. But not all flats are minimalist (to be considered minimalist there shouldn't be added liners or arch support and there shouldn't be a difference in toe and heel height), so it's a good idea to seek out shoes specifically geared to the minimalist market. 

The Jambu Spin Too ($79) is one of the brand's "Barefoot Designs," with a zero drop heel height and a lightweight, flexible sole that enables a natural walking motion. At just five ounces, you'll barely notice you're wearing shoes... which is exactly the point. 

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Barre and Pilates: Bloch Studio Shoe

Bloch Studio Shoe

Barre and Pilates classes are no stranger to barefoot participation. In fact, most people actually do go barefoot during class. But if you get skeeved out about showing your toes or walking barefoot across studio floors, the Bloch Studio Shoe ($60) is the perfect, minimalist option. 

The shoe itself is made of a stretchy, almost sock-like glove that molds to your feet to allow natural foot movement. Unlike many other ballet flats, the Studio Shoe doesn't have a sole that stretches from heel to toe; rather, there's a sole at the forefoot and a second sole at the heel, leaving the mid-foot un-soled except for the sock-like sleeve. This gives your foot unparalleled flexibility to connect to the floor and bend as needed throughout class. 

While the most obvious use of the Bloch shoe are barre and Pilates, there's no reason you couldn't wear it during other studio classes, such as kickboxing, yoga or dance. 

Yoga: Vibram FiveFingers Alitza Breathe

Vibram FiveFingers Alitza
Vibram FiveFingers

If you like the idea of having your toes free to move during yoga class without actually going barefoot, the Vibram FiveFingers Alitza ($90) is a unique option. The separate toe slots enable each toe to move and flex independently while remaining covered within individual "gloves." The soft but flexible sole offers traction and ground feel, and the lacing provides a customizable fit. 

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All Purpose Casual: Skora Phase

Skora Phase Women's

The Skora Phase shoes ($110) offer the style of a day-to-day casual shoe with the functionality of an all-purpose athletic shoe. Enjoy the flexibility of the sole as you run your errands and meet with friends, but don't shy away from taking them to the gym. They're actually the perfect option for cross-training and treadmill running, as their sole is slightly thicker and more durable than some minimalist options. 

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Outdoor Winter Play: Vivobarefoot Kula

Vivobarefoot Kula

These Kula boots ($200) from Vivobarefoot may not look minimalist, but their 4.5-millimeter multi-terrain soles say otherwise - just look how much they roll up!

Appropriate for winter walks, sledding and apres ski ventures into the winter wonderland, the Kula keeps your feet warm in cold conditions with a full thermal lining with watertight seams, natural beeswax coating and a removable thermal insole. 

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Sandals: Unshoes Pah Tempe

Unshoes Pah Tempe

Sure, these may look like basic sandals, but I promise they offer more than meets they eye. In fact, these go-anywhere Pah Tempes from Unshoes ($72) ditch the strap between the toes to provide greater security for lateral movements, making them popular for CrossFit, trail running, hiking and backpacking. 

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Water Sports: Vivobarefoot Ultra II

Vivobarefoot Ultra II

Ready to hit the waterways? Don't dive in without the Vivobarefoot Ultra II ($55). The Ultra II offers protection from rocks and slick surfaces with a puncture-resistant sole while providing a smooth, "naked" fit that allows your feet to move naturally in and around water environments. 

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Gym and Cross Training: Nike Free Cross Bionic 2

Nike Free Cross Bionic 2

The Nike Free Cross Bionic 2 ($90) was the first minimalist shoe I ever tried, and it didn't take me long to fall in love. The shoe fits like a glove, but offers superior traction and a durable sole perfect for functional training, sprinting and multi-directional movements. 

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Transition Running: Skora Tempo

Skora Tempo

This is where the rubber hits the road (literally). If you're ready to dive into the minimalist running trend, you need to transition carefully. The Skora Tempo ($130) offers a zero-drop difference between the toe and heel, but with more cushioning throughout the footbed to ease you into your new gait without ditching traditional support altogether. 

Road Running: Vivobarefoot Evo Pure

Vivobarefoot Evo Pure

Once you're committed to minimalism and a natural running gait, you can't get much closer to the ground than with the Vivobarefoot Evo Pure ($110). This shoe has been stripped away of practically all support, simply allowing your foot to "do its thing," while still providing protection from the pavement with its puncture-resistant, ultra-thin 3-millimeter sole.

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Trail Running: Vivobarefoot Trail Freak

Vivobarefoot Trail Freak

If you prefer trail running to road running, you know you need a little extra support and protection to keep your feet safe from the elements. The Vivobarefoot Trail Freak ($110) and the Trail Freak Waterproof ($160) are the perfect options when you want to hit tough terrain. While the off-road sole is thicker (4.5-millimeters) and slightly less flexible than the road-runner's Evo Pure, the shoe fits like a second skin, allowing your foot to move naturally with exceptional grip. 

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