Chi Running Recommendations for Minimal Shoes - Chi Running

Chi Running Recommendations for Minimal Shoes

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Sun Feb 7th, 2010, 74 comments

In response to all the current interest in barefoot running (spurred on by Chris McDougall’s Born to Run book and the recent study published in the journal Nature by Dr. Daniel Lieberman, suggesting that barefoot or minimal-shoe running creates less impact on your legs) I’ve come up with a list of recommended shoes to try if running barefoot is just not what you’re drawn to. The shoes on this list represent only a small smattering of the spectrum of shoes available to those wishing to try running in a low-profile, minimal shoe instead of the basic “high-heeled sneaker that has been the trend for the past 40 years.

Bear in mind that any switch to either barefoot running or to a more minimal shoe (than you’re currently wearing) will require you to make a GRADUAL transition into the new way of running. If you’re going the minimal shoe route, start off by wearing them for brief periods around the house and for only short runs until you see how your body responds to the change. As your body “tells you” that it’s ok, you can slowly increase your time or distance accordingly. This isn’t macho training, it’s sensitivity training, so be smart about it. If you feel the slightest bit of discomfort in your plantar fascia, your ankles or your calves…back off and try it again tomorrow. As Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton says, “Don’t strike the ground. If you do it’ll strike back!” The idea of running barefoot or running in a minimal shoe is to feel what your feet are telling you about how to create less impact with the ground… so that you don’t get injured. It just wouldn’t make any sense to run in minimal shoes if you didn’t listen to what your feet are telling you.

The other thing I’d like to add is that the shoes listed here are only recommendations. Since everyone has different feet and different tastes when it comes to comfort and feel with their shoes, I leave it up to you to do the research at your local running shoe store to see which shoes actually work best for your feet and running needs. If all of the shoes choices is just too overwhelming…keep it simple and Go Barefoot!!!

Good luck with the journey.


The List

NB-790 (9 oz.) One of the best ever made for all terrains, from running a marathon on pavement to ultra trails. This shoe might be too much for someone really interested in feeling the barefoot feel. (discontinued in men’s models only…go figure…or better yet, write NB and complain) $60
NB-505 XC racing flat (7 oz.) very light, flexible and fast on trails or roads. $60
Adidas – Adizero Rocket (7.2 oz.) very flexible and wicked fast –  better for narrow feet. $90
Brooks Mach II Spikeless (7 oz.) ultra-thin carbon rubber aggressively lugged sole – $60
FeelMax – Niesa 1mm thick sole with Kevlar to protect against sharp objects (Barefoot Ted likes them) Some complain that they’re too hot, but they are extremely minimal and give a good sense of the ground against your feet. $80
VivoBarefoot EVO– I’ve tried the Vivo street shoes and I’m waiting to be sent a pair of their running shoes to test (not available to the public yet). I love my street shoes and they are my favorite traveling shoe. They’re wonderful for any kind or any amount of walking.
Vibram FiveFingers – KSO’s are the most popular model of the VFF’s and I can see why. They’re thin, flexible, easy to get on and off and the next best thing to running barefoot. I prefer my Treks when I’m trail running because they have more traction in the dirt.
ECCO – haven’t tried them yet because I can’t afford a pair (hint…hint)
Wilcor Aqua Shoes – Bought these at a hardware store in Hot Springs, NC for $10 and they’ve proven to be one of the best trail and wet-running shoes I’ve ever had on my feet.  They’re like moccasins with an attitude. Get some if you can find them for sale somewhere (not in running stores). This shoe, like most shoes designed for water sports and poking around tide pools at the beach, is a great way to run close-to-barefoot without spending over $30.
PUMA Cabana Racer II – (7 oz.) Was first introduced as a lightweight racing flat in 1981. Features a leather upper, EVA midsole and rubber outsole. As far as I can tell it is the exact same shoe brought back from the dead. $45
Asics Hyperspeed 3&4- (7 oz.) I haven’t run on these shoes myself, but I’ve heard from a number of folks that this is a good minimal shoe…very light and very fast. The downside of the shoe (as with many racing flats) is that they’re very narrow in the toe box, so they’re off my shopping list because my feet are EEE width. It’s a shame they don’t make racing flats in widths…they could multiply their sales by tenfold. $60

La Sportiva Crosslite – A great trail racing flat built low to the ground with extremely aggressive treads. Not a true minimal shoe, but one of the more minimal (while still aggressive) trail shoes. Reasonably light (10.0 oz.) for a trail shoe. $85
INOV-8 Rocklite 295 – (8.5 oz.) This is a fabulous shoe for trail runners looking for a very low-profile, light-weight shoe with great traction and flexibility. Sticky rubber soles with very aggressive lugs. They have a nice rounded toebox with plenty of room for my paddle feet. This is a more subtantial trail shoe for those looking for a good, dependable, lightweight, aggressive-soled shoe. $90
INOV-8 Talon 212 – (7.5 oz.) This is the stripped-down, mininal heel lift version of the 295 reviewed above. It’s a no-bones-about-it-flat-out trail racer…. a bit narrower in feel than the 295, but not uncomfortably so. It hugs your foot well and transfers the traction from the sticky rubber soles directly into your feet. I feel like a spider with them on. I haven’t tried walking up the side of a brick building yet, but they tempt me to try. I feel very fast and agile in them, and I’m sure I’ll be running in these at the next USATF Nat’l Trail Championships later this year. Hats off to INOV-8!  Note: These shoes have very minimal cushioning and might not be for everyone. If you run on very hard-packed trails, these might be too minimal for you unless you’re minding all your Chi Running P’s & Q’s. If you’re doubtful, go for the 295′s. (BTW, the numbers show the weight in grams of the shoe model!) $100
NB-MT100 – (7.0 oz.) One of the lightest trail shoes ever made. Very flexible and breathable…also drains well when wet. Great for most trail running, but tend to lose traction on wet surfaces, especially wet rock. Personally, I’d like the lugs a bit more aggressive for these North Carolina mountains, but they’re totally adequate on dry trails. $70



  • minimal shoes,
  • barefoot running,
  • racing flats,
  • lieberman,
  • low-profile running shoes,
  • mcdougall,
  • minimalist shoes,
  • trail racing,
  • trail running,
  • trail shoes

74 CommentsLeave a comment below

New Balance have come out with a new minimalist trail shoe that is a good or better then the NB-790. The new NB-100 are the best trail shoes I have ever tried.

Thanks for the list.

A few websites say the Sportiva Crosslites are 12 ounces. There is a less aggressive pair called the Skylites that weigh a little less.

Does anyone know anything about the OSMA by Feelmax?

Thanks for the great list Danny, I would like to add the New Balance 100 trail shoe, they are only 7.4oz, I have some issues with them but overall pretty good, light, low profile shoe.

I’ve been running in the Mizuno Wave Ronin racing flats for the past year and I love them. They’re minimal, lightweight, and super-flexible.

Started running in Vibram FiveFingers – KSO 4 months ago, after 3 months of getting adjusted to more “barefoot” with Nike Free 3.0 . The transition seemed more gradual to me, with them. Now I run even on paved roads, etc. in the VFFs. In winter they are very slippery on snow (but this is not, what they are recommended for wink
however… I feel it helps with getting Chirunning in your system, though wink
thanks for the list.

Thanks for the list

Nice list, although I must echo a prior commenter that to call La Sportiva Crosslites a minimal shoe is innacurate. Adizero XT or NB MT100 are far more minimlist than the crosslite.  The Crosslite is actually my sturdy and more supportive shoe for running highly technical trails such as Bandera 100km and Cactus Rose in TX.  Yes, it’s lighter than a bunch of sturdy trail shoes, but it’s no where close to minimal.  Perhaps you did mistake them for the Skylite?

Hi Mike,
Yes, I agree with you. The Crosslite’s are less of a minimal shoe, but more minimal than most trail shoes. I also would say that the Skylite is even more minimal for those not needing as much of a shoe for trails.  thanks,

If anyone is currently running in the newtons, you may want to give the new balance mt 100 a try…..for a third of the cost. I had problems with metatarsal pain for years (neuroma? not sure of etiology), until I switched to newtons. On a whim, I bought the nb 100 for trail running, as the newtons don’t do well on trails. WOW! I am almost exclusively running road and trail in these babies. I love them. They feel pretty minimal to me, but for a true barefoot runner, I ‘m sure they would disagree. My feet just really work well in them and I don’t get calf tightness, soreness, etc. FYI, I am a forefoot runner naturally, but at their relatively cheap price (got mine for $67 free shipping), they are worth a try. Just my thoughts.

I agree with you. The La Sportiva Crosslite is not actually a minimal shoe. But, I also agree with you that it is the shoe to wear on very technical trails where a truly minimal shoe might leave your feet pretty beat up. I’ll try a pair of the Skylites. They sound great. I didn’t mention the NB MT100 in my list, which was an oversight. They are a very light weight, highly responsive shoe for everyday trails. BE WARNED, the soles can be very slippery on wet surfaces. On wet rock they transform into rollerblades.

Bob Schroer Feb 9th, 2010 06:19am

Thanks for the list of shoes and your take on them. 

I respect your “scientific” approach to running / running shoes.  Moreover we believe you are on our side only wanting the best for all who want to run! 


The study does not suggest “that barefoot or minimal-shoe running creates less impact on your legs.” That is an inference that is not supported by the experimental design or the author. He actually suggests shoes “dampen” the shock. The study didn’t measure leg impact. It measured impact on the floor/ground via a strike plate.

Hi James,
I agree that the study does not directly say that running barefoot creates less impact on your legs. The study suggests that landing on a strike plate creates a measurable force to the strike plate. And, if you choose to follow one of Newton’s laws of the conservation of momentum for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, then you might deduce that if a force equal to 2 1/2 times your body weight occurs as a force to the strike plate (as you land on it), you might be lead to believe that a force of equal value would also be going up into your foot, which is connected to your leg. If, by running barefoot or by working to improve your running technique, you can lower your GRF as measured on a strike plate, you should be able to lower the impact to your legs. It’s basic physics no matter how you look at it.  -Danny

Why is Danny wearing Nike’s (picture at top) but they’re not on his recommended list?  Does anyone have any experience with Newton running shoes?  They seem to be ideal for Chi running except for the sticker price shock.

Todd - That picture of me running in Nike’s was taken back in 2002, long before anyone was taking the barefoot boom seriously. I used the shoe for running ultra marathons and it worked well for that, but I would never recommend it as anything close to a minimal shoe. Yes, the Newtons seem to work very well for some ChiRunners…at least the ones who can afford them. I recently won my AG in a half marathon race wearing the new Isaacs. They did exactly what they claimed they would do…made me run faster. I set a PR in them, but I would not call them a minimalist shoe. I prefer to call them my “performance enhancement” shoes.


The New Balance web site lists the WR800 as “The recommended shoe for ChiRunning” this shoe similar to NB-790?

Hi Janet,
the WR800 is not even in the same ballpark as the NB790. The 790 is more flexible, lighter, softer, lower profile…and an all-round better shoe, all things considered. The 800 is a good transitional shoe for those runners who are switching from heel strike to midfoot strike. The 800 is not a minimal shoe in any sense of the word, while the 790 is minimal for a trail shoe and perfectly adequate for any distance of road running, up to a marathon.

Danny - can the shoes recommended for Chi running also be used for Chi walking?  Thanks.

Hi Mike - Most definitely. In fact the lower profile ones seem to work even better.

janet krueger Feb 15th, 2010 03:24am

Anyone try the Nike Free 5.0 v4 for Chirunning? Or any Brooks shoes? ( Like the Ghost?)

Read your book, and it helped greatly. Wish your recommended NB shoes weren’t discontinued. Every time a search I find they are no longer available.

This site still has a few men’s NB 790s in stock for those of you still looking.

I have a leg length discrepancy. My left leg is 9 mm shorter than my right…somewhat frustrating that I can’t try barefoot running.

Hi Danny! I wanted to update you on my progress. Now that I have stopped running in the NB 800’s and healed my stress fractures, I have been racing in the Asics Hyperspeed 3’s, and I have been getting faster with less effort, trying to apply what I have been learning about the ChiRunning techniques. I recently did a half and PR’d with no pain! For trail running, I love the Innov8. I noticed you did not mention the Hyperspeed 3 in your blog this time, but they seem to be minimal and doing the job. Thanks again!

Someone asked about Nike Free 5.0. I got a pair and I didn’t particularly like them. I was going to stick with them and continue working on my form, but then I wore them to the gym and rolled my ankle. They’re narrow and have very thick soles, so it was like trying to workout wearing a platform shoe. I returned them and got the NB WT-100s, which I’m much happier with. Wider overall, especially in the toe box, and a thinner sole. They have this stuff called Rock Guard in the sole so you don’t stab yourself on small rocks though.

Hi Elaine,
Yes, I agree with you about the Nike’s. They have a good idea, but they still don’t trust that people can learn to run softly, so they build up the heels too much. The forefoot and uppers are great, but I have the same issues with the height of the heels.
Enjoy your MT-100’s, I do.

I’ve been using the Feelmax Niesa shoes for running and Osma’s for casual daily wear.  When I was getting used to the Feelmax shoes, I would alternate with regular soled running shoes.  What a difference!  Even with light running shoes, it took much more effort to run than with the Feelmax shoes.  I actually run much faster with the Feelmax shoes.  The Niesa’s are great in the winter.  They keep my feet toasty warm even on the coldest days and they get great traction on the occasional ice or show patch.  I don’t think I’ll ever go back to “regular” soled shoes.

I’ve been having one heck of a time finding NB-790 shoes for women, so I think the women’s models are discontinued as well. Too bad, because I bought my first pair last year and love them (they feel like bedroom slippers!). Do they tend to run a little small, though? I’m debating whether to get them 1/2 a size larger than my usual NB shoes.

Hi Cara,
Yes, I’ve found that they do run a bit small. I have been buying mine in a 1/2 size larger and they seem to work fine for me. I’ll try to contact NB and see what the status of the shoes is. Keep trying…and good luck. Your use of the word bedroom slippers fits them to a tee. I will sorely miss the day when I wear out my last pair.

I found the new balance NB 800x RD M.F.S.R. here in japan but not on any New Balance websites. Can anyone say if this is a good choice for Chirunning? 
It looked fairly flat.
By the way when are you coming to Japan, Danny?

Hi Keith,
NB sent me a pair of the new NB-800MFS shoes and they made some changes to the original 800MFS that didn’t work for my feet. I would recommend trying to find a pair of the NB- MT100’s if you can. Otherwise, shop around for a good racing flat and go with what your feet tell you is the best shoe for you.

As for coming to Japan, I’d love to, but I don’t know how widely known ChiRunning is in Japan. It’s gaining a lot of momentum in the Philippines and Singapore, so I might have to make an Asian tour…Maybe in 2012.

Good luck,

Great info!  I just got into Chi Running so I figured the next logical step is the minimal shoe. Well, Im happy to say Im one of the few in the world who just placed their order for Vivobarefoot Evo running shoes.  I was on the “first chance to buy” email waiting list.  I read some great things, and they are probably the COOLEST looking miminal shoe around. I will post some comments after a few miles in them.

Thanks for recommending the NB 790.  I found some on-line for around $30 and LOVE them!  They are great for snow, ice, trails, road…everything.  My other running shoes feel too bulky now. 

Chi Running has really changed my life!  I enjoy the process and don’t focus on the end result.  A quote I like is “Running should be a lifelong activity. Approach it patiently and intelligently, and it will reward you for a long, long time.”  It’s true!


Mark Klammer Feb 24th, 2010 07:39pm

Check out Newton Running Shoes. Super light and super fast energy return technology.  Combine with Chi Running technique and you feel like you’re flying!

I think the people driving along the road where I take my lunchtime run probably now think I’m either crazy, or high because I had this smile on my face that wouldn’t go away.  I took the maiden voyage of the SS Evo and I have one word to describe it:  WOW!  So this is what it’s supposed to feel like. Again, I cant compare them to anything out there, all I know is this was the most enjoyable 2 mile run I have ever had!  I had to keep it at 2 miles as I am transitioning and I had to force myself to stop because it felt SO GREAT!  You really do feel everything in the Terra Plana Evo and I had to remind myself I was wearing shoes.  I can’t wait to really get some longer runs in, but I’m going to be patient and probably wait about a week to get back to my 5+ miler.

Some of you may not want to spend $160, and of course, that is your choice.  In my humble, minimalist newbie opinion, they are worth every single cent.

I know people like the NB-100 for trail.  How are they on pavement?  I’m preparing for a road marathon.

Thanks for the info.

Hey, Tim,
They’re such a minimally cushioned shoe, that I’d suggest working your way up to 26 miles over some time to let your feet get used to using less of a shoe. They work great on trails, because the dirt offers some amount of cushioning, but pavement won’t be as forgiving.
Good luck in your marathon,

Any recommendations on a good transitional shoe???


Dan thanks!!! The Crosslite rocks. I brought them and the Innov8’s. I guess I’m not a purist because the aesthetically pleasing Crosslites overcame the physiology of the minimals and lead to my longest pain free run ever. you rock!

Hi Danny,

My question may not fit directly in the recommendation for minimal shoes blog, but I wasn’t sure where to put it. I apologize in advance.
Because of persistent problems with shin splints, sore knees, and sore back, I was fitted with custom orthotics a couple of years ago.  X-rays and plaster impressions showed that my arches have reasonable “arch” when I’m not putting weight on the foot, but the arch collapses as soon as weight is applied. It was recommended that I wear the orthotics with all of my shoes (running, work, casual etc).
What are your thoughts and experience regarding orthotics? 

Hey, David,
Unfortunately, your ankles will never get stronger as long as you continue to wear orthotics becaue they do the work your foot and lower leg muscles should be doing. The best way to help your ankles is to do exercises that strengthen the medial tendons and muscles of your feet, ankles and legs. As you gradually strengthen those, you can gradually transition into less and less of an orthotic and eventually trash them altogether.

Here’s an exercise that will help to strength all the muscles I’m referring to:
Lie on your back with your legs straight and your ankles dorsiflexed and with your feet rolled medially, like you’re trying to touch the soles of your feet together (which you won’t really be able to, but this is the position your feet should be held in). Then, while holding your feet and legs in this position, try to press your lower back into the floor. Don’t worry if your back won’t totally touch the floor; this in an exercise to strengthen your lower abs, your psoas, your adductors, and all the medial muscles of your lower legs and ankles…the entire muscle chain from your lower back on down. This is what it takes to strengthen the muscles necessary for your arches to be supported.

Hold this “engaged muscle” position as long as you can and then relax everything for a count of ten. Then, engage all the muscles again for as long as you can…Then relax for a count of ten. Repeat this cycle five times and try to build up to ten times twice a day and before long (1-3 months possibly) you can kiss your orthopedist and your orthotics GOOD BYE! If you really want to get rid of the problem forever, it will take some commitment on your part.

The choice is yours to either go to your podiatrist and have him/her shave more and more off of your orthotics as your feet get stronger…or just spend a couple of hours walking every day without them during the period that you’re working to strengthen your ankles and feet. Also, whenever you’re walking or running, try to create a little more pressure on the lateral sides of your feet during the support phase of your stride. One last thing…ALWAYS run or walk with your feet pointed in the direction you’re running or walking or none of the above will help. To do this, don’t just rotate your ankle so that your foot points forward, rotate your entire leg medially so that you’re strengthening your adductors with every step.

The best way to proceed (as always) is to listen to your body. It always knows what’s best. If anything feels painful, back off a bit, but stay with it on a more minimal level.

Best wishes with this,

I wear Vibram’s Five Fingers KSO and the thicker Trek model. Both are great for chi running. The Trek is better for Winter running and Tai Chi practice.

Hi Phil,
I LOVE my Treks! With the kangaroo skin uppers, I feel like I’ve got rubber-soled feet.

happy trails,

I bought some Asics DS trainer 15.  I know these are not minimal shoes, but since I am in the midst of a training cycle I decided I couldn’t make the leap to minimal without doing damage.  Bottom line… I think they are a great transition step to a minimal shoe.  They are flexible in the forefoot with a slightly lower heel than some others.  Still has some medial posting, but overall pretty good feel through the sole.  After my next marathon I will go to something more minimal. This might be a good option for those concerned about jumping from bricks to racing flats.  So far they have worked for me.

What are your thoughts on the NB 801’s?—-Jack

Hi Jack,
My thoughts are that they are an example of taking a reasonably good shoe and trying to make it better by adding more to it. The best way to make most shoes better is to make them less of a shoe so that the foot can find its own best internal support and strength. It will always come down to working on your technique if you want to be a better runner. Depending on shoe to do the work that your body needs to do will not necessarily make you a better runner. You’re better off with a good neutral trainer.

hope this helps,

I had a gait assessment done recently trying to figure out some chronic hip problems I have. Practicing Chi-Running for a year now (since my first hip injury) I am trying to get into a minimal shoe. My gait assessment showed my right foot outward turning to about 2 o’clock and I guess my knee bent a little funny (all on my good hip leg). He suggested that I try Somnio with the varus wedges that can be different for each foot. Any thoughts as this does not really fall into the “minimalists” shoe category

Hi Andrea,
You’ll probably do best by working on correcting the lateral rotation of your right leg before trying to correct the symptom with different shoes.
Here are some suggestions:
Whenever you stand, walk or run rotate your right leg medially (don’t just turn your foot inward…it won’t work). This will strengthen your adductors and help relax your piriformis muscles (adductors aren’t working enough and Piriformis is overworking).
As you run or walk, try to touch the inside (medial side) of your left calf with the medial side of the toe box on your right shoe. This will help you feel how much you need to rotate your foot in order to make your leg and foot swing straight forward and not land pointing at 2 o’clock.
Get some deep tissue work done on your glutes and piriformis muscles and train yourself to stop holding tension in your butt.
See page 67 in the ChiRunning book for more help.
Do the work internally and you won’t always have to rely on shoes to do the job.
Best wishes,

Certified Instructors Blog » Running And Rac Mar 15th, 2010 07:44pm

[...] Knowing the course, I had no distractions and was able to just focus on my running form. Even navigating the mud and the rocks and roots on the single track section I focused on keeping my lower legs relaxed and lifting my ankles and smiled as I watched a number of runners bouncing up the trail and trying to get ahead with their version of power running. Soon I passed a couple of women in my age group and knew that they would be trying to catch me. The challenge I gave myself was to not try and stay ahead of them but to relax and enjoy the feel of my midfoot strike in my new NB-790 shoes, one of the minimal running shoes listed on Danny’s Blog.  [...]

I am looking for women’s NB 790’s and they are listing several different kinds. Is there a specific? (Low Profile WA790REY,New Balance Women’s WR790 Trail Running Shoe,New Balance Women’s WA790N Sneaker)Which is it?

Hi Karrie,
I haven’t done the research to find out what the differences are between all the NB 790 models. They’ve changed it to a style shoe with fancy colors and design schemes. The shoe i would go for would be the Trail Running Shoe. It’s not just for trails. It does just fine on paved roads and, who knows, it might even be built better because it’s called a trail shoe. It’s the only model I have any experience with, so it’s really the only one I would recommend. It is a fabulous shoe!


Dumb question perhaps, but if one runs (very happily) with orthotics in her shoes (Mizuno Wave Runner, have run out numbers 8 through 12…), should she abandon the lifts when she tries these new minimal shoes?

Hi Laura,
The only thing I can safely say is to try running without your orthotics, but only for very brief periods (as a test) to see how your body responds to a truly minimal feel. If your feet have a negative reaction to the lack of support given by the orthotic, then keep using them until your feet and legs get strong enough on their own to give you the support you’re currently enjoying from your lifts.


Can anyone recommend exercises to help strengthen my (lack of) arches so I can wear my vibrams again?  I’m trying to wean myself from my motion control orthotics I am using now.  Thanks in advance!!

Hi Lyle,
Your best shot at getting a complete answer to your question is to go to our ChiRunning Bulletin Board where you’ll find coverage of just about every question ever asked about ChiRunning, injuries, injury prevention, training advice and strengthening.
Best wishes,

hi danny
i recently started running with the chirunning technique. i got your dvd and book and took a private class from one your wonderfull instructors, Steve. I started training for a half marathon from your book. I am a little worried about the shoes selection for a beginner. I run 2-3 time on concrete for the form intervals and do my longer runs on trails. I bought the NB-MT100’s for trails but they’re too stiff for the road. I have Nike Free 5.o but i don’t like them, although they don’t bother me when i run with them. The shoes you recommend are mostly flats. Will that be OK for a beginner to start with flats. I was thinking of getting either the Puma Cabana Racer II or Asics Hyperspeeds because they fit well and are pretty comfortable for wide feet compared to other flats. Any recommendations ?

HI Sal,
If you have a wide foot, it’s always best to find a shoe that fits well, has plenty of flexibility and does not have an over-built heel (lower profile). Beyond that, it’s a very individual game. If you buy the shoes you mentioned, just be sure to work up your mileage slowly and carefully…and always be working on your technique during every workout.

Thanks Danny ...just wanted to make sure I got it right. So, shoes recommended on site are better when you’ve developed your technique. If you are new in developing, I believe it is OK to use a minimal shoe for technique drills and do high mileage runs in a shoe not too minimal but not too protective, not high heels…I believe Brooks has couple of models like that; maybe racer st4. does that sound right?

Hey, Sal,
Yes, you got the basic concept. I have no knowledge of the Brooks shoes, but if they work for you, go for it.

G.E. Anderson Apr 16th, 2010 03:47pm

I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but, geez, it seems like every time you recommend a New Balance shoe, they go and discontinue it.

I’m too late to the party to find the 790s, and now it seems they’ve discontinued the MT-100 too!

(New Balance, if you’re reading this: NOT COOL!)

Dear Danny, what do you think about the NB-MT840?
Thanks a lot

Hi Ricardo,
I just researched them online and they look pretty good. They’re described as a minimal trail racing shoe (sound familiar? i.e. NB790?). I found a pair for $50 at Campmor, but by the sale price, I can only assume they’re discontinued. Same old story, great shoe…great price…no supply.

Love using the chirunning technique.  I’ll be running my second marathon in a few weeks. I run in an urban context(read concrete!)most of the time and have never had any injuries after 25+ years of running.  Most of the shoes that are recommended don’t have the cushioning needed for hard surface running.  Can you give recommendations for CUSHIONED shoes fit for urban running?  Thanks!

Hi Joann,
I’d say that the Mizuno Ronin’s are the best cushioned shoes on the list. They’re light weight but maintain a substantially supportive feeling. I’ll be testing some more “cushioned” shoes in the future and I’ll post those as well.
Good luck,

childrens footwear Jun 11th, 2010 07:42am

A healthy body needs a good shoe, meaning you have to wear shoes for you. I think a good pair of shoes as my faithful friend, so I always find the most suitable and favorite shoes, if you agree with my view.

How about the Nike Free’s? I’ve NEVER liked Nike before, but these things are amazing.

Hi Louis,
Nike had a good idea with the Free’s by making them flexible and light, but they still have too much heel lift to be on the list of highly recommended shoes.

I am curious as to what Danny and other ChiRunning experts think about the Nike MayFly. They are in my view much lighter that the Frees (they weigh 4.0 ounces) and have a much thinner heel area. I feel like I can run pretty well in terms of footstrike in these.  The best part:  they cost only $45. Price is very important to me—especially on the topic of barefoot running—because I am just philosophically opposed (and slightly annoyed) by the thought that the shoe companies who caused the problem in the first place want me to pay $100+ for a shoe that mimics barefoot running.

BTW, they advertise being only good for 100K, but I ignore that. Have run about 200 miles on mine and still feel fine. Thoughts on the Nike MayFly?

Hi Mike,
I totally agree with you on the price of the new “minimal” shoes costing too much. I haven’t tried out the Nike Mayfly but from pictures on the web, they look like they have a reasonably flat ride and the price is certainly good. the problem with super-light shoes is that, in order to get them lighter, they scrimp on the sole material, which is generally the heaviest part of the shoe. This means that they wear out faster, which is why they recommend them to last only 100K. BUT, if you’re doing your Chi Running form correctly you should be able to make these super-lites go more distance by not running with any friction as your foot meets the pavement.

Good luck,

Hi Danny,
I’d like to change to a minimal shoe because I think these NB859’s are causing stress in my knees and lower legs. Upon observing that the nb-790’s are discontinued, would you recommend the nb-100’s an a good overall shoe(not just for trail running, but also for walking on road, running on road, etc) . I read it’s not good on wet rock, does this mean I should change shoes if it’s wet outside? That sounds inconvenient…but I like NB’s because they have a wider foot. What would be your best recommendations for a wide foot(i think 4E). NB-100’s seem good, I’m just afraid I might slip or something if it’s wet out!

Hi Bobby,
The MT-100’s or the new 101’s should be plenty wide for your foot. I wear a 4E and they seem to accommodate my “hobbit” feet just fine.

Hi Danny,
I went to the local New Balance store and tried on the MT100’s, and the width was too small(I wear 4E). Then I went to a local Running Fit today and tried on the Asics Hyperspeed 4, the Adidas – Adizero Rocket, and the Vibram Fivefingers. The Rockets were too narrow for my toes, the Hyperspeeds fit fine. I see on your recomendations you haven’t wore them personally but they were wide enough for my 4E feet. The vibram fivefingers felt great but they took me a long time to fit on properly and get each toe in the right slot.


Looking for these Wilcor Water Shoes and cannot find them anywhere. Any ideas on where to fetch a pair (short of traveling to a certain NC hardware store?

Hi Pawl,
I admit, the Wilcor shoes are a bit tricky to find (actually I just found two pairs of them and snatched them up…at a shop in a rafting outfitter’s store). If you can’t find them, you might want to go to some big chain store like Dick’s Sporting Goods and ask for a pair of water shoes (or beach shoes). I saw some there last week that looked and felt very similar to the Wilcors.

Good luck,

Danny’s Blog » Chi Running response to Aug 13th, 2010 07:57am

[...] barefoot or in minimal shoes allows your feet to accurately sense the ground and allows your body to find its own natural [...]

I just bought the Asics Hyperspeed as my first minimalist shoe after about 6 years of running in Asics 21XX’s. I have a question about how they are supposed to fit. The sales person at the running store said that flats are supposed to be snug in the toe box and gave me a 1/2 size smaller than I’m used to. I think in the ChiRunning book you mention there should be enough room in the toe box to move your toes. Because of the snug fit recommended by the sales person, I don’t get that wiggle room like I had in my Asic 2140s. Is what the sales person told me true? Thanks.

Hey, Carlos,
Your shoe salesperson was acting as if you were a track athlete getting ready for a 100m sprint (where your race is OVER in 10 seconds!) ...but you’re not, and wearing shoes a half size too small is ludicrous if you’re a distance athlete. I’d have a lot more respect for him if he had sold you a pair a half size larger than normal for your feet. ALWAYS go with what your feet tell you. It’ll be infinitely more accurate than any shoe salesman.

I’m looking for a minimal shoe to run on the road. Would you recommend the New Balance MT 101 or is this more for trail running? If not the MT 101, what minimal shoe would you recommend? Thanks!

Hi Chris,
The MT 101 is fine for roads or trails, whichever you prefer.

Hi, So I have read the book and each of these comments about shoes and still do not know what to buy! I ran in the past with Mizuno Wave Creations. I came down with a nasty case of plantar fasciitis I believe from a combo of poor half marathon training and my job as a nurse (lots of standing!). I am hoping to get back to the road and am wondering what would be my BEST transition shoe from the Mizuno to Chi. I am not looking to be a barefoot runner, just not the heel striker that I am now. Newtons? New Balance (what model)?
Thank you!

Hi Susan,
I’ve been doing my distance runs in the Mizuno Musha II and I love them. They’re a good transitional shoe…and if your feet are already used to the Mizuno feel, it could be a good match.

Thank you for such an informative article. I was wondering if you could recommend a shoe for a 9 year old child (Child size 13).  She runs approx 5k a couple of times a week.

Thank you.

Does anyone have experience with Chirunning in Earth brand shoes?  The heel is lower than the toes, so it seems they would be complimentary to a midfoot strike.  I have worn them for several years for work and leisure but started running a year ago and chirunning 6 months ago.  I haven’t yet found my favorite running shoes and am interested in an opinion before my next shoe purchase. 


Have they started producing these again?  I was in Sports Authority today and they had NB 790s - but are they the same model that is being discussed here?  They look like this

They have a flatter tread than other photos of 790s I have seen.

Has anyone had any experience with these three newer minimalist shoes below?  Any thoughts Danny?

New Balance Minimus Trail
New Balance Minimus Road
Saucony Kinvara

Also, did anyone determine if the NB 790 showing up for sale these days ( is the same as the recommended one that supposedly had been discontinued?

Hi David,
From what I’ve heard, the New Balance shoes have done people well. They are definitely minimal shoes, and offer many of the attributes that we like in a shoe. However, I have not tested them myself. The Kinvara’s are pretty good shoes, too. I have lots of friends and students who wear these and swear by them.  Also, I can’t say for certain that the 790 is the one that I previously recommended, but I believe that it is. I often get shoes sent to me from companies so I have been busy trying some of those, some in specific are the Merrell Barefoot line. Wish I could be of better help. Good luck!

I am very interested in the way you said, I will try to make their own. Have time to look at shoes288, thank you!

Hi Danny!
What did you think of the Merrell barefoot line? I am very interested in these and would love to get your feedback!

Danny Dreyer Sep 7th, 2011 10:32am

Hi Nicole,

I’ve been testing and wearing the Merrell Pace Gloves, and I’m very happy with them. They are absolutely minimal shoes. They’re light, flexible and have zero drop. However, as with all true minimal shoes, you must take your time getting into these. I would recommend them!

Hi Danny,

I haven’t seen any comments about the neutral Newtons, like the “Gravity” or the “Distace”. Any experience with them? Also the MV2 speed racer has just been released with zero drop. I’ve been running with NB 100’s and still struggle with avoiding heal striking. Hoping the Newtons might help with there forefoot lugs.

charles anderson Sep 9th, 2011 12:50pm

I tried the new merrell barefoot shoe and was shocked at the poor quality, the interior lining it not sown in or even glued and literally tore apart after five days of walking around town trying to break them (and my feet) in, same design for the trail glove and true glove, somebody really screwed up in the design lab…


Great site - very interesting read. 

Is there a rule of thumb with respect to a runner’s weight and the use of a minimalist shoe?  Traditional thinking is extra cushioning and support for the clydesdales but I’m not sure if that still makes sense.


This is great! Thank you for sharing this.


I have been lucky enough to find a pair of 790s a few months ago.  They worked great!  Does anyone know the heel drop of the 790s?

I am looking for a similar ride with some shoes that aren’t as difficult to find.  Any thoughts?

Are the New Balance 890s similar to the 790?

Thanks for any and all information.


Danny Dreyer Jan 13th, 2012 02:35pm

Hi Todd,

I don’t test out New Balance shoes at this point, so I can’t really get you an honest answer. If no one on here can answer your question, you may want to ask New Balance. Thanks for your support.

Hi Danny, Thank you alot for inventing Chi Running…I’m self taught (via book+dvd)65 yo 1 arm runner) 35 yr+running exp) despite being 1 armed I am able to feel balanced and love chi running and the energy it gives me and no recovery needed ! ...I live in hilly area in granada hills CA and run steep fairly steep (2200 to 3300 feet altitude mountains about 6 days and 2 days flats… I injured my IT from wreckless fast downhill running…I got carried away and must’ve lost my focus as I ran verey fast down yesterday while on a 12 mile run I barely was able to walk! dam… so slowly recovering and would appreciate any advice from you…thank you again an hope to enroll in an actual CR session one of these days…mike

I am an older run who is pigeonholed but runs in a neutral shoe. I have run in Asics Kinsei 3’s and 4’s because I could extend my distance (up to half marathons) without excessive pain or injury. I was set to get my 6th pair of Kinsei’s when the shoe consultant pushed me to try The Newton Gravity to compare, and explained and demonstrated the difference in running style. I am a fore/mid foot striker anyway, but I did slow down when I tried my first run in the Newton’s (2 miles) . I normally train 5 to 6 miles runs, I did not experience soreness. Can I go back to my normal run distance sooner?



Hi Sam,

It sounds like it’s going well so far, but I wouldn’t necessarily jump right back into your 5-6 mile runs. Try adding on a mile each time you run the next few times and take note of any pain/soreness you might experience. Also, be aware of your technique. The Newtons are designed to promote speed, but the bars across the bottom of the sole could cause you to run differently. Just something to keep in mind when you transition to new shoes that are built differently than your old ones.


Keola Health Nov 15th, 2013 11:55am

The minimalist shoes listed above are a great way to transition into a lighter style of running. Although it does take time to adjust to the style of the shoe, once you are comfortable, it will become more efficient for long distant runners.

i have flat food, and need a lot a support, to my arch, is a NB 860 ok for chi running? they are light only 260 gr. . regards nicole

hey again. great with all this shoes recomandation, but for me is not working minimal shoes, but i need support at arch, because i have flat feet,then NB 860 is ok for me, and Nike structure 18.if I run with other shoes that do not have arch support, I fall so much into that I get blisters. I am a begginner to chi-running, and i am happy then i have been told about this technique, then i am thinking then i am to start learn about it, and its make sense for me. i got the book and dvd too. To bad you are not comming to Denmark, will love to have a trainning hour with you, to approved if i am doing right. its a great feeling, when i am running, but still in doubt.. i am trainning now for New York half marathon, after having been treated my ankle, for collateral ligament inflammation, with laser, I am by having it ok, but still a weak ankle. do you have any advice for exercises to strengthen the part of the leg, ankle

ildiko Panczel McDonald Mar 15th, 2015 11:43pm

yep narrow and dented inward shoes are the creators of bunions!!! wide toe box is the key

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