Low profile running shoes

There are many wonderful barefoot running bloggers out there, but I am not yet one of them. However, after reading so much about barefoot running I do believe there is something to the idea of strengthening your lower leg muscles, improving your running form and letting your body do the work instead of relying on a shoe.

I recently reviewed The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Barefoot Running and really enjoyed the book for what it offered even beyond just running barefoot. So if you are looking for a guide, do check it out. In the meantime, I have chosen to make the transition to low profile running shoes for at least 50% of my weekly mileage.

A low profile shoe is different than a minimalist shoe, which I would consider to be something like a Vibram FiveFingers Sprint or Terra Plana EVO.  In other words, a minimalist shoe is to try and mimic barefoot running while providing you just a little protection from the elements.
The low profile shoe does not offer cushioning, stability or motion control…you are all those things!  Low profiles shoes are extremely lightweight and flexible making them ideal for track work and race day. Minimalist shoes basically provide protection to your feet from the elements, but otherwise simulate barefoot running.

Neither is better or worse, just different options depending on where you are in your running journey.
I have tested out three different low profile shoes at this point:Nike Free Run,Saucony ProGrid Kinvara, Pearl iZUMi Streak II.

I have a great running buddy who adores his Free’s, but I just did not care for them. While training in them, I repeatedly found myself with new injuries…that being said they are my go to shoe for traveling now. I love to walk in them and you know I walk 30 miles a week…plus there are many other runners who swear by them.

If you are looking to try a low profile shoe and have had good luck with Nike in the past, this might be a great shoe for you. I can’t say that I mind they come in a great variety of colors either.nikefree


It was love at first run for me. The shoe fit like a glove, it’s so light that my pace automatically picked up and the shoe was so minimal that it caused any discomfort. This shoe has a slight heel drop, which means it will be an easy shoe for most people to use as a transition from their current running shoe.  Again though it doesn’t have the standard support of a regular running shoe.  The Saucony Kinvaraalso offers up a little bonus for a runner like me… a little bit of cushion.  I believe this cushion is what made the shoe easier for me to use as a transition.


The streak is beautiful and wonderful…and not the first shoe you should pick when transitioning. Unlike the Kinvara it has no drop and no cushioning. The Izumi is labeled a racing flat, but I find myself using it at track and for shorter runs during the week…probably because I’m no Kenyan, so anything labeled racing doesn’t mean much to me.

These shoes are the lightest that I own, but I have run my fastest times in the Kinvara’s. So I think it’s still a matter of comfort level with the decrease in stability provided by the shoe. Either way…how cute are they?!

I truly believe for a low profile or minimal shoe to work you need to be committed to great running form. These shoes can be a really great addition to your life if you are working on that.

This type of shoe will work your calves in different ways and again should be eased in to gradually as you perfect your running form.  There you have it a quick break down of barefoot v low profile…and how you might be able to work them in for better performance.
Gratitude Journal
May 25
I am grateful for cool evenings
I am grateful for solid intervals on the treadmillsig
I am grateful for new songs on the radio
I am grateful for orange flowers on the trees
I am grateful for telecommuting

Runners Without Fashion
Best of Running Gear


  1. says

    I love this post! It freaks me out when people switch to low profile or minimalist and don't bother considering form. Yikes! I don't really trust myself making the switch. I have Vibrams that I wear for walking the dog, but I like your idea of using the frees for travel and walking.

  2. says

    Great post! THANKS! I'm working my way down in shoes – from stability to motion control to neutral. SOMEDAY after much practice, I may go minimal or low profile but it's a ways off. Lots of form work to be done yet.

  3. says

    Great job making that distinction. I alternate between five fingers and low profile Nike Lunar Elites. That system seems to work for me and helps strengthen all areas of my legs.

  4. says

    I really wanted to like the Kinvara (so many colors!), but they just don't fit me right. I've tried them on multiple times, but it's just not going to work!I did buy the minimal New Balance minimus trail shoes and am loving them so far. Transitioning very slowly, but I can run over three miles in them now. It'll be awhile before I know if my body will accept them for longer distances!

  5. says

    I want to try the Kinvara, but I think I may need the extra support. You are so right in that great form is key to finding the perfect running shoe for you. I saw an ad for Reebok Realflex last night; I'm thinking about giving those a try.

  6. says

    I have recently been thinking that I'd like to try a lighter shoe with less STUFF. I am a Saucony girl so it's good to know they have an option… thanks for the info!

  7. says

    Love seeing these shoes side by side. I am a loyal Saucony girl myself. Although I go barefoot on the mill sometimes to build up my foot and ankle strength up (since I don't get to train on tech' trails very often).

  8. says

    Thank you for this post! It's great to see each of these shoes compared side by side. I am looking into a pair, but still want to take my time in deciding! And you're so right about form…SO important!

  9. says

    I tried the Streak IIs and really liked them, though I prefer the Somnio Nadas, as the Streaks are heavy enough that I forget they are more minimal.

  10. says

    Love this post. When I was looking for shoes last month you emailed me tips about low profile shoes. That information you gave me was amazing.I am so thankful i bought shoes that were closer to the low-profile end of the spectrum. It was a strange switch. I had sore muscles that I didn't even know existed.I think next time I want to try out the Kinvara's.

  11. says

    Thank you for this post! I have been battling PF on and off for a year (switching feet, ugh) and wear minimilist shoes between runs to strengthen my lower legs/feet. I like the frees to walk/cross train in but not for running. I may have to give the Kinvara a shot!

  12. says

    There are so many people who use barefoot running shoes at races in Seattle. I find it scary just for walking so it's nice to know there's something in between available. Excellent tips as always!

  13. says

    I have a pair of the Nike Run Free as well and I also love to walk around in them. They are so great for that. I haven't tried running in them yet.

  14. says

    I to am always really nervous about barefoot running I have flat feet and I've heard horror stories of what podiatrists have run into since the barefoot running movement started. I decided to try out a pair of minimalist shoes for weight lifting and other cross training and I love the New Balance Minimus. My boyfriend uses the Kinavaras for track and he loves them!

  15. says

    My daughter swears by Kinvaras, and my husband wears them as his every day shoes in the bright yellow – suddenly strangers talk to him out of the blue and he swears it's because of these shoes.


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