It’s easy to buy a pair of boots these days and chances are that you have a closet full of them. However, most boots today are stiff and heavy, and although they offer great protection to your feet, they are not ideal if your job requires you to stand on your feet for a long period of time, and that can cause foot pain through the day, and in some cases even long term damage to your feet.
So what can we do about that?
The good news is that if you are looking for a pair of lightweight boots, yet durable and safe, say hello to minimalist boots.
What are Minimalist boots or Zero Drop boots?
Minimalist boots which are also known as zero drop boots are boots that give you a barefoot experience using a very flexible and skinny sole with little or no cushioning and a wide toe-box. Although they are lightweight compared to traditional boots, they give you amazing comfort and support and reduce the amount of stress on your feet. They are very healthy to your feet – as a recent study shows that they can improve arch function and foot strength, if used continuously.
With so many options in the market, it is not easy to find the best ones that suits your needs.
Thankfully, we have done all of the hard work for you. After countless hours of research, we have narrowed in on the Top 16 Best Minimalist and Zero Drop Boots for 2021! Keep reading to learn more.
— Summary of Best Minimalist and Zero Drop Boots for 2021 —
If you are short on time, here is a concise summary of our findings:
Best Overall: Sorel – Men’s Madson Moc Toe Waterproof Leather Boots
“Those are an amazing boots that fit well… life saver in the winter!”
Best for Running: New Balance Men’s Minimus 10 V1 Trail Running Shoe
“For me its the best trail running street running and everyday wear shoe that has ever been made”
Best for Walking: Vivobarefoot Men’s Tracker Leather Shoe
“These shoes are super warm. And have great grip, super comfortable for walking”
Best Standing all day: Dr. Martens Men’s Tobias Boot
“Best boots I ever bought! stylish and comfortable – you dont feel them at all”
Best Tactical Boots: Danner Men’s Tachyon 8” GTX Duty Boot
“Offers excellent protection whole being very light weight and feel like a minimalist running shoe”
Best For Women: UGG Women’s Reid Ankle Boot
“Stylish, beautiful So cute, soft, comfortable and flexible. Love it”
— Top 16 Best Minimalist and Zero Drop Boots for 2021 —
Here is the full list of the top 16 minimal and zero based boots:
1. Best Overall: SOREL – Men’s Madson Moc Toe Waterproof Leather Boots
From hundreds of models I inspected this boot provides the best combination of barefoot feel while maintaining excellent and great ankle support.
The high level of comfort this boot provides, had been mentioned again and again in almost every review we read.
This waterproof boot is rugged yet refined. It looks like it is ready to conquer any surface but it remains stylish to look at. It boasts of a casual yet contemporary style that complements any outfit. Whether you are trekking or using it for daily wear, you can depend on this durable pair of boots.
The upper material is made of nubuck leather so you can expect quality and durability. The gum rubber sole offers excellent traction, especially on paved and rough terrains. It has waterproof ability and comes with an easy lace closure system. The Ortholite footbed guarantees that your feet are spared from fatigue as it helps to absorb shock.
It’s a great choice for anyone looking for the best minimalist and zero drop boots at a mid-price range.
2. Runner Up: Skechers Work Men’s Ekron Synergy Shoe
The Skechers Work Men’s Ekron Synergy Shoe is an affordable option for those looking for quality minimalist or zero drop shoes. It is recommended for work use since it has all of the reliable features you need to ensure comfort and protection.
First and foremost, this shoe is suited for running or hiking. It is built to be functional while maintaining comfort for your feet, especially if you want that barefoot feel. Made with a blend of synthetic and nubuck leather, it has a relaxed fit. The memory foam insole gives your feet the support it needs when walking on any surface.
It also comes with an alloy toe and a wide toe box. This makes it suitable for those with larger or wider feet. Since the shoe is lightweight, it puts less strain on your feet at work (or when hiking or running). Its lugs and grooves on the outsole offer strong traction even on wet surfaces.
3. Best for Women: UGG Women’s Reid Ankle Boot
If you are looking for the best minimalist and zero drop boots with flexible material that is comfortable on all sizes, then you must grab the UGG Women’s Reid Ankle Boot. It is made with flexible dried sheep hide leather material that conforms to the shape and size of your feet. This is a great feature to complement the barefoot feel so you can keep your feet comfortable at all times.
Aside from the comfort that it offers, the Reid Ankle Boots from UGG is also stylish. It has a minimalist look and classic appeal. The boots also come with a water-wicking feature that offers additional comfort to your feet, no matter what the weather conditions. During winter months, the material keeps your feet snug so it stays warm.
Despite its stylish look, this pair of zero drop boots is actually resilient enough for outdoor use. It also comes with good arch and heel support. The insole and midsole materials are designed to keep your feet comfortable even when you are not wearing socks.
4. Best for Running: New Balance Men’s Minimus 10 V1 Trail Running Shoe
The New Balance Men’s Minimus 10 V1 Shoe is the best minimalist or zero drop shoes for running enthusiasts. New Balance is a brand that is known for the design and manufacture of shoes for active individuals. If you’re looking for minimalist shoes that are suited for running, you can rely on the brand to not disappoint.
The New Balance Men’s Minimus Trail Running Shoe is made with a blend of synthetic and mesh materials. It weighs less than 19 ounces with a 4mm shaft. It comes with a low-cut design with padding on the cuff so it is comfortable. In addition, its insole and midsole cushion delivers superb support for your heels and the arch of the foot. The rubber outsole offers excellent running performance even with a barefoot feel.
The shoes are also made with antimicrobial treatment to help reduce odor.
5. Columbia Women’s Minx Shorty Iii Snow Boot
The Columbia Women’s minx Shorty Iii Snow Boot is the best option for those looking for minimalist boots that can withstand snowy conditions. This minimalist boot feels like a warm hug for your feet when worn in colder climates. This boot from Columbia is made with sheep-skin insoles with a zero drop feature.
It is made with advanced technology that makes it breathable while being waterproof. The breathable membrane construction guarantees that you can keep your feet warm and dry at all times. Meanwhile, it is also equipped with high-tech insulation with the unique Omni-HEAT thermal reflective lining. Even when it is extremely cold out, your feet are always warm.
The quilted style also offers a classic and timeless look to these snow boots. And yet, it also delivers exceptional support for the ankles. The faux fur lining collar with padded lining keeps unwanted debris out and helps to maintain a cozy fit. For additional comfort and support, it comes with a contoured PU footbed.
6. Astral Hiyak Outdoor Minimalist Boots, Insulated and Quick Drying, Made for Water and Boat
When it comes to the best waterproof minimal or zero drop boots, choose Astral Hiyak Outdoor Minimalist Boots. Priced below $150, you can get good value for money especially when you need protection against water or any moisture.
You can also expect the most reliable traction on any surfaces with the Astral Hiyak Outdoor Minimalist Boots. The zero drop feature and maximum shoe-to-surface contact offer excellent traction. The rubber outsole also contributes to offering superb traction, even on low-traction surfaces. Aside from that, the shoe is made with quick-drying materials. The hydrophobic canvas upper is reinforced with ballistic nylon to offer maximum water resistance.
For a barefoot and balanced feel, the Astral Hiyak Outdoor Minimalist Boots give maximum stability. The toe box design allows the feet and toes to be spread out for improved agility. And since it is very lightweight, it feels as though you’re barefoot.
7. Vibram Odyssey 2018 Putters Red Shaft Hand Shoes
When it comes to minimalist and zero drop boots, Vibram is a name you can depend on. This brand made its name by offering shoes that makes you feel like you are wearing none without compromising support. The Vibram Odyssey 2018 Putters Shoes is no exception. Hence, it is one of the best minimalist and zero drop boots out there.
With a price of no more than $150, you can get exceptional quality and performance for a minimalist shoe. It is an excellent choice for hiking and trekking, as well as for traveling. The midsole is made of polyurethane materials that offer just the right amount of thickness. This delivers comfort and support while maintaining that barefoot feel.
The Vibram outsole measures 4mm in thickness. It is complemented with the rubber Megagrip outsole that can provide maximum grip on any surfaces. The material itself is made with a blend of wool and synthetic blend. This combination offers stretch and durability.
8. Altama OTB Maritime Assault Fin Friendly Mid Cut Operators Boots
Known as the best model for standing all day, the Altama OTB Maritime Boots is one of the best minimalist and zero drop boots around. The Altama brand has been around since 1969, which means they have consistently delivered quality shoe designs for functional purposes. This model is no different and is the perfect choice for those who spend most of their time on their feet.
Despite being lightweight with a barefoot feel, the Altama OTB Maritime Boots are built for battle. It is made with rust-proof and no-shine hardware that can withstand even the toughest conditions. The minimalist heel and sole thickness won’t compromise comfort and stability for your feet. In fact, it is made with ABS shank that is suitable for intense outdoor activities.
It is also built with air mesh linings for improved breathability. Hence, you can quickly dry off moisture on your feet. It also has a forgiving fit so it can accommodate any shoe sizes very well. The SEAL rubber provides one of the best traction performances in the market.
9. Best for Standing All day: Dr. Martens Men’s Tobias Boot – View On Amazon
The Tobias Boots by Dr. Martens are the best minimalist boots if you are transitioning into the zero drop boot trend. These boots have the basic features of a minimalist boot, with a lot of the beloved characteristics of Dr. Martens, which are often called “Doc Martens” by fans of the iconic brand.
Doc Martens were invented in Munich, Germany in 1945 when a man by the name of Dr. Klaus Maertens designed a shoe to wear after injuring his foot while skiing. The shoes had soles with air inside of them to help cushion the feet. They were the first soles of their kind, and the technology was named AirWair.
Dr. Martens’ Tobias Boot has an AirWair sole, making it the ideal choice for someone who isn’t totally ready to give up the cushioning support of the insoles that they are used to. While extra cushioning does inhibit the your feet from sensing the ground beneath them, the AirWair sole lends a little support to zero drop newbies as they acclimate to the change.
This zero drop boot has a flat, rubber outsole, giving you the level platform you need for natural foot muscle activation. There is a minimal waffle grid pattern on the bottom of the boot to provide some traction on slippery terrain, without heavily retracting from the benefits of the sole’s flat shape. The signature contrast welt stitching of the classic Doc Martens is an attractive detail that makes this boot feel more familiar, too.
These boots are lightweight, and the uppers are constructed from handsome black greasy lamper leather, for a look that is casual enough for every day wear. The genuine leather provides feet with acceptable protection from the elements, yet this softer leather allows more movement in the joints of the feet than stiff leather that is commonly used in leather boots.
If you haven’t experienced walking longer distances in minimalist boots before, the AirWair sole of the Tobias Boot by Dr. Martens, in conjunction with the lacing system, which helps to secures the boots around the ankle, will help you ease into the transition. The price is very affordable, too, so you don’t need to invest a big chunk of change to try out one of the best minimalist boots.
10. Best Tactical Boot: Danner Men’s Tachyon 8 Inch Duty Boots – View On Amazon
Danner is known for making quality footwear, but many of their leather styles often require a lengthy break in period before the comfort, which Danner is also known for, starts to kick in. The Tachyon 8 Inch Duty Boots by Danner, however, have fabric uppers with an abrasion resistant toe, so they are comfortable straight out of the box, and extremely lightweight. These boots lace up above the ankle, providing you with extra support.
The open cell polyurethane footbeds of these boots promote the circulation of air around your feet. This airflow helps to add comfort. It also makes you less aware that you are wearing something on your feet, which is the exact feeling that you want to get from the best minimalist boots.
The rubber outsoles are nearly flat, with only a quarter of an inch drop from the heel of the boot to the toe. The tread of the outsoles features pentagonal lugs, which grip the ground gently, for a safe, yet natural feel. This sole is great for hunting, because it provides some traction, while keeping your footsteps quiet.
Available in black, tan, sage green, mojave, and sage, Danner’s Tachyon 8 Inch Duty Boots are quality boots, with a mid-range price point. They are the best minimalist boots for traveling long distances on foot on all sorts of terrain, from the desert to the forest. Soldiers, hunters, and barefoot walking enthusiasts will appreciate the extremely lightweight feel, quality construction, and the comfort of these boots.
11. Under Armour Men’s Stellar Military and Tactical Boot – View On Amazon
Under Armour’s affordable Men’s Stellar Military and Tactical Boots are the best minimalist boots for keeping your feet from getting tired on long treks. The boots have some of the comforting features of traditional boots and shoes, but the relatively flat outsoles and their light weight provide you with the experience of a minimalist boot.
A molded EVA midsole in the boot, which is reinforced with a TPU shank, helps to prevent foot fatigue as you work your foot muscles against the boot’s flat rubber outsole. The molded Ortholite sock liner is treated with anti-odor technology to prevent the growth of foul smelling bacteria.
The shaft of the Stellar Military and Tactical boot by Under Armour comes up to the ankle, for a boot that wears like a high top sneaker. The upper of the boot is black leather and textile, with a polishable toe for a professional look, which is required as part of a uniform in many jobs. The boots are water resistant and quick drying.
These are the best minimalist boots if you are taking a lot of steps on hard surfaces, like concrete, every day. They offer comfort, odor protection, and professional style at a great price.
12. Rocky Men’s C4t Tactical Boot – View On Amazon
The Rocky Men’s C4T Tactical Boot was designed for intense garrison training for members of the military. These are the best minimalist boots for protecting the soles of your feet from underfoot hazards, including oil, heat, abrasion, chemicals, and metal shards. This is a good choice for your if you are exposed to any of these hazards on a regular basis, but still want to wear a minimalist boot.
The outsoles are made of EVA and rubber, providing excellent traction for slip resistance, even on oily surfaces. The soles are thick, yet lightweight, with a drop of about a half of an inch, for a flatter platform than other tactical boots. The boots uppers are made of durable, water resistant leather and fabric, and they are breathable and quick drying.
The lacing system of this boot, which rises up above the ankle, is designed to hold up, and allows you to adjust the fit of the boot for a snug and supportive fit. Speed eyelets, NATO hooks, and 550 corded laces help to ensure that your laces won’t quit on you when your are gearing up.
Rocky’s C4T Tactical Boot comes in desert tan. It is a supportive and protective minimalist boot option, available at a mid-range price.
13. Best for Walking: Vivobarefoot Men’s Tracker FG Leather Walking Shoe – View On Amazon
Vivobarefoot’s Men’s Tracker FG Leather Walking Shoes are the best minimalist boots for cold climates. They also have many desirable features that you want in a zero drop boot.
The shaft of the genuine leather uppers of this Vivobarefoot boot, available in dark brown or cement, lace up to the ankle. The lacing system has high quality eyelets, hooks, and laces, for durability with daily use.
The rubber outsoles are very flat, and are thin enough to feel the ground underneath you. The boots are roomy enough for the feet to spread out, allowing natural joint and muscle function, for a nearly barefoot walking experience.
The design of this boot is ideal for walking on rocky terrain, with firm ground, off road lugs on the bottom of the outsole. Hydroguard lining, a thermal insole, and Outlast heat regulating technology work to keep your feet warm and dry.
These boots are the most expensive minimalist boots on this list, mainly because of the materials used to make them. However, the construction may not be worth the price. Some people have no problems with Vivobarefoot’s Tracker FG Leather Walking Shoes, but others complain that the sole separates from the boot’s upper after only a few months of wear.
14. Tactical Research Belleville Men’s Khyber Hot Weather Lightweight Mountain Hybrid Boot – View On Amazon
These are the cheapest boots on this list, but they are definitely one of the best minimalist boots. You’re really getting so much more than what you are paying for with these minimalist boots, designed by Belleville.
Belleville Shoe supplies much of the US military’s footwear to the Department of Defense. Belleville works with members of the special forces to ensure that their Tactical Research Khyber Hot Weather Lightweight Mountain Hybrid Boots provide superior ground sensitivity, sturdy construction, and mobility on rough terrain.
The outsole of this boot is deeply serrated at the heel and the toe, which provides superior traction, without losing the sensation of the ground beneath your feet. These Vibram soles make these boots the best minimalist boots for hikers and climbers, with tread extending over the front of the toes. They can help stop you in your tracks if you start to slide while jumping, crawling, and climbing, even on wet surfaces.
The upper of the boot is made from lightweight, brown leather and fabric. The shaft extends above the ankle. A lace-to-toe lacing system allows you to customize the fit of these boots from the boot’s collar all the way down to the toe, for superior support.
Inside of the boot, breathable combat lunar lining offers comfort and durability. The TR-1 Load Bearing Orthotic insole provides feet with a little cushioning against the rough ground. This is one of the best minimalist boots at an unbelievable price.
15. Belleville 390 TROP Men’s Hot Weather Combat Boot – View On Amazon
Belleville’s 390 TROP Men’s Hot Weather Combat Boots are the best minimalist boots for running in. Just like the Belleville boot mentioned above, this style is also developed with research involving members of the special forces. It is made in the United States.
The boot’s upper is constructed from full grain, polishable leather and CORDURA nylon fabric. The shaft laces up around the ankle for excellent support. The lacing system boasts speed eyelets, making it quick and easy to tighten the boots to a comfortably snug fit.
This minimalist boot style is made for wearing in hot weather, and therefore the design allows for breathability around the foot. Some purchasers say that it is a bit heavy.
The outsole of the Hot Weather Combat Boot from Belleville is an all rubber Vibram sole, which provides superior traction, while still allowing you to feel the ground underneath your feet. The outsole’s construction is Vanguard running shoe style, for added comfort and safety while running in harsh conditions.
Belleville’s 390 TROP Hot Weather Combat Boot comes in black, for a sleek and professional look at a mid-range price. The Vibram soles help make up for the minimalist boot characteristics lost due to the heavier weight and uneven platform of this boot, because they help you sense the ground underfoot better than traditional rubber boot soles.
16. Caterpillar Men’s Brode Hi Steel Toe Skate Shoe – View On Amazon
For a shoe that wears like a boot, or vice versa, the Caterpillar Men’s Brode Hi Steel Toe Skate Shoe is a great option for causal and work wear. These shoes make the list as one of the best minimalist boots for their cool, unique style and superior foot protection.
These boots are designed to look just like a skate shoe, But they still provide all of the protection of a work boot. The flat soles let you utilize your foot muscles and joints, just like any good minimalist footwear does. The design of the boot’s opening also allows greater mobility of the ankle joint than other minimalist boots do, featuring a cutout at the back of the boot’s collar, which accommodates the Achilles tendon.
The one hundred percent genuine leather uppers offer durability, as well as defense from the elements. Steel toes make these shoes safe for wearing on many work sites. The rubber soles provide electrical hazard and slip resistance. The boot laces up tightly, with the help of hooks, just below the ankle, for added support.
The Caterpillar Brode Hi Steel Toe Skate Shoe comes in black leather, with a gray outsole, and contrasting red stitching and laces. It is priced in the mid-range, and is an ideal choice if you want to wear the best minimalist boots, but need rugged protection on the job.
Buying Guide for Minimalist & Zero Drop Boots
When you go to shop for minimalist boots, there are a few features you must look for, and not compromise on.
That’s how we selected our top 16 boots (of course we took into account other factors as well, such as reviews)
1. Heel Drop
Zero drop boots are called as such because they make your feet feel much closer to the ground. Therefore, the heel drop measurement is one of the factors you need to check when buying zero drop boots. The heel measurement should have no significant difference from that of the toe. This helps to give that barefoot feeling when wearing the shoe.
Ideally, a minimalist shoe should weigh no more than 125 grams. If not, it should be lighter than traditional shoes or boots in the market. This gives a minimalist feel to the shoes such that it feels like a part of your feet when worn.
3. Stack Height
The stack height refers to the measurement of the center point of the shoe. There are various recommendations on the ideal stack height for minimalist or zero drop boots. However, the lower it is, the better so you can get that barefoot feel.
4. Flexible Design
Flexibility is also another crucial factor to look into when buying minimalist or zero drop boots. The material used for making the shoes must facilitate a wide range of motion so that your feet are free to move.
In addition to the features listed above, it is also important to take into account your intended use for the shoes. The type of activity or terrain you are wearing it to will determine the level of support and protection your feet needs.
Frequently Asked Questions for Buying the Top Minimalist Boots
What are minimalist boots?
Minimalist boots, also referred to as zero drop shoes, are boots with very thin soles that provide comfort and support when worn. These shoes are lightweight and designed to be flexible and comfortable. Many also come with rubber slip-resistant soles that can keep you safe when walking or running around town.
Are minimalist boots better than going barefoot?
Yes, minimalist boots are better than going barefoot. While going barefoot is a good way to strengthen your arches and foot muscles, there are risks to going barefoot. You can get cuts or slivers, which can lead to infection and other issues. Parasites and bacteria can also be an issue when going barefoot. Minimalist boots are a better option because they have thin soles that mirror going barefoot, but they still provide protection from cuts, scrapes, and infection.
Are minimalist boots good for walking?
Yes, minimalist boots are actually great for walking. That is because they are extremely lightweight and supportive. You can walk long distances without pain.
Do minimalist boots help strengthen your arches?
Yes, minimalist boots can help strengthen your arches. Many people are born with weak arches and the only way to strengthen them is to walk barefoot. Since that isn’t the safest thing to do and is often frowned upon, minimalist boots are the next best thing. There are plenty of shoes on the market that are touted as having great comfort and support with special insets, but this can actually cause you to rely more on your other foot muscles, which creates more problems down the line. If you are interested in strengthening your arches, minimalist boots are a great option because they have a flatter sole.
Are there any cons about wearing minimalist boots?
One of the biggest concerns about wearing minimalist boots is that they offer less support, which can lead to injury. That being said, with minimalist boots, your feet will strengthen over time and become much stronger and less prone to injury. However, you need to work up to this by only wearing your minimalist boots for short periods of time to start. Over time, as your foot muscles strengthen, you can start to wear your minimalist boots for long periods of time.
Are minimalist boots better than regular boots?
Whether or not minimalist boots are better for you than regular boots depends on your feet. Many believe that minimalist boots are best for running and walking because they let your feet remain in their natural position, which offers more stability. Throughout history, many tribal people went barefoot or wore minimalist shoes and were able to cover long distances without pain. If you struggle with foot pain when walking or running, minimalist boots might be better for you than regular boots. Minimalist boots are also lighter than regular boots so they reduce your overall fatigue.