Proper fit for minimalist running shoes?
May 22, 2012 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Minimalist running filter: I normally size up a full size when buying running shoes (8.5 in "street shoes" to 9.5 in running shoes). Should I be doing the same for minimalist running shoes, and do socks matter?

I've been properly fitted for traditional running shoes (my previous two pairs and my current pair have all been in the Brooks Adrenaline family, first the GTS 10s and then two of the GTS 11s). I have moderately low arches and tend towards stability shoes.

I want to start supplementing my training with some light trail running in minimalist shoes and have tried on the Merrell Lithe Glove and New Balance Minimus WT20s in a few sizes each. I ordered two pairs of the Minimus WT20s in 8.5 and 9 to check sizing again at home, but I'm not convinced either are big enough, even without socks. The toe box is very wide (too wide?) but not deep, and I'm almost touching the tips of my toes in the 9s (without socks!). I think the Lithe Gloves may be a better fit for my foot, and I want to order a pair today, but again...Can't figure out what size. The fit is very different from traditional shoes, obviously. The 8.5s seemed too fitted, the 9s less so, and the 9.5s without socks felt too wide.

Any advice on what they should feel like and how much room I should have? Related, is the fit going to depend on whether or not I wear socks? (i.e. do I need to commit to going one way or the other when I choose my size?)

Thanks so much! (And yes, I want to avoid going back to the store. Analysis paralysis is even greater in person.)
posted by ariela to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I should also mention that V5Fs are not an option, so I'm looking specifically at the fit of full toe box shoes only.
posted by ariela at 8:25 AM on May 22, 2012

Minimalist running shoes will have all the same variations as traditional running shoes, considering the shape of your feet and your running style, etc. I understand you don't want to go back to the store, but I think you should treat minimalist running shoes the same as you would traditional running shoes, and get a proper fitting.
posted by doomtop at 8:28 AM on May 22, 2012

+1 to proper fitting, and getting a running store to advise on which shoes. I run in the minimalist Vibram 5-Finger shoes, and when shopping for them the salesperson advised to try on my normal shoe size and 1 size smaller. Being minimalist shoes they should wrap around your foot snugly with no extra space. Mine will stretch a bit after a month or two, and I toss em through the washing machine / dryer to shrink them back down to my foot. Been running happily in them for close to 6 months now. Slightly different form, I run on the pads of my feet, no heel-toe.
posted by el_yucateco at 8:37 AM on May 22, 2012

Weirdly enough, I suggest doing a bit of reconnaissance in the customer reviews sections at I was chosing between several minimalist running shoe options and I found the reviews there to be really helpful regarding sizing, fit, feel, pros/cons of very fitted vs. loose-enough-for-socks, and performance/durability on different running surfaces, including trails.

Personally, I prefer thin socks for training and snug but not-too-tight a fit (I have a weird shaped, nearly flat foot and I can't do super tight shoes without causing foot pain and blisters); I currently wear the Saucony Hattori and had to go up a full size from my normal street shoe. Hope this helps!
posted by skye.dancer at 8:46 AM on May 22, 2012

I am your exact street size and have run in Brooks Adrenalines before for years. I've just gotten a pair of Merrell Lithe Gloves in the amazing cosmo pink color, and they're a size 8.5 . They're quite tough to get on and off, but they fit like a comfortable glove once laced. I don't like running in them (yet?) but walking is great. Caveats: these were essentially free and ordered on a whim from rei, so I was never fitted. I also can't stand large shoes and lace them really tightly, so I've gradually gone down to an 8.5 in running shoes even for longer races. I blister easily especially between my toes so I didn't consider Vibram five fingers, and I wear decent socks with these. So my advice would be to order both the 8.5 and the 9 and try them out, though it sounds like you might be more comfortable with the 9.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:03 AM on May 22, 2012

My experience (with the Minimus road shoes and the Merrell Pace and Lithe Gloves) has been that if I'm wearing them without socks, I need approximately my street shoe size (women's 8); if I'm wearing them with socks, I'm more comfortable in the 8.5s (which is what I wear in a more traditional running shoe).

My first pair of Pace Gloves were 8.5s because I felt my toes bumping up against the front in the 8s, but after using them all summer and tripping over the too-long toes I bought a pair of Lithe Gloves in 8 and then a second pair of Pace Gloves in 8, and I love them even though my toes totally bump up against the front. I probably should have bought the Lithe Gloves in 8.5 because I find I always want to wear them with socks (if it's warm enough to go sockless, I like the mesh Pace Gloves better) and the 8s are pretty tight with socks, though not unwearably uncomfortable.

I use the Merrells for all my hiking now, and even without socks, even with my toes bumping against the front of the shoe, I no longer get the blisters and foot cramps I used to routinely get with traditional hiking shoes. I can kind of feel the fronts of the Minimuses with my toes, too, but it's really not uncomfortable. Maybe the barefoot running stride doesn't compress your toe up into the front of the shoe as much? Maybe the super-wide toebox lets your toes move around enough that they can escape the bumping somehow?

Anyway: I don't think that your toes bumping the front is as much of a red flag with minimalist shoes as it is with traditional shoes, but YMMV. Hopefully you've bought from someplace with a good return policy? Most local running stores, Zappos, and REI will let you return shoes even if you've worn them for a little while.
posted by mskyle at 10:39 AM on May 22, 2012

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