Best Zero Drop Running Shoes for the Trails (Part 1)

I dug into oceans of reviews on the zero drop running shoes best and most suited for extreme trail running as well as OCR’s or obstacle course races and mud runs. Based purely on wear-tester accounts, here are the zero-drop trail running shoes that have received top-marks for providing top-notch rock protection, aggressive traction and reliable durability on any terrain under extreme weather conditions without compromising natural foot motions and ground-feel clarity or sensory feedback detection so you can keep effective forefoot strike mechanics in order within a safe range with more landing stability during running which in turn really does make the most positive difference for injury prevention as well as giving you a performance edge to help you run your best time. First up is the Vibram Trek Ascent V-Trek and why wear-testers rave about the shoe for being an extreme trail trooper. If you are looking for a beastly minimalist running shoe that dominates any snow-covered rocky trail you’ll love the Vibram FiveFingers Trek accent V-Trek because the outsole is fully loaded with traction and the upper is fully loaded with thermal and rock protection, which altogether? wraps the foot in a soothing embrace that makes long trail runs feel much shorter. Whether you are climbing slick muddy inclines, trekking through muddy creeks or running over jagged rocks the Vibram Trek Ascent V-Trek can easily handle serious mileage on serious off-road terrain terrain. The V-Trek Accents V-Trek sits on a low-riding zero drop outsole that’s thick enough to provide a plush smooth ride without feeling bulky on technical trails with loose debris while thin enough to ensure a balanced and effective for forefoot strike landing during running. In fact, the lightness of the shoe gives you a little more ignition fluid so your feet pop off the ground when mowing through extreme backcountry trails! Another handy feature of this shoe is its high-topped inspired collar design is intended to keep out the elements. The Trek Ascent V-Trek rests on a handmade 4-mm low ride rubber outsole studded with aggressive lugs and added deep grooves, delivering top-notch reliable mega-grip and protection on any terrain, such as sandstone wet boulders, loose gravel, rocky rooted trails, but still offers some degree of ground-feel enabling you to uphold an effective barefoot stride. The leather hemp upper is mighty durable to last through plenty of mileage while fully protecting your feet and keeps your toes, especially when paired with normal weight toe socks, extra warm in chilly weather. The Ascents can also be worn without socks thanks to the soft cushy inner-lining, creating a snug fit without any pressure points, even when wet and the shoe dries fast too! Wear-testers also loved the high collar reporting that it fits snug at the ankle and provided extra protection and stopped grit from getting inside the shoe. Another major asset of the Trek Ascents is its outstanding width, easily enabling the foot to expand to its a natural state which is also good for improving your foot strength in addition to reinforcing better balanced control. Bottom line, the Trek Ascents V-Trek is quite the sophisticated protective trail shoe that’s a workhorse for all-weather conditions, on any terrain definitely giving your stride more firepower when running on treacherous terrains. If you are a high mileage trail runner who loves to go fast and you’re looking for a well cushioned barefoot-like shoe, you will feel zippy and protected in the Vibram FiveFingers KMD EVO which is a more stripped-down version of the Trek Ascents, but is a more rugged version of the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila’s. LS and still produces that classic Vibram peppy, barely-there feel that mimics the effects of being barefoot. Even though the KMD EVO has a thicker outsole and more padding than the average Vibram shoe You feel no added bulk You get a bit of a bounce for faster efforts and the underfoot materials are thin enough to deliver enhanced sensory support, keeping you consistently dialed into feeling your forefoot strike during running. Unlike most wafer-thin Vibram running shoes, the KMD EVO has a thicker rubber outsole that provides more underfoot softness, but doesn’t feel squishy. It provides more full rock protection on gravel roads and other rough surfaces and provides enough durability for the marathon as well and most importantly the shoe is zero-drop heel to toe which puts you in a stronger position to uphold a barefoot-like stride on any terrain. the light, flashy knit weave well-made, ventilated upper moves extremely well with your foot and provides soft comfort plus protection while hugging to your foot just right. The overall construction is beyond robust, very sturdy and reliable making the Vibram KMD EVO more than capable of handling high mileage and harsh elements. Like a true Vibram shoe, the KMD EVO’s overall super flexible design is anatomically sculpted to accommodate to your unique foot structure which makes for an overall more comfortable ride for fast-paced, high-mileage running. These shoes really strike the right balance between thinness and exceptional protection. The bungee cord lacing works great for locking the foot in place, securely holding the foot inside the shoe when you’re cutting sharp angles and leaping over obstacles. The KMD EVO really moves fluidly with your foot without any stiff. Ultimately, the KMD EVO functions extremely well in running, sprinting, walking, hiking and jumping on any terrain they even make excellent cycling shoes! They truly are an impressively versatile multi-purpose workhorse that brings the perfect balance of comfort and performance on the trails. Vivobarefoot’s Primus Soft Trail has put a lot more shoe around the foot than typical Vivobarefoot running shoes. This is because the Primus Soft Trails Amphibious upper has more material density, giving it more heartier durability and features a rugged puncture- resistant rubber outsole with premium traction that grips well on rocks. I also love the added protective rubber at the front of the shoe which is great for taking the ‘ouch’ out for if you accidentally kick a rock or stub an exposed root. The vegan construction Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Soft minimalist running shoe is ideal for runners seeking a lightweight, fully flat barefoot- inspired shoe that delivers a reliably comfortable protective ride on rocky trails. The Primus is full of grip thanks to its rugged multi-directional tread that gives excellent traction, but still provides good ground feel for the trail bringing a clearer sense of how you are landing on your forefoot during running. The Primus Soft also performs similar to cleats in that it offers steady footing when running on grass and its flexibility moves smoothly with your foot too! In keeping with being a true minimalist running shoe the Primus Soft Trail is built low, zero-drop on a 7-mm thin rubber outsole, ensuring a more level landing platform for a balanced ride that encourages a fast and efficient for forefoot strike during running. The knobby traction lugs are great for helping you climb hills and provide secure traction on rocky rooted and muddy trails. Even more impressive, despite the outsole thickness, the Primus Soft Trail manages to welcome generous amounts of ground- feel, supplying enough sensory feedback to help push your forefoot strike landing in the right direction when running. Last but not least, the overall structure of the Primus Soft Trail is very similar to other Vivobarefoot minimalist shoe offerings, such as a wide toe-box that’s proved to be very comfortable and functional for optimal toe-splay which is good for foot in ankle stability affording you a more secure, steady connection with the ground, regardless of terrain. There’s no doubt that this durable workhorse is definitely a trail runners best friend. If you are looking for a single barefoot shoe for both obstacle course races (OCR’s) and road running for the winter and summer, the zero-drop Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail is it! The Breatho Trail is a well-balanced crossover shoe that takes you from road to trail without missing a step because the Breatho’s structural versatility is ideal for many types of terrain from rough grassy grounds to loosely packed sand to wet muddy slick trails to flat fast roads the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail definitely gives you a performance edge on any terrain. The sum of all the amazing parts of the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail adds up to a shoe that runs as well on icy muddy and snowy trails as it does on dry smoothly paved roads Some wear-testers also reported that the Vivobarefoot Breatho is an excellent lightweight and cheap choice as a golf shoe as it’s on record for doing an admirable job at holding the foot down securely when making long drives or short putts. The Vivobarefoot Breatho is an incredibly lightweight package that has the fit and feel of a racing flat and is actually one of the lightest trail running shoes on the market. The Breatho is famous for its off-road, barefoot-feeling, traction-aggressive, luggaged rubber outsole which delivers a lot of grip on any terrain and continues to provide excellent traction when running on water soaked grass and muddy trails while at the same time the outsole is thin enough to welcome a hefty dose of sensory input to help you effectively unify more functional forefoot strike mechanics that are more tuned to being lighter, responsive and more economical while running. Most wear-testers have all praised the way the Breatho’s tread provides outstanding traction, how it impressively cuts through rough conditions, while keeping your foot dry and warm when running on a variety of trails in cold, wet, muddy, slushy, sloppy conditions. The anti-slip tread also delivers solid traction and more stable landing control on wetter, slicker surfaces. Bottom line, the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail is an excellent trail shoe for a runner looking for maximum traction, who loves doing mud runs and OCR’s, but doesn’t mind feeling every aspect of the ground. All in all, it’s the toothy treaded rubber outsole that allows the Vivobarefoot Breatho to perform like a champ during challenging trail runs. Additionally, for expanded trail/debris protection the outsole curves up the lower portion of the sides and there’s also added rubber at the toes to further protect from rocks and roots. Another feature of the Vivobrefoot breatho that wins people over is the wide toe-box, which enables more full toe-splay which can be the most helpful for greater footstep security and balance control during running. The abrasion-resistant upper is constructed with sturdy durable overlays that protects the feet and keeps the shoe in business for a long-time. The upper materials are so well made without over-built materials that they are incredibly long-lasting Can take a huge beating and still look brand new. The upper is also light and airy, thanks to the mesh material on the top and sides which provides good air flow during hotter temperatures. The upper also does a great job at shedding water and mud weight for a more clunk-free ride on wetter, slicker trail days, making the Vivobarefoot Breatho more capable of handling mud runs. The Vivobarefoot Breatho also dries very quick as well. Ultimately, if you are looking to lay down some fast times in your next trail race, or OCR event, the Vivobarefoot Breatho is a solid shoe that performs well under extreme weather conditions and on rocky terrain or wet muddy trails and is more than ideal for hardcore high or low mileage trail runners looking for a speed boost! Another OCR favorite minimalist running shoe is the Vibram FiveFingers V-Trail which is another trail-specific shoe from the Vibram. That is an updated version of the Spyridon MR Elite Like the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail, the Vibram V-Trail also received high-marks for performing admirably beastly in mud runs and obstacle course races Basically for runners looking for an improved trail running experience, the Vibram V Trail offers everything that was in Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon MR Elites, but is a lighter, more comfortable, more barefoot-mimicking, more durable package The V trail is also an excellent lightweight choice that delivers an incredibly fluid feel for water sports, high mileage hiking, the gym, golfing, martial arts and just everyday errands The V trail is literally versatility every day with its ergonomic fit and barefoot-feel. the Vibram V-Trail perfectly offers most of the benefits of the barefoot running movement, while still providing protection from rocks acorns and twigs. The V-Trail is rated well on nearly all characteristics, especially on its anatomically correct fit and its ability to be very grippy when beating through murky trails, when flying up and down hills or when racing on all types of surfaces from rocks to roads. In keeping with the minimalist movement the Vibram-V Trail is completely flat completely flexible and free of arch support, medial posts, heel counters and plastic plates So, when you run, these shoes definitely run with you; you’re not fighting any aspect of the shoe which is going to be very effective in constantly improving foot and ankle strength and gait correction. There are zero durability issues with the Vibram V-Trails out-sole that’s because it’s heavily armored, without feeling clunky, with excellent quality rubber compounds, which will appeal to high- mileage trail runners The V trail sits super close to the ground on a thin outsole that not only moves extremely well with your foot but almost perfectly matches the barefoot sensory-feel meanwhile the outsole offers strong underfoot protection for runners seeking a more plush, smooth, comfortable and balanced ride for muddy or rocky trail racing or laying down fast trail intervals. Last but not least, the outsole provides comfort plus protection from asphalt, too. One of the lightest trail shoes out there the V-Trails most prized asset is its grippy 5-mm thin but very toughly rugged rubber outsole studded with multi-directional lugs that provides strong traction when running on uneven mountainous terrains, slushy, sloppy paths and loose rocky trails. Even with all the rugged lugs, the Vibram V-Trail’s outsole is remarkably ultra-thin, providing excellent sensory richness, easing the foot to land forefooted during running which is of injury prevention importance because the margins of impact intensity and duration is much narrow in forefoot running than in heel strike running — which is a running style encouraged by the traditional running shoe — The grippy tread pattern is also supremely useful and agile for rock climbing, biking and bites reassuringly into the ground when you make sudden stops and starts and rapid changes in direction, like in CrossFit, frisbee’ing, etc The Vibrams V-Trail’s soft, flexible, airy upper wraps snugly around the foot and is cinched firmly into the outsole with more than enough durability to last through plenty of mileage on technical, gravelly trails. Most wear-testers were also a fan of the padded tongue and collar. There’s more padding around the ankle than the Spyridon MR Elites. For extra comfort, the drawstring lacing helps lock on the shoe, really securing it to your foot to prevent in-shoe sliding and stops debris from coming in. Another fabulous feature of the upper is it doesn’t hold sweat, water, mud or order, so you’re not weighed down by the elements when you run. Rugged Rock protection just isn’t at the outsole, the featherweight, polyester, spandex upper is of excellent quality. It is armed with puncture abrasion- resistance that excels at shielding the foot from harm and hugs the foot perfectly preventing grit from getting inside Even for wide feet, the stretchy upper adjusts perfectly to fit accordingly and is flexible enough to allow more widespread use of the foot, which is absolutely essential in building stronger, more sturdy feet. Bottom-line, the aggressive traction that performs great in bad weather coupled with a low-profile, good ground- feel and unmatched durability makes the Vibram V-Trail a serious OCR shoe that will help you feel stable with good form and balanced on uneven terrain. I hope this video helps make your selection process easier regarding finding that near- perfect, barefoot-mimicking shoe that is a ‘do everything’ trail shoe, while providing a base for your feet, ankles balance control and forefoot running form to get stronger and stay strong long-term. Thanks so much for listening and watching. To stay updated on all the latest research on the health and performance benefits of barefoot running please hit the subscribe button down below. Have fun out there on the roads and trails. Bye for now! You


  • I love the Vibrams…..i run in those everywhere. They're awesome! I'm not crazy about shoes that have overly extreme amount of tread. I've had a problem with them catching on rocks and tree roots, rather than providing traction, but gliding across them. Unfortunately, I've had some pretty good falls over that.

  • Love you; love your vids… one of my best online coaches… absolutely appreciate all you do; thanks!:)

  • I cannot wear 5 finger shoes, because i have twin toes on both feet. They do not make those types of shoes to accommodate twin toes, so i chose the merrell trail glove 3. It has a wide toe box too. I need a new pair and may try one of your suggestions. The information you provided is thorough and interesting!

  • Ah, fantastic, just the very first recommendation was what I'm aiming for. Thank you

  • Great review Bretta, why do I always feel like I suddenly need a new pair of running shoes after watching your videos 😁

  • Only 2 shoes companies ? Why not Xero shoes

  • Another great video Bretta! What kind of shoe would you recommend for Head-Over-Heels running? As seen on this link…

    Maybe it should be called Head Strike Running… Wicked sport!

  • You can see Tirunesh's forefoot here

  • Great video. Check out these awesome shoes:

  • Great video. Check out these vegetarian shoes:

  • Thanks for the video. Check out these vegetarian shoes:

  • I really enjoyed your video. Check out these cool shoes:

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