What Are Maximalist Running Shoes?

Natalie Cecconi
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What are Maximalist Running Shoes?

Maximalist running shoes are the latest movement in the running shoe market.

The design is optimized for runners who want to feel the ground underneath their feet.

The foot feels very connected to the ground, and that reduced the perceived impact.

Your lower extremities are much more free to move. The minimal cushion causes you to experience less of the pounding effect.

Although maximalist shoes are primarily designed for running, they also make an excellent choice for hikers, and other sports that are less running-intensive.

Maximalist shoes feel quite different on the feet than the traditional running shoes design and weigh more because of their increased volume. This enables more extreme movements and exaggerated swaying. When you run in maximalist shoes, you easily push off from the ground.

There are more injuries associated with minimalist designs; your calves are less likely to develop the necessary muscle mass to offset the lack of cushioning. Both injuries and improper development place additional strain on your joints and can have a negative effect on the entire body.

New minimalist runners are more likely to injure themselves as their feet are not ready to support the load yet but then slowly increase in strength and endurance.

Because the toes are closer together, most of the muscles and tendons are much shorter and the small muscles in the foot are required to do all the work.

What is the History of Maximalist Shoes?

For many years, running shoes were built to minimize injury. The idea was to make the shoe as stiff as possible to avoid any rolling or pronation of the foot during the running process.

Also, shoes began to be constructed with increasingly thick cushioning in the midsole to protect against impact shock.

But minimalism has gradually made its way into the running shoe market and many runners are questioning the benefit of adding more bulk to their feet.

The term minimalist running shoes describes shoes that as little cushioning as possible.

The philosophy behind minimalist shoes is to run with a mechanical first step of the foot and to allow the leg and hip muscle to absorb the impact.

Maximalism, in other words, is the other end of the spectrum. These shoes are designed for forefoot landing and an upright posture.

Here are a few pointers to consider when looking for a Maximalist shoe:

The last of the shoe is often wider than a conventional running shoe.

The material is often flexible to allow a natural movement when walking.

The midsole is thin and compressible.

The upper allows for a natural forefoot push off and is usually designed for wider feet.

The shoe’s shape increases the volume of the shoes to simply fit the foot.

What are Some Benefits of Maximalist Shoes?

Also known as maximal cushioning or maximalist running shoes, these shoes are geared toward providing maximum cushioning to the feet and legs. These shoes are designed to do away with the traditional hard foam heel and replace it with a soft landing. The air-filled midsoles are built to protect the feet from overloading.

These shoes are bigger than standard shoes. They are ideal for runners that are heavier and require maximum cushioning to reduce the stress on their feet.

Take note that although these shoes provide more soles area as compared to standard shoes, they may not be the best choice for people who have flat feet. Experts say that maximalist or maximal cushioning shoes don’t help out much for people who have flat feet.

Increased Cushioning

Maximalist running shoes are shoes that feature a larger sole and a higher heel drop than traditional running shoes. They tend to look like running shoes with wider, more orthopedic soles. Maximalist shoes are also models that some running purists and even enthusiasts might consider overly cushioned, particularly for longer distance running. But maximalist shoes are often an integral part of a trail running shoe, and some maximalist shoes can double as a gym shoe.

Maximalist running shoes include the Hoka hiking shoes, the Altra trail running shoes, and the Saucony Endorphin, among others. Also, more traditional manufacturers have upped the ante in terms of their displays of cushioning, thereby giving rise to a high-cushioned running shoe.

Here are some characteristics of maximalist shoes.

Increased Stability

The most popular selling shoes, minimalist running shoes are built for movement efficiency. They are highly breathable and provide the most barefoot-like experience while running. They have only approximately 4mm of heel drop (the difference in height between the heel and the front of the sole) and less than 10mm of stack height (the height from the heel to the front of the sole). They keep the foot closer to the ground “like when people walked barefoot on Earth.”

Increased Strength

Minimalist shoes are thinner and lighter to start with. Because the entire sole is generally made up of one piece of rubber, there are no seams, which reduces the pressure points the shoe would normally experience. Minimalist shoes often have a wider toebox and a longer split-toe design, allowing more room for the toes.

Increased Stability

Minimalist running shoes are also generally designed with heavier builds. This means that the shoe is designed to handle more force. These shoes also have more cushioning, which makes them more ideal for heavier runners.

Can Use With Orthotics

Maximalist running shoes are a type of minimalist running shoe that has the features of a performance running shoe in addition to the features of a barefoot running shoe.

Maximalist running shoes are built to provide extra cushioning to protect the foot from impact and provide stability. The extra cushioning and stability is usually provided with the shoe’s midsole material or with an insole.

Some maximalist running shoes come with a removable insole. If you wear orthotics, you can wear the shoes without the factory insole and wear the insole you currently use.

If you wear orthotics, you should look for a shoe that has plenty of room for them and with an insole that you can remove. It will save you the time and hassle of finding a specific model that includes the insole you want.

Barefoot running shoes are very minimal shoes that have only enough support for paces of 10 minutes or less.

Maximalist running shoes have the support of traditional running shoes but retain the foot protection and flexibility of barefoot running shoes.

Not all maximalist running shoes are available in the US and many of the top running shoe brands have only a very limited number of maximalist running shoes.

Shoes made for triathletes, marathon runners, and trail runners are often considered to be maximalist running shoes.

Are There Any Disadvantages of Maximalist Shoes?

Maximalist running shoes have a number of advantages over more traditional shoes. For starters, they’re very durable, and the extra padding and cushioning will help to increase your running comfort. The elevated support will also reduce your risk of injury.

Like with any other style of running shoe, though, there are potential drawbacks to wearing a maximalist pair. These shoes do tend to be heavier, and runners who are more used to lightweight sneakers may not enjoy the extra weight.

Maximalist running shoes are also only suited for certain kinds of running. Most manufacturers advise against wearing these shoes for activities like track sprints, cross training, or intensive trail running. You could conceivably wear them for running on a treadmill, though.

What are the Best Uses for Maximalist Shoes?

Some minimal running shoes have taken the running shoes industry by storm recently. With slimmer, sleeker silhouettes than traditional running shoes, it may seem as if minimalism really is king.

However, this does not mean that maximalist running shoes are dead.

In fact, you will see many of them out on the road.

But what exactly is a maximalist running shoe? When we talk about maximalist running shoes, we are typically talking about heavy-duty running shoes. Because the people who lean toward maximalism are usually committed to running at least daily.

For some, they have no time or patience for anything less than ultimate comfort and support. Let’s take a peek at what these maximalist running shoes have to offer.

Maximalist Running Shoes Benefits

Maximalist running shoes are designed for the daily runner who is looking for a shoe with longer wear and a higher quality build. It is no surprise that many of these shoes sell for a higher price than lightweight running shoes.

They are designed for longevity and breathability.

Furthermore, these shoes are cushioned and intended for the active runner.

My personal favorite maximalist running shoes are from the Saucony’s Kinvara line. These shoes are well-cushioned and very comfortable.


Now you have a better understanding of what minimalist running shoes are and what to look for in one, both from a technical and an aesthetic perspective.

There are many factors to take into consideration when deciding upon the most suitable running shoe. And while we all have different preferences as to what we like most, it’s important to select a pair that we feel comfortable in.

Ultimately, whether you go for a minimalist running shoe or not, if you are to walk, run or jog in them, you need to be comfortable. Otherwise, you will not enjoy your movement.