Low Cost Minimalist Running Shoes: A Van’s Review

Everything I look for in a minimalist shoe is just beneath my feet

Two years ago I bought a my first pair of Vans. I paid six dollars for them at a thrift store in Berkeley. At the time I had never even considered Vans as a viable choice for a running shoe. As a crew leader for the northwest youth corps I was to spend a few months camping and I was looking for a comfortable slip on slip off shoe to wear when not wearing OSHA required 7 inch leather work boots. The shoes survived 3 months in the back country with barely any blemishes. In those three months I fell in love, so I have been wearing my Van’s pretty much everyday since then.
Tonight, for the first time I decided to were my Van’s during my speed workout with the Tamalpa Club. Two words, Amazing. Okay, so just one word. I was blown away by how comfortable it is to run in my Van’s. Then during my second mile repeat I began to analyze them, and it turns out that my six dollar Van’s have all the key features that one should look for in a Minimalist shoe.

No Raised Heel

The toe to heel differential is Zero, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Thin flexible sole

The sole is only millimeters thick. I may not be able to pick up toothpicks with my toes while wearing these shoes, but I can certainly feel changes in the terrain beneath my feet. Granted, I have had my Van’s for two years, and I bought them used, so they are quite broken in, but I have no doubt that a new pair is nearly as thin and flexible.

Wide toe-box

There is plenty of room up there, vans are obviously designed for comfort.

No unnecessary support features



Okay, they could be lighter, but they are no heavier than a traditional running shoe. I didn’t weigh them, but I estimate about 11 ounces. The pair that I am reviewing is made from waterproofed leather. Not the lightest material, but it has withstood the test of time. That brings me to my next point, the thing i look for in any shoe, or any apparel I buy… durability.


These are typically my everyday shoes. this means that I have work them hiking, hooping, playing flag football, dancing and pretty much any other activity you can imagine me doing in my everyday life, but not until tonight did I wear them purely as a running shoe. This means in purely running miles these shoes only have 7 miles on them. However, I should remind you that these shoes have lasted at least two years of everyday wear and tear, including three months in the back country. We must also keep in mind that I bought the shoes used.
The shoes are no longer Sunday shoes but by all in all they have held up very well. Having newly discovered their awesomeness as a low cost minimalist shoe, I will continue to run in them (at least until my Merell trail gloves arrive in the mail) and I will keep you updated as to how the feel after two or three hundred miles.

Final feeling on Van’s as a minimalist running shoe… they are great. they probably won’t be my primary pair but they make an amazing back up pair, and are perfect for anybody that is just beginning barefoot or minimalist running, or those looking for a low cost minimalist shoe.

I have a sneaky suspicion that converse all-stars are also great minimalist shoes, and I also know that there are lots of them out there, so if any of you have tried Converse all-stars as a running shoe, I would love to post your review on RunNaturally.org.

Run Happy,


14 thoughts on “Low Cost Minimalist Running Shoes: A Van’s Review

  1. Hey Levi! Prior to buying a pair of Vibrams, I wore Converse All Star Chucks as my introductory minimalist shoe and I found that they were great for running. I am not certain about their specifications, but based on your description of Vans above, I would say they are very similar. I still use my Chucks today for a variety of workouts including running and crossfit, and they are great to wear if I want to take a break from the uber-minimalist Vibrams. I can safely say that they are the most versatile shoes I have ever owned because they are the only shoes that I work out in and they are stylish enough to go out in (I can be vain when it comes to shoes). I second your recommendation to first time minimalist runners to try these as a low cost alternatives to higher end shoes because if you decide you hate minimalist running (which you probably won’t) or if you upgrade to a more running specific pair of shoes, you will still have a sick pair of Chucks to wear for a variety of occasions.

  2. Thanks for your post on Van’s. Haven’t had a pair in a long time but I do own a pair of Chucks. I agree that they are a good minimalist shoe but I do have to say that they seem narrow in the toe box for me compared to the way Van’s are constructed. When I wear my Chucks for any extended amount of time, I notice the outside toe starting to rub on the canvas and I bought them a half size up just to try and alleviate this. That might come into play even more in a running scenario for those with wider feet.

    1. Thank you for your input. The Vans I use are also a half size larger than my normal shoe size, and I do believe this does help with the width of the toe box. I have never had any problem with rubbing, the only problem I have seen so far is that the top is beginning to separate from the sole, other than that the Vans seem to be great shoes.

  3. FINALLY someone who gets it! I mostly run in Vans and Converse, and I’ve been told time and time again to “get some real running shoes”, that I’ll get flat feet (big lie) and that my sneaks have no support – which is fine by me. I use this sort of shoe day in and day out, so my feet are used to that, and I really can’t stand the chunky feel of most running/cross training shoes. I even walked around in sneaks all over Guanajuato – a teeny tiny Mexican city with lots of hills, alleys and stone-paved streets, with no problems.

  4. great article! i run in huaraches and dunlop volleys, i love the minimalist style. I was looking for other cheap options for some variety and i think i will try out some Vans now after reading this! thanks 😀 glad to hear they are durable too!

    1. Well, the canvas ones do tend to get holes in the toes… so be warned. You might want the leather ones, though they’re a little pricier. But all in all, Vans are awesome.

  5. I bought my two-year-old son a pair of Vans the other week. Ever since then I’ve been eyeing them enviously. His are a touch too small for me though. Guess I’ll have to get my own. I usually run in a pair of Puma Futsal shoes (zero drop, very thin and light) but I think I’ll try wearing my Cons tomorrow.

  6. i KNEW there were other vans runners out there somewhere. *sigh* i love the interwebs. i’ve been running in my hemp vans rata (from the surf series) shoes. they feel lighter than my canvas slip-ons, plus have laces if you need to snug them a little.

  7. I run in New Balance Minimus Zero, which is the best I’ve used. They are not cheap. I have also run in Converse All Stars. They feel great and are mechanically excellent minimalist shoes. They are also nearly 16 oz. per shoe, about 3 times the weight of the Minimus Zeros. And the new All Star II is just as heavy, which is a huge disappointment. If Converse/Nike added a sole of modern light-weight material to the classic canvass upper I might run in All Stars exclusively. As they are now, they are too heavy.

    I have worn Vans as a casual shoe for some time. I wouldn’t run in them. The sole is thicker than the All-Star and I would disagree that you can feel the road as well as a minimalist shoe,

  8. I ran the Bangkok marathon in Motorhead shoes.
    they were a special edition Vans.
    Not a runner just happened to be there in street clothes.
    never have my calfs hurt so much – stairs were tough days after !
    It makes alot of sense though when you look back at early years and in sport boxing weightlifting everyone just wore shoes like that ….
    somewhere in sports technical aspects took over. stay roots !

  9. I was wondering about this. Your article was very informative and you have converted me. I plan on buying my first pair this week. In the past I used the “special” running shoes such as Altra. I suspect I will like these much more.

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