The lowdown: best minimalist running shoe on the market
With Merrill Shoes getting out of the minimalist running shoe business, amazingly, you're best bet for an actual shoe, and not, say, a huarache sandal, is the Prio from Xero Shoes. They offer zero-drop heels, and with a thin, bendable sole, though thick enough to offer some protection from heavy gravel.
Unlike Merrills, and especially 'normal' running shoes, Xeros are not sleek. They're not meant to be. And that's a good thing. Sleek implies narrow and thin, and you don't want that in a running shoe: you want a large 'toe box' for plenty of room for toes and feet to spread out, with any narrowness coming in the middle of the foot, where the laces come in. This is exactly what Xeros have, with a good addition: their laces actually loop down through side loops attached to the sole, which helps snug in the foot under the arch, though that does not mean any arch support. Remember: arch support is not your friend. It may feel good in the short term, but long-term it weakens your fascia, and your foot in general.
I have had my Xeros for about six months now, and they have served me well for running in the colder, wetter temps of Oregon winters, when barefoot running can be a wee bit miserable (though for the record, I did run barefoot one winter in Michigan [insert link]). They also served me on a multi-day backpacking trip in Big Bend National Park, up through the mountains and across a desert slog. And they've just been a casual sportwear shoe for around town. Most especially, when I received a non-running injury to my heel, they ended up being the most comfortable of all my footwear to wear while recovering.
One that note: when I last tried to buy some Merrill shoes in an actual shoe store, a salesperson told me they'd stopped carrying the minimalist kinds, because they were getting too many people returning them, having, supposedly, injured themselves running in them. So, a gentle reminder Gentle Reader: the best way to learn how to run in minimalist (or so-called barefoot) shoes is to actually run barefoot for a while first. Which is actually, or should be, your goal. Minimalist shoes are just for occasions when running barefoot isn't quite comfortable, like in snow and heavy gravel. 'Normal' shoes incline us to heel strike: a no-no anyways, and even worse if you do it in minimalist shoes. Go easy at first. Trot. Jog. Trail-running preferred.
Order the Prio from Xero Shoes here: