As your site’s foundation, your theme is always going to play a large role in how quickly your site loads.
The great thing about WordPress, though, is that you don’t need to crack open your wallet just to get a fast-loading theme.
In fact, you have plenty of free options, and we’ve collected some of the fastest free WordPress themes for you right in this post.
To prove it, we’ll even run some speed tests for every single theme!
Ready to get started? Here are the ten fastest free WordPress themes in 2021 that we could find!
Ten Fast-Loading Free WordPress Themes + Test Data
If you’re interested in how we tested each theme’s performance, we’ll explain the methodology at the end of this post.
- Load Time: 1.967 s
- Size: 32 KB
- HTTP Requests: 10
GeneratePress is one of the fastest WordPress themes you’ll find. Period.
Tom Usborne, the developer, puts a ton of focus on clean, lightweight code. It’s under 30kb, has no dependencies (and yes, that includes jQuery), and is just generally built to perform really well.
Beyond good performance, it’s also super versatile. Using its many WordPress Customizer options, you can pretty much adapt GeneratePress to any niche. And if you’re willing to pay for the premium version, you’ll also get access to a lot of pre-built demo sites that you can easily import.
- Load Time: 1.599 s
- Size: 46 KB
- HTTP Requests: 9
Astra is another super popular option in the same vein as GeneratePress. That is, Astra also ditched jQuery, and it’s super lightweight at just 50 KB.
Furthermore, it’s super customizable. If you want, you can import one of the many free demo websites, built with either:
- Beaver Builder
- Gutenberg (the WordPress block editor)
Or, you can also tweak things yourself using tons of options in the real-time Customizer.
You can deep dive into our complete performance review.
- Load Time: 1.886 s
- Size: 198 KB
- HTTP Requests: 18
Not to repeat myself here, but OceanWP is another streamlined option with the same basic approach as GeneratePress and Astra. It’s a lightweight base theme that you can customize to any niche imaginable (though it’s not quite as lightweight as the other two)
Like Astra, OceanWP also offers free pre-built demo sites that you can import if you don’t want to start from scratch.
- Load Time: 2.134 s
- Size: 80 KB
- HTTP Requests: 11
Neve is a lightweight WordPress theme from ThemeIsle that was specifically built to coincide with the release of the new WordPress block editor (AKA Gutenberg).
It comes with built-in mega menu support, lots of WordPress Customizer options, and importable templates.
- Load Time: 1.181 s
- Size: 39 KB
- HTTP Requests: 11
Zakra is a super lightweight option from ThemeGrill that comes with 12 different demos you can import. These demos cover different niches like construction, education, yoga, etc.
Beyond that, you get plenty of Customizer controls that let you switch up colors and layouts for your site.
- Load Time: 1.536 s
- Size: 205 KB
- HTTP Requests: 17
Writee is a lightweight option built for writers or other creatives. It’s the first option on this list that has one cohesive look. That is, a lot of the other themes act as flexible canvases which you can adapt to any niche.
Writee doesn’t try to do that – it just gives you a simple, clean design that puts the focus on your writing.
There’s also a Writee Grid child theme at WordPress.org that lets you display your blog posts as a grid rather than a list.
- Load Time: 0.957 s
- Size: 20 KB
- HTTP Requests: 6
Arke is a super minimalist theme, so it’s no surprise that it’s showing up on a list of the fastest free WordPress themes.
It’s pretty much just white space and text. No sidebars, no widgets, no settings.
However, if you’re a writer, that’s really all you need and Arke provides a great canvas for your content.
- Load Time: 1.500 s
- Size: 132 KB
- HTTP Requests: 15
Bloggo is another lightweight blogging theme, but it has less of a minimalist look, which might be a good thing for you if you weren’t a fan of how little was going on with the Arke theme.
If you want to make things your own, you also get plenty of WordPress Customizer options to customize Bloggo’s looks.
- Load Time: 1.576 s
- Size: 143 KB
- HTTP Requests: 15
Primer is one of GoDaddy’s forays into the free WordPress theme space. It’s got a nice clean look that you can adapt to a variety of uses, including an option to add a hero CTA at the top.
10. Twenty Nineteen
- Load Time: 1.376 s
- Size: 69 KB
- HTTP Requests: 9
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include the latest default WordPress theme on this list. Beyond actually looking pretty good in its own right, Twenty Nineteen also boasts some pretty stellar performance metrics.
As you’d expect given it was released alongside the block editor, Twenty Nineteen also offers full Gutenberg compatibility and all the blocks look great by default.
Bonus: Elementor Hello Theme
If you use a page builder plugin like Elementor and want the absolute fastest foundation for your site, the Elementor Hello theme might be the option for you
This is a mega barebones theme that gives you all the functionality you need to work with your page builder, but doesn’t include some of the more detailed customization options you’d get with another theme (because you’re supposed to use Elementor to handle that).
It’s not something you’ll use as a standalone theme all by itself. But, as I said, if you’re already using Elementor Pro for page building or theme building, this is a great option to give you the most performance-optimized foundation possible to go underneath that theme building functionality.
How We Tested the Performance of The Fastest Free WordPress Themes
In order to eliminate as many third-party variables as possible, we tested pretty much a blank WordPress theme on cheap shared hosting (Bluehost). We also disabled Bluehost’s default page caching functionality – so there are zero performance optimizations.
The only thing we added was some text from Bacon Ipsum. So while these load times don’t approximate a “real WordPress site”, they should give you a pretty good idea of the differences between the themes themselves.
As for the test data, we used WebPageTest, which runs three separate tests and then spits back the median value. We also pulled all the values from the Fully Loaded results (you can learn more about what that means in our Pingdom vs GTmetrix vs WebPageTest comparison).
What’s the Best Theme for You?
All of these free WordPress themes load fast, so there shouldn’t be any question about the performance of each theme. So instead, let’s talk about the best options from a design and usability perspective.
If you want a multipurpose theme that you can use for absolutely anything, GeneratePress, Astra, and OceanWP are three of the most popular options there, and you’ll probably be happy with any of them. Of the three, GeneratePress and Astra are the absolute fastest, though OceanWP is still pretty optimized.
Beyond that, Zakra and Neve also give you a lot of flexibility and come with pre-built demo sites.
If you’re more into blogging, you should look at Arke (ultra minimalist), Writee (normal minimalist), or Bloggo (uncluttered, but not as minimal). Or, the default Twenty Nineteen theme is always a good blogging option, too.
Finally, GoDaddy’s Primer theme also makes a good option for simple business sites, though you could probably use it for other things, too.
Have any questions about the fastest free WordPress themes or how we tested them? Ask away in the comments!