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Last update: February 2021

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 2021’s 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 twelve fastest free WordPress themes that we could find…

Twelve Fastest Free WordPress Themes + Test Data

If you’re interested in how we tested each theme, we’ll explain the methodology at the end of this post. As for choosing the themes themselves, we used personal experience and popularity as a starter and then removed themes that didn’t perform well enough to make the list.

Finally, he’s a quick legend for what the abbreviations mean in the results that we’ll share for each theme:

  • PSI = PageSpeed Insights mobile test
  • GT = GTmetrix desktop test
  • WPT = WebPageTest desktop test

1. GeneratePress

What are the fastest free WordPress Themes - GeneratePress
  • Speed Index (PSI): 1.9 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (PSI): 1.2 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (GT): 0.47 s
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (PSI): 0
  • Size (WPT): 26 KB
  • HTTP Requests (WPT): 7
  • Performance Score (GT): 100%
  • Performance Score (PSI): 100%

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.

2. Astra

What are the fastest free WordPress Themes - Astra
  • Speed Index (PSI): 2.1 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (PSI): 1.4 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (GT): 0.5
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (PSI): 0
  • Size (WPT): 44 KB
  • HTTP Requests (WPT): 9
  • Performance Score (GT): 100%
  • Performance Score (PSI): 100%

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:

  • Elementor
  • Beaver Builder
  • Gutenberg (the WordPress block editor)
  • Brizy

Or, you can also tweak things yourself using tons of options in the real-time Customizer.

You can also read our complete performance review.

3. EcoCoded

What are the fastest free WordPress Themes - Ecocoded
  • Speed Index (PSI): 3.3 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (PSI): 2.6 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (GT): 0.8 s
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (PSI): 0.045
  • Size (WPT): 118 KB
  • HTTP Requests (WPT): 15
  • Performance Score (GT): 99%
  • Performance Score (PSI): 93%

EcoCoded is a newer WordPress theme that aims to make your website eco-friendly by reducing the resources that it requires to run.

Most of these optimizations involve making your site more lightweight, which are also the same sorts of tweaks you need to create a fast WordPress theme.

Overall, it’s a solid option if you want to create a clean, minimal website.

4. OceanWP

What are the fastest free WordPress Themes - OceanWP
  • Speed Index (PSI): 4.0 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (PSI): 2.9 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (GT): 0.6 s
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (PSI): 0
  • Size (WPT): 166 KB
  • HTTP Requests (WPT): 18
  • Performance Score (GT): 100%
  • Performance Score (PSI): 88%

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.

Like Astra, OceanWP also offers free pre-built demo sites that you can import if you don’t want to start from scratch.

Overall, OceanWP is not quite as lightweight as some other themes on this list, but it’s still well-optimized and the upside is that you get a ton of features and customization options for all niches. It’s especially strong for WooCommerce stores.

5. Neve

What are the fastest free WordPress Themes - Neve
  • Speed Index (PSI): 2.0 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (PSI): 1.2 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (GT): 0.7 s
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (PSI): 0
  • Size (WPT): 32 KB
  • HTTP Requests (WPT): 8
  • Performance Score (GT): 99%
  • Performance Score (PSI): 100%

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.

6. Zakra

What are the fastest free WordPress Themes - Zakra
  • Speed Index (PSI): 2.5 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (PSI): 1.7 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (GT): 0.7 s
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (PSI): 0
  • Size (WPT): 40 KB
  • HTTP Requests (WPT): 12
  • Performance Score (GT): 99%
  • Performance Score (PSI): 99%

Zakra is a super lightweight option from ThemeGrill that comes with 50 different demos you can import. These demos cover different niches like construction, education, yoga, etc. and are built with the native block editor, Elementor, and Brizy.

Beyond that, you get plenty of Customizer controls that let you switch up colors and layouts for your site.

7. Sydney

What are the fastest free WordPress Themes - Sydney
  • Speed Index (PSI): 2.7 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (PSI): 2.4 s 
  • Largest Contentful Paint (GT): 0.8 s 
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (PSI): 0
  • Size (WPT): 88 KB
  • HTTP Requests (WPT): 10
  • Performance Score (GT): 99%
  • Performance Score (PSI): 96%

Sydney is a popular multipurpose theme that just got a huge performance facelift in its latest version. While it was never a slow theme, the new performance improvements make it a lot more lightweight and also improve the code base, such as removing all jQuery dependencies.

Like a lot of other themes on this list, Sydney pairs especially well with Elementor and includes a number of pre-built Elementor-based demo sites.

8. Kadence

What are the fastest free WordPress Themes - Kadence
  • Speed Index (PSI): 2.1 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (PSI): 1.4 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (GT): 0.47 s
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (PSI): 0
  • Size (WPT): 40 KB
  • HTTP Requests (WPT): 10
  • Performance Score (GT): 100%
  • Performance Score (PSI): 100%

Kadence is a newer WordPress theme that’s been getting a lot of buzz. It fits in the same mold as Astra and Blocksy (a later entrant on this list) in that it’s a highly customizable theme that you can use for literally any niche.

One of Kadence’s strong points is its many options in the WordPress Customizer, even in the free version at WordPress.org.

9. Arke

What are the fastest free WordPress Themes - Arke
  • Speed Index (PSI): 2.2 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (PSI): 1.2 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (GT): 0.49 s
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (PSI): 0
  • Size (WPT): 20 KB
  • HTTP Requests (WPT): 6
  • Performance Score (GT): 100%
  • Performance Score (PSI): 100%

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.

10. Blocksy

What are the fastest free WordPress Themes - Blocksy
  • Speed Index (PSI): 2.1 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (PSI): 1.6 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (GT): 0.7 s
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (PSI): 0
  • Size (WPT): 86 KB
  • HTTP Requests (WPT): 10
  • Performance Score (GT): 99%
  • Performance Score (PSI): 99%

Blocksy is a modern theme that took the WordPress world by storm with its header builder, modern layouts, and general customizability. The Webpack build pipeline ensures clean code and the backend options are built with React, which ensures a speedy customization experience.

Overall, it offers a really great experience for both you and your visitors.

11. Page Builder Framework

What are the fastest free WordPress Themes - Page Builder Framework
  • Speed Index (PSI): 3.1 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (PSI): 2.1 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (GT): 0.6 s
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (PSI): 0 
  • Size (WPT): 69 KB
  • HTTP Requests (WPT): 12
  • Performance Score (GT): 100%
  • Performance Score (PSI): 97%

As the name suggests, Page Builder Framework is a lightweight, customizable base theme that’s designed to be paired with the page builder plugin of your choice. You can use Page Builder Framework to handle your header, footer, templates, and other theme-specific areas. Then, you can leverage your favorite page builder to design your content itself.

12. Hello

What are the fastest free WordPress Themes - Hello
  • Speed Index (PSI): 1.9 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (PSI): 1.3 s
  • Largest Contentful Paint (GT): 0.5 s
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (PSI): 0
  • Size (WPT): 20 KB
  • HTTP Requests (WPT): 7
  • Performance Score (GT): 100%
  • Performance Score (PSI): 100%

Hello is kind of a bonus because it’s not a full-featured theme like the other options on this list. Instead, it’s the most lightweight foundation possible to use with Elementor (or another page builder if you prefer).

In terms of raw performance, Hello is the fastest free WordPress theme. However, you need to keep in mind that it’s not a full-featured WordPress theme like the others. That is, you cannot use it by itself – you need to pair it with a page builder.

If you are using a page builder or theme builder, though, it should definitely be one of your top options.

How We Tested the Fastest Free WordPress Themes

In order to eliminate as many third-party variables as possible, we tested each theme using its default settings and some basic paragraph text/headings from Bacon Ipsum.

We did not make any changes beyond those defaults, nor did we install any plugins or make any performance improvements. Our test site itself is hosted on a cheap $5 per month droplet from DigitalOcean.

Because of the way we’re testing things, these load times don’t approximate a “real WordPress site”. In the real world, you’ll likely import one of the theme’s demo sites or otherwise add “weight” to the page. However, this approach does provide the fairest way to compare different themes against one another, as there would be too many variables to get an accurate comparison if we tested them in another way.

To collect the test data itself, we used three different tools:

  • PageSpeed Insights – these results are based on Lighthouse. We’re only including data from the mobile test (not the desktop).
  • GTmetrixGTmetrix’s new test is also powered by Lighthouse, but it’s a popular tool so we also wanted to include it. We were testing on a desktop from San Antonio, TX.
  • WebPageTest – we configured it to run nine separate tests and take the median value. We were testing on a desktop from Dulles, VA and with a FIOS throttled connection.

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. Kadence and Blocksy are also newer entrants on the list that have been getting a lot of attention because of their performance and customizability. And the new version of Sydney is also one of the fastest themes out there.

On the other hand, if you’re planning to use Elementor to design your site, you’ll definitely want to use the Hello theme as it’s the most lightweight foundation possible…in large part because it has literally zero features of its own.

Finally, no matter which theme you choose, consider pairing it with WP Rocket to make your website really fly.

Have any questions about the fastest free WordPress themes or how we tested them? Ask away in the comments!


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Comments (19)

I've been using Page Builder Framework, and am wondering how it compares to these themes you've tested. Would you be willing to test it out?

hello, is it possible to test the fastest Woocommerce theme ? thank you.

There are so many themes out there, free and paid. The problem I have run into is that some publishers don't keep their themes updated to be compatible with the latest WordPress version, or PHP versions. I've even had themes with custom coding that no longer functions, and the site has to be repaired or rebuilt. Free themes are good for some, and usually offer a "Pro" (paid) version.

Hi Alice,

The Page Builder Framework is a free theme: https://wordpress.org/themes/page-builder-framework/

Just like some of the others you have listed they have both a free version and a paid version! I look forward to seeing a test in the future. :)

These templates are responsive and taking very less time to load. Thanks for sharing.

I have read your article, it is very great article. Thanks! Really nice post. Thanks for sharing this information.

How does oxygen builder compare?

wow ... many thanks i use arke theme cuz this post ;)

Hi,
I work with DIVI theme and would like to receive your comparison with the above mentioned themes.
Is this possible?
Thank you for your kind response!

Mike

Tested these themes using the official 'WP Rocket method', ie using WebPageTester and viewing the 'fully loaded' results.
The results for Neve (over 5 secs), OceanWP (over 6 secs), and Astra (close to 7 secs) were all instantly dismissable, leaving Generate Press (2 secs but without a CDN) and the Elementor Hello theme (1 sec but going up to 4.5 on fully loaded) as the clear leaders.
Looks like I'll be using Generate Press from now on.

Hi guys :) I am trying to find a theme that has custom blocks for the Gutenberg. Does any theme from the list have such plugins or functionality?

what about newspaper theme

I think the best way to test a theme is to build the same a website/homepage with identical design including the same plugins. The result will be conclusive this way. I have tested Astra Woodmart / Blocksy / Kadence with the same page design and buildups + same plugins.

Hi!
How are these tests made? Do you use the exact same page with all themes?
Do you use the exact same hosting and plugins?
Do you take into account that some themes offer more functionality from scratch which you have to add with plugins or with the pro version otherwise? (hence adding load time)
How many times do you test each theme to derive a middle?

Without an explanation of your methods, this seems as unscientific and/or biased as it can get.
Thanks

Hey Tom,

I answer those questions in the "How We Tested the Fastest Free WordPress Themes" section :)

This post is also just about free themes so any features/weight in the premium version wouldn't be relevant.


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