A few months ago, Carly reviewed the Merrell Road Glove 2, which is one of the most highly regarded minimal running shoes available. For the last year or so I have been running on Nike Free Run 3s, which are a ‘minimal-ish’ shoe with a small drop, very light construction, but still a decent amount of cushion. I’ve always been ‘minimal curious’, and on Black Friday last year I found a great deal on the New Balance Minimus. The shoes I got had serious issues and I needed to return them, and basically gave up. But apparently I left them on my wish list at the shop, because in April I got a new set as an anonymous birthday gift (yay!).
I have now put nearly 400 miles on them, so I figured it was about time to render an opinion!
NB Minimus is a whole new approach to footwear, a place on the spectrum from barefoot running to the traditional maximum-cushioning running shoe. Inspired by Good Form Running and designed to be worn with or without socks. With only a 4mm drop from heel to toe, as little as a third of that of a traditional running shoe, the NB Minimus collection holds a world of discovery for neutral runners; additionally, Good Form Running teaches methods of improvement for those seeking to conquer gait issues.
– Synthetic/mesh upper provides lightweight comfort and support
– Odor resistant
– Minimal Vibram® outsole for lightweight traction and durability
– Deconstructed ACTEVA® midsole provides great flexibility and a featherweight cushion
– Color: Silver with Lime
– Weight: 213 grams (7.5 oz)
Carly talked in detail about the various types of running shoes in her guide, which describes minimal running shoes … but also shows why it is such a hotly debated topic. The bottom line is this – minimal shoes are the lightest, thinnest shoes in a manufacturer’s line-up, with a maximum heel-toe drop of 4mm, and as small of a cushion stack as possible.
To say there is a lot of debate on whether minimal or zero-drop shoes make sense is an understatement, with new data coming in nearly every week or so it seems. I won’t get into any of that here … this is just about the shoes.
The New Balance Minimus lineup has both zero-drop and 4mm drop shoes. The Minimus MT10 I am reviewing is a 4mm drop shoe with a minimal cushion and a very light upper. It weighs more than you might expect looking at the upper – but that is due to the Vibram sole designed for trails.
When you look at the upper, you will notice it is incredibly thin all around, and thinnest on the top of the toe box. Fortunately New Balance provided an elasticized constrainer just forward of the laces, and they added stitched material to keep your toes from poking through the top of the shoe.
In terms of comfort, these are not the types of shoes you’ll slip on and think ‘aaah’ – you feel like you are sliding your foot into a barely cushioned slab of rubber with barely anything on top. The laces are long enough and cover enough area to fully contain your foot and help position your foot properly.
My complaint with the fit is around the back of the ankle. For me the back came up and drove into the heel rather than being flat. It is an area that other shoes hit (in particular the steel toe shoes I wear for work when at a manufacturing site), but in this case I find it causes significant friction. Since the initial wearing I have worn socks and sometimes also band-aids, because you can see what happened when I tried to wear them without socks when I first got them!
But once I wore socks and allowed my heels to heal, I found the shoes were very comfortable. I built up considerable calluses on my heels, but every other part of my foot was surprisingly well supported and comfortable. I say ‘surprisingly’ because with shoes that have a 11mm total stack, you don’t expect much comfort. But I found that there was enough cushion to be comfortable without taking me away from the road.
While the MT10 shoes are designed for light trail running, I have mostly used them on paved roads. From the first run I could tell the difference with these – I could feel the road under my feet and was much more in touch with my surroundings. Within a week I was doing one of my longer routes, which took me near the local airport that has a considerable crown on the road. I felt that crown much more with the Minimus than with my Nike Free Runs, which pushed me to make sure I was running the flat part of the road whenever there were no cars.
That ‘road feel’ was very important and one of the key elements of minimal running – with heavy cushions your joints and muscles will still have to deal with things like sloped road, but you might not notice until you feel pain or get an injury. The Minimus protects you while communicating the surface.
I did run some trails with the Minimus, probably ~50 or so miles out of the 400 I’ve put on the shoes. All of these are at the Shaker Village in Kentucky where I have been traveling on business. The trails are a mixed of crushed stone, bridle path, field and natural paths. The Vibram soles helped provide a grip, but the minimal design meant that I would feel every bump, rock, stone and branch. For these trails the Minimus worked very well, but for anything more robust or challenging you would want something with stronger soles.
One of the big concerns I had was how long the shoes would last – I had heard bad things about the Minimus falling apart quickly, but I didn’t have any issues at all. If you look at the image below you can see that the toe-box looks solid after running from early April until now. Most of the running is post-winter as I slowly moved from mostly using the Nikes to mostly using these, but there were plenty of wet and muddy days.
So far I have put about 400 miles, and many experts claim that you should replace running shoes between 400 and 600 miles. These shoes are not close to being worn out yet, nor to falling apart. I get the feeling that I am not too hard on shoes, since my current Nike Free Runs have more than 700 miles on them and are in good shape as well (but definitely show the wear). Either way, for me the build quality and lasting value of the Minimus is not a concern, but I wanted to note that others have had issues.
What I Like: Very light; solid design and construction; long-lasting; great road feel; packs easily for travel
What Needs Improvement: Heel touch-point caused issues for me.