Gear Review – Minimalist running shoes – New Balance Minimus Trail

How things have changed over the past year or so. In mid-2010, my brother-in-law (also a runner) and I talked about the importance of proper running form in both kids and adults to maximize the enjoyment of running and minimize injuries. He talked to me about barefoot running and recommended I read the book Born to Run (by Christopher McDougall). The barefoot running movement was starting to gain traction among the broader running community. To make a long story short, in the Fall of 2010, I bought a pair of New Balance 100 trail shoes (which I reviewed here), and after tearing up trails, roads and the track for more than 500 miles in a pair of NB 100 over the past year (alternating with other New Balance shoes), I decided it was time to retire them for a pair of New Balance Minimus trail shoes.

I love this shoe – kudos to New Balance for creating an amazing barefoot/minimalist running experience with the New Balance Minimus trail shoe. There is nothing not to like. These shoes put wings on my feet…

Continue reading my review below the photos.

Side profile and uppers of New Balance Minimus Trail shoes, 4 mm drop from heel to forefoot

Front rubber wrap prevents foot from sliding off midsole platform when landing

Integration of upper with platform, wide forefoot allows foot to expand on impact

Closeup of rugged Vibram soles, perfect for trail running, superb traction on any surface

Reinforced toe wrap protects against rocks and roots, raised sidewall in heel prevents lateral slippage

Contoured soles help shoes “roll over” objects on trail, raised sidewall prevents lateral slippage

Stitched tongue keeps out trail debris

The NB Minimus Trail was born from the NB 100, with the New Balance team collaborating with elite ultra marathoners with a racing mentality to create a shoe that embodies the core values of the NB 100 with several important differences.

New Balance has incorporated these core values into the branding of the NB Mininus Trail shoes:

  • Less is More: The shoe has a minimal midsole and outsole and has no insert. Construction of the shoe enables a midfoot strike and provides enhanced ground feel and control.
  • Light and Right: The shoe is carefully engineered to deliver performance in an extremely lightweight package.
  • Natural Position: It positions the wearer’s foot into a more neutral stance, which encourages midfoot strike.

What is the same/similar:

  • 4mm drop (from heel to midfoot), which provides a more natural foot position than traditional shoes.
  • Wider forefoot allows your foot to expand naturally on impact.
  • No insert, minimal midsoles & outsoles to minimize distance from the ground, and engineered to encourage a midfoot strike.
  • Contains only what is necessary, making it almost 50% lighter than traditional lightweight shoes.

What is different (and in my opinion better):

  • Better integration of uppers with platform than NB 100, results in better stability, enhanced protection and improved comfort.
  • Raised sidewall prevents lateral slippage, important in a trail shoe.
  • Reinforced toe wrap protects against rocks and roots, again what I would expect in a good trail shoe.
  • Durable, rugged Vibram sole, which wears longer and grips better on various surfaces and weather conditions.
  • Front rubber wrap prevents foot from sliding off midsole platform when landing
  • Stitched tongue keeps out trail debris, so the shoe acts like an aqua sock to keep unwanted stuff out./li>
  • Wide forefoot allows foot to expand on impact (feels wider than in NB 100).
  • Overall, better engineered and more robust construction with only minimal weight gain compared to NB 100.

I love these minimalist trail shoes. New Balance has produced an exceptional next generation version of the MB 100 with important upgrades. Yes the shoe is marginally heavier, but the cost/benefit in my opinion make sense. I have “trail” tested these shoes and feel confident that I will wear them for my first 10K extreme trail race next weekend.

$100 at New Balance New Canaan.

Important note: New Balance recommends that you start slowly with the NB Minimus trail shoes (about 10% of your weekly mileage) because the shoes will place additional strain on your foot, Achilles heel and tendons. I agree.



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  2. […] What differentiates this training shoe from others is the ingenious design that results in a light, neutral trainer that can be used every day and which continues to perform (meaning it is durable and responsive) well past its expiration date (about 500 miles for most running shoes, actual mileage may vary depending on runner and shoe). I have run about 700 miles in my 1st pair (I just replaced them with a 2nd pair) on different surfaces and terrain, and worn them for various types of workouts, ranging from tempo runs and easy, longer runs on the road, intervals on the track, and cross country runs on trails and grass (although I prefer to run cross country in my New Balance Minimus trail shoes that I reviewed here). […]

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