Written by Neil Bryant - www.ultrarunninglife.com
When I first read about the New Balance Minimus range a while back, I was interested in the trail shoes, but for some reason I wasn’t attracted to the road model. Since then I have trained and raced in low profile shoes. i.e. shoes with a low heel to toe differential, mostly 4mm and have got very comfortable with it and really favour it over shoes with a high heel. This of course has sent me on a bit of a mission to hunt out and try (if finances allow!) all low diff shoes. I have recently bought and ran quite a few miles in the Brooks Pure Flow shoes and I am very happy with them. I have pretty much decided that these will be my main shoes that I will take at least three pairs of to the Trans-Europe race in August, but I want a second shoe so that I can give my feet a rest from the Flows and give themsomething new to pound the tarmac with. Just for the sake of change really. And so my interest perked up to the New Balance Minimus Road. They have the 4mm drop I now love, they are light at 232g, they have the rounded heel which I am growing fonder and fonder of and they also have a bit of cushioning which I will be definitely after as I cross country after country. So,let’s go over the build.
The material on the upper of this shoe is what seems to be pretty standard amongst many shoes out there at the moment. This being a fairly wide mesh overlaid with a finer net-like mesh, providing comfort, good drainage and excellent breathability. The fine mesh also prevents debris entering. There is a thin layer of suede like material that encloses the toe hopefully preventing your toe rubbing through. The size of the toe box was pretty average, being not a narrow fit but certainly nothing really roomy. The heel cup is very minimal, almost non-existent really. For safety there is a flash of reflective material on the back and a piece on the bottom of the tongue. The laces are thin and flat, which need to be double knotted from my experience, but are fine. Not as good as the laces on the Brooks Pure Flow though. The tongue is pretty thin and unpadded and un-gusseted, a little like the tongue on the Brooks Pure Connect. Both very comfortable. I do wonderwhether you need any real chunky padding on tongues? The inside of these shoes are designed to be barefoot friendly. That is, they are smooth and seamless to cut down on rub points. This is backed up with the lack of a removable insole. I have never owned a pair of shoes like this before except for the Merrell Trail Gloves, and have no need for it as I always wear socks, but in the name of professionalism I will wear them sockless on my 11km run later and report back (I can report that they were pretty comfortable without socks for those sockless runner out there). There is a little more padding around the back and sides of the opening, which is pretty plush for a fairly minimal shoe. The build quality of the whole shoe seems very tidy and robust as to be expected from a large, well-established and respected manufacturer as New Balance.
So what are the stats here. Well the heel to toe differential is only 4mm and the stack height for the forefoot is 7mm and the heel is 11mm. So although this is a pretty minimalist shoe, it is still fairly well padded out. Also, I should note that if you get these shoes and you are not used to low diff shoes then Take it very steadily. Ease them into your routine a little at a time and slowly build it up. The foam is pretty average as far as shock absorption goes, though not as spongy as the Brooks Pure Flow. I find that although you don’t get so much protection in the form of cushioning, the pay off is that you get much more proprioception. That is you get a lot more feedback from the surface you are running on which is a good thing as it forces you to run with a far smoother style. You are more in tune with the ground that is passing below you. This is a really nice feeling. Whether it is good for me to put some decent mileage into with relative comfort is yet to be seen. One unusual thing I noticed with these before I’d ran in them when I was taking the pictures of them, was that the heel is level, but when you roll them forward to the forefoot area, they gently roll inwards, that is they pronate slightly. This is obviously no design mistake but I am not sure I understand the thinking behind it. For me personally though I land a little too much on the lateral edge of my foot so I think this could possibly be a good thing. Again, time will tell.
So let’s move onto the rubber. At first glance due to the similar colour of the outsole to the midsole, you could easily be mistaken for thinking that there is no rubber except for the black piece at the heel. On closer inspection though you will see that the outsole has indeed got a rubber coating. The tread is a rather unusual geometric design that I have currently put 44 km into and can say that they feel pretty sticky. The lateral edge of the forefoot is bevelled which I hope you can see in the picture. Again the reason for this I am not sure. Maybe it is linked to the pronation feature? Let me know if you know what both these features are for or if you have any ideas. The rear end of the heel as has already been mentioned is rounded so as to encourage forefoot strike. I love this and look for it on every shoe I get now. I can’t yet vouch for the durability of the sole as I haven’t done enough in them yet. I will update at the bottom once I have some decent mileage on them.
I have only ran in these for four 11km runs so I will be brief and add to it once I haveclocked up some more time in them. The fit is fantastic for my feet. The padding around the heel feels nice and the tongue is very comfortable. I had no problem getting the laces at an even and comfortable tension over the top of my foot. My forefoot seemed to be fairly uncramped without being loose and I have not suffered from any slipping around in the toebox. When I first walked in them I could straight away feel my foot pronate as I went from my heel to my forefoot. I kind of liked the sensation. It’s pretty subtle. Whether it affects my technique I have no idea. I like running in these shoes. They feel fast. I want to push myself a little more when I’m in them as it’s fun. I put the fun factor down to the higher level of proprioception. It just feels good and really forces you to watch your footing more intently. My thoughts at the moment are that these are a fantastic shoe that you could put some pretty good mileage into but nothing really heavy which is what my current quest is for. I will certainly get some fun runs out of these though and they will get plenty of use. I will be interested to see what I report back with when I have more experience in them. Will I feel the same?