New Balance Minimus Trail Shoe Review

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, I lost the joy of running. Riding my bicycle, getting a driver’s license, and joining the workforce probably all played a part, but it’s that last bit that probably did the most damage. Working at various office jobs meant hard sole shoes with a deep shine. And time on the bike required stiff soles with cleats. So it’s no small wonder that I started to develop foot issues. Every time I tried to run, there was pain involved. A doctor that happened to be a runner suggested I consider switching to minimalist shoes. While I was familiar with the “barefoot” movement, that would be a big leap for me and my feet, and I was advised to take it very slowly. First order of business was shoes for work. Since I spend at least eight hours a day in an office, they’d have to be something resembling a shoe, and not the running kind. See my solution to that here. Once I grew accustomed to having footwear that allowed my feet more natural movement, it was time to look for a running shoe. Enter the New Balance Minimus Trail (MT10) shoe.

New Balance created quite a stir when they came out with their Minimus line. Situated somewhere between actual barefoot running, and those thick soled, cushiony shoes that so many have been wearing in for years, they strike the perfect balance for someone looking to improve their form as well as their running experience. With a VibramĀ® sole and a host of synthetic materials, the Minimus is lightweight, flexible, and immensely comfortable.

New Balance Minimus Trail Shoe

As you can see from the photo, the Minimus is very well ventilated. It’s essentially a larger mesh material covered in a thin mesh, with the tongue and area over the toe box constructed of a finer woven material in the same diamond pattern. Some strategically placed synthetic leather provides additional support, while keeping the overall weight down around seven ounces. The interior is extremely smooth and well-finished, so there’s nothing to irritate bare feet.

New Balance Minimus Trail Shoe

The VibramĀ® outsole has several low, evenly-spaced lugs about the size of a dime. While this undoubtedly contributes the majority of the weight, it’s also what makes the MT10 such a great shoe on the trail, as there’s plenty of traction available for climbs and descents. The sole itself is pleasantly flexible, due to being reasonably thin. With only a few mm difference between the forefoot and heel, it’s not quite flat, but much more so than a traditional running shoe.

For those that aren’t aware, you cannot simply lace up a pair of minimalist shoes, and start running. If you’ve been wearing hard, inflexible soles for any length of time, you’ll find that some different muscles come into play when you go minimalist. So take it slow. You’ll have to learn to walk again before you can run. Running in the Minimus will not magically correct pronation issues, nor will it suddenly stop heel strike. But over time, you’ll relearn what you knew as a barefoot child, and gain better form. Had I not been wearing some other similar shoes already, my first few outings would not have gone as well as they did. Even then, it’s best to start out with shorter runs, and work your way up to your usual distance. Due to time constraints, (and recovering from a missing toenail) I was limited to short runs on a mildly undulating dirt path. And it was pure joy. The Minimus conformed perfectly to my feet, with no constriction of the toes, and no hot spots to cause irritation or blisters. Their weight was hardly noticeable, and the soles provided a nice balance between traction and a feeling for the trail. My feet were protected, but no longer insulated from the terrain. Reconnecting with the ground at each step, I found what had been missing for so long. Although I’m not likely to cover any marathon-like distances, I can at least enjoy the simplicity and solitude of a good run over the rocks and through the trees again. If that appeals to you, it might be time to check out the Minimus Trail.

– Brian

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