New Balance Minimus Road Review (finally!)
I have been meaning to write a review of the New Balance Minimus Road’s for a while now. Katie and I bought them as shoes for “longer runs” (i.e., over half marathon distance). After “The Jonathan Auyer 30Bday 30k” we realized that our feet had not gotten strong enough for running longer distances on pavement. To that end we decided to buy a minimal shoe that would help us withstand the beating of the pavement on our feet.
First Impressions I loved the look of the red: to me they look really retro ’70s. Also, they work really well as everyday shoes. I actually wore them more around town then as running shoes the first few weeks I was breaking them in. Katie bought the grey/coral/white ones, despite her fear of how easy light colored shoes get ruined, and I love the way those look as well.
After a few runs I think that the other thing I love about these shoes is the deceptiveness of their weight. They are about 8 oz or so, but for some reason every time I put them on I feel like they should be heavier. This is especially evident when I get back from a run a take them off—they feel so airy and light. They do have a slight heel-toe drop (4-5 mm I believe), so they are not a zero-drop shoe. New Balance is releasing a zero-drop version of the Minimus Road and the Minimus Trail in Spring 2012, but since I wanted something that had a bit more padding (and I say that very loosely) I decided to go with this version.
The first few runs I did in them tended to be shorter, 3-5 miles or so. I didn’t want to push myself; I wanted to feel out the shoes. The ride is enjoyable. They are very comfortable though they remain minimal. There is no doubt that the Minimus is a minimal shoe. You feel the ground quite well, though not as much as our Merrell Trail Glove or Vibram Bikilias. But there is still better ground-feel then many other shoes, which allows you to adjust your stride and foot fall depending on the running surface. The feel is, for the lack of a better description, flat and firm. This allows for an easy mid-foot strike, especially (I think) because of the kind of rounded heel design.
The hexagon-waffle design on the bottom of the shoe is pretty neat looking, and while some reviewers have complained of getting things (rocks, glass, shmootz) stuck in the holes I have not experienced any problems. The inside is very comfortable. The lining feels velvety and smooth, making it nice to run in barefeet. That said, I have had some issues with the tongue rubbing on the upper side of my feet, sometimes on the inside and sometimes on the outside. This usually works itself out if I fiddle with the tongue a bit, but it can be an annoying issue.
The long run The long run test was HMRRC’s Hangover Half. I ran in Injinji’s (the normal weight). The majority of the race went fine. No real comfort issues. Somewhere in the mile 8-10 range my feet did start to get a bit sore, but this could be because I was really pushing myself. Again, there isn’t much padding, so if you are not used to minimalist footwear your feet will definitely begin to hurt over the longer distances. By the end of the run my feet were certainly sore, but not as bad as I thought they would be. Also, my inner malleolus’ had been bothering me the week before (the right one actually since the 30Bday 30k in October), but there were no issues after the run. Hallelujah!
Unfortunately blisters resurfaced. I noticed a blood blister on the outside of my right pinky toe. A strange place to have one, which leads me to believe that the cut of the shoe is too sharply (see the above picture). The other place where I got blisters was the big toe and fourth toe of my left foot. Strangely, these did not materialize until later in the week, so I am unsure of their exact cause. Could be the shoe size is too small for longer runs (since feet swell), or it could be that my work shoes are in such bad condition that they added to the blister formation.
Final Thoughts I have to say that I really love these shoes. The light weight and small heel-toe differential makes this a really nice minimal shoe to run in. I will have to hold out a truly final verdict until I can run some higher mileage (15-25), and eventually a marathon. Other than the few blisters that materialized after my half marathon run, I haven’t had any problems with these shoes. If you are looking for lots of cushioning you had better look some place else, but if you want a firm, flat minimal road shoe then you will not be disappointed.