Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Bright colors, minimal/barefoot performance
Cons: Can get sweaty, uncomfortable seams on the interior.
Best Uses: Barefoot/minimal trail-running, road running, walking, hiking, working out
These are a slightly more robust shoe than the Vibram Spyridon LS - Women's, but still fall in the minimalist category. If you want to get the barefoot experience, but don't like things between your toes, or are unenthusiastic about the attention you might get when wearing FiveFingers, these are a great choice. However, the Spyridon's were more comfortable and have better traction than the Minimus.
One thing that might trick you is that these are not neutral or zero-drop shoes. They have a 4mm drop from the heel to the toe. However, this is a small amount of drop, and the midsole is relatively thin overall, so you certainly still get to feel the ground more than most other shoes we tested (the only exception is the Vibram Spyridons, the Keen A86 TR - Women's come in at a really close third place).
The current version of this shoe is the New Balance Minimus 10v2 Trail. Like its predecessor, it still has a 4mm drop and is designed with that barefoot feel in mind. For more info, you can check out our review of the men's New Balance Minimus 10v2 Trail.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
It seemed like New Balance's effort to streamline and simplify this 4mm drop shoe cut one too many corners as far as comfort is concerned. When you wear these shoes without socks, you can feel some of the seams on the inside, and the edge of the shoe around the ankle was a little rough and rubbed around the back of the heel. Keep in mind that this shoe is for someone who is looking to experience the barefoot/minimal running experience. See our Barefoot Shoe Buying Advice article for general thoughts to consider and advice about going "barefoot."
The outsole rises up high around the big toe, creating some extra protection from toe-stubs. The shoe does have a thin foam midsole, so there is a little bit of thermal protection. Other than that, there is minimal protection.
Although the outsoles are made of Vibram, a time-tested durable material, the lugs are very low-profile and not multi-directional. With the minimal nature of the midsoles, you'll need to be running nimbly when wearing the Minimus anyway, but, they were a little slippery on snow and ice and just don't have the design to really dig in if you needed to crank on rough terrain. For something more beefy, either the Salomon Speedcross 3 Women's or The North Face Ultra 105 GTX XCR Women's will grab the trail better.
In our research, we noticed users complaining of discomfort from the band the goes across the forefoot at the base of the laces. Even with a wider forefoot, we did not notice this band at all. The Minimus has an inner liner that is supposed to make sure your foot stays comfy when not wearing socks. The opening around the ankle does not have any cushioning material, and the seam for the tongue on the inside both rub a bit.
The New Balance Minimus are quite lightweight, the second lightest of all the shoes we tested, weighing in at 12.94 ounces per pair. They are lighter than the Keen A86 TR, which are noticeably lightweight transitional trail runners with slightly more protection and cushion.
The Minimus uppers have three layers. There is an outer layer of stiff, open mesh; there is a middle layer of a thin foam grid to help keep its shape; and lastly there is an inner layer of fine mesh to make the shoes comfortable when not wearing socks. This fine mesh does make the shoe comfortable enough to wear without socks, but it also seems to limit their breathability. Without socks, our feet got sweaty fairly quickly, even while just sitting around at the office.
Some of the dense foam midsole is exposed on the bottom of the shoe between the lugs and sections of the outsole. This design contributes to the flexible feel of these shoes, and the foam is pretty durable, but there were a few spots where the foam was ripped and scratched from rocks and rubble on the trail.
These shoes excel at barefoot/minimal trail-running, road running, walking, hiking, and general working out. They are not great for use on rough, steep terrain where burly traction is key.
The Minimus falls in the middle price-wise when compared to the other shoes we tested. Due to the relative inexpensiveness, we think it's a fairly good value if you are looking for a minimal-style trail runner.
New Balance Minimus 20v3 Cross Trainer
New Balance Minimus Zero Trail v2
New Balance Minimus v2 Glow in the Dark
New Balance Minimus Zero v2
— Sarah Hegg
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Most recent review: June 27, 2013
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