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New Balance Minimus Trail 10v1 - Women's Review

A lightweight, supple, minimalist-inspired running shoe that features excellent traction on trail
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Price:  $115 List | $86.58 at Amazon
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Pros:  Great trail traction, supple forefoot, wide toe box, soft interior, durable, breathable, secure fit
Cons:  Snug in the midfoot, thicker heel, heel-toe drop of 4mm may be more than some barefoot users desire
Manufacturer:   New Balance
By Lyra Pierotti ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 10, 2020
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57
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Performance - 30% 4
  • Barefoot Accuracy - 25% 5
  • Weight - 15% 7
  • Traction - 15% 9
  • Weather Adaptability - 10% 6
  • Durability - 5% 5

Our Verdict

New Balance has brought back the fit and feel of the original Minimus Trail 10 with the Minimus Trail 10v1, and we are pleased that they did. The shoe still features a 4mm heel-to-toe drop, making them not a strict minimalist or barefoot-inspired design with zero drop, but potentially an excellent shoe for those not yet ready to ditch the elevated, cushioned heels they've become accustomed to in running shoes. Despite this minor concession, the 10v1 retains many of the features we love in a minimal running shoe: a wide toe box, relatively thin sole (and even thinner under the forefoot), supple uppers, and a soft interior that ensures sockless comfort. There is a little bit of arch support, reinforced by a snug, sock-like fit through the midsection of the shoe, which can be adjusted for tightness and security with the excellent lacing system.

Our Analysis and Test Results

The New Balance Minimus Trail 10v1 feels fun when you put it on. There is a 4mm heel-toe drop, which some minimalist enthusiasts won't like, but the soft uppers make the feet feel free and bouncy.

Performance Comparison


Glad to have a little more shoe underfoot when the trail gets rugged  and stoked on the traction of the Minimus Trail 10v1 when the going gets slippery.
Glad to have a little more shoe underfoot when the trail gets rugged, and stoked on the traction of the Minimus Trail 10v1 when the going gets slippery.

Performance


New Balance has brought back the original feel of the Minimus Trail 10 with this iteration of the 10v1. This shoe is not strictly "barefoot" in style but retains several of the key attributes of a minimal shoe. It has a wide toe box that allows your toes to splay comfortably, and very supple upper materials so you can raise your toes with ease as you prepare to land on your forefoot. The sole is also softer and thinner in the forefoot, which allows you to feel some of the bumps in the road and keep the feet stimulated during runs, walks, and workouts.

Testing a variety of terrain types in the Minimus Trail.
Testing a variety of terrain types in the Minimus Trail.

There is a slight arch support, reinforced by the snug and adjustable lacing system. In previous versions, this was too tight and restrictive, but the latest model blends lightweight support with a minimal feel, making this a great shoe for those transitioning to zero drop or minimal footwear, or for minimal shoe enthusiasts looking for something a little more supportive and protective for longer runs on rougher terrain.

The very slight 4mm heel-to-toe drop is not noticeable when running with barefoot form (where you land on your mid- or forefoot), but we could feel it when walking. We have really grown to prefer zero drop shoes, so this was a turn-off for walking long distances. For anyone worried about the occasional heel-strike while running, these shoes may ease some of the stress and offer a little heel cushion as you re-train your body to land further forward on your foot.

The toe box has a built-in upward curve, which we don't like because it takes extra effort to flatten the feet when landing or even resting. After months of training foot strength, these shoes felt like they were trying to put our feet in a slightly unnatural position. Some of our colleagues report foot fatigue in these shoes that they don't get running in other shoes, and we are suspicious that it may come from having to push your toes downward against the upward bend of the shoe.

The 10v1 can be worn with or without socks, and when worn without, the interior feels as soft as a chamois cloth for a fancy sports car. We certainly agree with New Balance here — our feet definitely deserve to be treated like a high-end hot rod!

Barefoot Accuracy


New Balance gives the Minimus 10v1 a 4mm heel-to-toe drop and some extra cushioning to make it more approachable for those interested in getting into barefoot or minimal footwear but who aren't quite ready to make the leap to zero-drop just yet.

With a 4mm drop from heel to toe  the Minimus Trail 10v1 is not a pure minimalist shoe  but might be a great transitional shoe for those looking to minimize footwear.
With a 4mm drop from heel to toe, the Minimus Trail 10v1 is not a pure minimalist shoe, but might be a great transitional shoe for those looking to minimize footwear.

We really like barefoot-inspired shoes that hug the feet like a sock, so we were initially drawn to the look of the Minimus Trail. However, these do not check all of the boxes from our research to qualify as a pure, minimalist shoe. But they are close and may be a good transitional shoe for some users.

From our checklist:
  • Zero drop from heel-to-toe? Nope, 4mm drop.
  • Sole made of one material? Two…
  • Soft and flexible sole? Definitely.
  • Thin sole, less than 10mm thick? New Balance won't say, but it seems to be mostly under 10mm, certainly at the forefoot.
  • Non-restricting but secure lacing? Very secure, a little snug.
  • No arch support? A little bit…
  • Breathable uppers? Super breathable.
  • Straight axis, no in-flared shape or curve? Could be straighter through the forefoot.
  • No forefoot concavity? Check.
  • Wide toe box? Yep.

There is a nice, supple footbed, though the heel is stiffer than the forefoot, which means these shoes do not leave your feet to their own devices as well as the models we tested with the soft and supple sole from heel to toe.

Great forefoot flex on the Minimus Trail 10v1 due to the thin  supple Vibram sole and the flex grooves underfoot.
Great forefoot flex on the Minimus Trail 10v1 due to the thin, supple Vibram sole and the flex grooves underfoot.

These shoes also have a 4mm elevated heel which is not a perfect match for the strictest definition of "barefoot" footwear. This is a minimal shoe that serves as a way to transition to lighter, softer footwear, and may help slowly develop lower leg strength and restore some running efficiency by giving you improved feedback from the ground.

The Minimus Trail shoes also rotate smoothly through the forefoot to allow your running form to feel as natural as possible with a little more shoe underfoot than is "standard" for minimalist footwear.
The Minimus Trail shoes also rotate smoothly through the forefoot to allow your running form to feel as natural as possible with a little more shoe underfoot than is "standard" for minimalist footwear.

The toe of the shoe also curves upwards, reminiscent of the toe spring in more common cushioned running shoes — and which has been shown to weaken toes over time by reducing their ability to grip the ground and aid in the push-off. Again, not extreme nor a deal-breaker, but this does further underline that these are better viewed as a transitional minimalist shoe.

Weight


These shoes are lightweight, only 14.5 ounces for a pair of size 10 women's (41.5 European sizing). These are also well balanced, meaning they carry evenly on the feet and allow a quick and light-feeling running stride.

Traction


The Minimus Trail 10v1 has some of the most impressive traction in this review. The circular lugs are highly sticky, made of Vibram rubber. They are also well spaced to allow loose dirt to pass through and find more solid terrain underneath.

Testing traction on a backyard balance beam--and stoked on the Vibram sole with round "suction cup"-like lugs.
Testing traction on a backyard balance beam--and stoked on the Vibram sole with round "suction cup"-like lugs.

The traction is so good with these shoes that sometimes we thought those little circular lugs were miniature suction cups on our pads. The supple forefoot with flex grooves in critical bending locations improves traction as well by helping your feet mold around rocks, curbs, bumps, and other inconsistencies in the trail.

Versatility


The Minimus Trail 10v1 is a fairly versatile minimalist shoe, especially for those looking to strengthen their feet and lower legs, and to transition from cushioned footwear to minimal or barefoot-inspired shoes. For reviewers well accustomed to walking barefoot and running in zero-drop, minimalist footwear, these are not pleasant for walking, as the heel-to-toe action of a walking stride highlighted the 4mm heel-to-toe drop. However, the forefoot is thinner than the heel as a result and made for a very pleasant running shoe for those running with a mid- or forefoot landing, as is encouraged for proper impact absorption in barefoot running technique.

For those well-adapted to minimalist footwear with a zero-drop sole  the Minimus Trail will likely still be fun for running  but the 4 mm drop is perceptible more when walking  since you roll from heel-to-toe.
For those well-adapted to minimalist footwear with a zero-drop sole, the Minimus Trail will likely still be fun for running, but the 4 mm drop is perceptible more when walking, since you roll from heel-to-toe.

In one of our field tests, we went for a 15 mile run on rough trail, and thoroughly enjoyed this shoe and appreciated the protection it offered. So, if you're just getting into minimalist footwear, this is likely to be a highly versatile shoe for you. If you're already into zero drop, the 10v1 may only be fun for you on longer runs.

Durability


The Trail 10v1 blends lightweight materials with durability in critical areas. The mesh uppers are not the most durable fabric, but the coating around the toes and the extension of the rubber sole at the pinky toe helps to beef up areas commonly abraded.

Value


The Minimus isn't the best deal in this review, but it's not far off, either. If you're looking for a slightly more supportive trail running or ultralight hiking shoe, and you're curious about minimizing your footwear, this could be a good way to start the transition.

Conclusion


The New Balance Minimus Trail 10v1 is certainly a minimized shoe, but it does not hit all of the key components of a barefoot-inspired or truly minimalist shoe. It features a 4mm heel-to-toe drop instead of the pure zero drop style lauded by the purer minimal or "barefoot" shoe advocates. However, it still has a relatively wide toe box with a flexible forefoot, as well as supple upper fabrics that allow your toes to bend, rise, and flex with relative ease. This might be a decent shoe for those unsure about committing to the stricter "barefoot" shoes, but interested in exploring minimal footwear.

The New Balance Minimus Trail 10v1 is fun for long runs on rough terrain.
The New Balance Minimus Trail 10v1 is fun for long runs on rough terrain.

Lyra Pierotti