New Balance Minimus Trail 10v1 Review
Cons: Snug fit, hard soled, lack of downward flexion
Manufacturer: New Balance
Our Analysis and Test Results
After a few flawed attempts at improving on their original design, New Balance engineers clearly decided that if it "ain't broke, don't fix it." The manufacturer's site states that "the original fit and feel of the Minimus Trail 10 is back," and we couldn't be more excited. A durable mesh construction, supported by an ACTEVA midsole and multi-directional Vibram outsole lets you tackle rugged trails at an FKT pace without fear.
Although it is listed as a trail shoe, there's no need to pigeon-hole the Trail 10v1 as a strict trail runner. In fact, there are certain characteristics that shine on the trail and others that perform better on the road. Compared to some other trail runners, this shoe is super sturdy all-around. From the top-down, the lightweight Trail 10v1 hugs your foot: the fit is slender, there is a synthetic midfoot wrap, and the tongue is sewn into the sidewalls.
It is the base of the Trail 10v1 that really sets it apart — and clearly defines it as a minimalist rather than a true barefoot shoe. While this running shoe doesn't include an insole, it does include an ACTEVA foam midsole. ACTEVA is a special type of foam that resists any compression (unlike other more-conventional compression-molded foams that offer plush support but will pack-out over time.) This meant we were able to crush rough trails without fear of misstepping on a rock and injuring the soles of our feet.
But it also means that the soles of these shoes are rock-hard and equally unforgiving. Well-within the minimalist camp, this shoe offers no additional support — our feet were definitely feeling that aspect the day after longer-distance trail runs. With a design very similar to a conventional racing flat, the hard-soled Trail 10v1 also excels on the road. This shoe has nice upward flexibility, allowing the midfoot and arches to appropriately tension and powerfully rebound, giving the feeling of gliding across any and all surfaces.
Minimalist trail crusher? Absolutely. Uncompromising barefoot-integrity? Not quite. With a construction that is slightly more forgiving than a true barefoot shoe, we believe that the Trail 10v1 is a perfect introductory shoe to the world of minimalist running. There are two main characteristics that simply do not allow us to label this as a "barefoot shoe." The first — and maybe most important to the die-hard barefoot crowd — is that this shoe is not zero-drop. That said, a 4mm heel-to-toe drop is still much, much less than anything you might find in a conventional trail runner, so this shoe will undoubtedly feel quite flat for most.
Secondly, the inclusion of a midsole diminishes overall ground-feel. More than just this additional feature, we found that the ACTEVA foam is too stiff to afford much downward flexion. This is likely the biggest downfall of the Trail 10v1 — oftentimes, our toes would curl inside the shoe instead of pushing down and digging into the dirt. We appreciate the extra protection on the trail but could not help but notice the reduced proprioception.
Despite these flaws, we still award this shoe some points when it comes to barefoot accuracy. There is no included arch support or extra bells and whistles of any kind, and the majority mesh-upper is incredibly breathable. Overall, the Minimus 10v1 maintains a simple, lightweight structure that will appeal to anyone looking to strike out on longer-distance trail runs.
Weighing in at only 7.2 ounces per shoe, it may surprise you that these numbers tend towards the heavier end of the spectrum when compared directly to the other models in our review. But numbers can be misleading!
Much more important than scale-weight is that these shoes feel super light to run in. Our first impression — like the first time stepping into a racing flat — is that the Trail 10v1 makes you want to run fast. The upper consists of two types of mesh: a lighter diamond-mesh for the tongue and top of the forefoot; and a more heavy-duty, more tightly-gridded mesh for the back and sides. Even running over hot concrete (and in a black colorway), this shoe feels light and airy. Whether on trails or roads, you can expect featherweight agility from this shoe.
The base of the Trail 10v1 is a Vibram outsole, with a rounded lug design that looks very similar to the Stealth rubber of the Five Ten Guide Tennie. These round lugs are intended to provide multi-directional traction so that you can hop all over the trail without having to worry about if your next footfall is going to stick.
On rocks — both solid faces and loose scree — this approach shoe-like design is solid, giving the confidence to plant and boost off rocks in the trail. Despite a relatively narrow heel pocket, these shoes are also very stable when side-hilling. But unfortunately, when it comes to straight-forward climbing and descent on trails, we were not impressed with the overall traction.
This outsole design ironically provides better traction on roads than it does on trail. But it takes active concentration of applying even pressure across the ball of your foot to propel forward — a sloppy running style will leave you feeling like you're running on a treadmill. This feeling of your feet slipping underneath you is particularly true on dry dirt trails, but fortunately, they do perform better when trails are tacky.
The Trail 10v1 is a solid shoe, regardless of discipline. They may be a little overkill for the gym, but from roads to trails, these trainers provide a very similar feel and boast an overall impressive performance. They have the feel of a traditional running flat but are impressively stable on off-road terrain despite their low-volume design.
Many of the loops we ran started on pavement, shifted to dirt roads, and eventually progressed to mountainous singletrack. The Trail 10v1 gracefully transitioned from one condition to the next, offering a really enjoyable running experience across the board. We believe that these shoes would be a great entry-level option for those looking to dip their toes into minimalist running, regardless of medium.
Don't underestimate this shoe based on its slender appearance and featherweight feel. The phrase "rugged durability" practically sums up the Trail 10v1. Even after weeks of uncompromising field testing, these shoes looked like they could have been pulled out of the box yesterday — the lugs hardly revealed any wear from abrasion! While our review of durability is inherently limited by our testing period, it is safe to say that these shoes are built to last.
Our impressions from field testing are only supported by the bomber construction of the 10v1. Without a doubt, the engineers had the harsh realities of mountain running close in-mind when they designed this shoe. A Vibram sole extends to a half-rand at the big toe, and the extent of the toe box is reinforced at the rand-seam with an extra overlay of thin rubber.
Although this shoe has a lightweight mesh upper, the areas that often see the most abrasion — the end of the toe box and sides — are constructed with a much more durable 3D-spacer mesh. Additionally, the midfoot and heel-pocket are supported by rubber straps that both help the shoe maintain shape and hopefully prevent blow-outs.
A middle-of-the-pack runner when it comes to value, don't expect any sort of price break simply because there is less material used in the construction of the Minimus Trail. For performance alone, we believe that this shoe is well worth the cost. Combine that with long-lasting durability and consistent fit, and you have a solid investment. This shoe has a cult-like following among trail runners — we're very excited that New Balance decided to bring back the original design of this crowd-favorite.
So much more than just a barefoot running shoe, the New Balance Minimus Trail 10v1 is a minimalist trail runner's dream. Performing well on both trail and roads, this shoe is a great pick for the trail — and one that is primed to offer so much more over its lifetime. A paired-down construction that is both featherweight and offers tank-like durability, the 10v1 is ready to tackle whatever long-distance trail loops you can dream up. Just make sure that your feet are in a condition to keep up!
— Aaron Rice
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