New Balance Minimus Prevail Review
Cons: Pricey, floppy and clunky, heel slips, narrow toebox, questionable durability
Manufacturer: New Balance
Our Analysis and Test Results
We spent quite some time wearing these, trying to bring out their best qualities and find where they fall flat. As we mentioned in our boil-down, they're not ideal road shoes. They're best employed as cross-trainers, suitable for high-intensity circuit training with lots of trotting around and skipping to different stations. That said, they fit a bit loose and have a heel slippage issue, so speed training isn't necessarily ideal. Still, they're good if you're doing a little bit of everything.
Minimalist shoes are meant to inspire the user to rely on their body instead of the gear. There is very little energy loss in the 4mm REVlite midsole of the Prevail, which is a refined EVA material that New Balance claims to be 30% lighter than standard EVA foam. It's a pretty firm ride, so it has decent responsiveness. The drawback is that the heel slips, so you still lose energy scrunching your toes to try to mitigate that issue. At the very least, it's annoying as all get out. New Balance tried to address this with its molded foam Asym collar and the external TPU heel counter, but neither really fix the problem because the shoe doesn't have a natural fit or adherence to the foot. It earns a mediocre score in this measure. It's still better than your average shoe, but it's not a champ here.
This measure is very runner-dependent for this style of shoe. If you're a traditional runner, you may not be psyched on the minimalist landing of the Prevail. For minimalist runners, however, the landing is not too bad. The REVlite midsole is thin while still offering just enough cushion to buffer impact. Additionally, the outsole is made to create a uniform landing platform by evenly dispersing force. What's slightly off-putting here is that in their effort to improve stability, they flattened the bottom into a broad platform — more like Nike Air Force 1s than good Minimus shoes. This unfortunate design makes the landing into a real flop-fest.
For any runner annoyed by the muddy clog feeling, these are a decent choice. Most everything about them is lightweight and utilitarian. Even their 4mm REVlite foam midsole is reportedly 30% lighter than comparable material. The rubber on the outsole is strategically placed only where it's needed most — to target high-impact areas — which also helps shave off weight. If a light running shoe is what you're after (or a light cross shoe), keep this on your shortlist of candidates.
An advantage of a more minimal shoe is that it usually only has the essentials, and those are engineered to be tough. The upper on the Prevail is a durable knit mesh, but there have been a handful of reports of it coming unglued. We didn't see any sign of this in our testing period, but it's something to keep an eye on. Down at the bottom, Vibram rubber protects the entire midsole. Barring any catastrophic failures like an unglued upper, these should last a good while.
One of the best things about minimalist shoes is their natural fit and comfort. The Prevail has a bit of that, but their shortcoming is in the attempt to be more stable and responsive. They seem to be trying to fill the gap between barefoot and flats that Brooks or Saucony might put out, and they're not quite there. They've added more padding to the heel collar, which isn't a bad move, but the heel still slips.
The upper on the Prevail is generally roomy and unrestrictive, but the toebox is a little narrow compared to the midfoot. The stiff sole with its flat platform shape also makes for an uncomfortable upper experience on longer runs. It can sometimes feel too floppy, almost like running in a padded Tupperware box. As we've said throughout this review, it's really not a terrible shoe, but don't buy it thinking you're going to have a great time running a 15K every weekend. It's a good multi-sport generalist when you need to hit a bunch of different activities and trot around a bit.
It's not surprising to see these doing well in this measure. The thin knit upper allows moisture to escape while still letting cool air flow through. There are a few spots in the heel with extra padding and impassable barriers, but the midfoot and forefoot still have great ventilation.
For this particular Minimus model, we feel its retail price is asking too much of a premium. If you can catch it with a 25 or 30% discount and you do a lot of cross-training or hit the gym quite a bit, then go for it.
So, no, the Minimus Prevail didn't win any awards, but that doesn't mean that they're not the right shoes for you. As we've said throughout this review, they are pretty good for cross-training and are decent multi-sport generalists. They need a little more refining in future models and should do a better job of embracing the minimalist style that brought the minimalist line into such vogue. A good deal of the bitter comments we found related specifically to the line moving too far afield from its minimalist origins, and we have to agree. New Balance has a full range of shoes with all the arch support, cushioning, and stability you could want, but it shouldn't mock the very name, Minimus by being anything but.
— Ryan Baham