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Reviews

Review: New Balance Minimus Trail

Got these shoes from my local running store in exchange for the Asics DS 16. It was another moment of desperation. I had decided not to run any further in my faithful Asics Gel-Enduros and I needed a pair of shoes for the next day’s run. The NB Minimus Trail seemed my best choice that day. Unfortunately, the store did not have size 13, so I had to settle for 12.5. No time for dithering. I barely made it back to school in time for my Sunday library duty!

Style

The Minimus Trails are cute. The orange and black combination is decidedly hot, but my store only had them in black and yellow. These shoes have a 4 mm heel-to-toe drop and sport a perforated Vibram outsole that has five distinct sections: heel, arch, midfoot and forefoot (two areas). The toebox is exceptionally wide, giving your forefoot ample room to flex. Beneath the flexible mesh upper is a chamois-like liner that make these shoes super comfortable for sockless feet. Two things that make these shoes unique: the stability band that cradles the heel and the metatarsal band that provides support for overall toe stability. These shoes are guaranteed to draw stares and complements alike.

Fit

When I first tried the Trails on, my forefeet immediately felt cramped by the stability band and I kept flexing my toes for breathing space. I quickly got used to this, and I never really felt the band on any of my runs. In fact, I think they stretch over time.

My right heel, which is slightly wider than my left, did not quite fit, and I could feel them pushing beyond the sole of the shoe. This would eventually become a problem, as the heels of these shoes are pretty thick. Otherwise, the heel cups fit snugly. My first steps [walking] in these shoes were awkward, so I couldn’t wait to take them for a run!

Ride

My first run in the Trails was a two-mile out-and-back (Monday, June 6). As expected, my calves burned (very low lactate threshold in those yams)! The arch in the shoes did not work well for my right foot. As the heel already did not quite fit, I began to experience pain in my instep from the second mile to the finish. After the run, I took the shoes off and did some drills on grass and pavement—barefoot. No pain! I knew I was in for trouble with these shoes.

June 7, I had an XC 5K race. I used the Trails for my warm up (raced in Hyper XC Spikes). First time on the trail. Had to tread lightly! The next day, I ran four miles on the road. I must say that the Minimus Trails feel extremely light on the road and they force you to run naturally, yeah! It took me a while to get accustomed to using my calves in that manner. On the home stretch of the run, my right ankle began to act up again. It was painful, but I was able to finish well.

On June 9, I took these shoes for my first real trail run. They were fast. My ankle problems disappeared on the trail, and I found myself focusing less and less on my form and just going with the flow. In my regular shoes, I tend to twist my ankles in rough spots on a regular basis. With the Trails, I bounced through intricate root formations. I also discovered there was less pressure on my calves while on the trail. Unfortunately, the two-mile home stretch was all-road. My legs got a rude awakening at the transition. Almost immediately, my right ankle began to hurt. (Again, I think this was a combination of the awkward [exoskeletal] arch in the shoe and my large heel. My foot was forced into an awkward shape and did not quite sit on the sole of the shoe because it was too narrow.) I painfully struggled home, and even had to stop to walk at some point to relieve the pressure in my right instep. That was quite miserable.

Still feeling adventurous, I took off again the next day on a four-mile all-road early morning run. I started slow and quickly burst into a nice stride. A mile away from home, my ankle/instep pain resurfaced. After the run, I performed some barefoot drills on grass with no pain at all.

Verdict

Ultimately, I could not go on running in the Minimus Trails, as they did not quite fit. Maybe size 13 would have worked better, but my local stores did not have that size and I was not willing to go online to order these.

The NB Minimus Trails are a great transition shoe for those who eventually would like to go “true” minimal or even barefoot. The heel-to-toe drop, while only 4 mm, is not insignificant. (I could feel it.) Also, the heel is much heavier than the toe area because of the extra support/cushioning. The may affect the way your foot lands. The stability bands across the top of the feet are not an issue. I think they stretched with time (in my case). At first, they will feel weird, but once you go running, you will barely notice. You may observe, though, that they keep your feet from sliding forward, especially when running downhill. So, they get the job done nicely.

These shoes can also be worn comfortably with or without socks. I found that putting on socks on runs upwards of 4 miles helped keep my arch from getting sore, as they functioned like a second, stretchy skin. It never rained on any of my runs, so I cannot say how they do in wet conditions, but it doesn’t seem like these would retain moisture for too long.

My ankle problem worsened as I tried out other shoes, so I eventually had to take about a week off. I walk a lot in my Trails now, and they feel very comfortable. I may try running in them again at some point. I should also mention that the outsoles are quite flexible and bend with your feet as you run.

According to New Balance, these shoes are built for the trail (the Minimus Roads are available with much more support—didn’t fit and didn’t work for me), but they also work well on the road if you have good form. Even then, I’d prefer these exclusively for the trail, based on my experience. The New Balance Minimus Trail may be a transition for some; others may look no further. For better or for worse (I got both ends of the stick), these shoes will certainly rock your world. Fantastic issue from New Balance.

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