New Balance has long been on the forefront of the barefoot movement, and continues to be with their latest addition, the Minimus 10v2. As the name suggests, this is the second version of the Minimus 10, which hit the scene with a splash only two years ago. The Minimus series from New Balance is designed to promote a more natural running stride, and truly connect the runner with his or her environment. The Minimus line up is the answer for runners who want as close to a true barefoot experience as possible without actually running barefoot through the streets. New Balance certainly delivers that experience, and in spades.
New Balance opened up the Minimus line up for this year, offering a line up which is diverse (for a minimal shoe) in scope, color, and intent. Expanding from last year, there are now two different heel-toe drop options (0mm and 4mm), choices between road and trail, and also a few different options in terms of cushioning. Bear in mind, though, that the New Balance take on this doesn’t include much in terms of cushioning. If you are new to barefoot running, and just attempting to “step” into barefoot shoes, you may want to take it slow for awhile to avoid injury. New Balance strives to be close to the ground, and completely strips cushioning out of most of the line up.
There are numerous companies out there offering a “minimalist” shoe – New Balances take on the movement is characterized by stripping it down to basics. This means that no weight or feature has wasted material or space – on the 10v2, the outsole is dominated by an even platform, there is almost nothing in terms of a midsole, and the upper is made of fine mesh. There are two concessions to comfort on this shoe – one, the inner/ inner upper of the shoe is made of a soft, sock-like material, and the NL-1 last is shaped to match the contours of a bare foot. These two attributes combined make up the bulk of the weight (6.5 oz per shoe) in the 10v2. Interestingly, New Balance also chose to change the lacing pattern, shaping the position of the laces so that they run in a contour up the arch of your foot. This isn’t a new idea in the shoe world (they’ve been doing it on the soccer (football) pitch for years), but it was a nice touch on the 10v2.
My testing period in the 10v2 lasted 10 days, in which I managed to get several miles in on them. I ran on a few different surfaces, including concrete, grass, treadmills, and indoor tracks. The weather in Denver hasn’t been exactly been all sunshine as of late (we’re experiencing a late winter as of the date of this review), so I didn’t get more than 6 road/concrete miles in on them across two short runs, but this was more than enough to get a feel for the shoe. With the lack of cushioning in them, it’s easy to get a feel for how the shoe reacts in all conditions, and my running form doesn’t support running in these for long distances (anything over 6-7 miles) anyway. I feel that runners with a light impacting forefoot stride will benefit most from miles in this shoe; Clydesdales and Athenas (with a heavy heel strike) may want to look elsewhere in order to avoid long term injury.
I liked the feel of the Minimus 10v2 on all surfaces with the exception of concrete. I tested them both with and without socks on; although I liked the feel of them without socks on, I don’t prefer this running style. My feet sweat entirely too much for this, and I could feel hotspots (precursors to blisters) beginning to form as a result of not wicking away the sweat. With socks on, though, I didn’t feel a trace of these hotspots, so I credit this more to my individual body type as opposed to a design flaw in the shoe. I prefer to run in this shoe as a supplement to my longer runs in order to train my muscles to keep better form for longer distances. All runners can benefit from some barefoot training, but it is up to the individual runner to determine just how much is beneficial.
When on concrete, though, I very much appreciated the feel and texture of the vibram outsole. At only 4 mm of drop with almost no midsole, one can feel every contour in the ground. You have to watch your step, though – gravel shoulders and larger stones are very uncomfortable, much the same as if you were actually running barefoot. On grassy surfaces, running in these never fails to evoke childhood memories of running barefoot over grass for a variety of reasons. The outsole remained grippy in most conditions, but did lose traction on wet/slick surfaces.
New Balance firmly believes in this lineup, and gives it quite a bit of space on their website; there is a flavor of minimus shoe for just about every runner out there. If you have been making the transition to barefoot running and have logged a few months of barefoot sessions, you will really enjoy the feel of the Minimus 10v2, as this is the closest feel to barefoot you will get. It’s also nice in that the 4mm toe drop gives your calves a little bit of relief – if you are looking to ratchet your game up, you can head straight over to 0mm offerings in the line up. Head on over to www.newbalance.com to check the 10v2 and the rest of the Minimus line up out.