New Balance Minimus Zero Trail (MT00) Shoe Review
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DISCLAIMER: Minimalist footwear requires adapting your body to a different way of running and strengthening muscles that are not regularly used by most people. Be sure to ease into this kind of footwear and avoid long runs (over 5k) until you have built up the strength and technique needed to not injure yourself.
As a huge proponent of minimilast footwear, I am always excited to try out each company’s forays into the field created by Vibram’s Five Fingers. New Balance tested the waters last year with their new Minimus line and this year they have updated it and done a substantial redesign with two new zero-drop offerings. Zero-drop refers to the height difference between the heel and the forefoot of the shoe. This is a review of New Balance’s zero trail running shoe, the Minimus Zero Trail (MT00). The first thing you will notice about these shoes when you pick them up is the borderline ridiculous lightweight. Weighing in at 4.4 ounces, these could be one of the lightest trail runners ever made. New Balance took everything they learned from their first Minimus shoes and improved the offerings tremendously.
The New Balance Minimus Zero Trail uses a fabric for its upper that is extraordinarily light weight. The primary fabric reminds me of the woven nylon used in racing sail boats. It is very breathable and actually has enough tiny holes to make it somewhat translucent. The upper is reinforced with a durable nylon along wear points like the heal pocket and front of the toe box. New Balance makes pretty durable shoes and I found the New Balance Minimus Zero Trail to live up to that standard. Snagging the fabric on rocks, etc. did not create any rips in the upper. The tongue is made of a thin velvet-like fabric that is soft and comfortable on the top of my foot. The laces are flat and thin and did not produce noticeable hot spots. An important aspect of minimalist footwear is the ability for your toes to spread out as nature intended and thankfully the New Balance Minimus Zero Trail has a very wide toe box that accommodates my large forefoot. The rest of the shoe has a nice snug fit through the midfoot and heal and hugs like a glove where it should. The inside is all one piece of fabric and therefore very comfortable for sockless wearing. I do wish there was a pull tab on the heel to help in putting the shoe on but that would have added weight. Another weight saving measure by New Balance was to include a very minimal toe bumper and this is something to consider when hitting the trail.
There is a lot of research suggesting that thick padding in shoes is partially responsible for the abundance of running injuries in this country and the Minimus series seeks to avoid this with a relatively thin mid/outsole. The stack height (from ground to top of footbed) is a scant 13mm. This provides excellent ground feel and a real connection to what your travelling on. The zero drop from heal to forefoot forced me to use my more natural mid foot strike and I appreciated having a shoe that didn’t fight me in this regard. One of the complaints of the original New Balance Minimus Trail (which had a 4mm drop instead of 0mm and continues on in the MT10 line) was that the outsole allowed rocks and sharp objects to poke up into the shoe, causing discomfort. New Balance did a solid job addressing this by adjusting the pattern of rubber contact pads on the outsole and adding reinforced Vibram rubber to high contact points in the balls of the foot. In my tests, I did not notice an unusual amount of discomfort from rocks,etc. Remember, though, you will feel these things under your foot in a way you wouldn’t with a thick soled shoe. As far as traction goes, I absolutely loved how the tread pattern gripped the trail effectively and it was great on hikes as well.
New Balance has always put a high importance on fit and function in their shoes and they’ve used their many years of experience to craft a phenomenal minimalist trail shoe. The Minimus Zero Trail (MT00) is one of my all time favorite pieces of footwear and anyone looking to free themselves from heavy, thick soled trail runners should definitely check them out. They come in 3 fairly flashy colors so be prepared to answer questions about your cool new shoes.