New Balance Minimus Road Review

Available in March 2011, the New Balance Minimus Road as part of the company’s Minimus line along side the Minimus Trail and the Minimus Life.  The entire line features a 4mm heel-toe drop to aid in forefoot striking, lightweight construction, and a “less is more” philosophy which is literally the graphic on the shoe “< = >”.  Very clever, but I wasn’t convinced that this would be a shoe that I could run in on the roads.

New Balance Minimus Road upper lateralFirst Impressions
Having had the pleasure of running in the Minimus Trail, I expected similar construction, weight, and road feel just without the Vibram outsole.  The Minimus Road is slightly heavier than the trail (8 vs. 6 ounces) and the shoe immediately reminded me of a vintage NB shoe in both appearance and simplicity.  This shoe is incredibly simple and to the point.  It lacks a removable insole, which is consistent with the rest of the Minimus line.  It feels very well constructed.

Two things I noticed immediately were that the shoe fits a half size small (even compared to other recent NB shoes including the Minimus Trail and MT101) and the forefoot is narrower than other recent NB shoes (widths will be introduced in Fall of 2011).  When researching the specs for this shoe, NB states that they created this shoe from the same Minimus last and that the forefoot width is the same as the shoes named above.  This narrower feel could also be caused by it fitting a bit too small for me, but I still feel like the forefoot was narrower in this shoe just from looking at it.  Due to the snug fit, testing the shoe in my usual fashion a bit difficult, so I was subjugated to a series of 5-7 mile outings on the roads, crushed gravel paths, and bike paths.

New Balance Minimus Road upper lateral white

The women's New Balance Minimus Road.

Upper
The Minimus Road’s upper is plush and, for those indoctrinated  in the practice, could be worn sockless without irritation.  New Balance reverted to very simple laces rather than the bubble laces they’ve been using lately.  The heel collar features ample padding (no achilles irritation here) and the shoe was very comfortable right out of the box.  At first I was disappointed that the upper wasn’t some barely there mesh, but after road tests in colder weather I appreciated the protection of the Minimus’ upper from the elements.  That does not prevent the upper from being breatheable and its tough, dual layered mesh should be plenty durable.

New Balance Minimus Road UpperMidsole
The Minimus Road is a firm ride with the EVA in the midsole feeling more like dual density rather than pillowy foam (compared to a Nike Lunaracer of Saucony Kinvara).  I’m sure this will increase the durability of the shoe and I feel it provides a better road “feel”.  This doesn’t mean that the shoe lacks cushioning, in fact quite the opposite is true.  For comparison’s sake I feel like the closest companion in the current shoe market to the Minimus Road is the Brooks Green Silence.  I find that this firmness increases the propensity of midfoot/ forefoot striking, but whether people like the firmness or not will be a matter of personal taste.  This firmness also increases the amount of support the shoe offers and I feel that it could accommodate neutral runners to mild pronators without issues.

While the name first had me envisioning a barely there racing flat, the Minimus Road is a training or uptempo shoe for everyday running.  I also was surprised by the overall height of the midsole as it puts a significant amount of material between you and the road, something I appreciated.  The minimalist aspect of this shoe is really contained in its low drop and lack of support devices rather than lack of midsole foam.  There really isn’t much in the way of arch support in the Minimus Rd and to NB wearers this is to be expected and appreciated, allowing the arch to function un-impeded by artificial support.

Outsole
The Minimus Road features a grippy outsole consisting of hexagons that do not protrude out from the outsole.  I never experienced traction issues with the outsole and I appreciated that it didn’t get in the way.  The heel of the outsole features carbon rubber and is rounded toward the back of the shoe to decrease heel striking.  I felt that it automatically led me towards a midfoot plant.  There are no flares on the outsole and every edge feels rounded and natural.

New Balance Minimus Road OutsolePerformance
New Balance could have easily made a low profile racing flat style shoe and simply called it the Minimus Road.  However, it would not suffice as a training shoe for those of us out there who don’t feel that our metatarsals were made to pound pavement.  The features of this shoe which make it a unique development are the rounded heel, low drop, and overall durability of this shoe that facilitate it being an everyday trainer.  That being said, the “Born to Run” crowd may be disappointed by this shoe.  Early specs released by New Balance brought jeers regarding the 4mm drop and many wondered why NB didn’t create a zero drop shoe.  I abhor large 12-14 mm drops in running shoes, but I am not someone who could run high mileage on the roads in a zero drop shoe (not yet anyway).  I think that the 4mm drop and significant and firmer cushioning allow the Minimus Road to be worn as an every day high mileage shoe, and not just a training tool as the Minimus Trail is often referred to.  This shoe reminds me of my time working at a running specialty store and finding the trainers and racing flats from the 1970s and 80s before Nike came out with gigantic air pockets.  These shoes were firm, durable, and flat without any bells or whistles.

My own experience in the Minimus Road was that I wanted them to be a half size larger so that I didn’t have to cut my run short for fear of blisters on my toes.  This shoe made me want to get up on my toes and turn the legs over.  In fact my second run in the shoe turned into an improptu tempo run and I felt like the firmness of the midsole aided the shoes transition.  I especially liked wearing this shoe on crushed gravel paths as the firmness of the midsole complemented the softness underfoot.  I enjoyed the simplicity of this shoe and a back to basics approach in construction and features.  Personally, I am pleased that New Balance made a performance oriented shoe with enough protection for high mileage running on the road rather than a prop for the weekend warrior identifying with a fad.  This shoe represents moderation for the minimalist crowd rather than gravitating to the extreme poles.

For a someone who trains on the roads and is looking for a more minimalist shoe I would recommend the Minimus Road as a great shoe to encourage a more natural foot strike.  Transition to this shoe with caution, as the 4mm drop will leave you with sore calves that can pull on that Achilles tendon and pretty soon you’ve got crunchy crepitus buildup around an inflamed Achilles tendon.  NB even includes a warning for new folks transitioning to minimalism.  I have no doubt that this shoe could withstand 500 miles of road running and could function as an everyday trainer.  However, I would be very careful about rotating a shoe with a 4mm drop with a shoe with a traditional 12-14 mm heel drop as you may experienced the aforementioned issues.  And remember, buy a half size up!

Availability
The men’s Minimus Road will be available in the blue/green and black/red versions seen above. The women will have a white/orange version. All colors will be available at the initial March 1 release. The shoes will retail for $100.

Call for Comments
Are you looking forward to trying this shoe? Do you favor or incorporate minimalist shoes into your road running?

New Balance Minimus Road river

Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar's Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 70 comments

  1. Rishi

    Could someone tell me if the trail shoes are good to use on a treadmill. i am not a professional runner but i prefer the lighter shoes. i got the trail minimus in black as i absolutely adore the feeling on my feet when i wear them. it feels similar to my first running shoe the adizero in yellow..introduced during the football worldcup in korea.

  2. Nigel

    I don't like these shoes to much. I bought a pair and what ends up happening to me is my joints start hurting rate after each run. I'm not sure why. Maybe because the bottom of the shoe is very hard. The shoes just doesn't let you land naturaly like a vibram does. If you want to go minimus with less joint pain get a pair of vibram's.

  3. Chin Wui Mon

    Hi There,

    Been running with Minimus Road for a while but usually not more than 7-9 km.I find it rather too firm but i do like the forefoot area being wide n the lightness as well. Would you recommend this shoes for a road marathon use?

  4. Matt

    Has anyone else found that the construction of the shoe while standing causes your foot to roll inward when you stand there. I did not feel this when I was trying them on at a major store. I came home and ordered the shoes online and felt this immediately upon putting them on. I have been running barefoot for about 2 1/2 years so I know this is not the position my foot is striking the ground in. It seems to put a lot of pressure on the outside of my big toe. I just wanted to see if anyone else had experience this. Maybe I am weird or maybe I got a defective pair of shoes. There is also the possibility that this shoe just isnt right for me.

  5. mike

    Matt,
    Yes. I notified the same inward roll when standing, much more on my right side than left. I also was thinking my shoes might be defective. I don't really notice it when running though. It also seems to be getting better as I get more mileage on them. I only have about 20 miles on them so far. I have had some calf soreness but I am stepping down from Nike Bowermans–big change.

  6. Matt

    Mike,

    Thanks for your input. It appears we are not alone in this. I must say I am not blown away with the shoe so far. I wish they would have made the outsole flat instead of trying to pitch the shoe so it puts your foot in the position that "they" think it should be in.

  7. John doe

    If I may make one suggestion. I used to own a pair of these but it was a bit heavy, too firm and I didn't like the way they felt. Since then I have switched to Saucony Hatori's and they are so much lighter and better

  8. André

    Hi, I from Brazil and started running with this shoes.. I like minimalist style, and a running 5km for day and 5 days of week.

  9. Bill

    I've been using NB Minimus Road for 6 months now, mainly in 10K and 21K. I switched to minimal shoes coming from those thick padded Adidas shoes and before I used to get injured almost every long runs. When I switched to NB Minimus Road, I've had no injuries since and my pace increased. I enjoy running more now. I'm doing my first marathon in 4 weeks and will trust it with this pair. I think I'm gonna need to buy a new same pair, hope there is still out there. I simply love this shoes.

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