Our Favorite Trail Running Shoes
Check out our Best Trail Running Shoes article to learn about our current favorite trail running shoes!
New Balance Minimus Trail Zero and Road Zero Review
Back in February of 2011, I reviewed the first New Balance Minimus Trail and Minimus Road giving high marks to both shoes as being excellent and functional minimalist shoes. New Balance has taken these successful designs a step further this time and released their first zero drop shoes in their line, the NB MT00 and MR00. For those fans of the previous versions of the Minimus shoes with 4mm of heel drop, New Balance will continue to make those models. The MT00 (aka the Minimus Trail Zero) and the MR00 (aka the Minimus Road Zero) are not merely zero dropped versions of the previous models, but different animals altogether. Both models will be available in February 2012.
NB MT00 (Minimus Trail Zero)
The Minimus Trail Zero ($100) is definitely the most minimal and lightweight upper of any trail running shoe I have ever worn. Similar to the upper material of many state of the art distance track spikes, the MT00 upper is made of a thin, but very durable, nylon with welded overlays which provided plenty of form but very little restriction throughout the upper. This material does allow dirt and dust into the interior of the shoe, but seems more puncture resistant than mesh. The old Minimus upper seems bulky and overbuilt by comparison. Simply put, this upper looks and feels space age and hugged my foot throughout the heel and mid foot while providing a nice wide toe box. The tongue is made of a thin synthetic leather and the laces are flat and fairly wide which didn’t put any uncomfortable pressure on the top of my foot. The heel collar is flexible and low all around the ankle. There is not an Achilles notch.
I was able to put on the MT00 right out of the box and head out for a six mile trail run without any issues whatsoever. They absolutely fit like a slipper and the pliability of the upper was accommodating whether I wore thicker wool socks or very thin running socks. I did not run in the MT00 barefoot, but I did walk around outside for 3-4 hours in the shoe. The inside of the shoe is essentially seamless apart from where the tongue stitches into the upper and I never felt rubbing on any part of my feet. The barely-there insole is not removable, but is very soft.
After enjoying the original Minimus Trail (MT10) for shorter runs I found that it lacked the outsole protection needed from sharp rocks and I frequently ended a run with a bruised foot where a sharp rock had found it’s way between the lugs. New Balance updated the outsole with larger, more cushioned lugs and reinforced the lugs in high wear area by adding more durable Vibram rubber. Gaps still exist where a stone could get through, but with the outsole being deeper I didn’t have any problems. The MT00 outsole also felt more protective on steep down hills where I couldn’t help but heel strike and the Vibram rubber is placed in all the right spots conducive to trail running.
The midsole/outsole is also decoupled and the MT00 is very, very flexible. I felt my foot working the shoe to dig into uphills in loose dirt or rocks, and, as a zero drop shoe, I was surprised with the ease of transition that I felt since I normally wear trail shoes with 4-to-10mm drops. My calves where a little more worked than usual, but my feet didn’t feel battered by lack of protection. As a non-minimalist runner, I could slip on the MT00 and run trails up to 10 miles without any after effects.
Weighing just 4.4 ounces and being trail worthy is quite an accomplishment. The MT00 may be the new benchmark for what minimalist trail running feels and performs like. It is more protective than the original Minimus Trail and can actually handle some burly trails. Overall, I didn’t notice my feet getting as beat up in the MT00 and the traction and bit of cushioning from the outsole lugs is impressive.
NB MR00 (Minimus Road Zero)
Drumroll please…I’d like to introduce you to the best upper which has ever graced my feet. The fit of the Minimus Road Zero ($110) is simply phenomenal! With a very similar fit and last to the MT110, the MR00 incorporates an innovative tongue design which enhances comfort and decreases rubbing through the midfoot. You could think of it as a mono-tongue which has been tried in the past by other shoe companies but never worked well. The MR00 tongue is part of the upper and wraps over the top of the foot where it slides flush under the outside of the shoe. New Balance used flat laces with flat oval shaped eyelets on the lateral side of the shoe and loops on the medial side to give a highly adjustable, snug lacing system. The fit is perfect throughout the heel and midfoot before offering a splendidly wide forefoot which minimalist runners will love. Like I stated before, I believe this is the exact same upper fit as the MT110, but I cannot be sure because I only tested the MT110 for two months and then had to send them back to New Balance.
The upper material is a dual density mesh with a honeycomb pattern and overlays are welded on sparingly, keeping the upper pliable. Barefooters will love the plush interior that lines the inside of the MR00 and I was able to do several runs without socks and had no issues.
The full-length midsole material is made of a durable EVA foam keep the shoe highly flexible. The Vibram outsole is only found in the high wear areas of a neutral foot strike, which shouldn’t be a problem as the zero drop kept me on my midfoot and forefoot during each run. When I first tried on the MR00 I noticed a feeling of less cushioning along the lateral edge of my feet where the Vibram outsole is most heavily distributed. This was not noticeable while running and I was able to wear the MR00 on the road up to 6 miles without issues and longer on crushed gravel.
For runners, like myself, with a less than perfect gait cycle/ foot strike there are some areas of the sole with exposed foam that could wear over time. This foam is similar to the outsole of the Saucony Kinvara, so my best guess is that it will hold up fairly well. It is important to point out that the MR00 platform is quite a bit different than the first Minimus Road. The MR00 responds and rides more like a stripped down racing flat with greater durability than a stripped down road trainer.
At only 6.4 ounces, minimalists are going to love the fit and feel of the MR00. I can’t say enough good things about the upper and for those looking for proprioception on the roads with minimal cushioning this shoe is it. I especially hope that New Balance incorporates upper akin to the MR00’s into some of their other road shoes.
Words of Caution
Transition slowly in any shoe with zero drop, but especially minimalist shoes such as the MR00 and MT00. I am not a minimalist runner and I will continue to use both shoes as a training tool, but will probably not run longer than 6 miles in either due to my belief that I need a bit more shoe to sustain my training. I have really enjoyed wearing both shoes casually as well because they look amazing and allow my feet to relax and function in between runs.
Call for Comments
- Will you try either version of the Minimus Zero? If so, which model?
- Which features are you most excited about?