I first heard about the New Balance Minimus Zero Road way before it came out. It was more like a rumor, actually. Something like “Next Spring, NB is coming out with a zero-drop version of their Minimus and it’s going to be a huge improvement.” Considering that nobody I heard from seemed to like the original Minimus Road, and that I couldn’t even get my wide feet into a pair of the original trail shoe, almost anything would have been an improvement as far as I was concerned.
At this year’s Boston Marathon Expo (uh…no, I didn’t run the race, I just walked around the expo with my friend Brad), I strolled into the NB booth, talked a little about barefoot running and my blog, dropped a few names (*cough* Jason Robillard), and tried the Minimus 00 Road and Trail on for size. After talking shop for twenty minutes or so I
begged asked the really friendly dude working there for his contact info so I could test a pair of each for review. He happily agreed, and even though he wrote back and promised to send some out, I never got a thing.
I legitimately wanted to try out and review these shoes, both styles, so I was determined to get some. But these days I can hardly quantify purchasing running shoes, since I already have so darn many. So I gathered up some extra funds that I’d earned from designing a book cover, and I picked up a pair. I chose to try the road version first, simply because I spend a higher percentage of my time on roads these days.
Before I realized they offered a wide-width version, I bought the regular width road shoe from a third-party seller that offered free shipping. When they came in I was so damn excited that I threw them on my feet immediately. But wouldn’t ya know – they were very, VERY narrow for me! Worse than the original Minimus Trail, with that strange, inflexible rubber band across the widest part of my foot. It hurt so much just to stand in them, I didn’t even want to try running. I sent them back.
Then, a few days later I was rummaging through the NB site and I figured out that they offered a wide-width shoe. When I got it, I found that it was wide enough, but still only barely. In my opinion, like with the Merrell Pace Glove, the wide-width version of this shoe is the one they should be selling to the majority of consumers. I realize that I have a strong and perhaps biased opinion about the width of minimalist shoes, but hear me out: I believe that a good minimalist shoe should be built on a wider platform than most traditional running shoes, because it must allow a lot of wiggle room for your toes and never squeeze your foot. I know I should allow for the reality that some people have very narrow feet, but I don’t think it makes any sense to go as narrow as NB tends to go. In my opinion, the wide-width of this shoe should be sold as the default because the last comes closer to providing the right amount of room for an average-width foot, and the narrower shoe should be a “narrow-width” alternative for those with exceptionally narrow feet.
But again, I digress. Let’s just move on to the review portion of this post, shall we?
Before I talk shop, let me start by releasing my inner girl: these are absolutely, without a doubt, the cutest, coolest-looking running shoes I own (the Merrell Dash Glove comes in at a very close second)! They offer five delicious, on-trend colors; I chose the bright teal, although the juicy lemon yellow called to me as well. The men’s colors are pretty bold and excellent, too. This shoe is shapely, sexy and very sporty – it looks hot, and it makes me look fast (I’m not fast).
Stats & Fit
Built on a lightweight, absolutely zero-drop Vibram sole (love those guys), the Minimus 00 Road weighs less than ten ounces per pair. Lots of gait analysis research went into these soles, so they’ve been rebuilt with several strategically-placed rubber pods to increase durability in the heaviest landing spots. The rest of the sole is made from a semi-soft foam that ends up providing the shoe with a tad more cushioning than you would normally see on a minimal running shoe. It’s a stiffer sole, too. I couldn’t quite get them balled up enough for my usual one-shoe-inside-the-other photo. Some purists may scoff, but long road runs can really beat up your feet, and for some, that little bit of cushion could mean a few more miles of relative comfort.
There are a few other cool things about the build of this shoe that I want to mention. The upper is made of a nicely absorbent mesh; it may end up being a pretty stinky shoe and need frequent washings, but I was able to run several sockless miles in them without much issue. Another combined factor is the mostly seamless liner inside, and the cool wrap-around tongue and slightly asymmetrical lacing that make them all more comfortable and form-fitting.
If you’ve noticed that the toe box is somewhat pointy, it is. But it’s really not the problem I feared it would be, at least not on the wide-width. I actually prefer it; the pointy end actually leaves some extra space for my big toe, so it’s not banging up against the top of my shoe the whole time I’m running. I’ve lost a couple toenails that way.
Only problem I had with the fit is the heel cup: it’s really tall and inflexible. After one five miler in these, I had to wear a band-aid on my heel for a couple days. This shoe does fit slightly long on my foot (they run true to size, but I ordered a half-size up because I like a little extra length to save my toenails), so that could have been why. Can’t know for sure.
Performance and Durability
Even though these shoes are pretty wide, the outside of my foot still bows over the edge of the sole a little bit. It’s not a lot, but enough that during my first run in them, I could feel the outside edge of the sole digging into my 5th metatarsal. After a couple miles though, either the foam squished down or my foot got used to it, because it didn’t really bother me anymore. It’s hard to tell as of yet if it’s doing anything to my form, but my guess is not much because I make absolutely no sound running down the road in this shoe. I feel like a goddamn ninja.
This is very good.
One peculiar (though, not exactly bad) thing I noticed about this shoe, is that there’s just something about it that makes it feel a little like wearing traditional trainers. Just a little. I don’t know if it’s something about the way the sole is constructed or what, but it feels a bit front-heavy I guess. It might be that, like traditional sneakers, the sole is trapezoidal – wider where it touches the ground and narrower as it goes up – so you’re running on a shoe that is wider than your foot where it touches the ground. I’m not sure how I feel about this, or if it even changes anything, but other minimalist shoes I have tried work the opposite way, where the sole is rounded to the floor. This also could be an effect of having a sole with a bit more cushion.
And speaking of cushion, since the sole of the 00 Road is mostly made of foam, my guess (and hope) is that it will crush down into the shape of my foot over time, and will wear even better. The rubber pods on the sole beat down pretty quickly, quicker than I expected. I’m only about 20 miles in but there is some noticeable wear on both shoes on the outside of my mid-foot, where I first land. The rubber seems pretty thick though, so I guess we’ll see how many miles I can put on them.
I also have some question about the durability of the ultra-soft mesh upper. Even though it’s comfy and breathable, it seems like it could snag and tear pretty easily. But then again, these are road shoes so I guess you’re not expected to run into a lot of debris. Of course, you never know what a klutz like me will find on a road. :)
Overall, New Balance’s first truly zero-drop road shoe is pretty darn good. I find it to be a solid improvement over their previous offerings. With really sporty looks and some excellent color ways, the 00 Road is among my favorites for style and cool-factor. I’m really glad that they had enough insight to develop the wide-width last, and I look forward to putting more miles in. I consider this a year-round shoe, with good coverage and breathability. The price is pretty on-par with the rest of what’s out there, at around $110.
Have you tried the NB Minimus Zero Road yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
- How to Find Your Mid-Foot (barefoot-monologues.com)