Barefoot Shoes

New Balance HI-REZ Minimus Review

In practice, the ground feel of the Hi-rez is absolutely tremendous. Surprisingly you can’t really feel the individual hexagons underfoot, but rather it feels like one uniform sole. In a side by side comparison with the Vibram El-X, running on a varied terrain of asphalt, grass, and dirt, there was virtually no noticeable different in ground transmission. It’s really just amazing what New Balance has been able to pull off in this regard.

A FiveFinger alternative without the fingers!

Hot on the heels of a reboot of the original Minimus lineup, New Balance has released one of their most minimal shoe designs to date—the Minimus HI-REZ. The reaction of everyone who I’ve shown this shoe to has been a Keanu Reeves style “Wooah!” Read on to learn why!
The first thing you notice about the Hi-rez when you pick a pair up, is just how darn light they are. It feels like there is nothing to them and at 3.7oz it’s on par with some of Vibram’s lightest offerings. The second thing you notice is how flexible both the upper and the sole are. The zero drop sole diverges from that of a standard minimalist shoe in that it is made up of a series of hexagonal “pods” that are held together with a tough but flexible fabric. Just how flexible? Take a look at this marketing photo of a pre-production version of the sole at the right. In fact, the sole is so flexible that when the shoe is turned upside-down, it will actually sag in the middle under its own weight:
Also, the material used to hold the hexagonal pads together in the sole provides no waterproofing whatsoever, so even dew from wet grass can seep in through the bottom. The upper is a made up of thin mesh with a ”burrito style” tongue that those familiar with the road versions of Minimus and Minimus Zero will recognize. The mesh is overlaid with a soft decorative rubber which gives a bit of shape. By comparison, the thickness of the upper is similar to that of the New Balance Minimus Zero Trail, but isn’t quite a thin or sheer as something like the Vibram El-X or SeeYa.

Fit, Feel and Function

New Balance really nailed it with the Hi-rez. Putting these on is like putting on a pair of slippers—the mesh lining is soft and comfortable and the uppers contour to your feet with a process the NB marketers have termed “FantomFit.” I generally prefer sock with shoes, but I am comfortable enough going without in these for shorter runs. The toe box is nice and wide, with plenty of room to wiggle your little piggys and the heel cup is pleasantly snug without feeling too tight. There is no noticeable toe spring and the toe box flexes and widens as your foot lands with each step. The lacing system is pretty standard and allows you to cinch things up pretty securely if needed.
In practice, the ground feel of the Hi-rez is absolutely tremendous. Surprisingly you can’t really feel the individual hexagons underfoot, but rather it feels like one uniform sole. In a side by side comparison with the Vibram El-X, running on a varied terrain of asphalt, grass, and dirt, there was virtually no noticeable different in ground transmission. It’s really just amazing what New Balance has been able to pull off in this regard. Almost all the shoes I wear casually or for workouts these days have a zero drop heel and the Hi-rez were actually so comfortable that I found myself wearing them around the house long after my run or workout ended. Lastly, I found sizing and fit to be accurate and consistent with other New Balance shoes, keeping in mind that the Hi-rez does have an intentionally wide toebox. Pricing for a pair will set you back $120 (Zappos has them here, here), which falls into the mid-range of New Balance’s pricing range for running shoes, but is towards the higher end of the spectrum of minimalist shoes in general. There are three color ways for both men and women. The bright neon colors trend that currently seems to be all the rage right now continues: For men, there is a hi-viz orange and white, hi-viz green and black, and somehow New Balance manages to even make the black with silver look flashy as well. Women also have flashy options with a grey and pink, silver and pink, and a purple and white.

Closing Thoughts (and Photos!)

New Balance has hit a homerun here for anyone who is a serious minimalist runner or wants the maximum amount of ground feel possible in a shoe without individual toe pockets. The Hi-rez is definitely not a shoe for beginner runners and I could see someone easily hurting themselves if they didn’t build in ample time to transition and adapt to minimalist running. I think serious weight lifters and the Crossfit community will also like these a lot as they promote good form when doing heavy Olympic lifts and other exercises like squats and deadlifts. If you’d like some more reading and background on the development of the Hi-rez, New Balance had been teasing this shoe for the past six months with a series of blog posts on their website. There is some really interesting stuff that is worth checking out if you’re interested in design—including reshaping the packaging in which it’s sold. Questions or comments? If you have picked up a pair, be sure to let us know your thoughts!

By Tim

I’m am a bicycle advocate by profession and an Ironman triathlete for fun which keeps me healthy and fit. I got into minimalist footwear during the summer of 2009 after dealing with injuries resulting from running in “normal” running shoes. Check out what’s going on in my life through photos at [url=][/url] or follow me on twitter: [url=]@TimKelleyDotNet[/url]. Get to know Tim better via [url=]his interview here[/url].

30 replies on “New Balance HI-REZ Minimus Review”

I really want those. I truly think that my Zero Trail is the best shoes ever, they are so comfortable, light and flexible, way better than FiveFingers since they don’t demand perfect toe for toe fit and also lack the annoying arch pressure that the Fivefinger models have.

I’m not a runner, but a guy who likes to walk and ride my bike effortlessly, and the Zero Trail with their super thin and light sole is the perfect shoe for riding a bike, really, it protects the feet but doesn’t get in the way of the force transfer to the pedals.

So yeah, to think those are even lighter than the ZT, they surely are a must have.

Sounds good but $120? I am confused at why minimalist shoes — made of less stuff and made more ugly cost so much $. I am a VFF devotee love my Luna Sandals but the price of some of the stuff I see on here defy reason. These should cost $60.

Any shoe that dainty doesn’t seem durable enough for crossfit workouts. I’ve been anxious to see this shoe come to market, so likewise I’m curious how durable you think it might be over the course of 5 or 600 miles, or even crossfit.

Looks like you’ve got a lot of extra space in front! How would you compare this with the Vapor Glove? I’m intrigued but not sure I can justify the expense.

I’m with Joel M on this. I just picked up a pair of Signas as casual kicks at REI for $80. Those are pretty light for VFFs and use less rubber in the sole than the others I own (Bikila, KSO), and I feel the pricing reflects the amt of material used.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to take the HI-REZ for a spin (plus they look sweet!), and would _probably_ love them (I own the original trails), but I would not pay $120 for a pair of minimalist shoes. Even coming in at $100 is much more palatable, and at least consistent with previous Minimus offerings, than $120.

How would you rate durability of the upper? I had the Minimus Trail Zero and loved everything about that shoe, minus the upper ripping in the toe box within two months of use. Thanks for the review!

I went to the store to try them on, and they even had a New Balance rep there. The shoes just couldn’t fit me. I usually wear 11 like a 44 with Vibrams, my arc is apparently too much though and my foot too wide because the Hi-Rez wouldn’t fit, even a 12.

Maybe when they get wider options I’ll try them again but I keep having problems with the top of my foot, the pressure on it in some shoes is too much.

Meh, I’m not sure if it’s a better choice than the Merrell Vapor Glove, which are $40 less. Dew from wet grass being able to seep through the bottom sounds pretty annoying.

Compared to the Vapor Gloves these look very similar. But with more stack height and lighter weight. The Vibram sole on the Vapor Glove adds to the weight. Which in turn makes Merrells barefoot shoes last forever. I can not wear out my Trail Gloves! At $80 and probably longer wear I think the Vapor Gloves are a better deal. But then I have not tried the Hi-Rez.

Went out and grabbed a pair of these last night and they’re going back to the store tomorrow.

The lack of different widths meant that I had to go half a size up. They were comfy in the store but they fit much less snug when I started running in them. The laces also came undone close to the end of my run which was very annoying (and I had tied them tightly).

Ran around some walkers through wet grass/mud that I didn’t know was there and it all instantly went through the shoes. They dried fast but that doesn’t happen with other minimalist shoes. My feet were caked in mud at the end of my run.

The worst thing were the stitches and sharp edges on the inside that kept digging into the top of my feet and eventually scraped off some skin. Before you buy these run your fingers along the inside of the shoe where the eyelets are and you’ll feel some unnecessarily sharp edges that made running very uncomfortable.

Definitely not worth the price.

Just thought I’d put it out there regarding price – runningwarehouse (who regularly offers discounts from msrp) will have these in mid-March.

The honeycomb design looks suspiciously Evo I and Evo II like… (of Vivobarefoot). Love the orange, though.

The second flaw of VFF is water resistance (besides the awkwardness when people ask you about the toes)… and this is worse in that regard. Also, the colors leave a lot to be desired. The Minimus zero at least came in black.

It’s also priced at luxury levels (100+) and unlike Vivobarefoot stuff they aren’t that small of a company so I can’t imagine tooling and the workers to be more expensive.

“Also, the material used to hold the hexagonal pads together in the sole provides no waterproofing whatsoever, so even dew from wet grass can seep in through the bottom.”

Makes me wonder why anyone would want this shoe. You can already risk getting wet feet, for a lot less money, by going barefoot. A shoe should serve a purpose.

@Brian–sorry, I don’t have any experience with the Vapor Glove. Anyone??

@Jason–durability is tough to tell. I think they’d make a great platform for crossfit though.

@Dave–the upper seems tough enough for road running. You might want to rethink you choice if you plan on putting them through serious trail running though…

I was able to try these and the Merrell Vapor Gloves this afternoon. First the Vapor Gloves: I had reservations from what I felt in the store. The tongue and laces were digging at my foot and the sole seemed too stiff for me. The Hi-Rez? They felt like a dream!! I am big on a flexible sole, so my foot can flex whichever way it needs to and these do that better than any other shoe I have tried. These are the best compromise I can imagine between cushioning and flexibility. I’m not worried about the possibility of water seeping in. I rarely hit a puddle out on the road. I also think they’re priced way too high. But these are a breakthrough design in my view,

I’ve been running in the hi-rez for three weeks now in what seems to be the final step in my process of changing to minimalist running. I had been running on the minimus trail shoes for the last 5 months and though it took a couple of weeks to get used to the Hi-Rez, I have grown to love them. The amount of ground feel is truly amazing and has improved my running form immensely. I like running in them without socks especially since the morning dew will get your feet wet in them. I am 50 years old and have been a runner for 33 years and have never felt better running than in these shoes. For me, they have been well worth the money

I find the toebox way too narrow and I don’t have exceptionaly wide feet. Maybe I’m just too used to having all that movement running in VFFs that regular closed toe shoes feel restrictive.

Hope not though. I don’t want to be dspendant on any particular kind of shoes or brands.

Does everyone else really find the hi-rez toebox to be sufficiently wide and comfortable as stated in the article?

I just tried them on in store today & also feel the toe box is too narrow. I have medium/ normal width feet. I tried a half size up from normal & my toes could splay more but there was too much room from front to back. Otherwise pretty comfrtable. TOO comfortable. DOes anyone know stack height? I get annoyed at shoe companies that spend all this time & $$$ on R&D for barefoot shoes and they FORGET or NEGLECT a properly wide toe box (it’s simple guys, put your dang foot on a piece of paper and splay your toes. Now TRACE it. Also I can’t get behind any barefoot shoes over 6mm stack height!! Ughhh back to the drawing board NB

I don’t quite understand the fuss and complaint about these shoes. You don’t pay for the amount of material. All the material added together of the shoe probably costs less than $10. One pays for the research and the rights of the patented process. They spent millions on the design of this shoe and they feel absolutely amazing. Think of it this way: do you pay for the amount of material in a Buggatti Veyron (don’t think so).
Not everyone has $120 but then again we are not all super athletes. Note that these shoes will likely be seasonal as the EVA won’t last very long nor will the individual polygons-I can already feel the eva compress and the front polygons rip loose.
They are intended to be more for a raceday option and in my opinion, the Vibram Seeya is the better option if you have they right form. I do prefer these for downhills though!

what i love: the sole. the ground feel is both very detailed, but the landing is so soft. the hexagonal pods are a revelation and the first sole that address feel and softness and doesn’t seem to sacrifice one for the other.
what didn’t work at all for me: the width. i’ve tried on a lot of minimus shoes since they came out, and only last year’s trail zero in 4E is wide enough. i thought the fantom fit would be forgiving enough, but there is simply not enough volume for my feet. at every landing the upper stretched across my feet and at every takeoff the structural material at the base of the laces rubbed against the top of my foot, leaving raw, bloody spots on both feet on a nearly 5 mile run.
i will be returning these and hoping against hope that NB starts offering their best shoes in wider variants. there is so much to love about these shoes that returning them for fit is regrettable, to say the least.

There seem to be a lot of misconceptions towards proper fit of footwear. I don’t pretend to know anything more than the Brannock guy, but if you get your shoes fitted according to one of those devices, the flex point of the shoe should sit right under the flex point of your foot. So if you stand on a Brannock device and come out a size 11, there’s another measurement on there that shows where the flex point is on your foot and what the equivalent shoe size would be. I’ve always picked out something between 10 and 11 since the 8th grade, but recently discovered how much more comfortable I am in a size 11.5 and sometimes 12 depending on the shoe. I TOO also considered myself to have wide feet, but all that went away when I discovered the sizing thing. Try going up a size, maybe size and a half. You never know, considering the drastic variation in shoe design we live with nowadays.

As previously stated by just about everyone, these shoes do feel AMAZING. The pods on the bottom took about 15 minutes of wearing around the house to get used to, and then I never noticed them again. That is, until about 100 miles of hard trail running later, when they started to tear off. This happened on both shoes, so I exchanged them with new balance for a new pair (for free, even though they were heavily worn! talk about customer service). Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be a fluke, as the second pair has begun to tear again. It’s a little disappointing that they tear so quickly considering the price tag. Hopefully in the future they will release a trail version, as these have an excellent ground feel and fit. So overall, an excellent shoe for road use but could they need to be a little bit more durable for trail use.

I love these shoes, but I had to swap out the laces for elastic ones, the standard laces restricted my windlass mechanism too much.

I adore these shoes! THE most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. I use them for CrossFit and very light, infrequent runs, never with socks. I also love my several pair of FiveFingers, but was looking for a shoe I could jump rope in without getting the rope caught between my toes. The Merrell Crush Gloves I tried are scratchy in the upper and not nearly as comfortable or as flexible as the NB Hi-Rez. I haven’t tried the Merrell Vapor Gloves, but would like to be able to compare them to the Hi-Rez, although from the reviews, it seems like the Hi-Rez would reign supreme in comfort. The picture at the top of this article in which one of the shoes is rolled up inside the other is most revealing of what to expect from their flexibility. As another reviewer mentioned, the pods are barely discernible, until one of them began to tear and begin dragging slightly during infrequent forward scuffing motion along the ground. Despite this minimal, mostly unnoticeable shearing, I have continued wearing these shoes for several months without further disintegration of the pods, surprisingly, and I’m so enamored with their fit that I would unhesitatingly repurchase them–they’re that comfortable. This ready pod shearing may be a showstopper for some, however. I hope New Balance continues to offer these or a shoe of equal comfort in their lineup, as they’re a huge winner in my opinion. I found the sizing to be accurate, with none of the toe box pinching or tightness I’ve had from other running shoes.

I’m curious if these shoes are similar to the saucony hattori? Ran out of my stock pile and need a replacement any feed back would be great.

I’m from NZ, but how come the only place I can find to buy a pair is on eBay? NB website comes up as “no results”, and same with Zappos. Is anybody else sharing this problem?


I happened upon a pair of these in my size on the super duper bargain rack at an outlet store (what luck!). I’ve been running in VFFs for about 4.5 years and it was going to take something pretty special to convince me to switch back to a more traditional-looking shoe. But I thought, what the heck, $120 shoes on sale for $35, how can I say no?

Oh. My. Goodness. I loved those things! It was an adjustment to get used to having all that space for my toes to move around, as I was accustomed to the toe pockets of VFFs. But after a few runs, I fell completely in love with what my roommate referred to as “burrito shoes” because of their extreme flexibility. I experimented with socks and no socks, and found them to be much more comfortable with socks. They almost felt more minimalist than VFFs, but the extra protection from rocks and other pokey things underfoot was glorious. I was in extreme danger of switching to the HI-REZ, which is tantamount to treason, given how much I love my VFFs.

Why am I referring to these shoes in the past tense? Because they lasted a whopping 106 miles before the bottoms of both shoes ripped completely through across the forefoot area. I don’t mind spending a fair amount of money on good running shoes, but I can’t afford new shoes every 3.5 weeks. To be fair, these shoes had been used before I bought them, but they looked brand new and there were no signs of wear. I was running on snow- and ice-covered city streets and sidewalks and I don’t have any bizarre strike patterns or other running tendencies that would put undue stress on the shoes. I gotta say, I was very disappointed in the lack of durability, because I LOVED those shoes. I’m thinking about trying out a pair of Vivo Stealth II, as they look to be pretty similar structurally but (based on the reviews I’ve seen), are more durable than the HI-REZ. Farewell, baby, it was good while it lasted!

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