Barefoot Shoes

New Balance Minimus Life/Wellness Zero Review

Here at we’ve provided exhaustive coverage to the new New Balance Minimus Zero line-up for 2012 — including wide reviews of the Minimus Zero Road (MR00) and Minimus Zero Trail (MT00) and a multi-user review of the Zero Road and T…

Here at we’ve provided exhaustive coverage to the new New Balance Minimus Zero line-up for 2012 — including wide reviews of the Minimus Zero Road (MR00) and Minimus Zero Trail (MT00) and a multi-user review of the Zero Road and Trail; it was only a matter of time before we got around to the last Zero from New Balance, a review of the Minimus Life/Wellness (MWOO). You’ll recall that the original New Balance Minimus Life in 2011 was one of my favorite shoes to hit the market — despite the fact they had a small, 4mm differential in sole from heel-to-forefoot. The new Minimus Zero Life/Wellness is a total reload of the original Life; like the Zero Trail and Road Zeros, New Balance effectively went back to the drawing board with these. Unfortunately, the new shoe leaves a lot to be desired, at least by comparison to the originals — it’s minimalist on the things I loved most about the original, it’s heavier, isn’t as comfortable, and has a swath of other changes that comparatively don’t work as well as the first LIfes — but it is “zero-dropped” and if you have no idea what the originals were like, you might really like these (what do I know?). Read on to learn more and see plenty of photos, per usual!


The Minimus Life/Wellness line (Zero or Original, which is how I’ll refer to these shoes) is geared towards post run wear or put differently, wear for any time you’re not running, which for most runners and non-runners alike, is basically all the time! I see this category as the “future” of minimalist shoes because it applies to everyone. I also see it as the area that has the fewest options available — shoe manufacturers listen up: we need more casual, everyday (or work-appropriate!) barefoot-minded shoes! What you get with the Minimus Zero Life/Wellness shoes is an upper that can be worn sockless and a sole that is primarily EVA foam with only the slightest use of inset rubber to provide some durability in key spots. The sole is neutral from heel-to-toe, meaning it’s “zero drop” for close-to-ideal (ideal = barefoot) walking or running biomechanics. With no elevated heel, you’re not going to have negative effects on your posture nor are you likely to have a forced heel-strike thanks to that wedge at the back that you get with most shoes. Photos:


If you’re familiar already with the Road Zeros, the upper of the Minimus Zero Life/Wellness probably looks a little familiar; it basically uses the same mesh fabric and the overlaid bits over the front of the Life/Wellness are similar in style to the Zero Road’s. The tongue design of the Minimus Zero Life/Wellness is actually borrowed from the Road Zeros. It is sort of a burrito tongue where by the upper just keeps going on one side to become the tongue of the shoe. It’s unusual and kinda cool but not without some nuances; namely, when slipping your foot in, it can push the tongue into the shoe on the non-attached side. To compensate for this, New Balance actually attached an elastic fabric on the “end” of the tongue, inside the shoe (see this pic). Your pinky toe sometimes catches on this fabric when you put them on but it’s really not much of an issue. What’s most striking about the Life/Wellness is the fat (literally wide), zig-zagging velcro strapping system used to adjust the fit to your foot. This strap seems to provide more of an aesthetic to shoes than serious functionality, as I can tighten it, but it doesn’t seem to change fit much. This might be significanlly different if you have a higher-volume foot (your instep being higher). I’ll talk a little more about this when I compare more to the original Minimus Life below.

About the sole

The stand-out feature of the NB Minimus Zero Life/Wellness is, of course, the fact that it’s a “zero,” in the first place; unlike the original Minimus Life which was about 14mm thick at the heel and 10mm at the forefoot (my measurements), the Minimus Life Zero is about 12mm at both heel and forefoot (give or take — again my measurements). You might as well contrast his to the Road Zeros which are about 11mm at heel and forefoot, too. So yes, while the Minimus ZERO Life/Wellness is neutral from heel to toe, it’s actually thicker than the original. What’s actually sort of surprising about the new Zero Life/Wellness is that the foam sole feels like it curves up on the outer ridges, not unlike the Road Zero, which does the same thing (as pointed out here). Pictures here are worth a thousand words, so take a look at the following collage, which demonstrate as best as possible from the outside of the shoe, what I think is going on. Basically, my fully loaded foot starts to push up against the outside walls of the sole; the sole has elevated ridges that are higher than the base portion of the sole. It’s pronounced enough in certain areas that it is noticeable and can be annoying. That said, if you’ve worn the Road Zeros, the Life/Wellness Zeros don’t quite do this as much as the Roads. Where I notice these elevation changes in the soles of the Zero Life/Wellness shoes most is on the inside arch area and on the outside metatarsel area (lower on my foot from my pinky toes).
Note where the sole meets the upper you can see the foot is almost spilling over a bit. This seems to be a problem with the sole designs — not that they’re too small per se but that they ridge up and cause the foot to push onto them.

Inside the shoes

I already mentioned the tongue attachment point, so I won’t go into that further. All I’d like to note is that there is a sockliner material used in the Minimus Zero Life/Wellness that has a cotton-like feel to it. It’s quite comfortable against my barefoot, but … more on this in a minute.

Barefoot/Ground Feel

The Minimus Zero Life/Wellness mutes a good bit of ground feel due to it’s use of a lot of foam and a stack height of about 12mm. Don’t expect to be feeling every nuance in the ground with these on; however, you will get a lot more ground feel in them than a pair of virtually any other sneakers on the market that isn’t billed as “barefoot” or “minimalist.” I’d put the ground feel on the Life Zeros at slightly less than the Road Zeros, which should come as no surprise given the Road Zeros are similarly soled but every so slightly less thick than the Life Zeros.

Aesthetics/How do these work casually?

The Minimus Life Zeros look pretty good in a pair of jeans, I think. Hides that huge strap.
The Minimus Life/Wellness Zeros work fairly well as a casual, everyday sneaker. I go back and forth on the velcro strap — sometimes I think it’s cool, stylish, and progressively fashionable (yes, Velcro can be fashionable! Why not?); other times I feel like it’s too fat and looks “off” or out of place on shoes — like it just doesn’t fit in. It almost looks like a huge after-market car part (think: enormous wing on the back of a Honda Civic) that was added after the fact and wasn’t in step with the overall design of the shoes. I’d also have appreciated just a smidge more contrast in the upper detailing. My pair is just a little too grey; the other colorway available is far too black, too, in my opinion.

New Balance Minimus Life/Wellness Zero vs. the Original Life

Above is the original Minimus Life on the left and the Minimus Life Zero on the right. I put them toe to toe and talk about which I like better.
You knew it was coming. How could I not compare these to the originals? I really, really liked the original Minimus Life from New Balance (just read my review) and what I liked about them helps me explain why I’m not really digging the Zero’ed versions so that’s how I’m (mostly) going to talk about this. What I liked about the original Minimus Life [What I dislike about the Zeros]:
  • The original Minmus Life was incredibly easy to slip-on thanks to not having laces (1) and (2) having a heel pull-tab; I can easily one-handedly slip on the original Minimus Life. On countless times I’ve popped these on in a rush out the door with nary a second thought; I’ve done it a few times in writing this review. It’s just simple and it works. [With the Minimus Zero, while velcro is easier than tying laces, in combination with the burrito tongue, I still have to use both hands to put these on; meanwhile, the heel pull tab has been completely eliminated, even with two hands, this makes it harder to put on the Zero Lifes than it shoiuld be.]
  • The sole of the original Minimus Life provided a bit of cushioning but really not much. Walking in them feels like walking on a thin mat of foam over [insert whatever surface you’re walking on here]. The 4mm elevation at the heel was hardly noticeable at all, much to my surprise. Even to this day wearing them side by side with the Zeros the difference is very difficult for me to ascertain. I’d certainly rather not have it because my higher cognitive perception isn’t always the lower-level reality. Meanwhile, the sole didn’t feel like it ever ended in any ridges or walls for my foot to feel pressing up on it. [The Minimus Zero Life has no elevated heel. That’s a win. However, the sole has external ridges that annoy my foot in numerous spots. The sole is also thicker in total by about 20%. Why?]
  • The original Minmus Life had better ground feel thanks to it being thinner soled at the forefoot, where you do most of your ground feeling, anyway. [Minimus Zero Life is better at the heel; but a 2mm thinner sole at the heel doesn’t make much difference for ground feel.]
  • The original Minimus Life (size 10.5, men’s) weighed in at 5.5 oz., shoe. Very lightweight held in hand; very put together and simple feeling. [The new Minimus Zero Life (size 11, men’s – I could probably get away with a 10.5 but this is what was available to review) weighs 6.5 oz. per shoe! Yes, it weighs a full ounce more (18% more or so — probably because of the sole if I had to guess, but also the velcro/strappy upper). While the Trail Zeros are crazy light (and appreciably so, they feel awesome partly because they are so lightweight), the new Zero Lifes are both markedly heavier and also look a little clunky.]
  • I really liked the aesthetic of the original Minimus Life. It looked just a little bit different than other sneakers around. The subtle ridge on the toe box; the cuts of the fabrics; the wrap at the midfoot. It all made for a strikingly unusual, yet not garish, shoe; I got frequent positive unsolicited comments about them including a few people who went on to buy them on seeing them on my feet. [The Minimus Zero Life looks clunky by comparison. It’s got thick ridges for seams; thick gridded mesh; and super thick/fat velcro straps. It looks both “new” and traditional at the same time, not really pulling off either look very well.]
  • The one con to the original Minimus Life is that it put a little too much pressure on the instep; it was noticeable for me (I don’t have high volume feet) and a bit of a problem for at least a few people who bought them. My wife got a pair and has pretty high volume feet, but still likes the originals enough to wear them quite regularly (weekly). Notably she couldn’t fit a pair of Bikilas. While I appreciate the lack of laces in the originals, an upper with a little more give would have been nice. [The Minimus Zero Life should accommodate high volume feet (or all feet) better thanks to a more adjustable, tongue and velcro strap system. I assume this addition was in response to feedback about a too constricting upper in the Lifes]
  • The sock-liner on the original Minomus Life was a sort-of silky smooth material that just feels “nice” against my foot. I’ve worried it’d degrade over time but it’s held up quite well. [The Minimus Life Zero’s sock liner has a coarser feel to it; this is a nit-picky observation, but I just like the feel of the originals better]


The bad news is that I can only see the New Balance Minimus Life/Wellness as a big step backwards from the 2011 originals. If I were to sum up the Minimus Life Zeros in one word, it’d be “clunky,” which is just about as opposite to what you’d want in a minimalist shoe as you can imagine. I know I’m being very harsh on New Balance here and I’m confident there are going to be folks out there who end up loving these shoes; in truth, there are many things to like about them and hopefully I’ve at least highlighted a few of those things above. It’s just that when you compare the Zero Lifes to the originals, it’s impossible not to feel like something went very wrong given all the things that seemed better in the originals. Given the old adage that “if it aint broke, don’t fix it,” the only thing “broke” with the originals was 4mm of lift; take that out, slap on some new colors and maybe some minor upper design changes to accommodate a larger variety of foot volumes, and voila, you’d have yourself a seriously awesome casual shoe; quite possibly my favorite non-toe shoe out there! So what you should be reading in this review is largely disappointment; I really wanted an awesome reload of last year’s original Lifes; I didn’t get it. That bums me out. You might have a totally different take on these, particularly if you didn’t like the original or never tried it. If you liked the original Lifes but didn’t get them or love them and want another pair, take heed! They are being discontinued. Come to find out that the original Minimus Life shoes won’t be produced any longer, which I suppose is to be expected, but still is unfortunate to me. There is a silver lining. For as long as supplies last, you can get the originals at upwards of 25% off retail price, which is about $75 vs. $100 (some styles less). I’ve found a retailer carrying them here. You can read my original review of the originals here. If you’d like to pick up a pair of the new Minimus Life, shop over to They go for $95 shipped free to you. Size-wise, I’d say go with your typical NB size, which usually correlates well to your street shoe size (I tested an 11 but am 99% sure based on being able to fit the Road Zeros at 10.5 fine that I’d handle a 10.5 fine in these, too). I’ll end in saying that you probably shouldn’t refer to these as simply the “Zero Life” or the “Zero Wellness” — not quite the right connotations there! Questions? Comments? Was I too harsh? Anyone love these new Life Zeros? Any big fans of the originals? I want to hear it all in the comments!

Official Specs from New Balance

Here’s New Balance’s official details on the Minimus Life/Wellness:
Minimus is New Balance’s refreshing departure from “traditional” athletic footwear, inspired by Good Form Running and designed to be worn with or without socks. The slip-on MW00 Minimus Wellness shoe is sublimely comfortable, engineered for post-run recovery as well as for other casual wear. Also known as the “Minimus Life,” this shoe is your perfect everyday approach to the minimalist lifestyle. NB Minimus is a whole new approach to footwear, a place on the spectrum from barefoot running to the traditional maximum-cushioning running shoe. Inspired by Good Form Running and designed to be worn with or without socks. With only a 0mm drop from heel to toe, the NB Minimus collection holds a world of discovery for neutral runners; additionally, Good Form Running teaches methods of improvement for those seeking to conquer gait issues. Ultra-light and flexible EVA midsole and outsole with full ground contact Solid rubber inset pads for durability and traction Hook and Loop closure provides a custom fit without laces Slip-on construction for easy on/off wear Synthetic/Mesh upper provides lightweight comfort and support

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

20 replies on “New Balance Minimus Life/Wellness Zero Review”

I have to say they’re pretty ugly compared to last year’s. I have thin (low-volume) feet, so the strap might be good for me, but I don’t like the way it looks. Regardless, it doesn’t look like they made the toe box any bigger. I tried a 15 last year (only available in the Life) and had plenty of room for my big and second toes but not enough for 3 & 4. Too pointy of a design in my opinion.

What’s the deal with the geriatric looking Velcro strap? Lol! I think I’ll pass on these. It’s a shame that NB continues to screw up the design of their new models. It’s like they listened at the beginning, but now they’ve gone off on their own tangent. They should have corrected the small things they got wrong with their first models. I have to say I had high expectations for the second generation of minimalist shoes from NB, but they’ve been nothing but a disappointment.


Yeah they could really round out the toe box — I feel like the new Minimus Life is even more pointy than the old one but that could be an optical illusion.


Geriatric about nails it. That said, I totally disagree with the idea that NB actually screwed up with the Road or Trail Zeros. To me, both are vast improvements over the originals — particularly the Road Zero. The original Roads were very built up in the upper and somewhat stiff in the upper not to mention quite stiff in the sole being totally covered in rubber over foam. The Trails (MT10) had a lot going for them comparatively as they had a pretty solid upper design that I still like — only problem with them was their too inflexible sole (better than the Roads though) and the “Rubber band” over the midfoot, which put way too much pressure on the foot there.

The Trail Zeros are a wild new design, incredibly mininimalist and flexible and really a whole new, better shoe. Mind, they probably could have gone a less extreme route in their Zero-ification of the Trails and I could see a MT10/MT00 hybrid that could borrow on the 10s upper materials with the 00s sole — that’d be a pretty awesome shoe, actually, but it’d weigh a little more.

The Road Zeros are much improved over the originals, but the faulty sole ridges really damage them overall. A bummer. They’re still better than the original Roads though.

After reading your review I picked up the original Life/Wellness on an overseas trip and they’re still my favourite minimalist shoe. Super comfy, just enough cush for everyday use and so nice on the foot. Strangely Australia didn’t even get the originals, but we do get these ones! I’ve already bought the Road Zeros (online from UK at half price in Australia) and hear what you’re saying about the ridges on the edge of the sole. I’ve just sent mine back as there is a slightly raised seam under my toes on the right foot that gives blisters in no-time. So close and yet …

So glad I got the Originals when I did! I love them to pieces and recommend them to everyone who thinks toe shoes are weird. Sucks they’re gonna be discontinued though 🙁 Might have to pick up another pair before they go!

I don’t mind the style of the new Zero Wellness, although I do agree it could be a little too grey.
I have been considering getting the original Life’s since I first read your review on them but with slip on shoes I seem to have the opposite problem, I have a rather low instep so I can never get the shoes the hug my foot tightly enough for a good fit.
How does the instep on the original Life’s compare to say VFF’s?

It seems too much shoe to qualify as a minimalist shoe, just me maybe….
Anyone been wearing Lemings (previously known as Stem.) Waiting for mine to arrive.. Meantime, would really like to hear some user’s review.

Shoutout to Leming’s customer service – Andrew, Lindsey, you guys are awesome. Still yet to receive..but i believe it’s worth the wait..

Just to prejudice or malice here (in case i’m being misunderstood), if these are considered minimalist abt Converse Chuck Taylor Slim? Someone should do a review on them. Basic, cheap and super shoes- the forgotten heroes. My opinion, that is..

I don’t classify these as barefoot, more like minimalist.

A 12mm stack height is quite a bit, at least for forefoot, but then the Merrell Bare Access is more by 1mm (13mm stack) and the Road Glove is 10-11mm stack height. It’s roughly the same forefoot stack height as the Nike Free 3.0 / Saucony Kinvara.

The weight is within reason though, seeing how the Minimus Road Zero is around that weight (6.4oz or so). What bothers me is the lack of rubber in the midfoot area. The Minimus Road and Trail both cover the fifth metatarsal ray, although the Road version does a better job.

I think the problem is the comparison of something that’s “casual”/ “wellness” / “life” to something built to be fast but not as well-rounded like the Minimus Trail. 6.5oz is still light any way you cut it: the Nike Free 3.0 and Kinvara weigh more and so do VFF Komodosports, Vivobarefoot Evo/Neo, Merrell Road Glove. It’s on par with the Vivobarefoot Aqua Lite / Stem Footwear Origins weight. It’s a step backward from the original, but it’s still reasonable.

They could have shaved off weight by coring out (such as by putting lightening holes on, like on the VFF Seeya) the enormous strap though. It’s annoyingly made when you think about it. If the strap doesn’t adjust tightness it just adds weight. On this they tried to make something akin to the Bikila strap design: there’s a heel cup/collar but it is tensioned by a strap. On VFFs if you don’t unhook the strap it’s almost impossible to get your foot in/out. If Justin is not an anomaly, then that means the strap is just weight or what I would call a lame “decoration”.

I feel like the Saucony Hattori represents a better level of minimalism, as a zero drop shoe with more stack height, compared to the new Minimus Wellness. It also weighs less at 4.4oz even though it has the same 12mm stack height.

New Balance made the most improvements in the Road version. If you look at the sole, the old one was basically a slab of EVA. The old upper was also really not something I would consider minimalist at 8.2 oz coming mostly from the upper since it was an EVA sole. It was sad that the Trail version was used more for road running than the Road one was at least on all the blogs I read, and at 7.5 oz the NB Minimus Trail MT10 (MT20 was 6.5oz) wasn’t extremely light either.

I really like the OG Wellness and was waiting for these to come out based on last years shoe. I’m on the fence about picking these up. I might just get another pair of Stem/Lemings.

Would you run in this one? I think I recall the original being something that could also be run in if you wanted it for that since it was really a better shoe than the Roads. With the changes made for the new Zero I wonder if it would be decent for running.

I’m looking for a minimalist casual shoe just to wear around during the day, and I’m on the fence about these, I really like that they are zero drop (I have an old pair of Adidas shoes that have a nice big toe-box but have a really large heal pad.) The thing that concerns me about these shoes are the ridges at the edge of the sole, I think that would be annoying. I have relatively slim feet, and so maybe it wouldn’t bother me.

You should do a video review of these, it would be really helpful in knowing whether or not to buy these.


I have had the originals for sometime now and while I love them, my right foot is a bit too loose and I am pretty sure it has started to cause arch problems. I have low volume feet and I kind of wished the elastic strap was tighter or something. I am pretty sure that is what is causing the arch pain in the right.

It was my first go and I love it. Outside of the velcro strap, I am not a big fan of pretty much all of the changes. Like you those back loops make it easy to slip on and just go in a hurry.

Man I am so bummed I missed out on the original 2011 model. I’d been searching high and low for a good looking, comfortable slip on shoe ever since my slip on shoes that I’d worn for 10 years had finally given out on me. It’s a shame about the 2012 models, and looking at the New Balance site, it doesn’t seem like there is a new version of these for 2013… 🙁 Maybe 2014…? haha

read the reviews, LOVE the originals ,do not understand why they dropped the model. what irks me sometime is why these companies never consult the people who throw down the money and buy.what do we want in conjunction with what they “know” to be better. how do you let new balance know ? e mail ???

I agree. Best shoes ever made. I’ve had about 30 pairs of them now as I have an Ebay search that notifies me anytime a pair in my size gets listed. The Zeros were amazing and I really hope New Balance brings them back someday. I think they were afraid of getting sued due to all the people who switched to barefoot shoes without giving them time to break them in and developing plantar fasciitis.

New Balance needs to bring back the Minimus Zero line. I was very disappointed when they discontinued them, but since then I’ve bought 25 pairs of like-new or new ones on Ebay, paying only $30-$50 per pair. I only have the Zero V1 and Zero V2 (MR00/men’s and WR00/women’s), and never knew about these Life/Wellness ones! It’s all I’ve worn for the past 11 years (aside from boots in the winter when outdoors). I’m a bit obsessed with them, and really hope they bring them all back some day! Or I’ll just continue to tell all the people who compliment my shoes on a weekly basis, “these were discontinued 10 years ago, sorry”.

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