Barefoot Shoes

New Balance NB Minimus Road Review

An initial review of New Balance’s NB Minimus Road “barefoot running shoes” — new entries to the minimalist/barefoot shoes market slated to hit the streets in Spring 2011.

Recently, New Balance sent me a pre-release version of their upcoming New Balance NB Minimus Road. Months ago, when I first saw pictures of the Minimus Road, I thought they had retro look. This was not what I expected a minimalist running shoe to look like, so I was curious to see how they would perform. The pair I received are dark graphite with florescent red accents and different from the colors I had previously seen. After receiving them, I wore them for a couple of days and took them out for a 4.5 mile road run. I have been very pleasantly surprised by their great look, feel and minimalist features that I have detailed in the following initial review.

Read my initial review, see a video overview and lots of pics after the jump.

NB Minimus Road

Running is all about form and I am a strong advocate of a forefoot strike to naturally absorb the impacts of running. But which running shoe promotes good form better than others? Some say that running barefoot or in Five Fingers forces you to have good form. Others might argue that barefoot running over long distances is just too hard on the feet and a little cushioning is beneficial. The New Balance NB Minimus Road strikes a nice balance. It promotes good form running and has firm cushioning to ease the pain of long runs and rigorous training schedules.

The pictures of the NB Minimus Road that New Balance previously released (See them here) showed two color combinations. One was white with orange and blue accents and the other was blue with yellow and white accents. I prefer the graphite/red color combination I received, but the others look nice too. There was also an interesting little tag attached to one of the shoes cautioning runners to slowly transition to the NB Minimus Road.

The Upper

The NB Minimus Road definitely has running shoe styling, and the retro look is reminiscent of the New Balance 320 running shoes from the 1970s. The 320 was rated #1 in 1976 Runners World for “fit” and “comfort”. Though the upper is a mix of traditional and retro styling, it is built on a very minimal shape(last) which features a wide, roomy, and comfortable toe box. The heel pod is a bit more traditional. It is tall and padded and probably adds a little weight to the shoe, but holds my foot comfortably in place.

Weighing in at about 8 oz., they are not the lightest shoe around, but not heavy by any stretch. While some racing flats with minimalist characteristics are lighter, you get extra comfort with the Minimus Road versus a stripped down racing flat.

Under the Hood



These shoes feel good and are a pleasure to wear and run in. With their soft suede like insole, roomy toe box and smooth upper, they are comfortable enough to be worn as house shoes. One exception is that the tongue on my pre-production version has rough edges that scratch my foot when wearing them barefoot. This would seem to be easily correctable and I hope New Balance fixes it.

The Minimus Road feels very flat with a 4mm heel-to-toe drop which helps promote a slight forward lean when forefoot running and the undercut heel discourages heel striking. Is it possible to heel strike in these? Yes, but short barefoot practice runs are great to reinforce good form.
Update 11.21.2010 – I find it very difficult to heel strike in these shoes. They are very good at keeping me on my forefoot.

There is a very slight raised arch support. Interestingly, the New Balance MT101 has virtually no arch support, but has a slightly larger heel-to-toe drop. Although I can feel the raised arch, it did not bother me on my first run. Would I rather not have it? Yeah.

The Sole



At first glance, the midsole and outsole of the Minimus Road appeared to be combined into a single layer similar to the Nike Free, but upon closer examination, I saw two separate layers. Typical running shoes have EVA midsoles and very thin rubber outsoles with lugs. EVA midsoles are light and cushiony and rubber outsoles are durable and provide traction. While the Minimus Road midsole section is a standard cushioned material, the rubbery outsole is different. It is flat with no lugs and is a bit thicker than a typical rubber outsole. It has a honeycomb pattern and is labeled “Ndurance”. There is no marshmallow feel with this sole. It is firm and grips the road well. The flat sole has a very nice ground feel when running on hard surfaces. It doesn’t give barefoot type feedback. Instead, it feels very level and stable, like it is part of the road. It will be interesting to see what kind of traction the flat outsole provides in the rain. Ideally, this separate outsole will wear well better than a single layer EVA sole too. I think New Balance is really on to something here. I like the sole a lot.
Update 11.21.2010 – This outsole is whisper quiet when it touches the ground.

Conclusion (For now!)

Minimalist running has become very popular, but there are still not a lot of minimalist running shoe models available from major shoe manufacturers. Yeah, there are a few smaller companies making minimalist running shoes, but the odds are against them becoming mainstream. This shoe is a great option for someone looking for a low drop minimalist road running shoe made by a major shoe company. This is not a barefoot running shoe like Vibram Five Fingers. The Minimus Road has plenty of cushioning. But, for a good form runner who logs a lot of miles, these are a perfect fit.

The New Balance NB Minimus Road shoe is now out and available for purchase. They can only be bought online via the New Balance store, so if you’re looking to buy online, you can find a pair of the Minimus Roads here for a hundred bucks. Otherwise, look for a local store to try them out!

What I Like

    • Very Comfortable
    • Flat Sole – Hugs the Road
    • Firm but Cushioned
    • Low Drop
    • Retro Styling

What I Don’t Like

    • Arch Support
    • Rough Tongue Edge – Easily Fixed

As I put more miles on these, I’ll be sure to add additional thoughts to this review!

By Britt

Hailing from College Station, Texas (Home to Texas A&M!), I grew up running cross country. Believe it or not, I gave Justin the name for this site back in early 2009 but I didn't jump on the toe shoes bandwagon until a year later. I am also really into quadcopters and drones and have a blog called

30 replies on “New Balance NB Minimus Road Review”

@Nora, 4mm is almost nothing and very low for a leading brand shoe company running shoe.

@Peter, Thanks Pete, I just did a jog/walk with my new shoe destroyer puppy, Piper, and really liked them. I plan to go out later for a real run. By the way, I need your help training this pup to run without a leash, ha. I was reading about Jack the other day. Props on getting the Trail. Haven’t read it yet. Great pics!

I guess it might not be as big a heel as it looks but in the pictures it looks massive. I did see these in person at a local run not to long ago and I dont remember the heel looking thick.

So how thick is the sole overall, and are you getting a decent amount of ground feel? After running in my Vibrams all summer, I tried on the MT101s and really couldn’t tell where the ground was – These are thinner than the MT101s?

@Madoc I haven’t tried to measure them yet, but they appear to be about the same thickness as the MT101s. A bit thicker in the forefoot though, due to the smaller heel-to-toe drop. The outsole is much softer though and there is no rock plate. Though, I love the MT101s on trails, I don’t particularly like the way they feel on the road. I just finished a 4.5 mile run in these and I like the cushioned feel much better than the MT101s. It is a low drop minimalist shoe with cushioning, not a barefoot feel like Five Fingers.

Functionality aside, these shoes are hideous. Year after year, New Balance continues to churn out the ugliest shoes on the market. I’ve been looking forward to these shoes for months, hoping NB could get it right this time. What a disappointment…


What is it you don’t like about them? The style, the color? There will be other colors. I suggest you check ’em out in person before final judgement. Maybe it is hideous legs that are throwing you off. Also, remember the trail shoe has completely different styling and a Vibram sole. Between the MT101, Minimus Trail, and Minumus Road I see some of the most interesting and functional designs around.

I am currently testing these shoes.They wore a nasty hole on my Achilles tendons. I like the shoe, but the back tendon area needs to be adjusted before release to the masses.

For running mostly road, though not super long distances, Minimus road or trail? i do mostly roads, but if the trail could also be used for short road runs, It´d be nice to have them around for the eventual trail run 🙂


That is strange. The heel pod and Achilles protector seem very padded and traditional to me. Maybe we have different versions. I haven’t felt any rubbing on my Achilles at all. I assume you are talking about a blister? On the other hand, the calf/Achilles stress from forefoot strike running can be substantial in these shoes. The warning tag is accurate when it says to take it slowly.

I got my pair about a week ago from the running store I work for. Only have about 30 miles on them so far but they are great. I was doing all road running in Bikilas before them and needed a little bit more “something” underfoot on longer days. This fit the bill perfectly. Low drop, low profile, very firm, and very responsive. My feet blister easily somehow so I don’t go sockless in them but a training partner of mine who is a 100 mile trail veteran goes sockless in both the road and the trail versions. He’s done a 27 miler in the road and a 30 miler in the trails and loves them both. Highly recommended to anyone who is considering other options to partner with their VFFs

I got these over the weekend and have only logged 10 miles in them plus some around the house time…

The feel of the arch support just isn’t natural to me. It isn’t uncomfortable but it is noticeable.

The MNL-1 last used feels more snug than a “comfortable fitting sock” in the forefoot width. I tried on the Trail at the running store and the fit was more tight glove-like. With the Road the fit is great except in the forefoot. I’ve worn regular socks and injini’s and may have to try a liner to see if that makes a difference.

Does anyone know of a lighter minimal neutral running shoe? I have some old Nike’s that I bought from Kohl’s that were only 4.5 ounces! I can’t find any super light-weight racing flats anywhere. Any help would be appreciated. And yes I do have vibram five fingers which I love for short runs and hiking/water, but I didn’t like them on my marathon racing. Thanks for the help people 🙂

That’s an interesting point about the arch support.
I tried these on at the local running store yesterday. And, I immediately noticed the bump in the arch area, which I wasn’t expecting to find in a minimal shoe. I guessed that the bump is supposed to be some sort of support. But, whatever it is, it’s uncomfortable to me.
As I ran in them on the sidewalk, I could tell that the support structure helped facilitate a forefoot strike. But, landing midfoot wasn’t cool at all.
So, ultimately, I decided that these were not the road shoe for me. Thankfully, the Minimus trail has no arch support whatsoever.

Hey! I do Cross Country and we run on both trail and road courses. I have been interested in these shoes for a time. I have not tried them on yet though, but I have two questions. 1. How is the ground feel on these shoes? 2. How are these on trails? Thanks


I like the ground feel a lot. Not too soft, not too firm. They are thicker than Vibrams, so while I like the road feel it is not a “barefoot” feel. They also grip hard surfaces well. I haven’t tried them on trails. The don’t have any lugs so I doubt they would do as well on trails. I suggest the NB MT101 or the Minumus Trail for trails. I own the NB MT101s and they are my favorite trail shoe.

I just got a pair of Minimus Roads and ran 15+ miles in them on my first run (right out of the box!). They are very similar to my Nike Lunaracers except the uppers are a bit more supportive and the midsole/sole is quite a bit more firm in the Minimus Road. Overall I think the Minimus Roads would handle very long distance runs much better than my Lunaracers. While I’ve run a 100 mile race in Lunaracers and was fine, I think having a bit firmer sole would have been nice! We’ll see… Ironically, as a minimalist runner I’ve experimented with the Hoka Bondi B and really like it for ultra distance racing. Contrary to popular belief, it’s anything but a “maximalist” shoe. Sure it has A LOT of cushioning, but it does so with minimal drop (4mm), wide toe box and is extremely light.

I’ve now run on my Minimus Roads for a few weeks now. Did about 4 miles of track running to start, and they felt very nice on the track. I also took them on some runs on pavement, usually around 5 or 6 miles, and my feet feel great. I have actually only worn them with socks, thus far, and that’s just because I don’t want to chance getting blisters just yet. But they work well with a nice pair of thin power sox. I do a lot of mixed road/trail runs, where I’ll run about 5 miles on the road, and then about 5 miles of trails. Today, I did my whole run; road and trail, in the Road shoe. It actually handled the muddy, rooty, rocky trails pretty well for a “road” shoe, but if one runs properly off-road, any minimal shoe will be beneficial. I’v also done the same route in the Minimus Trail shoe, and the trail shoe worked pretty well as an all purpose shoe for trail and road. It had a lot more ground feel than the Minimus Road, which made me feel a lot more fleet-footed when I transistioned from trail to road. The reason I’m training on and off road is that I have a triathlon that’s got both on- and off-road miles to it. So I’m testing to see which of the Minimus shoes will work better for this task.
But I really like both shoes. Now I’m going to try them without socks.

Just finished a marathon in these shoes. A big VFF fan but with very long distances my feet are bothered between the toes. Had a good time for me, dropped about 14 min, and finished 3:46. Not a blister or a lost toe nail, would recommend the injini socks with these shoes, do not like to run in them with out socks, but do in my VFF.

Update: I really tried to like these shoes. But after 80+ miles in them I’ve come to the conclusion that they are aggravating my Achilles tendon. I think the way the back of the shoe curved back into the back of my foot and presses against the tendon has something to do with this. Plus the narrow heel on the outsole probably promotes quite a bit more pronation than I’m used to. Not sure. Will experiment when I’m not running so high of mileage after Badwater Ultramarathon. Could just be a byproduct of sustained abuse with all the training I’ve been doing; but it’s only after I run in this shoe do I have Achilles issues…???

Finally a minimalist running shoe that doesn’t crush the toes and comes in a ee width. Very comfortable right out of the box and doesn’t look as goofy as some of the barefoot shoes out there. Did a road/trail mix and they virtually have no break-in period. Nice road feel but not as sensitive as my Vibrams (which I love) . Extremely breathable unlike the new Nike Free ID’s(2011) which I had to return because my foot was suffocating. I had to replace the laces with my favorite stretch lock laces as the NB laces kept coming undone even with a double knot;not a biggie but personally annoying for me.

I run in a variety of shoes on trails and roads in the Colorado Mtns.

hi there!
i’m flat footed, i’m wondering if this shoe is good for flat footed people that runs like me.

can someone tell me how they affect your times? When I give it a try, it seems like I can go faster with less effort. Would it be faster to run a half marathon barefooted?

375 miles and counting on these shoes. Just bought another pair on sale to keep in the bullpen.

I run most of my long runs in these including my Spring Marathon. Penty of room for my toes, enough cushioning to take the edge off, pretty light, holding up very well. This shoe makes my feet very happy.

I am about to purchase these on sale from I have been using Nike LunarGlides and they tend to make me roll my ankles every third run or so, which I do not like. I think it is because the rubber under the heels are rounded upward. I see that these NB Minimus 10’s have a heel drop, but the rubber is more squared. Did you ever feel like you would roll your ankles in these shoes? If so, what would you recommend to someone who does roll their ankles? I also run in the NB 110’s, I love these and never roll my ankles, but they just don’t provide enough cushioning. I’d like something with about 1/8-1/4″ more cushoining that I won’t roll my ankles in. I switch between road and trails, many times during every run because it’s just too fun to run on dirt and through the woods or desert.

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