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Putting the New Balance NB Minimus Trail to the Test

Gerald is a dedicated trail runner from New Zealand who recently put the New Balance NB Minimus Trail through its paces in the Tarawera Ultra Marathon. See what Gerald had to say about how they performed after the jump!Guest Post by Gerald Water…

Gerald is a dedicated trail runner from New Zealand who recently put the New Balance NB Minimus Trail through its paces in the Tarawera Ultra Marathon. See what Gerald had to say about how they performed after the jump!

Guest Post by Gerald Waters

First Impressions

So I had the Minimus for about two weeks before I attempted to run a 100 km race with every type of terrain you could ask for, from tarmac to gnarly mountain trails and stoney forestry roads. I broke the shoes in during my taper and put about 100 kms on them over two weeks. The longest run I did in the Minimus before the race was 30 kms on dusty angled single track trails. The shoe felt great and made you want to run lightly, improving the overall fluid motion of running. The night before the race it rained heavily ensuring that there would be enough slippery slopes to give the Minimus a good test.

Tarawera 100km

Race day started with a forestry road ascent that turned into single track then descended on single track to a tarmac section of about 8kms, then climbed to a forestry road. This was the first 20 kms or so and the shoe felt great, especially on the tarmac. The next section was a technical single trail ascent. The lightweight minimus made the ascent effortless with enough grip on the descent to make the slippery trail no problem. Next was a real technical runners dream, 20 kms of root infested ups and downs, rocky, slippery drops and switchbacks. This gave the Minimus a real good sole test. I have been running in Inov 8 X-Talons for over a year so am no stranger to harsh underfoot conditions. My feet loved the contact that the Minimus allowed on this type of trail. Like a light footed ballerina I danced my way over and in between the roots. I played it safe on wet rocky drops as I did feel the shoe give once or twice.

Alas all good things come to an end and here is where the shoe, for me, fell down. The Minimus had performed well over soft trail, even gnarly roots and large stones, for 55kms but the next 15 kms involved long sections of stoney forestry road. I found myself looking for grassy patches or where the pine needles covered the track to run on and at one point yelped in pain as a real sharp stone poked into the soul of my foot.

At the 70 km aid station I was told that the next 30 kms would be much of the same so I changed shoes. So for soft, grassy and even tarmac tracks the minimus is fine and would probably be ok over stoney ground for short periods when the footfalls are fresh and light, and are able to counter the harshess of sharp stones. They performed well over technical trail and their lightness was a great asset to fast uphill ascent.

The day after the race I had no injuries or discomfort that I would normally have if I had used shoes with much thicker soles but my midfoot sole area was sore after thousands of strikes in this area. A great training shoe and brilliant sole toughener, I foresee an entry level shoe for minimal running but no 100km all terrain racer.

Follow Gerald’s progress at his blog

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6 replies on “Putting the New Balance NB Minimus Trail to the Test”

My sentiments exactly. The shoe is great for everything except sharp rocky terrain. I don’t know why they didn’t put a “rock guard” in these like they did in the MT101s? It is still a great shoe and, for most of what we have here in MN-USA, it will be fine.

You didn’t give any background regarding your minimalist to barefoot experience prior to the above writeup. There are people whom wear Vibram KSO Treks on 100k technical mountain runs and are fine with what you had a problem with. I’d suggest mentioning this before claiming what you did at the end. someone like myself may prefer a shoe like this because it has so much more padding than a more barefoot shoe. Always relative.

Been cruising around in a pair of the Minimus Trails for a few weeks now, so I’ll share my experience thus far.

I’ve come to the Minimus from the Bikila, which I do still wear often.
I’ll agree with Jarod here and say that yes, it is a bit relative. I run trails in the Bikilas, even wearing them exclusively on a mountain trip to Wyoming/Colorado last summer. Comparatively, the Minimus makes my feet feel a little more ‘dumb’ if you will, removing a level of sensitivity.. on the trail I’ve been able to charge hard, at the cost of sometimes running a little more sloppy. Obviously with a thicker sole the need to scout every step before you place your foot is reduced, so there are pros and cons to the shoe in my opinion. I prefer the ‘natural’ feel of the Bikilas, but I think come race day I’m leaning towards the Minimus.
Another area the Minimus has excelled in for me is speed training. The extra forefoot support offers just enough pull to keep my foot tight-er when doing sprints. This has been the best discovery for me personally, as I had ordered and sent back 2 separate pairs of cross country racing flats in hopes of finding a light-weight, low profile trainer. The CC shoes just did not allow for any forefoot spread what so ever, and as a result were uncomfortable and awkward to run in.

Looking at the profiles of the Minimus vs. the Inov 8 X-Talons, the Talons look nearly cleated in comparison–no doubt a serious trail shoe. I’ve never run in them, but perhaps the extra rubber serves to keep the foot off of the sharp stuff. But from even just the pictures, I believe I would take the Minimus over the X-Talon on 92% of terrain.. and take a stern look before stepping on the other 8% ;o)

Jagged crushed stone is an engineered material that doesn’t exist in nature for long distances. I think it is fair to say that the Minimus is excellent for all truly natural terrain, and engineered surfaces designed for walking. Crushed stone is designed for vehicles, so while there are places you may have to put up with it, I think that it is an unfair expectation for the shoe.

I was looking at the first review of the minimus trail done by, and i noticed the bottoms weren’t the same as the ones on my pair. I bought mine in April 2011, and the first review I saw was from February 2011. The pair you reviewed had a heel with 4 black areas with yellow in between each pattern set, while mine are covered with dime size black rubber disks, probably of the same material as the black areas, and yellow in between. I wonder which pair Gerald had on this particular run, since as I have been running in mine on trails that have some jagged rocks, the rocks don’t really penetrate. Thanks for any enlightenment.

Totally agree with Gerald in every respect. Brave of him to have run a 100k race after only 2 wks in them.

I have only just started wearing the Minimus, doing a few recovery runs after a tough 50k in conventional shoes last weekend. I am new to minimal shoes, and LOVE the feel. Agree they are great on all but crushed or jagged stone larger than small gravel. Too bad that this manmade hazard is out there and cannot easily be avoided all the time.

Despite this drawback, I do think the shoe has struck the right balance between flexibility and protection. Now it remains to be seen whether or not it will help my chronic plantar fasciitis!

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