Barefoot Shoes

Review of the New Balance Minimus Trail Leather Shoes (MT10)

New Balance’s first minimalist shoe offerings hit the market back in the Spring of 2011. Perhaps their most popular “Minimus” style then, and perhaps even still, was the MT10 or the Minimus Trail (which we’ve reviewed in depth here and with video here)…

New Balance’s first minimalist shoe offerings hit the market back in the Spring of 2011. Perhaps their most popular “Minimus” style then, and perhaps even still, was the MT10 or the Minimus Trail (which we’ve reviewed in depth here and with video here). And while the 2nd generation of Minimus shoes are “Zeros” — so called because they’re the same stack height at heel and forefoot — the original Minimus shoes all had a 4mm heel-to-toe drop. Four millimeters isn’t a lot and some might even like the differential, which still allows for a forefoot/midfoot running style but with a little less distance for your heel to travel as it descends and lightly touches the ground before lifting off again (as with a natural running style). Anyway, the popularity of the original Minimus Trail is probably what led New Balance to offer the MT10 in a couple leather versions — the grey leather Minimus Trails (MT10LG) being seen photoed above and what I’ll be talking about today (they offer them in brown leather, too — the MT10LR). Like the looks? Want to know what’s up with this shoe? Well read on!


If you’re already familiar with the MT10 design or have read my original review, an overview is probably going to be redundant, but for newcomers to the MT10 or the original Minimus versions, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with what you get with these shoes. Most obviously, these leather MT10s are made with leather uppers instead of mesh. In the case of the grey leather MT10s, the leather is a supple and smooth cowhide. It seems to wear well in the weeks I’ve been wearing them as everyday shoes. More on that later. The MT10(L) has the aforementioned heel-to-toe drop of 4mm. The stack height is about 14mm at the heel and 10mm at the forefoot. This is just enough to be noticeable if you’re accustomed to walking in low-stack-height, zero-drop (or neutral from heel-to-toe) footwear, but not enough to be annoying. Actually, I could imagine some people would actually find it easier to walk in these — particularly on hard surfaces — if not fully accustomed to barefoot-style walking. As with virtually every shoe in the Mininimus line, New Balance has outfitted these Minimus Trails with a virtually seamless, no-socks-required, sewn-in-place insole inside. That means that you can wear the MT10s with or without socks; and for the record, I usually opted for wearing these without socks as I generally just don’t like wearing socks! Also, of all the “barefoot shoes” I’ve reviewed, I’d make the general statement that New Balance’s approach to the barefoot-feel of the insides of their Minimus shoes is best-in-class for sockless wear. It’s just well done. The outsoles of the Minimus Trail feature a Vibram rubber overlaid on top of an EVA midsole. The Vibram rubber sole is actually in four separate pieces (you have to look closely to see how they’re separated) — a heel, arch, midfoot, and forefoot section. This design consideration seems to improve the overall flexibility of the Minimus Trails. Of note for anyone familiar with the original MT10, the original, non-leather MT10s featured a “rubber band” that ran over the midfoot of the shoe (you can see it here). This band was the source of my main gripe about the original MT10s as it just put a lot of pressure on my midfoot. The good Pete Larson of RunBlogger even went so far as to surgically alter his MT10s by cutting this band. Well, whether it caused you pain or was just annoying (I’d like to hear if anyone flat-out loved this band), New Balance straight up removed it entirely from these leather MT10s and it makes a huge difference. I’ll also say that while the Minimus line doesn’t feature the most spacious toe box relative to other barefoot shoes, I find the MT10 last to be “just about right” for my feet, which I’d classify as pretty average in width. This allows for some toe splay but doesn’t provide so much toe box as to make your toes wonder where the ends of the shoe are. I’ll talk more about fit and feel in a second, but here are some photos:

Barefoot Feel and Fit

The rubber-on-foam soles of the MT10 plus the overall stack height make for a decent “mute” button on ground feel. I’m speaking relatively here — the MT10s provide a bit less ground feel than the Minimus Zeros and certainly less than every model of Vibram FiveFingers. That’s not bad, at all. It’s considerably better than your conventional footwear. I love wearing these MT10s barefoot. They’re comfortable worn all day with or without socks (with my personal preference being sockless). As for fit, I’m a 43 in VFFs and a 10.5 generally. The MT10s in 10.5 fit me fine (I have had to size up in some other Minimus shoes like the NewSky). The MT10s lack arch support and with a nice sized toe box I find the fit to be quite comfortable overall. On my feet the MT10s feel stable at the heel if not a bit stiff and nicely flexible up front. Here are some toe flex pics:

Function — what are these leather Minimus Trails for?

An attempt at a DSLR self-portrait wearing the New Balance Minimus Trail MT10s with jeans.
An attempt at a DSLR self-portrait wearing the New Balance Minimus Trail MT10s with jeans.
So what are these leather Minimus Trails designed for? Per New Balance:
This leather edition is especially suited for everyday wear, ideal for the Good Form Runnning enthusiast incorporating minimalist footwear into life both on and off the trail.
Basically these leather MT10s are aimed for casual wear — or perhaps business casual wear. I don’t see any reason you couldn’t run in them; I’d expect them to function very similarly to the MT10s, which is pretty solidly as on the road or off the road running shoes. However, I tested mine for the purpose of this review as they were intended to be worn — as every day (bare)footwear.

The leather Minimus Trails are pretty stylish barefoot/minimalist shoes

When you talk about everyday footwear, probably the most important factors are aesthetics/looks and comfort. And I’d guess that the question at the top of your mind might be: can I wear these to work? That’s an almost-impossible question to answer without knowing the nuances of dress culture at your office. So what I’ve tried to do is just take a bunch of photos.
Wearing the leather Minimus Trail MT10s with a pair of dark straight leg jeans from the Gap.
Wearing the leather Minimus Trail MT10s with a pair of dark straight leg jeans from the Gap.
Worn with a dark pair of jeans, these grey leather MT10s look downright sharp. I really dig’em as a dressier barefoot shoe to wear with a dressier pair of jeans. The photo above helps capture that look as does this photo (different pair of jeans). Generally, I found that while I might not have picked the grey leather as my first choice over the brown, the grey actually seems to work well with just about any pair of jeans; however, they’re almost too nice to wear with my more distressed/worn jeans (e.g. the types I’ve cut on the ankle sides that have frayed edges, etc.).
The leather MT10s from New Balance paired with khaki bootcut pants (from Banana Republic).
The leather MT10s from New Balance paired with khaki bootcut pants (from Banana Republic).
The leather MT10s also work well with khaki pants! The above shot is taken straight on with some bootcut khakis from Banana Republic. So worn, I went to a few client meetings with a button-down shirt and no one batted an eye. Worn in my own office, my co-workers made comments like “Whoa I think this is the first time I’ve seen you wear normal shoes!” No joke. Again, I found the grey leather to work well with khaki — much to my surprise. I think a black leather wouldn’t have worked nearly as well here, so this was a pleasant surprise.
The leather New Balance Minimus MT10 Trails in grey paired with black chino pants (bootcut pants from Banana Republic).
The leather New Balance Minimus MT10 Trails in grey paired with black chino pants (bootcut pants from Banana Republic).
Worn with black chino pants, they’re also winners! Again, I wore these to some offsite client meetings and I blended right in. Really, the only aesthetic “tells” that these aren’t normal shoes are the hints of a more aggressive sole and the slight detailing on the sides (e.g. the “N” and the subtle green accent of “minimus”). Overall, I think the Minimus Trails in leather are an excellent bet for a casual or dressy casual barefoot shoe. There really aren’t a ton of minimalist shoes in this aesthetic category. Vivo Barefoot makes a few options and Merrell makes the Tough Glove (I’ve never reviewed the Tough Gloves, but have a pair — the aesthetic just didn’t work for me very well). I wouldn’t go so far as to say that these are true business casual shoes; they’re just not traditional enough in their look. But they stand out as an option worth consideration. Here are a bunch of other photos of me wearing these MT10s with different pairs of jeans and pants. A few more pics never hurt anyone, right?


I really like these leather Minimus shoes. They’re more comfortable than the original MT10s thanks to the removal of that somewhat irritatingly overtight rubber strap. They’re pretty good looking. They’ve got a minimal amount of cushioning and decent ground feel. The 4mm differential is something that I’ve come to realize doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Worn all day long without socks, I don’t really ever have that “I can’t wait to take these off” feeling — an important feature of any shoe that has the bare foot in mind, if you ask me. All in all, if you need a shoe to fit a certain empty niche in your wardrobe — a.k.a. what shoes can I wear that are foot friendly but don’t have five toes or don’t look like running shoes that my [significant other] won’t roll their eyes at — well, these might just be top of the list. It’s just that at $120 they aren’t cheap. Then again, that’s $5 less than what the KSO Treks originally went for! I’ll wrap and ask for comments, questions, or feedback. What do you think?

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.

22 replies on “Review of the New Balance Minimus Trail Leather Shoes (MT10)”

As much as I would like to take credit for emailing New Balance last year and asking for a Minimus in leather to compete with the Merrell Tough Glove…chances are it was an obvious step into the minimalist foray for New Balance. I had asked for a leather shoe with the minimus road sole and minimal logoing.

NB has failed horribly in making it passable for the business casual workplace, in that regard. The Tough Glove, even with it’s off-colored parts of the lacing system and Merrell logo on the side of the upper (which can be covered easily by the cuff of your pants) is less “sneaker-like” than these. Merrell has stepped up their game too, literally flooding the market with offerings such as the “Barefoot Life Radius Glove”, “Barefoot Life Edge Glove” (which is shoddy), “Barefoot Life Slant Glove” (also shoddy due to rubber toe bumper).

The first failure of the NB leather Minimus 10 is the gigantic Vibram logo on the side with the swooshy shark-fin shape, compounded by the fact that the NB logos are in light neon green. The second major failure is the off-colored double/triple seams. The seams, like the Minimus series’ other shoes, are not clean seams but painfully obvious to the onlooker (they remind me of an overdone version of Wallabees, i.e. the Vivobarefoot Oaks). The heel cup with the NB logo is also another tell-tale giveaway.

Comfort wise, that seam on the heel seems a lot more pronounced than any sneaker or Merrells would have.

Outside of the office/professional atmosphere, these would probably be great for everyday wear simply due to the shortcomings of minimalist shoes letting in water.

As a minimalist type shoe, it still is the MT10 sole. So they have a higher stack height and weight (and 4mm drop). They still have a toe-spring, which is something the MT20 and the MT00 (minimus Zeros) seemed to solve, even if the MT20 introduced a different set of problems. The MT10 is a pretty popular sole and I see people go roadrunning with them. It’s certainly more even than the Merrell Trail sole. It’s also narrow like the Merrells as well, so I am dissapointed there’s no 2E/4E width on these. I don’t even get that much groundfeel from KSO Trek soles so I don’t think that these are very good in terms of groundfeel either, but that’s a personal preference. I guess it’s just a side effect of having stronger feet and legs, but even the Vivobarefoot with the insole in it seems very cushy nowadays.

So as far as New Balance’s strategy goes, it seems that they made a shoe that is good for trail running where you don’t want to let water in (i.e. in snow); and works for casual wear but is less discreet compared to Merrell Tough gloves. I wouldn’t price them that high given its narrow band of usage… $90 to $100 tops like all the minimalist stuff that cannot be used for work/professional use. Not all of us work for Google like Justin 😛

Then again I can no longer find the Tough Glove on Merrell’s website so I guess New Balance is trying to corner the Tough Glove’s former business casual market. They probably saw the Vivobarefoot Legacy’s $140 price tag and used that as a baseline.

– A C C

Great review! I never got the MT10’s because of that strap. I just KNEW it would bug me. I did get a pair of MX10s and I’ve come to realize the 4mm drop actually feels better than zero drop in everyday walking for me (in comparisson to my MT00s, which I use for running and cross-fit style training. I think I might just have to pick these up. They look great and knowing myself, you never know when I might feel like climbing a tree, or start running around and over some obstacles. So ideally I’m always wearing shoes I can do that in. These would provide that AND look pretty good. Yea, I’m sold!

Budget (<$80) zero drop shoes that can be worn at work.

This shoe is only one of the above.

Why can’t a shoe company do this–it would be a huge seller.

I own a pair of the original MT10’s and will be buying a pair of these. The MT10’s were my first minimalist shoe and I love them. I own a pair of the brown Merrell Tough Gloves and will pick up a pair of the gray MT10L’s to complement them.

Thank you for the review as always. Your site is helpful and awesome!

@A C C,

You shared a lot in your comment that I’d like to tackle and/or rebut.

Re: “NB has failed horribly in making it passable for the business casual workplace, in that regard. The Tough Glove … is less “sneaker-like” than these.”

I disagree pretty strongly with calling the leather MT10s a horrible failure, but perhaps that’s because I’m operating from a different perspective. I don’t expect a shoe company that makes fitness footwear to put out a dressy casual shoe meant for the office. I’m more looking at these leather MT10s as minimalist shoes that are passable in the office, so while they are far from normal biz casual shoes, they’re not nearly as loud as any leather toe shoes and are in the same league as other offerings from other fitness-centric shoe manufacturers. So with that in mind, that’s how I evaluated the MT10s — against competition and not against what I’d like to have in a business casual shoe.

As for your specific nits, pants generally will cover up at least a portion of the “N” on the side of the MT10s; it’s a thin “N,” too, which makes it almost more like a striping than a letter. The Vibram isn’t bright yellow and is pretty inconspicuous. The “Minimus” is so thinly scripted it’s pretty hard to see looking at it from 5-6ft up (how most people see your feet).

As for the Tough Glove, which is a shoe I was extremely excited to test, it never looked right to my eye with any pair of pants or jeans I wore. My wife flat out didn’t like them saying they looked like orthopedic shoes (I’d blame this mostly on the leather Merrell used, has a matte, soft finish to it).

That said, I have a coworker who picked up the Tough Gloves and has loved them — he’s got somewhat narrow, smaller feet though, and I think the Tough Glove works better in that capacity. Why? Because the Tough Glove (and the Gen. 1 trail-soled Merrells) had a fairly “bulbous” forefoot that made them look a little like clown shoes. Google “merrell trail glove clown shoes” or “tough glove clown shoes” and you’ll corroborate this view over and over again.

I’ve not tried the Radius but those look pretty good/promising. The Edge Gloves actually aren’t bad either but look best in the dark brown. The toe bumper really isn’t that conspicuous on them.

Re: seams on the MT10s — loafers have these. The Tough Gloves have these. Cap-toe shoes have these. Actually, they look pretty good to me if not just a little unconventional. I prefer the minimalist single seam of the MT10s in leather than the multi-seamed Edge Glove or the big toe bumper of the Tough Glove. Just my personal preference, of course.

As for a minimalist shoe, the MT10s biggest problem is the heel stack height/stiffness. That said, 4mm is not enough in my experience to derail my biomechanics. I found the leather (midfoot strapless) MT10s very comfortable as every day shoes. Ground feel is definitely not up to a VFF. It’s not terrible though. If you want a lot of ground feel in a leather shoe you have to go Vivo (or Soft Star if you consider those a shoe and not a moc or a slipper). For a wear-all-day-shoe do you want perfect ground feel? I don’t think I do–personal preference again.

I guess my bottom line takeaway is that my Tough Gloves have been gathering dust almost since the day I got them. I felt uncomfortable wearing them — purely based on the aesthetic. Comparatively, I wore these leather MT10s all the time and will be keeping them close at hand for when I need a slightly dressier shoe for work. They aren’t a perfect business casual shoe by any stretch of the imagination. However, to date, the only things that seem to come close to that are Vivo Barefoot Oaks or Ras or Legacies, the few casual options from Merrell (haven’t tried Radius or Slant — would probably like both based on my liking of the Edge but I’d prefer both in a beefier, non-suede leather upper), and what else? There aren’t a ton of options here.

I guess it’s going to come down to your own personal aesthetic in other words. Good thing we’ve got options, right?

Curious — of the shoes you talked about, which ones do you have or have tested? I’d guess you have the Tough Gloves and like them, right? Like I said, my coworker loves his. I just couldn’t get them to look “right” with anything in my wardrobe.

I tend to agree with some of what A C C has to say. I do not care for the lime greenish lettering on the shoe and also heel tab. I understand the big N on the side is a branding thing, but it does make them look more sneaker like and less dress shoe like. The Vibram logo on the shark fin, as A C C called it, does not really bother me. My pants would likely cover the NB on the rear of the shoe. If I needed a mono-toes minimalist dress shoe right now, I might have considered these due to past positive experiences with New Balance products, however at this price point and with the other issues, I don’t think these are for me. Would need a wide width and a black magic marker to make these work for me and then I am not sure how I would feel about the 4MM drop. When I converted to minimalist, I did not use any sort of transition shoe, so I feel these might be a step backwards.

@Mr. Leigh,

I didn’t use a transition shoe either. I was pretty skeptical of the 4mm drop until I tried it. To date, I still find the original Minimus Life (also 4mm drop) to be one of the best minimalist sneakers produced so far. In theory, I’d like it to be “zero” but I say that and actually have trepidation about whether I’d like it as much if it was zero — how weird is that? I think I’m just paranoid it’d mess up something and I just like those original Lifes a lot. 4mm is hardly anything at all. I’m 5’10.5″ tall — call that 1790mm or so. 4mm is 0.22% of my height. Not even a half a percent.

Actually, this makes me think of a whole new train of thought, which is that 1) shoes without toe spring or 2) sandals like huaraches where the sole either hangs below the toes or doesn’t raise up when walking and dorisflexing may result in biomechanical changes to your gait *because you have to angle your foot more skyward to avoid the sole catching the ground at the forefoot as your foot nears parallel to the ground prior to making contact. My biggest beef with huaraches is that the sole will catch the ground and roll under my foot. The solution is to angle my foot higher, which (in this little ad hoc theory I just conjured up) increases the likelihood of a heel strike. Hmm …

Anyway, I maintain this is going to come down to personal preference, but to my eye, these MT10s don’t look quite sneaker-like.

Oh and I forgot to mention it in my reply to A C C, but the heel seem never caused any irritation.

Justin, I appreciate your insight as always 🙂

Maybe “horrible failure” is overkill, but that’s how I feel. I believe they’re fine for casual use though, and even more so for shallow water trail running.

There’s many athletic shoe makers making dressy/casual stuff: Keen, Skechers (ew), ECCO, etc. It’s just the only one that has caught on is the awful MBT ones.

The lettering could’ve been in grey or something not flourescent. They could’ve imprinted the lettering like on Vivobarefoot shoes?

The seams aren’t the same… I don’t know how you describe it but the Minimus leather has a contrasting and wider seam compared to the upper. It reminds me of shirts that are worn inside out. I think it’s to reduce the seams on the inside, but it just looks unclean. The same goes for using a strip of cloth instead of a heel liner.

My Tough Gloves are M8.5 and I had them widened at the forefoot (if you saw my forum posts in the past). They don’t appear bulbous because of these two factors. The leather isn’t the same kind, but I’ve seen them in a formal/casual shoe store polished and it looks the same as normal dress shoe leather after polishing.

I’m actually looking for something between the Tough Glove and the Vivobarefoot Ra. I’ve seen the Edge and slant glove in person and they just seem very underwhelming for the price Merrell is asking. The Radius Glove is a new arrival, but I haven’t been able to spot it in stores.

The Tough Gloves have their own set of problems. My Tough Gloves recently started leaking in deep puddles, but I never liked the forefoot shock plate because it isn’t very flexible. It is great on rocky trail but absolutely terrible for running on anything flat like a sidewalk or asphalt. Before wearing down the sole, it was also uneven. My arches barely clear the “arch something” (arch wrap thing) as you call it, but with wear it’s gotten better.

The MT10 sole seems even stiffer at midfoot. The MT00s seemed to be a huge improvement and I am surprised they didn’t release a leather Minimus Zero.

I know, I’m hard to please…

@ Gary Polnicki : Maybe you should get a pair of Vivobarefoot Oaks, Dharma, or Ra on sale.

Found a seller on ebay that had them listed at 99.99 and would take a best offer. Offered $90 and got them with free shipping. That might help some for those with sticker shock issues.

I stopped at a local running store a few months back to check out the new MR00 from New Balance. Never even tried them on because right away I noticed these leather trails. I never owned a pair of the original MT10s but I gave these a go and have worn them to work every day since.

I have tried them with and without socks and agree that I prefer them without. My only concern is odor and I dont think I can wash them like I do my VFF. In my office we dress business casual and occasionally I wear a shirt and tie but again no one has ever said anything about them. I think they do a great job of blending in. I would not wear them with a suit though.

Good review.

I have some mt10 shoes and have had no problem with the forefoot band. It may be because I have narrow feet but I thought I’d at my 2 pence worth. I love them as a running shoe, keeps me trying. To improve my times!

I just picked up a pair of these on sale at REI. They are 10.5’s and while the length is good the shoes are squeezing my forefoot right where the little “shark fin” thingy is, especially with socks on. I don’t think my feet are particularly wide, but they are high volume (high instep) so many shoes are tight and I often cannot even get my feet into some laceless shoes.

I’m wondering if these shoes will stretch much, and whether the shark-fin shaped bits on either side of the sole will limit how much the leather might stretch. I bought them for fall & winter wear so I’d I’m hoping they will stretch to accommodate some light weight wool socks. Any thoughts?

I bought these last week and just love them. In addition to being comfortable and well-built, they’re quite stylish and can definitely be worn out. I am shifting to minimalist running and decided to buy these not for running in but as a daily wear shoe for cooler weather that will help my feet and body adapt to less-cushioned and lower drop shoes.

Very happy with them, and when purchased ona sale, a reasonable value.

Got these and put in a 24 mile run the next day (I had been using a regular pair of MT10 so the switch was barely noticeable – actually I had been wearing the leather pair for the morning and forgot to switch them out when I went out for a run)….

They were quite comfy, but got kind of hot toward the end (it was a sunny day, 60F). So I probably wouldn’t run in them in the summer. And I like them so much that I will probably not run in them much just so I can keep them around.

But on the looks – it is amazing what a black sharpie can do for the awkwardly placed logos!

Love these, worn them every day since last October. Sadly I’m on my second pair as the first ones ripped. They are my street running shoes now however. They look a little odd, sure.

Ultimately I find the MT10s almost a perfect shoe *except* in their actual stated function.

i know im late to comment on this article but i just got a pair of these and love the fit and feel. i have been wearing them to work which takes me to a lot of fire departments and highway garages where they fit right in after a little black marker on the green parts.

im wondering about washing instructions though. i would like to wear these on some longer, technical hikes but im concerned they might start to smell as i wear them sockless. any advice on maintenance?

Been wearing these MT10s for nearly 8 months. I have problems with my big toe joints. (Hallux Ridgidus) I wear these shoes to work at least 4 or 5 days a week. Liked them so much I purchased a second pair to replace the 1st pair when they wear out. I mainly wear mine with socks. I gather that the 4mm drop keeps the pressure off of my joints so that the pain is minimal unlike traditional shoes that apparently push me forward. I prefer the leather over the mesh types because they look more business causual. I’m searching around for a minimalist shoe that I can wear with my dress slacks and possibly suits.

The sole of these MT10s have help up quite well thus far.

One more thing…

The NB minimus 90 is out. They are a leather/suede combo that may be joining my team real soon. I just wish them made a black pair with minimal coloring.

I got these on a Black Friday sale for $30 (what a steal!) and love wearing them to work as I have two walk a few miles throughout the day using public transit. Much easier to hustle in when I have to than dress shoes and more convenient than wearing tennis shoes and changing when I get to work.

If anyone knows where I can grab a pair of these please let me know. I know they are well past discontinued but some must be sitting around somewhere….

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