In the not-too-distant future, the running shoes you have on your feet right now will be obsolete. No, not updated. Obsolete. They’ll be relics. More likely they’ll be considered “fashion” or “retro”, whatever that means.
Each of the big 7–adidas, ASICS, Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance, Nike and Saucony–and myriad smaller, niche brands will have completely shifted focus to footwear that is biomechanically appropriate. That is, footwear that works with an individual’s natural running biomechanics, rather than against it. It might take a few years, maybe ten, but it will happen.
Probably already you’ve seen some of these newfangled kicks, either here at Rogue, out on the trails or roads. Maybe you read Born to Run. As much as I hate the label, minimalist is what’s happening.
The first introductions—not fringe, not the far side of the pendulum, like Five Fingers—have been well received and are already taking traction. For historical purposes, we won’t go too deep, but let’s say that the Saucony Kinvara was the first one on the wall. The next offering, New Balance’s Minimus line, is thus far the most pared down and focused of the options available now.
The Minimus line—Road, Trail and Wellness (the Minimi?)—began to show up in viral marketing campaings last year, creating a positive buzz well before the shoes were available in store. The timing was right—Born to Run was already a hit, inside and outside of the running community—and the marketing was honest and directed. New Balance has never been a solid marketing company, certainly not to the extent that a Nike or even a Brooks has been, so this was refreshing to say the least.
The goal was to make biomechanically appropriate running footwear, simple in design and function. The Minimus trio is, so far, at the top of the heap. Free of the mucky-muck-bling-bells and whistles that we had grown to know and loathe, the Minimus is really, simply, what a real running shoe should be. Of course, there are variations on every theme, but this is a really solid introduction.
The upper is about as basic as it gets. It is one piece, with no restrictive overlays or seams. Drawn, apparently, by someone who understands design (form follows function!) and not someone who is just really adept at repackaging the same old, same old. The fit is comfortably snug from hind foot through the mid foot, where it needs to be; and broad and roomy from the metatarsals forward to allow the feet to splay, as any self-respecting biomechanically appropriate footwear should.
The midsole and outsole offer the (apparently) minimalist standard 4mm heel/toe differential, giving the feeling of being almost flat footed when standing and farther forward on impact when running. Moderately firm and responsive, the Minimus Road feels not unlike a roomier version of some old school racing flats, with durability added. The Trail is much firmer, fits a hair snugger and feels lower and less protective, which is perhaps a bit strange initially to think about when thinking about our rocky Texas trails. But two one hour runs on the Greenbelt were fine, though I would imagine that 100K over some really gnarly, technical rocky stuff might leave your feet a bit abused.
Both the Road and the Trail would make really nice additions to the weekly rotation. I have find each on my doorstep, drying from the last run more often that not, and have used them almost interchangeably on road or off-road. The only way I can see either being bumped from the rotation is when next year’s updates are presented. A zero-drop Minimus Road makes me salivate, and the new Trail looks like it could become the go to trail shoe for the next years.
At the moment, the Minimus options from New Balance are as good as it gets, and the gettin’s pretty good right now.