Last year when we reviewed New Balance's Minimus Trail Zeros, we were blown away by the lightness but hated the fit. The Minimus 10v2 Trail is New Balance's slightly less minimal shoe for 2013, and while it isn't perfect, it's definitely a step in the right direction.
What Is It?
A minimal trail runner with a 4mm drop (i.e. the heel is 4mm higher than the toe) and a Vibram soul.
Who's It For?
Trail runners who require very little in the way of support or padding and want to run with a natural gait. However, it's a little too cushy for die-hard minimal runners.
At 184g the shoes are quite light for the amount of protection they provide. The upper is soft, flexible, breathes well, and actually looks very good. The interior is smooth enough that you can get away without wearing socks. Separate grids of Vibram rubber on the sole are laid into an EVA layer. This separation gives it a good amount of flexibility, though they're certainly more rigid than the Minimus Zeros. There are no gaps in the sole, so water and mud can't seep through from the bottom, which was a problem for the Zeros.
I tested these shoes over several long trail runs in Spain as well as a rather disgusting mud run in Colorado. They're comfortable, they dry quickly, and they provide a reasonable amount of protection from sharp rocks.
The Best Part
Our biggest problem with the Minimus Zero was that it had a narrow toe box, which prevented your toes from splaying out naturally when you run. Thankfully, New Balance has widened the box out in the 10v2. They're just way more comfortable to run in, though they still aren't as wide as the minimal shoes from Merrill.
For serious trail running, the tread just doesn't have nearly enough "bite". New Balance clearly wanted to keep the shoes flat and minimal, so it added depth to the tread by recessing it inward. There are four levels of depth in the tread, but really only one of those levels sticks out, and though it's Vibram, it's just not sharp enough to grab hold. I almost faceplanted a couple of times when scampering uphill on solid rock (which was bone dry, no less).
This Is Weird...
The lacing system still needs work. It's hard to figure out exactly why, but it's really difficult to get the shoes fitting just right. You definitely need to wear them looser than you'd expect in order to keep your forefoot from getting compressed. Once you get it dialed in, though, it does a pretty good job of staying there.
- Because the tread isn't so sharp, these shoes actually work great for pavement. Silver lining!
- Even on a hot day, they breathe very well.
- If the shoes fill with water (or, in my case, mud) you pretty much have to invert them to clear the water out, as there isn't much in terms of drainage. The upshot is that water from damp trails won't seep in.
- You definitely appreciate the lightness of these shoes on longer runs.
Should You Buy It?
It depends on how intense the trails are that you plan to run, and how often you plan on running them. If you want to fly up steep, technical slopes, you should go with something grippier. However, if you just want one pair of shoes and plan on weaving back and forth between road and light trails, these are very nice. It was really only the difficult stuff where these shoes slipped up. Y'know, literally.
That said, we prefer our minimalist shoes to be a little more, well, minimal. We hope New Balance steals some of these updates and applies them to the next version of Minimus Zeros. [New Balance Men's / Women's]
New Balance Minimus 10v2 Trail Specs
- Type: Trail running
- Weight: 184g
- Drop: 4mm
- Men's sizes: 7 - 14 D and 2E
- Women's sizes: 5 - 12 B and D
- Men's colours: 3 options
- Women's colours: 3 options
- Price: $110 - $160 RRP in Australia