One of the exiting new additions to the lineup of options for minimalist and reduced shoe runners is the Minimus line from New Balance, which I have written about previously here on Runblogger.. Set to arrive in stores in March 2011, New Balance is proceeding with a slow and steady roll-out of information on the Minimus shoe line, and if the care with which they are marketing this line is any indication, they apparently expect it to make some big waves in the running shoe market. Below is my attempt to collate and post information on this shoe series as it becomes available.
Update 11/18/2010: Just put up a post with pictures and a report on my first runs in the New Balance Minimus Trail.
Update 11/14/2010: Just put up a post with pictures and a report on my first run in the New Balance Minimus Road.
Update 10/16/2010: Just put up a post with high-resolution images of the New Balance Minimus Trail, Road and Wellness (an example of the NB Minimus road is below).
First, posters on a thread in the Runner’s World Barefoot Running forum have linked up a picture and article from the July 14th Running Insight newsletter that discusses the New Balance Minimus. Here’s the picture featuring the wellness (i.e., walking), road running, and trail running Minimi (is that plural for Minimus?) – I apologize for the low resolution, but it’s captured from the Running Insight PDF and is the best I could manage
What I like about this picture is that it gives a nice, full view of the NB Minimus Trail (the black one), unlike some of the teaser photos that I’ve seen elsewhere online – looks like a really nice shoe. In the accompanying article, Running Insight reports that:
“New Balance says the key to the NB Minimus collection is a new anatomically correct last designed with significantly less drop from heel to forefoot (4 mm in all styles compared to 12.5 mm in traditional athletic shoes). This gradual drop positions the foot into a more neutral stance and promotes a more natural stride by moving the wearer off their heel and encouraging a mid-foot landing. Each shoe uses stretch materials and minimal constructions that reduce weight. Each NB Minimus style in men’s size 9.5 weighs less than 8.5 oz.“
Running Insight also reports that:
“New Balance says research conducted through its sports research lab shows that the tendency for mid-foot or forefoot strike is correlated to midsole thickness and that less cushioning encourages a mid-foot strike. As a result, each NB Minimus shoe was engineered with lower sole unit heights. The reduced midsole and outsole thickness also allows the foot to flex up and down more easily.“
This matches well with my personal experience – I run in several 4mm drop shoes, and I find that I heel strike a bit more in the Nike Free 3.0, with it’s thicker heel cushion, than I do in the Brooks Mach 11 or 12, which are less cushioned and have a lower heel despite roughly the same drop as the Free 3.0. I look forward to trying out the Minimus to see how it performs.
Update 9/22/10: New Balance has just posted an interview with ultrarunner Tony Krupicka and New Balance designer Chris Wawrousek, highlighting the input that Krupicka gave in the design process for this shoe. Here’s an interesting quote from Wawrousek regarding the design of the New Balance MT100 trail shoe, which has been criticized by some as having to much of a heel lift (it’s also the shoe that Krupicka is famous for hacking the heel off of with a knife:
“Well, the 100 started out as this shoe that we wanted to make specifically for Tony and Kyle and really aim it at racing. As so often happens, in the broader market it was almost too early for us to come out with something quite so extreme. As a designer, it was disappointing, because the feedback we were getting from Tony and Kyle was very specific – things like the drop in the last. But these were things that the broader consumer base wasn’t really ready for.“
The above quote speaks volumes about why the big shoe companies seem reluctant to follow in the footsteps of Vibram, Terra Plana, GoLite and a few others and produce true zero-drop running shoes – seems they are likely worried that people are not ready to run in this type of shoe. With proper guidance and education, I personally don’t see it as a problem, but then again I don’t work for a shoe company. Wawrousek goes on to say:
“Then all of a sudden, you had Born to Run [Christopher McDougall's best-selling book about long-distance running], which created this whole new energy around this idea that we weren’t really meant to run on wedges. Which is what we had heard from Tony and Kyle before but weren’t ready to leverage yet. So, a lot of what we had talked about with Tony and Kyle and the origins of the 100 – the 100 itself didn’t really live up to all of those ideas, but when we were able to free ourselves up and do NB Minimus, a lot of the seeds had been planted with the 100.”
Interesting perspective and insight from a designer at one of the big shoe makers – you can read the rest of the interview with Krupicka and Wawrousek here. In addtion to the interview, there’s a cool little interactive prototype timline for the Minimus Trail shoe – below are a few of the early proptotypes, as well as a clearer picture of the final version:
In addition to the info provided above, there’s also a video posted on YouTube about good running form that features the road version of the Minimus – note the emphasis on cadence and a midfoot strike (Update – this video has gone missing again!).
A second video featuring Anton Krupicka wearing the New Balance Minimus trail has also popped up on YouTube: