While in general I’m highly supportive of the trend toward lighter and less supportive shoes, I believe that there are certain situations where it is desirable to have a bit of protection underfoot. I learned this lesson when I ran the HAT Run 50K in 2010 in the New Balance Minimus MT10. I was crossing a stream, slipped on a rock, and while trying to maintain my balance I mashed my forefoot down hard on a pointy rock protruding from the water. Because the MT10 is fairly minimal and has no rock plate, my foot stood no chance against said pointy rock. I finished the race without major issue, but bruised my forefoot badly and the pain lingered for a few weeks.
I’ve come to appreciate the value of some degree of cushioning, or at least a rock plate, when running on trails or crushed rock along the side of the road. It’s for this reason that I was a bit skeptical when I saw that New Balance was releasing an even more stripped down version of the Minimus Trail, the MT00. I’ve now had the MT00 for about 5 months (disclosure: these shoes are review samples provided free of charge by the manufacturer), and have put a decent number of running miles on them, as well as quite a bit casual use.
Let me first say that I really like this shoe. Much like it’s close cousin the Minimus Road Zero (MR00), the MT00 has a very roomy fit, it’s incredibly lightweight (4.7 oz in size 10), and it’s super flexible. This is a shoe that can quite literally be rolled up into a ball. The sole is zero drop and only 12 mm thick, the upper is made of a “barely-there” mesh that is highly breathable, and the interior finish has allowed me to run sockless in it with no blistering. It’s a remarkably well made shoe and very unique in its construction.
So what’s not to like? Well, the issue with the MT00 is that due to its ultra-minimal construction, this is not a shoe that is going to provide much protection on trails. In fact, if I run on the crushed rock along the roadside near my house I need to be really conscious of my foot-plant since jagged rocks are most definitely felt through the sole. Given this, I would not recommend the Minimus Trail Zero for any type of rugged trail or crushed rock running surfaces. If it is to be used off-road, the MT00 is best saved for well maintained and cleared trails.
I’ve personally wound up using the MT00 mostly as a barefoot-style road shoe, and for this purpose it works phenomenally well. Because I’ve had such a hard time getting a good fit in the Vibram Fivefingers, I’ve grown to much prefer ultraminimal shoes with a standard (wide) toebox. Shoes like the Merrell Road Glove, Altra Samson, Inov-8 Bare-X 180 and the MT00 are my four favorites in this category. Of these, the MT00 and Road Glove have just a bit more cushion than the others.
What I like most about the MT00 is the breathability of the upper. The upper material is probably the thinnest of any shoe I have ever run in – it feels like tissue paper. In fact, it’s so thin that I can see my toes through the top of the toebox – kind of creeps me out a bit (see photo to the left). I have heard of at least one person who has had the upper tear on them, but so far mine is holding up very well. Because I can run sockless in this shoe without issue, the breathable upper will likely make this a great shoe for summer running.
The wildcard with this shoe will be durability. At an MSRP of $110 it does not come cheap, so hopefully it will last. I’ve probably put about 40 or so miles on mine so far, plus quite a few more miles of walking, and the upper and sole still look really good. There is just enough rubber in the right spots on the outsole to reduce wear, and the exposed EVA, though roughed up a bit, is holding up well.
In summary, the New Balance MT00 is a great choice if you are looking for a shoe that is ultralight, has minimal cushion, and has a super roomy forefoot. It can handle light trail work and is perfectly fine on roads, but I would not recommend it for rugged trails or any environment with rocks or debris – just not enough protection. If you want an ultraminimal shoe for more rugged conditions, the Merrell Trail Glove is a better choice as it has a more rugged sole and a rock plate. But, the MT00 works better for me on roads than the Trail Glove, probably due to its less structured sole. There are always tradeoffs I suppose.
The New Balance Minimus MT00 is available for sale at Running Warehouse.