By Al Gauthier
New Balance is a very well-respected brand in the performance shoe market. As my review of the New Balance Minimus Road underlined, not all shoes marketed as minimalist or barefoot shoes fall into the minimalist category as we (Living Barefoot) define it. Despite the lack of widely accepted definitions of what it means to be a true minimalist shoe, the New Balance Minimus Trail deserves the Minimus label.
The New Balance Minimus Trail provides a snug fit appropriate as a trail running shoe. While the materials are soft and flexible, the supportive structure boarders on mildly restrictive. The heel fits snugly into its pocket and the toes have more room to move than most closed-toes shoes I’ve tested. Despite those excellent qualities, I found the Trail a little bit too snug in the midfoot. Those with narrow to mid-width feet will likely find these an excellent fit, however, so I cannot fault them for not fitting my feet perfectly.
The Minimus Trail adopts the narrow last typical of what we have seen from the New Balance Minimus line so far. Despite an overall narrow fit, the Trail allows for more toe room than we’ve seen in most closed shoes. This is in part due to the virtual lack of structure in the toe box allowing for toes to move freely. While the design needs some adjustment to allow for a better fit for wider feet, the idea is excellent. I would like to see it adopted more widely.
The outsole provides for better than average grip on both smooth and rough terrain, however, the outsole does not provide the grippy, lugged surface so popular in many trail-specific shoes. For this reason, the Trail is more than adequate for light trail use but doesn’t hit the mark for those looking for the ultimate off-road trail shoe. For a minimalist product, this is always a trade-off. Adding the bulk of a more significantly lugged outsole would remove some of the sensitivity of the shoe. This design choice is likely the result of wanting to appeal to a wider audience.
The flex in the Minimus Trail is good. When compared to other minimalist shoes, the Trail lacks some of the bendability found in ultra-flexible products now available. Considering the intended use of this product, however, I feel the flexibility is more than adequate. Too much pliability results in less protection. In most circumstances, this would be of benefit but with a trail shoe some protection is warranted.
The Trail is very light, especially for a trail shoe. The use of ultra light materials has kept the weight of the shoe to a minimum.
Support / Insole
The insole provides no support to any of the foot’s 3 arches. The insole is stitched into the structure of the shoe and thus is not removable. The insole has no shock absorption but has a pleasant feel under food. No seams can be felt under foot.
Ground textures transmit well through the flexible sole of the Trail. While these are not the most sensitive soles we’ve tested, they are a good balance between the protection needed while trail running and the sensitivity needed for feedback.
Grip is reasonable in these shoes but not outstanding. For dry, solid surfaces they are more than adequate. More substantial lugs are lacking, however, to grip more substantial muddy areas or loose rock.
The Trail is a breath of fresh air for your feet. Your feet will find the upper is full of ventilation thanks to the use of a three-layered mesh system. The mesh is used throughout the upper where the more substantial structural components are not found. The result is a light and airy feeling shoe wonderful for a hot day.
Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
New Balance is known for quality products and the Minimus Trail does not disappoint in the quality department. These are very well made shoes that I would expect to last a long time. I could find no faults in the manufacturing.
The significant air circulation allows for water to freely flow in and out of these shoes. These are in no way waterproof but I suspect that they will dry reasonably quickly once wet. This was not a situation I tested.
The sample pair fit true to size in length. The width would only be suggested to those with narrow to normal-width feet. Wide feet will find the shoe is too tight in the midfoot. Ample toe room and a comfortable heel cup welcome feet of any size.
At $99 USD on the New Balance website, these are below average price for a trail running shoe of this type. This is an excellent value for a well-made shoe.
The Trail has a modern outdoorsy look that will fit right in with other technical gear. They are neither stunningly beautiful nor are they particularly ugly.
There is no break-in period for these shoes. Those of you with normal to wide feet should test these out in the store or indoors first. The synthetic materials used will not stretch over time thus a perfect fit is essential.
The well-ventilated nature of these shoes does not provide significant warmth. Although socks can be worn, you may find a different pair of shoes more suitable for colder temperatures. Note that socks will increase the overall width of your foot and will make the narrow last more apparent.
Marketed as a trail shoe, the New Balance Minimus Trail is a good shoe for a casual hike or a trail run. The lack of beefy lugs may prevent you from running on more technical terrain but, for most groomed trails, these shoes will feel at home. While the outsole is more substantial than other minimalist shoes, the Trail would be suitable for going grocery shopping or relaxing in the park. Especially for those with warm feet, the Trail is a good balance of utilitarian protection and minimalist qualities.
The Minimus Trail is a good all-round shoe designed for light trail activity and everyday use. Designed for narrow to mid-width feet, the fit is snug yet the toes have ample room for natural movement. The strapping system desperately needs adjustment points for versatility, but so long as your foot feels snug and comfortable inside the Trail, these seem to be a good choice.
For more information, take a look at the New Balance website.
As you read our reviews, please keep in mind that our reviewers review shoes in terms of their suitability for those looking to find the highest quality minimalist shoe products. All reviews are as factual as possible. In an effort to be transparent and ethical, we will point out any defects found, even if these do not affect the usability of the product. Not all defects will be present in final production shoes as we are sometimes offered “seconds” or pre-release products in an effort to provide you with reviews in a timely manor. In the event that serious issues are found with a review sample we will give every opportunity for the manufacturer to replace to explain the review samples before the final review is released. We never accept payments for reviews. We do not guarantee a good review for any products sent to us. We do not review products that do not claim to be minimalist or “barefoot like” unless we receive a significant number of requests from readers or listeners.
Should you have any questions about our review process or would like your product reviewed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us using our contact page.
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