Unlike pulling off a Band-Aid or taking a polar bear plunge, the best approach to barefoot running is to tread lightly and gradually. Forget toughening up your tender dogs for pavement and pebbles. The muscles in your arches must be handled with kid gloves, er, shoes.
Enter New Balance’s Minimus, a pair of “transitional” kicks intended to either ease you into full-on barefoot, or, at the very least, strengthen those arch muscles to avoid overpronation, potential injury or collapsed arches.
At 8.05 ounces each, the Minimus shoes are certainly light, though other barefoot-style shoes from Nike and Merrell are lighter. (At least they’re over an ounce trimmer than Adidas’s new Crazy Light, purported to be the world’s lightest basketball shoe.)
The Minimus shoes also boast a relatively small heel-to-toe height drop of 4 mm. In other words, the sole’s thickness is much more uniform front-to-back, which gives your foot a feel that’s akin to — though obviously not identical to — barefoot. To get a true barefoot feel, you need a “zero drop” shoe like the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila.
Every foot is different, of course, but I appreciated the narrowness of the middle of the shoe. The mesh upper seemed to hug my arches when I laced them up. Wearing these in the gym during balancing exercises, I was able to feel my arches straining and struggling. That’s a good thing.
And here’s a total bonus: There’s no need to wear socks, since the inside of the shoe is coated with a sock-liner-like material.
What’s not to like? The design of the hexagonal honeycomb sole is visually and conceptually cool (cut-outs provided flexibility in key areas), but in practice, there was little traction to speak of. Thus, the steep hills around my house in San Francisco were tough. Nevertheless, if the basics of Good Form Running are new to you, this shoe’s a great place to start. If you’re already working towards the barefoot nirvana, it’s a nice, affordable middle ground before the zero drop. And if you’re already barefoot, well hey — look at you, hotshot!
Photo by Jim Merithew/
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