Following a somewhat annoying and tiring rollercoaster relationship with shin splints and calf pains for the past few months, I started having a sneaking suspicion that it might be time to replace my favourite pair of mid- to long-distance runners. My trusty and comfy Adidas Adizero Adios have pulled me through 420km of pavement pounding. That’s practically 10 full Marathons. Incidentally, my very first (albeit unofficial, during a training run) Marathon was run on these shoes, as well as my fastest 21K and 10K so far, so they do hold a special place in my heart. But the pains in my lower legs wouldn’t dissipate, no matter how much I rested, iced, or stretched them. Could new shoes be the answer?
Seeing how Adidas Philippines is absolutely horrid at maintaining stocks of popular models of running shoes – in particular the Adios – even at their flagship store in Makati, I had no choice but to look at other brands. Another brand which has had a soft spot in my heart for a while is New Balance. When they still produced and sold the lighter-than-air RC130X, I was so in love that I bought THREE pairs. But those were essentially only for my 10K-or-less runs, and I needed something just slightly beefier for my longer distances.
Enter the Minimus Road.
New Balance has introduced 4 different types of the Minimus line to US market, namely Road, Trail, Cross-Trainer and Life. Unfortunately at the time of this writing only 2 of the 4 types are available in Philippines: Road and Trail. It’s understandable to want to penetrate the market with these 2 models, considering the road- and trail-running boom is still in its upswing in this country. I did try both shoes at my nearest Planet Sports branch and I loved the fit, feel and look of both shoes, but since I’m concerned with replacing my Adizero Adios, the Road was the only logical choice (I’ll start trail running next year. Maybe.).
From the first steps I took with these shoes, I already had a feeling this was going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The fit as I stated is great. This is to be expected since the core selling point of this shoe is to be minimal, hence unobtrusive. Contrary to what one might expect, however, it’s NOT that “in touch” with the road surface as the name might lead on. I own a pair of VFF KSO’s and the NB Minimus Road have nowhere near as much feedback from the ground. Which, to me, is a good thing. I’m not a barefoot, minimalist evangelist by any stretch of the imagination, in fact I find my feet too tender and gingerly to be exposed to the rigors of real barefoot running, and as such I appreciate some protection from pebbles and the like. All I really do care about is light weight and perfect fit. The Minimums Road offers both.
My size 8 US weighs in at an outstandingly light 209 grams (7.2oz) which makes it about 10 grams lighter than my Adios. Not a great deal lighter, but lighter all the same. But what about the fit? Well, at first I was a bit apprehensive about the fit since the toe box on these shoes is wider than I’m used to – this is to accomodate the splaying of the runner’s toes with each footstrike, something minimalist runners find essential in the experience – and my feet are quite narrow. The previous shoes I had with a wide toe box were the Brooks Green Silence, and as a result of the wide fit those shoes ended up giving me blisters near the arch of my foot due to lateral shifting of the shoe while running (this was eventually solved with custom insoles). Would I have the same issue with the Minimus? No. Only the toe box was roomy but the rest of the shoe fit very snugly indeed, and so far I’ve run around 40 kilometers on them (including a 21K) and nary a blister to be seen. And most important of all: no shin splints, no calf pains whatsoever. Even the day after the long run (usually a more painful time for me than immediately after the run), I felt absolutely great.
The roomy toe box – something I was at first afraid would be a liability – ended up suiting me very well. My Adidas were lovely in many ways, but one thing that I didn’t always appreciate was the narrow profile of the shoe. Sure this lends to a quite sleek and areodynamic look, but it meant that I felt a tiny bit unstable when tackling sharp corners or dodging obstacles at high speeds, especially when the road surface was wet. With the lower, wider profile of the Minimus Road, I really did feel alot more stable in almost every situation that presented itself, and indeed the toe splaying is a wonderful feeling. It feels like I can almost use my toes to make micro adjustments to my direction and speed – not unlike the experience with the VFFs. Although you don’t really get that much tactile feedback from the road due to the sole, at least the freedom of movement offered to the toes does give a sense of intimacy with the ground beneath you. The one drawback of the wide toebox when comparing them to my very narrow RC130X racing flats is that every now and then during speed work, the shoe would clip the back of my other calf. That’s just a product of my running style (my feet are always moving and hitting the road along one line), and doesn’t happen enough times to become a problem.
One other important aspect that may or may not appeal to you: these shoes have a very tiny drop (heel to toe) of 4mm. Meaning these shoes are very much suited towards midfoot and forefoot runners, and much less so for heel strikers. In fact I’d strongly advise against any heel striker from purchasing these or any other minimalist shoes since the lack of any decent shock absorption at the back end will mean real strain and pain for your knees.
All in all these are the best shoes that I’ve bought and ran with in a long time. I’d even go so far as to say it will knock the Adidas off their throne in my heart as my favorite long distance shoe ever, however I’ll give it a few more long runs before I really make that call. Also when it comes to durability it’s too early to say how long these will last. If it lasts as long as my Adios has I’ll be very pleased.
I’d call this the perfect shoe for me, except literally the only tiny gripe I could come up with for now is the occasional brushing of the wide toe box against my calf while running at high speed. Also, it’s not at all the “barefoot experience” that you would get from other true minimalist shoes like VFFs of Vivo Barefoots, which makes it slightly disingenuous marketing on NB’s part, in my opinion. While these are the ideal shoes for anyone like me looking for lightweight, super comfortable, responsive mid- to long-distance racing shoes, these shoes are definitely NOT for the runner looking for the barefoot experience. For these reasons I’ve awarded these shoes 4 1/2 singlets out of 5. Still a very strong recommendation by me.
(Available at most NB retailers at around 4995 PHP)