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New Balance Minimus 1010 Trail

New Balance Minimus 1010, Blister Gear Review.

New Balance Minimus 1010 Trail

2013 New Balance Minimus 1010 Trail

Size: 8.5

Weight: 7.7 oz.

Stack Height / Drop:

Heel (23mm) Forefoot (19mm) / Drop (4mm)

Reviewer’s Feet: 260mm / D-width

Test Duration: ~ 6 weeks

Total Miles Run: ~ 200

Test Locations: Wasatch Mountains, Utah

Background

Yes, I’ve read Born to Run. About four years ago. No, I didn’t immediately run out and buy a pair of Five Fingers.

I was, however, inspired to try a different tact in my approach to running.

After years of mindlessly tossing road shoes after 400-500 miles, I began paying more attention to my stride and foot strike, running a few barefoot laps at my local park, and suddenly wearing the same road shoes comfortably until they literally fell apart. (I’d usually put a minimum of 800 miles on a pair of New Balance 904s.)

Since then, my trail shoes have become progressively more “minimal,” and I find myself constantly searching for the best combination of trail feel, cushioning/protection, and durability.

Cushioning? In a minimal shoe?

Yes. If I find myself on a trail for 4 hours, chances are I’m going to get lazy and step on something sharp, or bang my heels on the ground a few times along the way. Having something substantial under my feet becomes important.

New Balance Minimus 1010 Trail (vs. New Balance MT110)

The Minimus 1010 Trail is built on New Balance’s NL-1 last, which is similar to their very popular MT110. I’ve spent significant time in the New Balance MT110, so I’m going to use it as my primary basis for comparison:

Both are designed for a sockless fit (the Minimus 1010 Trail features an internal sock, similar to Salomon’s EndoFit), though I still prefer to throw on a lightweight sock.

Both the Minimus 1010 Trail and the MT110 have a standard heel width, wider forefoot (the 1010 is a little wider than the MT110), and 4mm heel-toe drop.

In my experience, however, this is where the similarities end.

While I had been more or less happy with the New Balance MT110, especially in terms of fit, the cushioning is particularly firm front to back, and I’m not comfortable in it on long runs on rocky terrain or on big descents.

The Minimus 1010 Trail seemed like a natural replacement—similar in fit and overall feel, but with a REVlite midsole and vibram outsole. Compared to the 110’s ACTEVA midsole, REVlite seems considerably more responsive and a little more forgiving, at least right out of the box—differences that can be a big deal after hours on trail.

The uppers are also different. The 1010 Trail uses a combination of synthetic fabrics and reinforcements, while the MT110 uses a harder, more plastic-like material.

Trying on the Minimus 1010 Trail, I was initially concerned about the fit. While my standard 8.5-size felt right, I found myself having to cinch the laces down to the point of pinching the fabric in the forefoot. I tried a size 8.0, but it was definitely too small.

It looked strange enough at first that I initially chose a different shoe—the Saucony Kinavara TR, which looked great on paper, but promptly put both my feet to sleep on consecutive runs. When the Kinavara didn’t pan out, the 1010 felt good enough to try again despite its flimsy feeling and funny-looking pinched upper.

Worth noting: Despite the pinching, the fit was otherwise great. Over the course of the review, I found no unwanted movement within the shoe, despite a slightly wider toe box.

New Balance Minimus 1010 trail, Blister Gear Review.

Lance Peterson in the New Balance Minimus 1010 Trail, Wasatach Range, Utah.

On Trail

I spent the majority of my 6 weeks in the Minimus 1010 running low-elevation trails in the foothills above Salt Lake, waiting for everything higher up to melt.

My first impressions on a standard 8-mile out-and-back were very positive. I found everything I look for in a trail shoe—good ground feel, good protection, low weight.

While there aren’t a lot of particularly demanding sections on the Bonneville Shoreline trail, there are just enough steeps, rocks, mud, and gravel to be able to give you a sense of how the shoe will perform in bigger, more technical terrain.

The rock-plate in the forefoot of the Minimus 1010 Trail is very similar to the MT110, but there seems to be more protection in the tread and outsole of the 1010 Trail itself, with very little expense in terms of trail feel. Nice.

And the REVlite foam in the midfoot and heel provides almost exactly the sensation I look for in a trail shoe. I want enough cushion so that I won’t get punished when I get lazy and strike a heel, but I want that cushioning to be firm enough to remind me that I’m not running in something more heavily cushioned that gives my foot an “entombed” feel with little trail feedback, like a Brooks Cascadia.

The Minimus 1010 Trail occupies that middle ground.

The vibram outsole has a series of “pods” that act as the primary means of traction. I found them to be fantastically grippy when running both flat and uphill sections on a variety of surfaces, whether rocks, roots, or dirt.

New Balance Minimus 1010, Blister Gear Review.

New Balance Minimus 1010 Trail with vibram outsole “pods.”

From a downhill and lateral perspective, however, I thought the shoes slipped a little bit more in both directions than I’m used to, which makes sense given the directional orientation of the “fins.”

I did have a gripe with the laces. They’re too smooth, and they’ve come untied even from a double knot starting with my very first run in them.

They’re also way too long. I ended up tucking them into the shoe itself and intended to cut and cauterize them, but never had the chance (I’ll explain in a minute).

The real test for any trail shoe is found on steeper, more technical terrain and on longer descents, like Salt Lake’s Mount Wire, which gains and subsequently loses 2200 vertical feet in 4 miles.

I often run in the Hoka Stinson Evo for longer runs or steep, extended descents and often wear them for Wire, but I find that while the Hoka’s are excellent at reducing impact—especially running downhill—they permit me to get lazy and, in many ways, encourage me to bash my feet heel first into the trail.

Once again, the Minimus 1010 Trail proved to be a great compromise. They are svelte and nimble enough to enable me to pick my way quickly through steep, rocky sections, but they provide just enough cushion in the heel to keep a reasonable level of trail feedback.

This begs a question: If you’re running with a mid or forefoot strike, why does heel cushioning matter? My answer, and that of the vast majority of us non-professional runners, is that unless you want to crawl downhill through steep, technical terrain on your toes, you’re probably going to be striking heel-first occasionally.

I saw a variety of conditions during my first month in the Minimus 1010 Trail—mud, snow, water, and entirely dry, buff trail. I felt completely comfortable with the 1010 in all of it—including 3 to 4 mile stretches of road to get back and forth to the trailhead.

In wet conditions, the light fabric upper and internal sock take on water quickly, but they dry quickly, too. I didn’t find a noticeable difference between the drying characteristics of the Minimus 1010 or MT110, but both are vastly better than the Hoka, which seems to take forever to drain.

(Disclaimer:  I don’t tend to notice this unless a shoe stays really, really wet for a long time.)

New Balance Minimus, Blister Gear Review.

Lance Peterson in the New Balance Minimus 1010 Trail.

Durability 

It was after about three weeks and a hundred miles that I began to have some concerns about durability.

Several years ago, I ran in the MT110’s predecessor, the MT101. It was a lightweight (7.5 oz.), low-profile trail shoe with no support, and I absolutely loved it. I liked it so much, in fact, that after the upper completely separated from the sole at the forefoot at around 300 miles, I continued to wear it until the outsole became completely slick (at around 600 miles). My feet got a little dirty, of course, but the shoe remained completely functional.

When the same thing happened a little earlier on with the Minimus 1010, I assumed I’d continue to run them until the vibram wore off the outsole. But not so. In the middle of a 15-mile training run, the inside section of the forefoot overlay catastrophically detached from the outsole, to the point where pulling on the laces just pulled the upper farther up from the ground. 200 miles and done.

Bottom Line

Despite some perceived fit issues early on, I couldn’t have been happier with the way the New Balance Minimus 1010 Trail performed as a lightweight, low-profile trail shoe.

My take on trail shoes is that the best ones are the ones you don’t have to think about. I would have been comfortable taking the Minimus 1010 anywhere, from slickrock trails in Moab, to alpine trails in northern Utah, at any distance that my fitness allowed.

The vibram on this shoe is pretty soft and compliant, which makes a big difference on exposed rock, even if it’s wet. The shoe just had a tendency to slip a bit in loose, kitty-litter type conditions.

The durability of the upper, however, is an issue for me. Shoes are expensive, and I’m looking to get more than six weeks out of a single pair. Your experience may vary, of course, and you might have better luck than I did. But personally, I would happily accept a small weight penalty for a more durable upper on the Minimus 1010, like that of the MT110, which remains more or less intact after almost 400 miles.

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