Most trail shoes have a reputation; it’s not a bad reputation. They’re chunkier, heavier, and a little more “grizzled” than your typical day-to-day athletic shoes, and with good reason. If you’re really using your trail shoes for the purpose that they have, you likely need the extra chunk and so on to afford yourself the protection that you need when you go out into the wilderness (or somewhere resembling a wilderness). In the case of the New Balance Minimus 10 Trail, it breaks the mold of the heavyweight boxer equivalent of most typical trail shoes and offers something totally different to wearers, for better and for worse…but mostly, for better.
Not unlike the New Balance Minimus 20 Cross-Trainer, the Minimus 10 Trail, or MT10, is a featured product of New Balance’s Minimus line and initiative, which “is a whole new approach to footwear, a place on the spectrum from barefoot running to the traditional maximum-cushioning running shoe”, as stated descriptively by the company. It comes with a “minimal Vibram outsole for lightweight traction and durability”, New Balance’s patented ACTEVA foam midsole (which “provides great flexibility and a featherweight cushion”), a supportive and comfortable synthetic/mesh upper, and to top it off, the shoe is odor-resistant (something which proved to be true one morning while I walked in the morning dew; the shoe stunk, to be quite frank; less than a day later, the shoe was refreshed, seemingly like new).
Comfort & Fit
The MT10 is a gifted shoe in that it is remarkably comfortable and engineered in such a way that there’s not much around the foot that’s supplying its feel. It’s low to the ground and cushioned enough to pretty much do just about anything you might do casually. It’s also lightweight, weighing only 7.5 oz. As a full-on trail shoe, it has great feel for the ground, while running or walking, and it actually mimics barefoot movement very closely and impressively, but there is a dark side…
The MT10 is great for pathways, walkways, sidewalks, indoor and outdoor use. It’s even good on gravel, dust, dirt, and whatever else, but it absolutely is a killer on the foot on rock-heavy terrain. Because the MT10 lacks a great barrier of foam and rubber in the sole, the chance of pain is greater, particularly while you run in such conditions. This isn’t to say that the shoe isn’t still great, but it is not built for sharp rocks and other types of harsh earth that may normally be of little consequence when tread upon in other typical shoes. While the MT10 does issue a warning about the strain of your lower legs, feet and the like with immediate overuse of the shoe, it does not formally warn of the danger of treading violently upon rocky ground, so count this as a warning.
Beyond that, the MT10 is snug and quite cozy. It forms to your foot shape almost immediately after the first wear, and it’s very breathable and easy to be active in and live in. Socks are great for the MT10, but my preference is to go in the shoe without socks and it makes for a more natural, organic feel. The inner footbed is thin, but more than does the job when it comes to having just enough support for my foot to be well-adjusted.
The great thing about the MT10’s make-up is that it covers the most important areas of where the foot needs to be locked in, mainly in the forefoot, midfoot, and heel/rearfoot. The MT10 makes use of two synthetic bands that form a quasi-V on the lateral and medial sides of the shoe; those bands wrap around the heel and across the forefoot bridge of the shoe, literally locking the foot inside of the shoe with the desired alignment of the shoe’s intended fit. In the process, New Balance made its N logo functional by using it to be a midfoot support feature for the shoe’s lace loops, further giving the MT10 added lockdown support. To counter all of those grasping features, the body of the upper is largely mesh bound by heavy, non-abrasive stitching for durability, made complete with synthetic, non-stretch laces for added strength.
Performance & Overall Impression
Overall, the MT10 is a challenging, but pleasant shoe that is versatile enough to take to the store and to the woods. It’s comfortable and light without sacrificing the wellness of your foot with good sensibility. However, as I mentioned before, the MT10 is not for terrain laden with heavy rocks and the like. It’s great for gravel and moderate natural ground, but if you feel compelled to tread along in a more rigorous environment, use another shoe–New Balance makes plenty of other shoes that can more than handle the type of damage that I incurred when I ran amongst sharp stones and piercing rocks. (I recommend the New Balance 479 for a cost-effective chunker of a trail warrior or even something that is geared heavily in performance like the New Balance 915.) It’s one of the better minimalist shoes on the market and a good shoe all-around for pretty much anything as a daily wearer.
Sandy Dover is a published novelist, magazine columnist, and communications professional in the arts & publishing and media industries, while serving as a sports product tester and fitness advisor in the fitness world. For more about Sandy, go to About.Me/SandyDover/bio.