I have to admit I've been lazy. Towards the end of last year I started running barefoot, fully convinced I would soon be recognised as that weirdo that runs around Cornwall unshod, gliding effortlessly along the roads, passing silently as my bare feet caressed the pavements, fully immersed in the primal joy of running as man had ever evolved to do.
Then it got wet and cold. It’s not much fun running barefoot in November in England.
Enter the New Balance Minimus Zero running shoes. Now if you are Barefoot Ted or a Tarahumara these are still going to look and feel like a running shoe. However, for most mere mortals this is what is now generally known as a "barefoot-style" shoe.
I've run about 50 miles in my pair which is enough for me to know I like them (a lot).
On the advice of the shop owner I went a size up so for me that’s a UK size 12. This fits perfectly, rather than going too big in some places to get room in others.
So the first thing I noticed when I picked these up is their weight, they really are very light. According to the New Balance site they weigh 124 grams; I assume this is for a size 9. In the interests of science I weighed my 12’s and they come in at 200g.
Putting them on is like putting on your favourite pair of socks. The upper wraps around your foot – accentuated by the “Taco-style” tongue – and I found I just had to do the laces up rather than pull really hard to bring the shoe tight to my foot.
The toe box is very roomy so, if like me, you want to be able to feel your toes splay out then these will suit you well.
The uppers appear to be very well made; the mesh has a kind of honeycomb pattern and is sort of double thickness. There are several bands of paper thin tape in strategic points. I’m not sure if these are for structural or aesthetic reasons. At first I thought these could come unstuck fairly easily but having worn them a bit they seem well adhered to the upper; only time will tell.
Underfoot there is a 12mm Vibram sole with no heel lift. You can feel the ground underfoot and it is very obvious that you have no structural elements coming to bear – no arch lift or stiff sole – when you walk it’s like you are barefoot.
The insole is glued to the base and is comfy enough, although, rather than a smooth transition between insole and upper there is a definite ridge, which might annoy some people. Unusually for me I hardly notice it (I am ridiculously fussy about this sort of thing).
Taking the Minimus out for a first run I had it in mind to carry a second pair of shoes and change after a couple of miles. In the end I didn’t bother and ran six miles with no problems. The sole is thick enough to absorb the odd stone without giving you a nasty bruise but you really do want to be landing mid foot or you’ll certainly know about it.
These shoes make me run fast! I’ve still not gone over 6 miles and may never do. I ran in them three times the first week and three the second; to be honest this was a bit much and, with all the other running I was doing it left me feeling a bit like I’d done too much too soon. So now I’m running once a week in them, though I will probably build that up over the next few months but, with the marathon looming, I want them as a tool to strengthen my feet and improve my style and once a week is fine for that.