Brand: New Balance
Name: Minimus Zero
Color Options: Women’s – Teal w/ Black, Fluorescent Yellow, Black w/ Sky Blue, White w/ Silver & Berry, Silver w/ Yellow; Men’s – White w/ Blue & Yellow, Blue w/ Silver, Juniper (Green) w/ Yellow, Red w/ Black
Weight: Women’s – 4.4 oz; Men’s – 6.4 oz
Drop: 0 mm
Other: Odor resistant, welded seams to prevent chafing, deconstructed REVlite midsole provides flexibility and lightweight cushioning, lightweight blown rubber enhances bounce
Before the New Balance Minimus Zero came along, I had pretty much given up finding a minimalist shoe that didn’t require alternate lacing to prevent my unsually-narrow-at the heels feet from sliding forward. I didn’t have the best experience with my first pair of shoes from the Minimus line because I wasn’t a fan of the 4-mm-drop featured in the original styles. This must have given me some sort of nonsense mental block about trying New Balance again, even with the release of a zero-drop version, and apparently made me completely forget how well my original Minimuses (Minimii?) fit my feet. So, when I first slipped my feet into my pair of Minimus Zeros, I swear the Hallelujah chorus started playing in the background. I had finally found the perfect–PERFECT, I say!–shoe for my foot shape. The great flexibility offered by the sole, the sock-like feel of the upper, and, perhaps more importantly (at least if you’re comparing them to the original Minimus line), the zero millimeter heel-toe drop, make the New Balance Minimus Zeros a dream to run in.
I am pretty much in love with the New Balance Minimus Zero’s performance as a road running shoe. The sole is perfectly suited in terms of cushioning and flexibility for the minimalist runner who runs primarily on roads. It is also remarkably durable (thanks, I’m sure, to Vibram ingenuity)–I have noticed little to no wear on mine, yet. In my opinion, there’s really no run too short or too long for these shoes. They are super lightweight, weighing in at 0.4 oz less than the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila, so it is easy to crank out 2-3 fast miles when you don’t have much time. On the other end of the spectrum, the (slightly springy) cushioning makes it so that I could easily see myself wearing these shoes over half-marathon to marathon (and beyond? – maybe someday) distances. The standard width (B-women, D-men) is perfect for someone with narrower feet, especially narrower heels, and although the soft upper would likely accommodate wider feet, they are also available in wide (D-women, 2E-men) sizes. Personally, I cannot even begin to fully express how great it is to have finally found a shoe that does not allow my foot to slide forward.
The shoes are a bit thicker at the midsole, and there is some contouring around the arch, so there is a hint of arch support, but it is much less noticeable (and definitely less painful at the get-go) than, for example, the contouring in the Merrell Barefoot line. There is also a bit of a toe spring, although it is nowhere as extreme as a traditional running shoe or minimalist shoes like the Brooks PureConnect. In any case, neither of these features are particularly noticeable when I’m running. The only major concern I have is in regard to the durability of the uppers. While the sole seems to be fairly resistant to wear, the mesh fabric of the upper already has a few snags, so hopefully I won’t have full-on holes in the near future. The other gripe I have with the Minimus Zero–and it is a minor one–is that they do not offer much in terms of traction. I would be a little nervous about going all out on wet blacktop or snowy/icy patches of road. If you like the fit of the Zero, but need more traction for trails or other rough surfaces, you might consider the Minimus Zero Trail model.
The Minimus Zero is incredibly comfortable right out of the box. Absolutely no break-in period required. As I mentioned above, the upper of these shoes is very sock-like and the welded seams and synthetic/mesh foldable fabric used to construct the upper make these shoes comfortable with or without socks. Except for the heel, which is only slightly more structured, the uppers are just as flexible and foldable as the Lem (formerly Leming, formerly Stem) uppers, which is saying something considering Lems are pretty much the most comfortable shoe on the planet. In terms of barefoot feel/cushioning, I would say that the Minimus Zero is at the lower end of the minimalist shoe range, as opposed to a barefoot shoe. For my foot, the amount of cushion falls right into what you might call the Goldilocks’ “Just Right” zone. I am also very pleased with New Balance’s use of a single-split tongue design, meaning that the shoe is only split once beneath the laces so there is no real tongue and the amount of seaming inside the shoe is reduced even further. Finally, the toe box is sufficiently roomy, allowing your toes to splay and give you more control over your feet and form.
Aesthetically, I actually find these shoes to be a little less exciting-looking than the original/4-mm-drop Minimus line-up. They have a simpler appearance, likely because New Balance was trying to save on weight in any way possible. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It does make them a little more wearable as casual shoes, and there are several fun, bright color combinations available for men and women. However, I do have a couple complaints about the aesthetics of the Minimus Zero. The small wedge of rubber that protects the front tip of the shoe makes them look a little pointy, giving the toe box a slightly less elegant shape than some of their competitors. More concerning to me, though, is the sticker-like look and feel of the reflective stripes that stretch around the toe and heel. I’m worried that they will start to peel off at some point, and they already look a little tacky in a couple of the colorways. Again, they are the result of New Balance trying to save on weight in any way possible, but they’re definitely not adding anything for me, style-wise.
- Just the right amount of cushioning for long runs
- Soft, flexible upper with minimal/welded seams and wide toe box is ultra comfortable
- Standard width works well for people with narrower feet–no more sliding forward!
- Mesh fabric of upper may not be very durable – already snagged 🙁
- Sticker-like reflective designs look a bit tacky on a couple of the colorways
- Not much traction – definitely designed with sidewalks/roads in mind
New Balance and I may have gotten off on the wrong foot due to my pickiness about 4-mm-drop shoes, but I am totally in shoe love with the Minimus Zero. They are the most comfortable running shoe I own, and have been that way since the moment I first put them on my feet. These shoes give me flexibility, a Lem-like level of comfort when it comes to the upper, and the fit is perfection. What more could I ever ask for?! If you’re in the market for a zero-drop shoe that offers some cushioning, you should definitely give the New Balance Minimus Zero a chance.
Meagan is a geochemistry research lab manager, runner, Netflix binge-watcher, and Mom to a rescue dog, a bunny, and a human child. She started running in May 2011 and ran her first half marathon in October 2012, followed by her first marathon in October 2013. In July 2018, she joined the triathlon world and completed an Olympic-distance race. After an extended break (pregnancy/maternity leave), she is making a long-overdue return to running and is preparing for a high-elevation half marathon at Crater Lake National Park in August 2020.