New Balance Minimus Road 20v2 Review

Less than a month ago I got my first pair of New Balance Minimus shoes, the “ionix” 3090v2.  After 75 miles of different runs of varying distances and surfaces including road, trails, and even track, I was sold!  I knew I’d need at least one more pair of shoes for my rotation during my Marathon training, so once again I looked at the New Balance Minimus line.  Next up, the Minimus Road 20v2.

First Impressions – The minimus road 20v2 is not a lot of shoe, the minimal overlays, super low to the ground soles and  4mm drop all scream minimalist running.  The 20v2 handily beats the 3090v2 in the weight category, 5.6 oz!  Yikes!  I must warn that with all minimal and reduced running shoes there is an adjustment period.  Running in such a shoe can put added stress on your feet, calves and achilles  if you’re not used to running in them.  This is because minimalist shoes tend to promote a more forefoot/midfoot strike.  I experienced that transition period with my first pair of Kinvaras and a couple of Newton test runs.

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A Caution on Minimus Shoes – Though the 20v2 are very different structurally from the 3090v2’s there are similar elements that create the “Minimus” experience.  While these are both very light, flexible, low profile  shoes designed to promote forefoot running, they are also not as much “shoe” as your traditional Neutral Cushioned Trainer.  With both I’d advise a gradual transition if it is your first time moving into this category.  Added stress on the foot, calf and Achilles, is a real thing!  Buying a reduced or minimal shoe will not fix all of your gait problems over night.  The great benefit is combining proper and efficient running principals (Proper body alignment, a balanced mid-foot strike, and avoiding over-striding among others) with shoes that promote this running style.  A heavy shoe with a large padded heel is the complete opposite of what you want to run in if you want to improve your running mechanics and efficiency.

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Fit and Comfort – The toe box on this shoe is very roomy and allows for natural toe splay.  It’s also less round and pointy shaped as other shoes, and more shaped like your actual foot.  I also felt secure in the heel as well.  One thing I’d say about the 20v2’s in particular is they seem to run a bit larger.  I usually buy my running shoes a full size larger than my casual shoes, but in this case a half size larger would have sufficed.  Still, I don’t mind the extra roominess and at no point did I feel that my foot was slipping around.  This is because the actual foot bed is pretty narrow in comparison to other shoes.  Speaking of the foot bed, its extremely minimalist and without a sock liner at all.  It also has a sort of microfiber or suede feel to it which is good if you want to run barefoot in them.

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One of the elements of this shoe that helps the foot feel both secure and comfortable is very subtle.  The lacing system used on the 20v2 is just the slightest bit asymmetrical.  I’ve noticed some more aggressive lacing systems and tongue designs with some other Minimus models as well.  This one is a bit less in your face, and although I don’t know quite why such a small thing works well, it just does!  On a related note, the laces themselves, stay tight better than most shoes I’ve used.  Seriously I don’t have to worry about a double knot, when I pull the laces tight, they just feel secure!  Not sure what it is, but they do feel a little more “stretchier” than other laces.

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Build and Construction – The soles of this shoe is also very different than the “ionix” 3090v2.  The 20v2 uses an ACTEVA™ LITE midsole and Vibram® outsole.  I don’t know the exact stack height (both shoes are 4mm drop.  But the 20v2 gets the runner very low to the ground.  I must admit, when I saw these shoes with my own eyes I thought “What have I gotten myself into?” and “Maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew”.  Well, I’ll get to that later, but I assure you that as mimimal as these shoes are, they do provide protection!

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The Material on the upper of this shoe is an interesting choice.  The mesh on the “ionix” 3090v2 feels durable yet very breathable.  The upper on the 20v2 does feel durable, but not so much on the breathable.  I wonder how this will affect me during longer runs and runs in hot weather, but so far it hasn’t been an issue.

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Running in the Minimus 20v2 – My first run in the Minimus 20v2’s was very similar to my first run in the “ionix” 3090v2.  I ran my local bike path route which allowed me to open up and run fast.  Oh yes, running fast in these shoes is definitely NOT a problem.  As I cautioned, wearing these shoes demands utilizing proper running form.  It was easier to stay on my mid-foot/fore-foot with the super light weight, low profile and flexibility of this shoe.  My foot did not take a pounding as I feared, the Vibram outsole did a great job of protecting me where it mattered!

My second run in the 20v2’s was speedwork on the track!  I immediately thought these shoes would be great for track workouts.  I noticed that the track runs in the 3090v2’s caused some extra wear on the “ionix” outsole.  I hoped the Vibram soles would fare much better.  I had no problem running fast splits in these shoes.  I was able to hug the curves of the track well and open up in the straight away.  Yes, the Vibram soles held up well after a 6×800 track session!

My third run I decided to take advantage of the comfortable foot bed and go sock-less.  I was concerned early on just walking barefoot because there were some spots on the bottom of the lacing that didn’t feel so comfortable and rubbed on my foot a bit.  It wasn’t a big problem during the run but I did notice some marks on that part of my foot after the run.  I also ran some hills during this run, just to mix it up a bit.  Definitely felt good on the uphills though a particular steep downhill felt a bit “out of control” My foot was slipping a little and I couldn’t control my foot landing as well.

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Final Thoughts –  The New Balance Minimus 20v2 is a great addition to my running rotation.  They promote the more efficient style of running that I’m gravitating to, and are a great shoe for faster workouts, tempo runs, fartleks, and track workouts.  I will likely limit their use to “shorter” runs in this training cycle. I may try to go up to 9 miles in them but that would be the most for now.  I still need to get used to the super low profile and 5.6 oz is the lightest shoes I’ve ever owned or run in.

While there’s a lot to like about this shoe, I wish they had a more breathable upper, and it’s not completely comfortable to run sock-less in due to some minor irritation near the bottom of the lacing system.  Like any shoe this light it remains to be seen how durable they will be for me and how many miles I can get out of them, but I am hoping rotating them and limiting their use will help them last longer.

Happy Running!

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**UPDATE** Shoe Review: New Balance Minimus “Ionix” 3090v2

Runners have a special relationship with their shoes.  Running shoes carry runners through many miles of training and races; they are the 1 piece of gear that all most* runners cannot do without.  When a runner finds the perfect pair of shoes its a beautiful thing, likewise the wrong pair of shoes can be disastrous!  For the past couple of years I have run in Saucony Kinvaras (2’s and 3’s) as my primary shoe.  I tried to add the Saucony Fastwitch 5 into my rotation but despite some positives, it didn’t stick.

For a while, I’ve wanted to try a pair of New Balance Minimus shoes, though I never pulled the trigger.  This year for Christmas my parents got me a pair of running shoes (a surprisingly excellent choice of shoe considering they are not runners)  They managed to pick the same shoes I had been considering buying on my own, the New Balance Minimus “Ionix” 3090v2.

First Impressions

When I first laid eyes on the m3090v2’s I have to say I loved the look.  I’m usually function over looks when it comes to shoes but I can appreciate a good looking pair!  The second thing I noticed when I held them in my had was how light they were.  Weighing in at 6.55 oz. based on size 9, these are the lightest shoes I’ve worn yet (beating out the 7.2 oz Mizuno Wave Ronin 2’s)

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More first impressions, The shoes were very comfortable almost felt like putting on a comfortable pair of slippers, especially given that the forefoot is seamless.  The My feet felt snug and comfortable in the shoe, yet the forefoot was a bit wide to allow for toe splay.  My feet also felt very secure in the shoe with the shape of the heel cup really locking my foot in place.

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Another unique part of this shoe was the structure of the sole.  New Balance used a unique pattern for the soles which resembles the structure of a molecule.  This pattern allows for rubber on the critical parts of the sole without the extra weight.  On the negative side I could see this becoming an issue with rocks and pebbles and other debris getting stuck in the sole.

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First Run

I took the m3090v2’s on a 7 mile run along the local bike path.  Walking around in the shoes before the run gave me a better impression about just how light and comfortable these shoes are.  During my first mile I noticed a few more things.  First, these shoes were absolutely effortless to run in.  Although New Balance recommends a slow transition into these shoes, it was a natural next step from the Saucony Kinvara’s (both 4mm drop shoes).  These are one of the few new pairs of shoes I’ve run in that didn’t require a break in, and I ran a fast (6:30) first mile without really trying.

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The second observation I made while running in the m3090v2’s for the first time was the flexibility on the shoe.  This definitely led to a more natural and more responsive running experience.  Finally, while the shoe was very light and low to the ground my feet did not take a pounding.  My foot felt no fatigue during or after the run.  It was very easy to run fast in these shoes, but more importantly it was easy to run efficiently as I didn’t have to obsess over my foot landing during the run.

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Final Thoughts

Although the New Balance Minimus “Ionix” 3090v2’s have all of the ingredients to be a great addition to my running shoe rotation, 1 run is not enough to get a final impression on a running shoe.  At the very least, I know these shoes can hold up well on a Tempo Run!  Tomorrow I will wear these shoes on my group run to see how they feel at a slower more casual pace; I will be back with more impressions and I will continue to update as I increase my mileage on these shoes to see how they hold up!

Happy Holidays and Happy Running!

***Update***

I just completed over 11 miles of running in the m3090v2’s today and I have some more thoughts to share:

Likes: 

These shoes seem to adapt well to different conditions.  Today I ran uphill, downhill, roads, trails, rocks, etc. and had no problems!  Even running at a slower pace on semi tired legs I had no problems.

Dislikes:

One annoying thing I noticed while running in the m3090v2’s was in relation to the tongue of the shoe.  Maybe it was the socks I was wearing, but the tongue did not stay in place very well during my run today, it slid down a bit on one foot, and bunched up a bit on the other foot, adding the slightest bit of discomfort to an otherwise very comfortable shoe.

Second, as I thought the Ionix soles caught some small rocks on the trail and I had to kick them loose, not such a big deal to me though.  I’ll probably use these more as a road shoe anyway, but just thought I’d let you guys know the deal!