Long before I even got into CrossFit, I somehow got into minimalist shoes. My buddy had gone to REI and picked up a pair of Vibrams, so I followed suit. Back in the globo days, I wore Vibrams and my New Balance Minimus MT20’s religiously. The whole thought process of training your feet to be stronger made a lot of sense to me, even if it was all a hoax at the end of the day. Still, my big takeaway from all that was that cushion was not good for power output; the more “support” you have, the harder it is to exert power to the ground. Since you can’t always actually goto the gym barefoot, you’d want as dense “protection” as possible but not so soft that it would create too much of a barrier between you and whatever you’re pressing against.
In an ideal world, we’d all just be lifting, but in the real world, fitness is multi-faceted. In functional fitness, you have to be able to do anything, at anytime, and that includes running. This introduces a huge issue, comfortable running shoes are bad lifting shoes, and effective lifting shoes are horrible running shoes. Many companies have tried to come up with a solution for both, but most have failed, until now. New Balance has come up with the best blend of comfort and stability in a cross-trainer yet with the Minimus 40, and they don’t look half bad either.
New Balance had always tended to have an understated look with their shoes and the Minimus 40’s are no exception. Understated does not mean shoes have to be ugly, and while the Minimus 40’s are simple in design, they’re far from ugly. There are no gaudy logos, no crazy prints, and all but just excellent color combinations. The lines of the shoe keep it modern looking without being too silly; these shoes are made to look like they’re actually capable of doing work. One thing that will never change is the unmistakable “N” logo that adorns the side of the shoe. People have said that these shoes look like Metcon 3’s, but in all actuality Metcon’s look like the Minimus 40 since the New Balances came out first.
The uppers found on the Minimus line of training shoes have been decent, but always bit on the thin side. I thought the MT20’s were some of the best constructed shoes I’ve owned. After I retired those, I picked up a pair of MX20v3’s because I thought they looked cool, but they just felt a bit flimsy. Never did I go hard on them because I was always worried they would not stand up to the test of CrossFit. The Minimus 40 brings a refreshed no-sew woven synthetic mesh upper to the Minimus line that not only flexes extremely well, but is comfortable to wear with or without socks, and is resistant to abrasion. Couple that with the flexible Vibram outsole that should be as durable as the upper (though I don’t have any long term durability tests.) and you’ve got a shoe that is nothing less than confidence inspiring for all the rigors of CrossFit training. All the materials are top notch, the shoe actually feels like it’s worth it’s cost now.
My original MT20’s were a size 9 and fit like a glove, but I always wore them without socks. Since then, I think my feet have somehow grown a bit from all the squatting I’ve done over the years. My last pair of MX20v3’s were a size 9.5 but did not accommodate my Morton’s toe well, so with the Minimus 40’s, I went up to a size 10. The fit for me is slightly long, but I would say they’re comfortable. If you don’t have Morton’s toe, size them your normal training shoe size. Though New Balance’s offer different width shoes, they generally fit on the more narrow side of things and the Minimus 40’s are no exception. This is something that you might want to take into account if you’re coming from Metcon’s or Nano’s, because those shoes are very wide in comparison. Here are my sizes for comparison:
- Metcon – 9.5
- Nano – 10
- WL Shoes – 9
- NoBull – 10
- Chucks – 9
- Boots – 8.5
Comfort isn’t necessarily one of the things at the top of my list when I look for training shoes; my number one priority is that I’m able to lift efficiently in the shoes. Over the years, my feet have gotten much more tolerant and used to not having any kind of cushion when I run, in fact – I prefer it that way. Call me crazy, but all “support” ends up doing is make my feet work harder to stabilize when bounding, which causes them to ache. This was a huge problem that I had in the Nike Metcon DSX Flyknit. It still happens to a lesser extent, but I can deal with it as it doesn’t usually set in until late into a workout. That being said, it’s nice to have a little bit of impact deadening so my knees don’t get wrecked afterwards. New Balance’s Rapid Rebound foam makes for an easier ride, and paired with the REVLite heel, the Minimus 40 are firm enough training shoe at the same time.
When I first put on the Minimus 40, I thought to myself “There’s no way I can train in these, they’re too soft!”…how wrong I was. As I mentioned earlier, I judge my training shoes on their ability to be a lifting shoe and usually the more comfortable the shoe, the worse it is to lift in. You might think this too initially, but that’s why we need to try things out, because you never know what you’re gonna get. Though the insole and midsole combination compresses, it doesn’t go down very far due to the low midsole height and fairly solid Vibram outsole. Power delivery is excellent, rivaling even the most stiff soled shoes out there. The insole/midsole might feel a bit squishy, but at the end of the day, stability is almost as good as it is in any of the best training shoes out there. So much so, that I was able to PR my snatch hitting the 225 milestone. I’m not saying the shoes helped me hit that lift, but they certainly didn’t interfere either.
With all Minimus shoes, the 40’s are neutral and have a 4mm drop that actually feels flatter than it is. Pair the measley 10oz per shoe weight with the Rapid Rebound midsole and you’ve got one of the most responsive rides in a cross-trainer. New Balance’s claims that the Minimus 40’s are a new approach to training footwear, is entirely accurate as they never become too harsh for running, or too plush for lifting. They’re responsive yet comfortable enough to rebound box jumps, flexible enough for multiple burpees, and a more than stable enough platform that will never let you down when you need to pick up something heavy. I abhor shoes that have too much “support” because it usually ends up with my feet becoming excruciatingly sore after trying to find balance after repeated bounding. My support comes from ground feel, which the Minimus 40 never lack.
Can you run in them? Absolutely, they happen to be now one of my favorite shoes to comfortably do running WOD’s in, all while remaining stable enough to hit lifts in. I prefer neutral runners that don’t force your feet anywhere, so the Minimus 40’s stable, responsive, yet still “plush enough” platform is perfect for me. These are the kind of shoe that you would want to wear for a workout like “Helen”. At the end of the day, they’re still training shoes, if you want to run distances, get some running shoes, but if you’re looking for an all around metcon shoe the Minimus 40’s are one of the best choices. Take notes bigger brands.
It’s really hard to tear people away from Nike and Reebok, especially when you’re not typically known as the “cool” brand (Exception: 247’s!). Retailing at around the same price ($120), the Minimus 40’s are definitely worth the look for anyone looking for a great performing and great looking shoe that can pretty much do it all. I’m not keen to giving up any kind of power output for comfort but New Balance has successfully come closer to finding the balance between comfort and rigidity in a fitness shoe to date. I’ve used a lot of shoes, liked a bunch, disliked even more, but I’ll definitely be using my Minimus 40’s for a long time after this review.