The New Balance Minimus MT00 is a zero drop trail runner that is extremely minimal by design. Unlike a lot of trail runners, the MT00 is available in a 4E and, after having found the standard Minimus varieties too narrow in the toe, I was excited to try out the wider version. Getting straight to what all lightweight backpackers are interested in, my size 10 4E shoes weigh in at 10.3 oz (292 g) for the pair. Yep, they're definitely light. In addition, these checked off several other good boxes on my most wanted list: they have zero drop (no heel-rise), are extremely breathable, and offer no support. I'd venture that the MT00 is one of the most minimal trail running shoes currently available.
The MT00 profile.
The MT00 consists of a largely mesh upper with strategically placed fabric overlays. The only padding found in the upper is around the upper ankle and in the heel cup. The shoe forgoes the more traditional removable padded insole and replaces it with a permanent piece of thin fabric. One good look over the MT00 and it's apparent they're designed to be worn sock-less (I still choose to wear socks for grit protection). The outsole shares the same pod-like design as the MT10/MT20 but only uses Vibram rubber in high-wear areas (blue areas). All other portions of the outsole use a blown foam (dark grey areas). My understanding is that New Balance determined the high-wear areas based on feedback from testers as well as from studying returned test shoes.
The MT00 mapped outsole.
While I don't consider myself to have a truly wide foot, I do have a fairly squared off profile with my toes so shoes with a wide toe-box tend to fit me best. The standard width Minimus shoes are too narrow for me, as mentioned above, but I find the 4E version to be just fine, if even a bit too wide in all but the toe. After having a lot of trouble finding a trail shoe that fit properly, I really wanted the MT00 to work. Unfortunately, a recent high mileage day hike across typical Southeastern terrain left me unsatisfied. I really like the fit of the shoe as well as the overall minimal design, but I feel that the outsole is best suited to smoother terrain. If you find yourself traveling mostly on hard-pack (or maybe soft-pack) dirt or duff, these shoes will likely be just fine. If you're generally on rocks and roots though, the MT00 probably isn't the best fit.
The MT00 upper. Looking closely you can see right through the mesh.
My first trip was less than 10 miles but included several water crossings as well as some off-trail travel. I had no issues with the MT00 and found them to drain far better than any shoes I've previously worn. Post-trip, I was still very enthused with this shoe. My next trip, however, left me with some residual damage. We covered approximately 22 miles of mixed trail and gravel road and, between the roots on the trails as well as the larger gravel, my feet were left in a bit of agony. Even though the trip was a few weeks back, I still have some tenderness in my arches that I mostly notice after walking a few miles (you can see in the outsole photo above that the arches use the blown foam in place of the harder Vibram rubber). As far as wear, I only see minimal indications, primarily limited to the foam areas of the outsole.
I'm a firm believer that you can judge the breathability of a shoe by how dirty your feet get. This is after 22 miles, and I even wore socks.
All said and done, even though I consider myself a minimalist when it comes to footwear and try to go barefoot as often as possible (even on asphalt), I found the MT00 to be a bit too bare for my typical trail conditions. If you find yourself mostly traveling on smooth terrain, be it on trail or off, these might be a great shoe for you. However, if you tend to spend more time on rocks, roots, or otherwise rough ground the MT00 will probably leave you wanting a bit more underfoot protection. As a side note, I could see these being a great shoe for packrafting or other sports where you spend more time on the water than on foot.
|Year/Model||2012 New Balance MT00 4E|
|Style||Minimalist trail running shoe|
|Weight||Manufacturer Specified: 4.4 oz (124 g) per shoe men's 9 D
BPL Measured: 10.3 oz (292 g) per pair men's 10 4E
|Features||Zero drop, mapped outsole built of Vibram rubber and blown foam,
mesh upper with fabric overlays and no-sew construction
|Options||D and 4E widths|