Like pillows for my tired feet.

Posted: July 17, 2011 in Reviews

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, a few weeks ago I became the proud owner of a 2011 pair of New Balance Minimus Life (also known as New balance Minimus Wellness). These shoes are designed to be kick around shoes. They are not designed to be running shoes, and if that is what you are looking for in the New Balance line, I suggest you take a look at the Road or the Trail versions that are offered by New Balance because that is not what the lifes are all about.

First things first, here is what the shoe looks like from a picture listed on Birthdayshoes.com from a review written by Justin (the website’s founder)

As you can see, the styling of this shoe is very sleek and very retro in my opinion. It doesn’t feature all of the flashy colors of today’s shoe models, and it has a very aesthetically pleasing look to it. There are two color options offered in the men’s version. The one pictured above, and a solid black version with yellow accents. The pair pictured above is the color scheme that I chose to go with for two reasons. One, I didn’t like the black ones, and two..I didn’t like the black ones. To me, the black ones just didn’t seem very eye catching, and they looked kind of stubby and squared off when placed side by side against the white ones.

Lets talk about that funky lace looking thing in the middle of the shoes. First off, they aren’t laces. It is a single piece of elastic that is there to simply give the shoe a tighter fit across the top of the foot because the upper is quite flexible and doesn’t have much structure to it at all. The shoe really does seem like a sock with a sole attached to it, but that little piece of elastic gives it a secure fit that would have been severely lacking if the elastic had not been included.

Another major point in favor of the Life is the lining inside the shoe. First off, it is seamless. It is a soft fabric that covers the entirety of the inside of the shoe, and it feels almost like an Injinji sock. I love this liner. It breathes well, doesn’t hold moisture (yes your feet will sweat a little in these), and it doesn’t rub against the skin. It is by far my favorite part of the shoe, and it feels like I have slipped my feet into a nice warm blanket rather than a shoe coffin for my feet. When I say warm blanket, I don’t mean that my feet begin sweating and feeling hot, but rather a nice warm blanket on a freezing day…It just feels good. It really is hard to put into words.

Alright, time for the most important aspect of the shoe to all minimalist and barefoot runners out there…It’s time to look at the sole.

That soccer ball looking sole has a few things going for it other than the funky look to it. First off, it appears to be made of EVA foam. I could be wrong here, but that’s what it looks like to me. It is very flexible, and with about 30 miles of walking/light running in them, it has shown very little signs of wear and tear on my pair of shoes. While that’s not a ton of mileage, being eva, I figured there would at least be a bit of wear and tear, but so far there is none that is visible to me. The sole is also very flexible. The shoe passes the roll up test that is so popular among all minimalist shoe reviews on the web. It’s not as easy to roll into a ball as my KSO’s, but that’s ok.

As far as ground feel goes, the shoe is a little lack luster when you compare it to some of the shoes in the vibram line and I’m sure that will disappoint some other minimalist and barefoot runners. However, I don’t mind the lack of groundfeel so much. The sole is 11mm thick (according to my super scientific caliper study) in the forefoot, and 15mm in the heel. This gives a 4mm heel drop that seems to be popular among non vibram minimalist lines. However, after reviewing customer feedback, it looks like NB is going to be changing their minimalist line for 2012 to a zero drop heel to toe. That’s wonderful news for barefooters and minimalists everywhere. In terms of ground feel, I’d put the Lifes as slightly worse than the Vibram Bikilas. You can’t feel every little stone or stick under foot, but it is FAR superior to any traditional trainer or walking shoe, and as Justin (founder of Birthdayshoes.com) has stated, the eva foam will start to compress over time due to wear and fatigue. This will leave the shoe with a harder sole and provide more ground feedback as time goes by. Hooray.  But I can tell you from personal experience, when my feet are tired from a barefoot run or walking in my kso’s all day at work, I love sliding my feet into these for outings, and they provide my feet with the tiniest bit of cushion that is just nice. It feels like walking on a nice plush layer of  grass, not hard, but not plush either. It’s just a very nice feeling for my feet, and that really is the most important thing about shoes.

As far sizing goes, I wear a men’s 12 in these shoes. I believe they run about a 1/2 size large because I used to wear an 11 1/2 in normal trainers. I only chose the larger size because I felt like I was lacking room in the toe box of the 11 1/2. This is something to look out for. The toe box is not narrow by any means, but as most barefooters and minimalists know, your feet widen from running barefoot or in minimalist foot wear, and that is something that should be taken into account when purchasing your shoes. The 12s fit me wonderfully, and I believe that they are the best shoe purchase that I have made since I bought my KSO’s. I really do love these shoes, and I look forward to the 0 heel drop line coming in 2012.

That wraps up my first ever review, and I hope that you find it useful if anyone is thinking of picking up a pair of these shoes. I believe they are worth the money, and they have more uses than just a transitional shoe. Plus they look pretty darn schweet if I do say so myself.

Until next time,

Puff

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