The New Balance Minimus Trail Zero V2 (or MT00V2) caused quite a stir among us shoe geeks when the first details of the specification emerged last year.
The original Minimus Trail Zero (details here) was pretty much as minimal as you could realistically go with a trail shoe, offering very little underfoot protection and feather light weight. It was useless in the wet and overall a very niche product but I still have a pair now and love using them for short runs on smooth trails. Shoes like this are a dying breed which I personally think is a bit of a shame but I guess it’s is a reflection of how the market has shifted.
Anyway, the MT00 V2 is a huge departure from this for two reasons. Firstly, it’s essentially a full-blow off trail / fell shoe and the only thing it has in common with the original is the 0mm heel to toe differential. Secondly, they have dropped the popular and anatomically shaped ‘minimus’ last in favour of the pointier ‘PL4′ last. I was rather concerned about this decision because I loved the fit every shoe I have tried that was built on the Minimus last and for my feet, it offered the perfect mix of a snug, secure midfoot but plenty of space around the toes.
These wholesale changes led many-a-nerd (me included) to be a bit confused as to New Balance they didn’t give the V2 a totally new name. I guess this doesn’t really matter too much to ‘normal’ people but I still think it’s a bit odd.
Putting this aside though, the thing that got me excited about the Minimus Trail Zero V2 was that it appeared to be a shoe from a US manufacturer that I could actually use in British winter conditions without spending a lot of time on my backside and these are few and far between.
The first thing that struck me about these shoes was the looks, I really like them! They have a sort of retro-vibe and I’d happily wear them casually if it weren’t for the fact that they are now constantly covered in mud. The construction appears solid and there is a lot of attention to detail in the design of the upper where several different materials are utilised. The toe bumper / rand is decently protective and overall, they are handsome and ready to hit the hills!
So, there’s quite a bit to talk about here……..I try to avoid reading other people’s reviews before I pass judgement on new products but in this instance I’ll admit that I did cast my eye over a few comments due the time delay between the US and UK releases. The general view seemed to be that the MT00 V2 is narrow in the forefoot and pointy. I’m rather sensitive to narrow and pointy toe boxes so I was a little apprehensive about this but when I actually tried them on, it became clear to me that whilst they are a bit pointy around the big toe, the width is comparable to many other shoes that I would consider relatively wide. They don’t have an Altra sized toe box but I think it’s unfair to call them narrow, because they just aren’t…..
The above comparison pictures aren’t exactly scientific but hopefully they illustrate what I’m rattling on about. The toe box is a bit pointy, and I’ve never understood why people make shoes that shape, but to be fair I can’t say that I noticed it pushing my big toe across laterally. To me, the forefoot shape feels a lot like some of the Inov-8 performance last shoes, especially the Mudclaw 265.
I should mention that my feet and the shoes are ‘D’ width and the sizing is consistent with other New Balance and Salomon shoes I have tried. However, you need to go up half a size compared to most Inov-8’s.
So we’ve talked about the toe box, but what about the overall fit and feel? Well I found that I had to play around with the lace tension a lot to get them to feel ‘right’ and I think this has to be attributed to the shape of the shoe not suiting my foot that well. Most of the time this wasn’t a big issue but there are occasions where bothered me as I’ve discussed in the ‘performance’ section below. The interior of the shoe is smooth, very nicely finished and I’ve had no issues whatsoever with blistering or abrasions.
The first thing I noticed when I ran in the Trail Zero V2 was the ridiculously thick, 6mm insole which felt to me like I was running on a memory foam mattress. Again this is probably quite a subjective thing but I persevered with it for a couple of runs and then ditched it for a 3mm Inov-8 model instead. It just felt to me like it was completely isolating me from the ground underneath me and prevented me from getting to grips with the characteristics of the midsole.
With the Inov-8 insole installed, the midsole / outsole combination feels soft-ish and incredibly pliable. The flexibility allows the shoe to really mould to uneven ground which makes it super stable in a way that I don’t think you could achieve if it had a rock plate. For me, they are right on the limit (in a good way) in terms of the levels of protection for techy terrain and along with the flexibility, I found that the shoes felt fantastic on fast, rocky descents. I should mention however that the protection levels won’t be enough for everyone and it’s worth considering this quite carefully before you buy.
Another area where the shoes excel is in the outsole. It offers fantastic grip on all surfaces I have tried from wet rock to deep mud and I’d say it’s right up there with something like the La Sportiva Anakonda in terms of it’s versatility. If I were scoring, I’d give it 10/10.
The area where the shoes come unstuck (excuse the pun) is on really steep descents where, although they are snug around the toe box, the fit of the upper just doesn’t quite hold my feet as securely as I would like, regardless of how much I play around with lace tension, thick /thin socks or thick/thin insoles. My feet are pretty ‘average’ in terms of width /volume and I wouldn’t be surprised if others have similar issues with the fit. This is a real shame, partly because everything else about the shoe is outstanding but also because New Balance did such a good job with the fit of the other minimus shoes so why throw it all away….?
It’s a bit bizarre because I’m pretty sure the decision to switch to the PL4 last was driven by a desire to make them more secure for the steep stuff but this hasn’t worked out too well (for me at least) and it seems like a step backwards. It made me wonder if this is also the reason behind the super-thick insoles, like they realised there was an issue at a point where it was too late to change the upper and tried to use the insoles to make the fit snug. In spite of this, we all have different shaped feet and there is an awful lot to like about this shoe so I’d certainly recommend trying a pair in a shop to see what you think before purchasing.
Wow this has turned into a long review but just a last couple of points: Durability appears excellent so far after several weeks of use, including some routes that have given them a real pasting. The outsole is showing a bit of wear due to the soft compound but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for the awesome grip it provides. The shoes also seem to shed water and mud equally well which keeps the weight reasonable when things get claggy.
Make no mistake, the MT00 V2’s are the real deal. They are a proper fell / mountain / off-trail shoe and a very capable competitor to established models from the likes of Inov-8, La sportiva and Salomon. I think I was disproportionately frustrated by the issues I had with the fit because it’s so close to being a 5-star shoe and I really hope that they continue to refine the design with future updates. New Balance deserve credit for the shoes many positive attributes and as I’ve said above, they could work better on your feet than mine so I’d strongly encourage people to go for a fitting. I wouldn’t imagine there is a massive worldwide market for zero drop fell shoes but I hope there is sufficient interest in the Zero trails for NB to continue refining a highly promising product.
These shoes were purchased for testing by the author.
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Have you tried the MT00V2? Got any questions? Please leave your thoughts below!