New Balance Minimus vs. Vibram 5 Fingers, trail running.

Posted: August 19, 2014 in clothing, POV
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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New Shoes.

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Incumbent shoes.  Vibram makes a great shoe and I have been wearing the 5 fingers brand for the past 4 years.  Minimalistic design, zero padding so you are walking the way nature intended (evolution of the feet and legs).  I still remember the first day of purchase, spent all of the next day walking in them only to be bed ridden the next.  The muscles in my feet and leg not accustomed to doing all the work.  After following the instructions and wearing it sporadically to allow the feet to adjust, I now wear it everywhere.  If I spend the day walking in runners, my lower back aches.  Flip flops are even worse.  With the 5 fingers, I can spend the whole day walking and I have zero issues with back pain.  My feet lack aches so I have very aggressive orthodics as insoles to my runners.  With the 5 fingers I no longer need orthodics.  I only use the 5 fingers during workouts and runs now.  I no longer wear it walking around town as funk emanating from use is a slight turn off to others.

I have been a keen fan of the minimal shoes, prior to the 5 fingers I wore the Nike Frees but found the shoes were poorly made.  Within a few weeks of use the mesh membrane was torn and the shoe lost its shape.  Great first shoe to tip toe into the minimalistic barefoot running realm but the 5 fingers take the cake.  It was with great sadness to read Vibrams agreeing in the USA to pay out claims with regards to a class action lawsuit alledging false statements made about the health benefits of 5 fingers.  The shoes make sense if you think it through.  Prior to the 5 fingers, people use orthodics to correct the running mechanism yet evolution would teach us our predecessors never had the state of the art materials we do today.  Today’s shoes are heavily padded so wearing the shoes will take away from the body’s natural ability to absorb shock.  By wearing a minimalistic runner, one allows the body (legs and feet) to return as the shock absorber.  It also changes the gait of the running mechanics as you no longer strike heel first.  Balls of the feet first, never heel.

New Balance has been manufacturing shoes for a long time.  They are the last American shoe company manufacturing shoes in North America.  It’s weird to see them use a vibram sole.  The picture below will show the vibram shoe on the NB shoe mimicking on a very basic level the human foot structure, albeit in abstract form.  The treads are deep making it a decent trail runner.  The issue will lay with the inability to grip the ground.

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Shoe construction is vastly different.  5s don’t dry quick.  NB shoes use a mesh construction so it always water to penetrate but also allows air to flow, giving the feet the ability to breath.  5s use a neoprene material that is stronger.  Plastic is found on the toe caps to give it a slight grip in the event you need to use the top of the feet.  I would imagine the neoprene material is abrasion resistant.  The problem with the material is the inability to breath and dry quickly.  Once you get it wet, it will stink and the stink will not subside until the material is dry.  As it’s a synthetic material, it holds onto (bad) smells easily.  Shoe design on the 5s use a velcro strap making it easy to put on and pull off.  On the NB, the shoes use the lace system so its not as easy to put on and take off.  The laces are normal length making it overkill for the shoe.  Double knots are required to keep it in check.  There are no insoles in either shoe, making it a true minimal runner.

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Close up of the soles.  You can see the wear points on the 5s.  With a minimal shoe the wear points are at the front/ball of the feet rather than the back/heel.

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New Balance shoes are cheaper in North America with all the big box stores and internet retailers.  I could no longer wait until my next trip back and the New Balance store was having a sale $790 to $550, making it somewhat easier to swallow.  5s are easily $800+ in HK but go to the touristy places and knockoffs are abound.  HK also has a quirk in its sales laws, no refunds and exchanges.  It will be interesting to see how it holds up as no warranty will exist.  I do hope New Balance will honour warranty work as I expect to put the shoe to hard use pretty quickly.  If you are on the prowl for new shoes, stay away from the stores catering to tourists as those will not have stock.  With the influx of China consumers, the goods sell out regardless of pricing.  If the shoes go on sale and they don’t have your size, go to the stores in the local areas which should have ample supply for your needs.

  1. Kate says:

    I love NB shoes for running. Thank god for them if not my large feet willbe squashed in other brands.

  2. Dale-Lyn says:

    I agree with the wearability and breathability of the New Balance vibrams/minimals. Mine are New Balance Vibrams, no insole support. The laces bug me, but I tie & tuck them into the lace criss cross. I do like the feeling of sealing to my foot like a glove – I do not wear socks with mine and this glove effect is great for trail running too.

  3. Dale-Lyn says:

    Nope. I really am just a barefoot runner, I only have the NB Vibrams because of outside pressure & needing something for trail runnng, but I do like them, so to be honest I have zero knowledge or experience with any other type of running shoe..

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