The FIT: New Balance Minimus 20 Cross-Trainer
Lss is mor.
by Sandy Dover / @San_Dova
In the NBA world, athletes in that particular universe are subject to physical rigors that most laypeople cannot comprehend. For the elite basketball player, his/her body is his/her literal temple and principal livelihood, and while the roughly 400 players in the NBA put their bodies and minds to the test daily and yearly, those outside of that realm (in the so-called real world) also have become just as conscious about their fitness and health. The FIT is a series that will concentrate on the Fuel, Information and Training (F.I.T.) that it takes for both NBAers and laypersons to be at their very best in the world, as well as focusing on the literal Food, Intelligence and Technology that also comes into play in our physical fine-tuning—because after all, without having the vital fuel, guidelines and tech advancements to feed our bodies, help us better absorb and process what’s necessary, and make the labor efficient and effective, we don’t have much to advance our collective health and performance. The FIT is here to bring to light what can make us all the uniquely tuned creatures who we presently are and can continue or aspire to be.
What makes the New Balance Minimus 20 Cross-Trainer so special is that it is very simple in nature. With the Minimus initiative in mind, several things are noteworthy about the shoe. First, the MX20 is only 7.8 oz. making it one of the lightest athletic shoes out on the market, and is also one of the lightest (if not the lightest) non-running trainers on the market. The MX20 uses a more durable foam that what is more commonly found in other athletic shoes; it is an injection-molded ethyl vinyl acetate (IMEVA) foam that makes up the majority of the sole and acts as a combination midsole/outsole for flexibility and durability. The shoe also has actual rubber insets on the bottom of the sole that acts as a regional outsole, only in the heel and forefoot. The MX20 is odor-resistant (which is handy for sans-socks workouts), has a uni-body construction that has nontraditional welded layers (to prevent chafing and added weight), and the entire upper is made predominately of a mesh upper that makes the shoe very breathable. One of the biggest benefits of the shoe is that it has a very thickly padded collar, making the MX20 extremely comfortable and helps to make the foot and ankle to be better aligned at all times, which keeps the shoe hugging the foot in the right places.
In my opinion, the MX20 is the closest feeling to being barefoot of any shoe that I’ve ever worn (even more so than Nike’s Free shoe models), and it’s a good thing, but it’s different. Because of the shoe’s neutrality with its low heel and practically parallel sole stance to the ground, my feet literally felt as if in a barefoot position while they housed within the shoes. The MX is literally an extension of the foot and is characterized by the shape of the shoe itself, particularly in the asymmetrical toebox that is proportioned to the angle that toes take at the top of a foot. The aforementioned collar gave a supreme feel around my own ankle and heel, while the same mesh upper kept my foot well-ventilated. The midsole/outsole was comfortable enough, just enough to satisfy my feel for the shoe underfoot; it’s not spongy or super-soft, but acts as a strong, capable barrier when it comes to the shock that my body absorbed when walking around the weight room in between exercises and also when I was baring weight on my feet as I executed certain moves.
The MX zigs where much of the industry zags; particularly with this shoe, support as we think of it in traditional athletic shoes is almost nonexistent in the MX, but only in the traditional sense. Because of the welded support layers on top of the mesh upper of the shoe, it literally is geared for the foot to do much of the work, not unlike how the foot acts when shed of its outer footwear. The support of the shoe mainly comes from the snug fit from the collar, the lace support when tied and nearly-flat bottom of the MX, and I found all of these qualities to be sufficient.
The MX is purposely under-supportive so that the foot and leg do the vast majority of the work, as my own feet and legs did. The idea of this is that when the feet and legs are strengthened, the rest of the body is also strengthened incrementally. Because of this “under-support,” New Balance issues a legitimate caution tag with the shoes that plead for the wearer to go slow. In my case, I was adapted to the fit of barefoot-inspired shoes, and my own feet are strong, but I still endured some minor soreness in the arches and lower legs, which was nothing that dissuaded me from continuing on the shoe. Still, I probably would’ve taken it a tad slower, but foot fatigue is inevitable in wearing the MX if you’re dedicated to the shoe, and it’s worth it because of the benefits of a stronger base.
In my numerous wears of the MX, I formed a very good opinion of the shoe. It’s one of the best trainers I’ve ever set my foot into. Because of my low arches and slender feet, I feel like I was made for the shoe personally, but it may not be great for everyone. People with high arches will likely not be right for the shoe, as the insole is very, very slight and minimal for the purpose of enhanced ground feel. The MX performed great, honestly, and never did I feel more secure when in a standing stance with the MX on my feet. There was no rubbing over the course of my workouts (the thin mesh tongue is very underrated as a feature of the shoe), and I felt like my body was very sound as I trained in the MX.
Of course, because it’s so minimal, the cushioning lacks as a trade-off (by comparison to traditional athletic footwear), but of course, the goal of the shoe is to build a stronger set of feet, and it has just enough of everything to emphasize the lower legs and feet to flex their muscles, so I was more than OK with that and had some of my better workouts of recent time.
The MX is a great shoe, overall, but it’s a specialty shoe of sorts, which makes it unique and qualifies it for only certain people. If you don’t like the MX as a training shoe, it’s OK. The MX20 can help basketball players, who already live on their feet when it comes to playing the game, progress toward a unique durability and endurance when it comes to wellness of the feet and lower legs. In all, the challenge of the MX to perform with less actually gave me more, and as is the case for the Minimus, less is more (or as New Balance says “lss is mor”).
Sandy Dover is a published novelist and web & print magazine columnist in the world of publishing, while doubling (or quadrupling?) as a sports product tester and fitness advisor in the fitness world (with the two worlds often colliding). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at About Me, Facebook and Twitter.