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Tuesday, July 3, 2012
New Balance Minimus Amp Review
I may have been out of the blogger game for a few months. But that doesn't mean I don't have a few aces up my sleeve. Time for some magic tricks.
Back in February I was fortunate enough to snag an early version of the New Balance Minimus Amp. The Amp is New Balance's version of a so-called "reduced shoe" in the same vein as the Merrell Mix Master. By "reduced", I mean that New Balance has taken their popular Minimus platform and added features to make it more appealing to folks who don't necessarily want to eat the whole hog when transitioning to minimal shoes.
I announced earlier this year that I would be experimenting with these kinds of shoes to see if they had any benefits. This would be my first such opportunity.
Let me tell you folks...I really like this shoe.
More than any other shoe I've tested for this blog, the Amp has the look and feel of a more traditional trail shoe. Everything about it is just a little more substantial; starting with the upper.
The upper is a thick but breathable monomesh with bands of supportive fabric over the forefoot in a similar pattern as other Minimus models. You'll also find a similar piece of molded rubber over the toe so that you don't break a piggy on a rock or something. The last of the shoe is the same as the Minimus Zero, so you can expect a similar fit. That is, the Amp still is a little narrow for those with wide feet. However, New Balance has begun to offer their Minimus models in wide sizes. My information is that this shoe will be no different.
Another thing that remains the same as other Minimus models is the sockness liner. Super comfortable interior as always. Possibly one of the most comfortable interiors of any minimal shoe out there. The heel collar however has a bit more padding than I'm used to however. This caused me some blistering on my heel during longer runs.
The stack height of the Amp is similar to the original Minimus. It is 10mm at the forefoot and 14mm at the rear, for a 4mm heel to toe drop. This seems to be the typical height of shoes in the "reduced" category.
The Amp also has a few midsole features to beef up the protection. Most notably is a RockStop rock plate that extends all the way to the midfoot of the shoe. Now the MT110 also has a rock plate, but I'd reckon that this one is much thicker and longer.
Then of course...there's the cushioning. Not much. Nothing that you really notice in terms of squish factor. But enough to smooth out the ride.
The outsole of the shoe has the same podding as other Minimus models. However, the pods have more aggressive tread. The pods are also much larger, and many stick out over the edge of the shoe.
Does the extra tread equal extra grip? The Minimus line has notoriously poor grip. The Amp does a little better than it's predecessors, but is very average in comparison to other New Balance reduced shoes such as the MT110 or the good old MT101.
On the other hand, the larger podding gives the shoe more lateral stability. Folks transitioning to a more reduced shoe might appreciate that, as it means less stress on your ankle. I found it clunky and annoying at times. It's definitely something that seasoned minimalists will need to get used to.
Despite all these additions to the shoe, the Amp still feels very minimal in terms of weight. Like more recent Minimus models, material has been taken out of the outsole around the edges of the pods to reduce weight. The result is a shoe that weights only 7.7oz for a size 9 men's despite all the added features. I didn't feel much difference between the weight in the Amp and the original Minimus models (the MT10 and MT20).
Where I really felt the difference was in the feel of the shoe. The Minimus has never been much for me in terms of ground feel, and the Amp is no different. In fact, with the rock plate and cushioning, I couldn't feel much of the ground at all. On the other hand, I've always found ride on the original Minimus to be a little rough and choppy. The cushioning in the Amp smoothed out that action. It also kept my feet from hurting on longer outings.
Where does this shoe fit in the New Balance trail shoe line-up? Well it certainly isn't as aggressive as something like the MT110. It's more of a step up in terms of comfort and protection from the MT20. And better in terms of functionality than the original Minimus. More of an everyday trail shoe.
Overall, I find the Amp a useful addition to my shoe armada. Though it isn't a true minimal shoe, it is a straight up comfortable trail shoe. The fact that it beefed up some minimal features went mostly unnoticed by me. New Balance did this in an artful way that seems to enhance the shoe rather than make it unnecessarily bulky. I think it will impress new mininimalists and seasoned ones alike. That's a job well done by New Balance in my opinion.
The Minimus Amp is currently set to be released sometime in July 2012. Until then, go run some trails this holiday week citizens! Cheers!
Posted by The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy at 12:26 PM