Thursday, July 28, 2011

NB Minimus Trail Shoe Design Updated with Humor

I'm not a huge fan of the new New Balance Minimus Trail shoe design. I mean, the original's appearance just seems more original, at least to me, anyway.

But, I'm a fan of this commercial. There's another one, too.

I like to imagine that the dude is running around looking for his other shoe.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Metatarsalgia Makes a Runner Sad

Metatarsalgia equals no running and sadness
The nice thing about Metatarsalgia is that it's a term for a symptom rather than a specific diagnosis. So, when someone asks what's wrong with your foot as you limp gingerly across the room, you can say that you have metatarsalgia, a proclamation that implies you actually went to the doctor in order to have this injury addressed.

But, in reality, you're just saying that your foot hurts. Pronouncing metatarsalgia with confidence will help convince people that you know exactly what's wrong with you, by the way.

The pain you experience with metatarsalgia is not the usual sort of runner's hurt, that soreness you ignore so that you can keep running. It's not overwhelmingly sharp, like a stress fracture, either. It hurts in a sensitive way, reminding you that many little, delicate parts comprise the architecture of your foot. There's a slight crumbling feeling under the ball of your foot in the beginning.

Metatarsalgia hurts enough to warrant taking a few days off from running so that you don't make it worse.

And, if ever there is an occasion for a runner to feel sad and self absorbed, to mope about and readily acknowledge his or her grumpiness; it is when that runner is sidelined due to injury.

So, as a courtesy to the thoughtful person who inquired about your impaired walking stride, you'll want to convey your general mood with regard to the injury before you actually get into a conversation about it. Employ subtly gruff tones and a degree of brevity to your response about your limp so that the other person will readily ascertain that you're not in a mood to talk about metatarsalgia.

If the other person knows you're a runner, then the mere mention of anything causing you to limp will imply that you're injured and unable to run in accordance with your usual schedule. And, if that person knows you well, they will understand the severity of this thing and change the topic of conversation to something that has nothing to do with running.

Have patience with non runners and people who want to "help" you figure out how to heal your damaged metatarsal region. They mean well. And, they do not realize how many levels of dependency we runners build upon the simple act of running. A week without exercise is not the same as a week without running.

Other runners, especially those who've dealt with metatarsalgia on a personal level, will sympathize with you. And, you won't mind mentioning your condition to them. It might feel good to see that look of understanding in their eyes when you talk about it. But, don't talk about being sidelined for too long, because who wants to listen to a whiner?

You'll just need patience as you let your foot heal. Fitness is not lost over the course of a few days. And, from what I can see, I'll be running again after about a week of rest. So, take heart. Think of this break from running as a test of stamina, will power, and fortitude.

You'll be fine. You'll be fine. You will be fine...

skeleton of foot, lateral

Image from Wikipedia

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mizuno Wave Universe 4 :: First-Run Impressions Review

Against my better judgment, fiscally speaking, I ventured over to my favorite local running store and tried on the spiffy, new Mizuno Wave Universe 4.

"I'm just going to try them on," I told myself. "They're probably not going to be all that impressive, not impressive enough to warrant buying them, anyway," I reasoned.
Mizuno Universe 4 First Impressions
Well, yadda, yadda, yadda—13 miles later... And, I completed my first run in the Mizuno Universe 4 this morning. Here are my initial impressions:

As Light as a Box of Instant Jell-O

The Mizuno Universe 4 weighs as much as a 3.9 oz box of instant pudding
If you've never picked up a 3.9 oz (US size 9) shoe before, it's hard to imagine exactly how light a running shoe can be. So, for the sake of comparison, I did a little research to find that a full box of instant Jell-O pudding also weighs 3.9 oz. Pretty freakin' impressive, right?

I don't know how the clever people at Mizuno make this shoe so lightweight. Fancy marketing terms like "AP copolymer" and "G3 Sole" are a bit too vague for my textile-challenged mind. So, suffice it to say that Mizuno uses magic stuff to provide "lightweight, responsive, yet durable cushioning." It's a really lightweight shoe, people.

Orange Like a Traffic Cone

Mizuno Wave Universe 4 First ImpressionsThat bright orange color you see in the photo is even brighter during the dim hours of the day. This enhanced visibility, in conjunction with the highly reflective Mizuno fox Runbird on the lateral sides of the shoes, is nice for those of us who run on pavement in the wee hours of the morning or evening. Safety is important. And, having a shoe that helps motorists see you better is a good thing.

The upper material is not as mesh-like as my other shoes. It's similar, actually, to a technical fabric you would find comprising one of your running shirts. Mizuno calls it "AIRmesh" (uppercase letters and all), and it's extremely flexible and breathable.

The large, black material overlays help maintain slight structure for the shoe and hold the foot in place when running, I suppose. Also, as you may have noticed, the flame-like design elements make you look like your feet are on fire. Good thing these shoes are so cool, eh?

Firm in All the Right Places

I was happy to notice that the Universe 4 has a great, firm feeling for the road, in my opinion. It's not incredibly squishy. And, it's not like running on a sheet of plastic. It's just what I'd want from a long-distance road shoe.

That observation wasn't too much of a surprise considering that there's relatively little between the road and your feet in this shoe. With a fixed insole, the shoe's stack height measures at 18mm in the heel and 15mm in the forefoot. I think that's decent for a pavement runner who needs something for longer runs on hard surfaces.

Toe Box with Socks

If you think there's a lot of space in the NB Minimus Trail toe box, wait 'til you try on the Universe 4. The flexible upper and rather wide forefoot really make toes happy when they're in the Universe 4. I can flex my toes, splay 'em, and wiggle as much as I want. Even my pinky toes feel free.

I purchased these in a size 12, which allows for a full thumb's width between my big toe and the end of the shoe. This is how my size 12 Ronin 2 fits, as well. They're on the big side for my feet in a 12. I could have fit into a size 11.5 without feeling overly cramped. But, the extra room in the toe area of a slightly large shoe is especially pleasant during the later miles on those long runs. Plus, I can wear thicker socks when all of my favorite thin-ish socks are in the laundry.

So, my advice if you're buying these online: Assume your sizing in the Ronin 2 is equal to what you'll want in the Universe 4. If you don't wear the Ronins, assume your sizing in the NB MT10 is equal to what you'll want in the Universe 4. If you don't wear those, well, give the Shoefitr a try and order two sizes to try on.


After just one 13-mile run, I see wear on the outsole already. If you look closely at the top picture, you can see some scraping toward the middle of the forefoot. This makes me curious to know how durable the Universe 4 actually is. My Ronin 2's outsole is still in relatively good shape. And, I certainly didn't see wear like this on that after just one run.

Of course, I expect that a shoe as light as the Universe 4 is going to have to sacrifice some level of durability. And, maybe this is just a trade off the Mizuno Universe 4 wearer must accept. (Perhaps those of you who've had the Universe 3 can attest to the durability of the Universe model in general.) I'll have to watch that wear-and-tear factor closely over the next 30 or so miles, at which time I'll write a more thorough review of the Universe 4.

My Impression

Assuming the Universe 4 isn't going to fall apart on me after 100 miles, I'm very happy with this shoe so far. It's going to be my go-to road shoe for longer distances. Buy them if you can stomach the cost. (Yes, I know they're incredibly expensive for racing flats. Don't remind me, please)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

NB Minimus Trail MT10 Versus Inov-8 F-Lite 230: Shoe Comparison

I use the NB Minimus Trail (MT 10) and the Inov-8 f-lite 230 for pretty much the same purposes in my running routine. Ultimately, they are both lightweight trail shoes that perform sufficiently to perfectly enough to be worn regularly on pavement. This sort of multipurpose use makes them quite indispensable to the trail-inclined runner who must also cover miles on pavement on a regular basis.
New Balance Minimus Trail and the Inov-8 f-lite 230
But, unlike me, few people want to invest in two different pairs of shoes that fulfill the same purpose. Shoes are tools, after all. And, by that notion, it's a little frivolous in this economy to have several tools that do the same job. So, let's take a look at the similarities and differences that might enable the would-be f-lite 230 or Minimus fan to make an informed decision on a dual-purpose trail-road shoe.


Sure, aesthetics are purely subjective. But, come on: These are both good looking shoes. I've pitted the black versions of each one together for this comparison so as to remain as neutral as possible, lookswise.

Each shoe boasts nice lines, symmetrical designs, and a palpable lightness that evokes smooth and fast running.
top view of New Balance Minimus Trail and Inov-8 f-lite 230
There are some negative comments about the visual appeal of the orange version of the NB MT10. Some people don't like orange. I get that.

But, I've also seen enthusiastic remarks about the orange and black colorway. Moreover, I like the orange version. If you don't like it. There's the black version. If you don't like that, there are a couple of lighter colored gray versions available for women.

And, while we're considering color, there are many colorway options available for the f-lite 230 at the moment. I don't think I need to address that again.

So, basically, as far as looks are concerned, you can't go wrong with either shoe unless you prefer a standard off-white or gray running shoe.

The Toe Box

toe box comparison of the f-lite 230 and the Minimus Trail
One of the most lauded features of the NB Minimus Trail is it's wider-than-most-shoes toe box. People with human-shaped feet tend to love that feature. I agree with this fondness for a roomy toe box.

So, with that wide toe box on the Minimus Trail clearly visible in all it's generous roundness, you look over to the f-lite 230 and scoff at it's comparatively pointy toe area. But, don't cross the f-lite off your list yet, folks.

It might interest you to know that we're comparing a US men's size 12 NB MT10 to a US men's size 11.5 f-lite 230. Each shoe is pretty much the same length from toe tip to heel. Ths makes the Inov-8 f-lite 230 a little large for it's size, lengthwise, and the Minimus Trail is slightly small for it's size.

Now, while my toes definitely enjoy the extra room in the toe box while wearing the NB MT10, the majority of that extra room is in the area directly facing my middle three toes and big toe. This extra space is somewhat negated by the fact that the MT10's toe spring forces those middle three toes to rub against the insole during a run. I have calluses on my middle and index (?) toes to prove this.

On the other hand, the narrower toe box of the f-lite 230 affords plenty of room for my big toe with just a bit of a squeeze on the other toes. But, that squeeze helps to hold those toes in place while the flexibility of the f-lite 230's upper material nullifies any sense of pinching.

It's worth mentioning, too, that my pinky toes in either shoe still feel the force of being inside a shoe.

Going back to the size difference in these shoes: If we were to compare a size 12 f-lite 230 to this size 12 Minimus, we'd notice that the f-lite is about a thumb's width longer than the MT10. But, the space for all the toes would be equal in both shoes with even more space for the big toe in the size 12 f-lite 230.

So, while there is undoubtedly more wiggle room for the toes in the New Balance MT10, your toes might appreciate the lower toe spring and slightly more confined space of the f-lite 230.

The Heel and Stuff

New Balance Minimus Trail and the Inov-8 f-lite 230 heel heights compared
I'd like to pretend that minimalist criteria do not matter to this review. But, we're dealing with a shoe called the "Minimus" after all. So, things like the heel-to-toe differential must be addressed.

Neither the the Minimus Trail nor the f-lite 230 would qualify as a true minimalist shoe in the strictest sense of the term. But, they're marketed to minimilast-inclined runners. So, let's compare the stack heights (a phrase that seems to have popped up overnight in the shoe industry).

Since appears to be the only running shoe resource on the 'net that offers relevant measurements of the shoes the company sells, we'll refer to their database for comparison here:

posterior view of the Inov-8 f-lite 230 and NB Minimus Trail
The f-lite 230 features a heel height of 15mm and a forefoot height of 11mm, creating a differential of just 4mm. It's worth noting that Inov-8 states that their shoes, like the f-lite 230, with a two-arrow shock zone have a 6mm differential.

On the other hand (foot), the NB Minimus Trail apparently has a heel height of 14mm and forefoot height of 10mm, which amounts to another 4mm differential.

I'm not sure how RunningWarehouse measures the shoes they sell. But, I'm fairly certain that I notice the heel height just a smidge more when wearing the f-lite 230 than I do when running in the NB MT10. That's not a very scientific observation on my part, I know. But, that's what I've got for ya.

What does this heel-to-toe differential mean to the runner considering either of these shoes for their road/trail runnning? Not much, in my opinion. If you want to nit-pick over 4 or 6 millimeter differentials in these two shoes, you should just get a zero-drop shoe.

Sure, I notice the heel just a bit more in the f-lite 230 while running on pavement. But, a possible 2mm difference in the heel height will mean absolutely nothing to you on the trails. And, the inclines of these shoes are low enough to allow for easy mid-foot striking, if that's what you're after.

Outsole and Midsole

New Balance Minimus Trail and the Inov-8 f-lite 230 outsoles compared
The MT10 and the f-lite 230 are best suited for lightly technical to tame trail terrain. Their lugs are small with a relatively consistent pattern that allows for smooth running on flat surfaces. This is why they're so easily adapted to running on pavement.

If I had to pick the best pavement shoe of these two, I'd go for the f-lite 230. It's a bit softer when worn with the sock liner. And, the midsole and outsole lugs are somewhate more cushiony than the NB Minimus Trail's outsole, which has a hardness to it that offers other benefits.

The MT10's Vibram outsole has a more rigid feel to it, which can create a bit of a "clack, clack, clack" sound as you run. It's not an offensive sound. But, it's there sometimes. This rigidity coupled with the technology in the Vibram outsole somehow makes the ground feel harder when running in the Minimus Trail, especially on pavement. It's not a drastically debilitating hardness, though. It's just a characteristic that exists and helps you maintain good running form.

The runner wearing the f-lite 230 enjoys a conspicuously softer run on pavement than his NB-Minimus-Trail-wearing counterpart. I mean, it's not like wearing a pair of cloud-enveloped traditional trainers. You still feel the ground and suffer if you have weak feet. But, there's a softness there that you may not mind experiencing when you choose to wear shoes on pavement. In fact, I think that the softer midsole and outsole of the f-lite 230 allows for greater proprioception when compared to the NB Minimus Trail.

Both shoes have a sticky sort of rubber on the outsole that provides good traction on wet surfaces. Their short, unassuming lugs do just enough gripping over uneven trails to warrant wearing them during a trail race in lieu of your usual road shoes. They're both great tread patterns, actually.

Sure, in the photo the f-lite's lugs appear to be more aggressive. But, the MT10's lugs are smaller and more numerous. And, their unique pattern really functions well over slightly rough trails.

These are not true technical trail beasts, to be sure. So, if you want a shoe that has very grippy lugs for rough terrain, you'd best look elsewhere (cough—Roclite 285—cough). It's especially worth noting that the Minimus Trail offers little defense against sharp, pointy rocks. I'd much rather step on something pointy while wearing my f-lites instead of wearing my Minmus Trails.


front view of the NB Minimus Trail and the Inov-8 f-lite 230
I'm adding this section because I've already used the word "feel" a lot in this comparison. And, I want another opportunity to expand on such a subjective concept.

Both shoes feel great on my feet. They're very flexible, the f-lite 230 a little more flexible in the upper, and wrap around my feet comfortably. I'd describe both as having a slipper-like fit. 'Course, who the hell wears slippers anymore?

That band across the forefoot on the Minimus Trail feels odd when you just wear the shoes while walking around. But, you aren't likely to notice the band when you're running.

I once tied my f-lite 230s too tightly and felt a painful sensation across the top of my foot. That was my mistake, though. I've never felt anything weird from the f-lites aside from that.

I feel faster in the f-lites. Is it because of the slightly narrower toe box? Is it the design? I'm not sure. But, for now, I can't imagine running a race in the Minimus Trails while I have my f-lite 230s.


medial view of the Inov-8 f-lite 230 and NB MT10
I'm rambling a lot in this post. And, I apologize. I try to be thorough. But, I also want to get to the point. So, let's see if I can make these next points brief.

A shoe lace is not something that usually makes a difference to me when making a shoe purchase. I mean, it doesn't seem like shoe lace technology would be all that critical to a shoe's performance in this day and age.

But, as I mentioned in my review of the MT10, its shoe laces are superfluously long, in my opinion. I don't have narrow feet. And, even I have to tuck the tied loops of the laces under the front-most laces to avoid having them flail about, creating a tripping hazard.

The f-lite 230's laces, on the other hand, are perfectly proportioned, whether you use the ankle locking lacing pattern or not.

I also find that the f-lite 230 is easier on the upper heel and achilles area than the NB MT10. The f-lite 230 has some soft, smooth padding at the top of the heel cup. And, the MT10 has some sort of abrasive seam that kind of hurts when I'm not wearing socks.

I prefer to wear socks. But, I can be crazy at times, too. So, I'll admit to forgoing the socks out of curiosity or necessity on more than one occasion.

When I ran without socks in the f-lite 230, I found it strange but not uncomfortable. It was a warm, sunny day. And, I experienced no blistering.

But, when I forgot to bring socks on a run in my MT10s, I sustained a rather evil blister above my heels on both feet. Of course, the fact that I was running in the rain might have encouraged the formation of these blisters.

The reported weight of each shoe is of interest to some of you, I'm sure. So, thanks to the careful data presentation by, we know that the size 9 NB Minimus Trail weighs 7.1 oz and the size 9 f-lite 230 weighs 8.1 oz.


If you've read this far, you're probably suffering from information overload relative to the f-lite 230 and the Minimus Trail. And, as a result, you're so sick at the mere thought of these two shoes that you could care less what I have to say on the subject.

But, you need some sort of closure after enduring this incredibly lengthy comparison review. And the only way your battered mind can accept closure is by processing the worth of these two shoes with some sort of score.

So, for the sake of your shoe-researching self, I'll score these shoes:

The NB Minimus Trail gets a 10.2 and the Inov-8 f-lite scores slightly higher with a 10.599. You can fill in the scoring parameters. ;-P

I love them both. But, I'd save the f-lites from a fire before the Minimus.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Observations on Running and the Family Vacation

Happy is the trail runner who plans a vacation to the mountains. Fantasies of new trails, waterfalls, and miles of mountain views populate his mind while choosing which shoes to bring along.

vacations are for hiking
There are other ways besides running to enjoy trails during the family vacation.
But, as those of you with families, especially families comprised of small children, know; a vacation is never as relaxing and fancy free as you hope. You're having fun with family, after all. And, when work demands your attention, too; you find that you have little time to actually drive over to that trail that looks so cool on the map.

Yes, your running time during family vacations is just as precious and subject to inconvenience as it is in real life. So, you'll probably find that the best laid running plans, as far as vacations go, are best left to runners who have the freedom to do whatever they want to do while traveling. (Lucky dogs)

In my mind, the best way to ensure that the family vacation affords a dedicated runner that special run is to incorporate a race into the vacation schedule. In fact, this is ideal.

You'll have paid to register for the race, which obligates the rest of your family to encourage you to have fun with it. And, the race will usually be on a cool course. If the race is at the beginning of the vacation, you'll spend the remaining days recovering and not missing your runs as much. Or, if the race is towards the end of your vacation, you'll spend the preceding days tapering and not missing your runs as much.

So, there ya go, family-oriented runner: Plan a race during your next vacation with the spouse and kids if you really want to get in a good run. Otherwise, just expect to take a cut-back week, which is a good thing too, usually.
NB Minimus Trail on Vacation
New Balance Minimus Trail shoes on vacation — spending more time beside the wall than planned.


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