There’s a lot of truth in what you see on the bottom of shoes

Seated in a back corner on the 5th floor of the New Balance Design Center in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Chris Wawrousek, Senior Designer, is literally surrounded by this truth in the form of the hundreds of prototyped, well-worn and yet-to-be-tried shoes that line the halls. Today, though, he’s focused on four pair of shoes in particular: a pair of MT100’s well-loved and hand-carved by ultramarathoner Anton Krupicka, a hybrid pair of MT100’s fixed with a prototype sole from what would become NB Minimus, a pair of NB Minimus Trail shoes, and the forthcoming NB Minimus Zero Trail.

Minimus Zero Trail Sole
Chris and his team examined trail-tested NB Minimus soles from more than 40 runners including ultramarathoner Tony Krupicka to compare expected wear patterns with actual wear. The pods exhibiting the most wear are marked here with yellow stickers for easy reference.

The video above shows a composite of those wear samples, with the most-worn pods on each shoe marked in green. As more shoes are introduced, a clear pattern of consistent wear is revealed.

The wear pattern tests informed not only the location of the pods on the sole of the upcoming NB Minimus Zero Trail, but also the size of each. The diameter of each pod is scaled to match the need for ground contact in that region of the foot, while still allowing the foot to flex and bend naturally. The more independent pods allow for increased ground feel. And to remove additional weight while maximizing ground feel, the designers carved away as much material as possible from the rubber outsole — going so far as to cut visible holes in-between the pods.

Minimus Zero Road Sole
Fellow designer Andrew Nyssen led the evolution of the sole design for sleek new NB Minimus Zero Road. To supplement ‘wear-test’ data for the NB Minimus Road shoes, Chris spray-painted the soles of his own shoes a bright red. The durability of the paint allowed him to notice and measure his own wear.

The findings informed a new design for the sole of NB Minimus Zero Road, with both a reconfigured layout of the pods, and Vibram rubber components that add durability and traction without adding unwanted weight. NB Minimus Zero Road will be the first pair of shoes to use this particular grade of Vibram rubber, which Chris describes as a “sticker compound”. Careful attention was paid to the balance of light weight and the need for ground contact.

More pictures and full blog post available at New Balance web site.