Meet NB Minimus: An interview with Katherine Petrecca
As was made obvious by the response generated by our article on barefoot running, a significant portion of the New Balance community is curious about a more minimalist approach to running. At New Balance, we get excited about anything that enhances the running experience, so when we had the opportunity to talk to Katherine Petrecca, who is managing the upcoming NB Minimus collection, we jumped at the chance.
NewBalance.com: Let’s start with the basics. What, exactly, is NB Minimus?
Katherine Petrecca: NB Minimus is a barefoot-inspired line of shoes created specifically for runners seeking a truly minimalist experience. It’s a cross-category collection, including road running, trail running, and wellness shoes. By ‘wellness’ we mean shoes designed for people seeking a more natural stance throughout the day, even when they’re not exercising.
NewBalance.com: And when are they coming?
Katherine Petrecca: The first NB Minimus shoes will be available in March 2011.
NewBalance.com: Why would someone choose to wear a minimalist shoe?
Katherine Petrecca: We view these shoes very much as tools that encourage better running form, and help strengthen the legs and feet. As important, a great minimal shoe should deliver increased ground feel and control, which is what makes them so much fun to use.
NewBalance.com: So how did you go about bringing these to life?
Katherine Petrecca: First, it’s important to note that New Balance already has a large following among runners who prefer minimal footwear, so NB Minimus isn’t really something new to us, but rather an extension of products that we’ve already been making. For the last 4 years, we’ve produced minimal trail shoes that were developed and tested with world-class ultrarunners who are also trained midfoot strikers, so gathering input from Tony Krupicka and Kyle Skaggs for the development of the MT100 and MT101 was an obvious step. These shoes have a very loyal following in the hardcore running community. In addition, we’ve always made a minimal product for our elite running and track athletes. It’s great to see broader interest in that kind of shoe.
With NB Minimus, the idea is to balance this desire to deliver a “closer to barefoot” experience with the realities of the terrain on which people are running today, and the fact that most of us have been raised in shoes. With that in mind, for NB Minimus we developed a new, more anatomically-correct last, along with midsole heights specifically-engineered to deliver more natural movement, and better form. People will also notice that the uppers are a lot thinner, which helps reduce weight. The increased ground feel was accomplished by employing thin, flexible midsoles, and eliminating the inserts.
NewBalance.com: How will they be different from shoes that are already on the market?
Katherine Petrecca: We’ve vigorously pursued a path we call ‘Light+Right’. We feel very strongly that building great minimal footwear is about something far more substantial than stripping as much as you can out of a shoe. To us, a meaningful ‘closer to barefoot’ experience is something very specific: a shoe with a neutral foot position, meaning that it has a minimal drop from heel to forefoot. It’s certainly lightweight – under 8.5 ounces – although we’re not content to make another lightweight shoe and call it ‘minimal’. Also, and this is really important, it has to deliver a great minimal running experience – enhanced ground feel and a barefoot-compatible interior. That, of course, means reducing the number of seams, and making the shoe highly-breathable. We believe that we’ve done this with NB Minimus – and that when you examine many of the shoes from our competitors currently billed as ‘minimal’ or ‘barefoot-inspired’, you can see where they miss the mark.
NewBalance.com: To what extent is the popularity of minimal shoes being driven by scientific research?
Katherine Petrecca: Well, increasingly, people are becoming familiar with the research done by Dr. Daniel Lieberman at Harvard which explores the collision mechanics of different kinds of foot strikes. His research shows that most experienced, habitual barefoot runners tend to avoid landing on the heel and instead land with a forefoot or midfoot strike. In addition, the research proved that most forefoot and some midfoot strikes (shod and barefoot) do not generate the sudden, large impact that occurs when you heel strike (shod or barefoot).
In short, it suggests that the body is built to land with a midfoot to forefoot strike and that our anatomy is better-suited to absorb the impact of landing with that gait.
We’ve done some really interesting research in our Sports Lab over the past year. Our results are in line with the research from Harvard in relation to striking tendencies and impact forces at strike. We found that runners adjust their gait to a more midfoot or forefoot strike as the heights of the midsole are reduced from a traditional shoe down to barefoot.
NewBalance.com: What are the plans for the future?
Katherine Petrecca: Our goals for expanding NB Minimus are really two-fold: First, we’re going to continue to evolve the collection to incorporate different levels of the minimal experience. Second, we are exploring ways by which we can bring a more minimal approach to our broader, established product line. As always, we’ll be working with our elite athletes to constantly refine and perfect the ways in which these shoes deliver this “closer to barefoot” experience.
At New Balance, we know that people are actively looking for ways in which they can keep running throughout their lifetime. Naturally, that’s something we are interested in supporting! The current trend towards minimalism is creating curiosity and buzz around running, which we hope will bring more runners into the fold. As the NB Minimus story continues to unfold over the next few months, we’ll continue to bring this story to the running community.