Katherine Petrecca: A Perspective on the Minimalist Running Movement
"The three main tenets that we wrapped Minimus around have become much more standard dialogue."
The difference between heel height
and toe height — a lower drop helps
provide a more neutral foot position.
Minimus encourages a mid-foot
strike by decreasing the distance
between the foot and the ground.
The Minimus line is almost 50%
lighter than traditional running shoes.
As minimalist running has become less fringe and more mainstream, the increased demand for innovation in footwear has let New Balance make its own mark on the movement. We had the opportunity to speak with NB's Strategic Business Unit Manager – Innovation Studio, Katherine Petrecca, who was kind enough to share her thoughts on the current state of minimalist running, the Minimus line, and where it all might be heading in the not-too-distant future.
The Minimalist Running Landscape
What's struck Katherine the most in recent years is the way minimalist running is now talked about in the mainstream. Runners today are unafraid to delve into more technical language about their footwear: you're just as likely to hear terms like "heel-to-forefoot drop" and "stack height" peppered throughout a conversation about running as "stability" or "support."
"That whole language has changed now. The three main tenets that we wrapped Minimus around [heel drop, stack height and weight] have become much more standard dialogue," she says. "It's been an interesting shift over a very short amount of time."
"There was a huge appetite for people to speak about it and read about it online."
Katherine notes that since many of these conversations were taking place online, the Internet was very much a catalyst for discussions around minimalist running. "There was a huge appetite for people to speak about it and read about it online," she adds. "And to see the consumer community participate in a conversation about performance footwear online…I haven't really been a part of something like that before."
With the Minimus line in particular, there was a lot of buzz that began to circulate online. Before they had even hit the market, Katherine noticed New Balance was getting a constant stream of feedback on the smallest details released about the Minimus 10, from the 4mm drop to the amount of material underfoot.
The Minimus Line
For the original Minimus 10, Katherine notes that New Balance intentionally went with a 4mm drop because it still changed the running experience without being too difficult a transition from traditional shoes. "We started at a place we felt was the most responsible," she continues. "And what we heard — pretty loudly — from consumers was that a 4mm drop on a shoe wasn't pure enough for some people, and they wanted a zero drop shoe…that move to the Minimus Zero was instigated by what we heard online."
Katherine is quick to point out that the new iterations of Minimus aren't so much an evolution as they are a continuum. "The Minimus 1010 is the latest addition to the collection. It offers the core principles of the original Minimus shoes; but, was designed to offer more underfoot cushioning. As such, it's a good option for people just starting to transition to a midfoot strike."
Looking forward, Katherine sees plenty of room to play in this space by delivering better tangible benefits to minimalist runners. "What can we do differently than besides making a shoe more minimal?" she asks. "I think it's an area that's still ripe for innovation, and that's obviously where we're focused."
*Due to variances created during the development and manufacturing processes, all references to drop and stack height are approximate.