The State of Independence - Part I
A Detailed View of the Minimus HI-REZ Outsole
A lot of careful planning went into developing the outsole for the upcoming Minimus HI-REZ, the focus being on maximizing underfoot sensation while providing a level of protection and comfort. It was an exercise in purposeful design and a challenge that New Balance Lead Designer Chris Wawrousek didn't shy away from. We sat down with Chris to discuss the ideas behind the outsole and get his take on why it's so different from anything else we've seen before.
While developing the original Minimus 10, the design team had the idea to mold the midsole and then cut apart the pieces to have these "zones of sensitivity" to provide more ground feedback.
Chris: We thought it'd be cool to have this hybrid where you're able to feel a lot of surface texture but also have it be comfortable in the transmission.
Visually, the outsole is broken into separate pieces, or lugs. This separation between each element allows the outsole to transmit underfoot sensation in a very specific way.
Chris: If these were all connected, you wouldn't have the ability to detect one pod relative to the surrounding ones.
One of the biggest challenges the team had to overcome was attaching the foam pieces directly to the fabric, which resulted in breaking up the pieces separately.
Chris: We've seen injection to plastic before, but the fact this is a foam component similar to traditional midsoles is a unique feature we felt could provide a lot of benefit.
A thin rubber layer was added to certain lugs that the team determined require more reinforcement because of the heel's natural curvature. Through wear testing, they found the inner lugs were wearing more than those on the outside.
Chris: We moved the extra grip over to the inner lugs and are pretty pleased with the way that's been wearing.
Attaching the outsole to the upper brought about a whole new set of challenges, the main issue being how close the stitch could get to the foam.
Chris: We needed the lugs to come to the edge, but we also needed the stitch to be very close to the edge. That dynamic really forced us into a lot of different attempts to find another solution.
This "proof of concept" prototype showed the team breaking apart the outsole was doable.
A quick "homemade" prototype of the outsole attached to the original MR10 upper.
A slightly more refined prototype of the HI-REZ outsole.
The size and placement of each lug was determined by the space available that provided full coverage around the foot without limiting flexibility. Similarly, the proportion of the height to the diameter had to be a certain size to avoid creating a sense of instability on the lugs.
Chris: Fortunately, the production technique we use allows for different sizes, so in that way we can create a more consistent grid, then crop those shapes off.
Minimus HI-REZ was designed to pick up significantly more sensation than any other shoe, including the ultra-minimal Minimus Zero.
Chris: [As an example] you can run a finger along the bottom of it and feel that finger moving all the way from front to back, which is a totally unique experience relative to a normal shoe.