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September 23, 2010

Feeling the Path: Anton Krupicka and New Balance Minimus

“Feel the path of every day - which road you taking?
Breathing hard, making hay - yeah, this is living …

Feel the sky blanket you with gems and rhinestones –
See the path cut by the moon for you to walk on.”

- Pearl Jam, “Unthought Known” (video after post)

There’s a very cool video making the rounds in the trail running community lately, featuring two very compelling subjects: Anton Krupicka and the forthcoming New Balance Minimus.

The 3-minute clip is noteworthy for a couple of reasons: first (and, from a product marketing standpoint, foremost) is that it features several close-ups of the eagerly anticipated shoe that’s scheduled for release in March of 2011. You’ll recall that a couple of months ago, NB was intentionally secretive about what the shoe actually looked like; in this video, you can see for yourself, from a few different angles.

Without question, the new Minimus looks like a pretty sweet ride, and I’ll be eager to give it a spin (and a review, of course) in the springtime. However, what stands out more to me from the video are Krupicka’s musings on minimalist footwear and natural running. He explains how the current evolution - or if you prefer, revolution - of shoe industry leaders like New Balance towards a “less is more” mindset is an extension of a larger movement towards a minimalist lifestyle, simplifying our existence as a means of giving it greater meaning.

He also describes the inherent satisfaction in feeling your foot interact with the ground with every step you take: the way it connects us more closely to our surroundings, and the way it strips away all the other distractions we sometimes bring to our training. The constant feedback of the Earth underfoot helps us stay focused in the moment and at one with the natural world around us.

Sure, that kind of talk has hints of New Age gobbledy-gook to it … but the thing is, I feel exactly the same way. In fact, I discussed this very topic about two weeks ago with a writer who is researching the barefoot running phenomenon.

He was interviewing me as a reference (I know … I was shocked, too) for his book, and thought that I was somewhat unique in comparison to other barefoot or minimalist runners he’d spoken with, mainly because my affinity for this approach has been completely voluntary. I didn’t have difficulty running in regular shoes. I didn’t suffer injuries from conventional footwear. And I don’t harbor any counter-cultural animosity towards traditional shoe companies.

So he asked the obvious questions: Why did I do it? And why do I stay with it? The answers I gave him were almost identical to what Krupicka talks about in the New Balance video.

I was drawn to barefoot running – and by extension, minimalist footwear – somewhat by intellectual curiosity, but more by this primal joy of letting my body function naturally in the endlessly fascinating world around me. I love to feel the ground below me, the rhythm of my legs and lungs and body working in harmony, the sky blanketing me with cool air and fresh breezes, and to see my path illuminated in the moonlight before me. Those moments, more than anything else, are what running is all about to me – and the less my gear interferes with those experiences, the better.

But I’m digressing too much, because this post is primarily about Krupicka and the Minimus. Watch the video below, then if you’re so inclined, you can follow the link to an interview with Krupicka and senior New Balance designer Chris Wawrousek for further insights into the development of the Minimus. Or you could just stick around and listen to Pearl Jam.

“Tony Krupicka and the New Balance Minimus” (click to play):

See the interview with Anton Krupicka and Chris Wawrousek here.

Considering what a huge Pearl Jam fan I was in college, I’m ashamed to admit that it took me a couple of years to warm to the idea of a comeback from them – but this song from the Backspacer album was the one that closed the deal for me. It’s got classic Pearl Jam style, and instantly became one of my favorites.

Pearl Jam, “Unthought Known” (click to play):


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Anonymous,  9/23/10, 10:19 PM  

I assume you mean March 2011 release.

Donald 9/23/10, 10:27 PM  

You're too fast! I was just editing that :)

Anonymous,  9/24/10, 5:51 AM  

Here are some good pics of the Minimus:


Anonymous,  9/24/10, 5:52 AM  

Woops, copied the wrong link:


The Dude 9/24/10, 5:53 AM  

I imagine most of American culture could use a "minimalist" attitude in about everything and get back to basics, but that's a different topic.

Didn't Anton wear the Minimalist at this year's WS100?

I love Pearl Jam!

Gretchen 9/24/10, 6:07 AM  

I guess I don't get that excited about shoes, but I pretty much just fell in love with one of your paragraphs in this post - The one that explains why you were drawn to barefoot running. I know you've more or less expressed those sentiments in the past, but you just said it so beautifully here.

JimDog 9/24/10, 9:09 AM  

Weird that you just posted this. I have been "wear testing" a pair of NB Minimus for the last month, today is the day I have to send them back.

Let me just say, I am really really going to miss these shoes as I've been wearing them every single day (at work and on the weekends). Can't wait to buy a pair for myself come spring time.

Dan 9/24/10, 10:52 AM  

There's something odd about a shoe manufacturer hyping the experience of barefoot running. Since he's a sponsored athlete, I understand why Anton would make a video like this. And 99% of us will still wear and buy shoes, so there's obviously a need for the New Balances of the world. But it just rubs me the wrong way to see the commodification of something (i.e., barefoot running) that in its essence should exist beyond corporations, products, logos, price tags, etc.

Anonymous,  9/24/10, 12:01 PM  

Can you imagine if Krupicka starts wearing the Hoka shoes??? That's gonna start an all new trend!

Andy 9/24/10, 1:50 PM  

Karl Meltzer wears (and loves) the Hokas. Of course, his racing is a lot less about his connection to the earth. As "smooth" as the Hokas are, I bet he yard-sales a lot more than he used to. His ankles probably hate him.

Andy 9/24/10, 1:52 PM  

Also, great video and beautiful overall post.

Donald 9/24/10, 9:06 PM  

Hmm ... some interesting comments for sure; thanks for the feedback, everyone.

Dude: I think Anton wore New Balance's MT101 at States. In the interview he says he races in the MT, and uses the Minimus as a trainer.

Dan: I think Anton's perspective in the film is genuine; it's a topic he's discussed many times on his blog.

Eddy and Andy: I'm not even sure where to start on the Hokas. Oh my goodness.

Donald 9/24/10, 9:08 PM  

Whoops, I forgot JimDog! Very cool that you got to wear test them. Feel free to share any feedback with us here, or with me offline (info@runningandrambling.com)

Scott,  9/30/10, 9:03 PM  

I happened upon a shoe expo at my local running store today and got to feel up the men's and women's trail and road versions. She even let me try them on, but they were about size too small to give a meaningful review. VERY nice overll. The rep told me they'd be in stores in March.

characterzero 1/3/11, 5:00 PM  

The link for the interview just goes to the minimus video...

characterzero 1/3/11, 5:07 PM  

Where's the interview? The link just brings the video of Tony...

Donald 1/3/11, 7:26 PM  

The interview link works when I click it. Scroll past the video.

William 4/20/11, 8:55 PM  

I just wanted to say that it bugs me when there is opposition to barefoot running. I'm not one to argue the science or to try and convince you that one or the other is better, I simply know that I like how it feels to get off my heel and interact with the ground using my whole foot. I love feeling the rocks underneath me and even use minimalist footware to hike and play other sports. It gives me a new sense of freedom, however hippy-ish that may sound. Whichever way science swings, I'm all for letting my feet interact with the ground.

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