For some reason, I’ve never gotten along well with New Balance.
My running shoes are usually ASICS, Nike, or Adidas. But something interesting has happened in the last ten years.
Small shoe manufacturers have exploded onto the running scene – companies that never before competed with the major brands – offering shoe styles that were at first novel and now commonplace.
Newton makes the Gravity with actuator lugs that promote a midfoot strike.
Softstar makes the uber-minimalist Dash with a leather and suede upper.
Skora developed the zero-drop Phase with no midsole.
Because of this competition, the major manufacturers have been forced to innovate and make better shoes. And New Balance has revitalized their line of running shoes in recent years (most notably with the Minimus series).
And now I’m psyched to review the New Balance 1400 – what I think is a great introductory minimalist shoe – and a great example of a manufacturer I once would never wear to one that I now think is making great running shoes.
New Balance 1400 Video Review
I’m doing something different today and recorded a short video review of the NB 1400 so you can see how it looks in three dimensions. Plus, I show you how flexible the shoe is when you bend it in half (always a good thing to know).
The New Balance 1400 is labeled a “performance neutral” shoe by the manufacturer because it offers no substantial support in the form of a medial post.
Here are the specs for you number-crunchers:
- 7.1 ounces
- 11mm heel-toe drop
- No medial post
- Foam sole
- Upper is soft and flexible
- Slightly narrow toe box
What I love most about the 1400 is the 11mm heel-toe drop. This feature mimics the general feel of a more traditional running shoe. But the weight (7.1 ounces) and lack of support are more like a minimalist trainer.
The addition of a larger heel-toe drop allowed me to run up to ten miles at a stretch in the NB 1400, even though I typically limit my running to shorter distances in a shoe with such little support.
The tread provided very functional traction that worked well on the more technical trails in Rock Creek Park. I was able to climb steep, gravelly hills with absolutely no problems.
Grooves in the sole allow greater flexibility and shave a few ounces on the shoe’s total weight, though they allowed some debris to get stuck in the notches. A few times I had to stop and pick a small rock out of the sole of the shoe. But to me, that’s not a deal breaker.
Who should run in the New Balance 1400?
Because of the shoe’s flexibility and weight, it allows the foot to move more than a sturdier, heavier shoe. This is a double-edged sword: it will mimic barefoot running and allow you a greater sense of groundfeel and foot and lower leg movement. That’s helpful in that you’ll use more stabilizing muscles and develop more strength.
But it’s an added stress and could result in an overuse injury if you’re not ready for this level of flexibility. I’d compare the feel of the NB 1400’s to the Minimus Road (except the 1400’s are an ounce lighter with a more substantial heel-toe drop).
Alright, now that I have the basics covered, let’s talk about who should wear this shoe and how it could be used in your training program. This shoe has many features of a minimalist running shoe except the heel-toe drop is more traditional. So it really helps bridge the gap between very minimalist shoes like the Skora Phase and normal trainers.
Runners who are comfortable with flexible, neutral shoes could use this shoe for faster workouts or races from 5k to marathon. If you’re already comfortable in lighter shoes with a more significant heel-toe drop, the NB 1400 could be your long run shoe. I wore it for runs up to 10 miles and had no problems, but I’m somewhere in the middle of the minimalist spectrum.
And that’s right where this shoe fits along the spectrum. Because of that versatility it can be used by almost any runner who’s ready for a lighter, more flexible, neutral running shoe.
But because of the significant heel-toe drop, the minimalism is sneaky: sometimes you don’t even know it’s there.
You can see more styles and colors of the New Balance 1400 here.