Introducing the NB MX20: Interview with New Balance’s Kevin Fitzpatrick

CrossFit is one of the fastest growing trends in the fitness industry.  The style of training prepares you both physically and physiologically for essentially any physical task.  Choice footwear for the sport requires balance, stability and multi-directional flexibility in a lightweight design.  Enter the MX20 and WX20 from New Balance.

The MX20 and WX20 are from the New Balance Minimus line meaning that they are extremely lightweight yet strong.  Since they were first released there has been an incredible amount of buzz in the CrossFit world.  For an inside scoop on the inspiration and strategy  behind the shoe, we caught up with Kevin Fitzpatrick, New Balance Product Manager.

 1. The New Balance MX20 was designed with the unique needs of CrossFit athletes in mind. Can you talk about the distinctions this draws from traditional training shoes?

The biggest difference between the MX20 and traditional training shoes is the drop.  The drop is the difference between internal heights of the midsole from the heel to the forefoot.  Most traditional training shoes have a 10-12mm drop which elevates the heel and pushes the athlete forward.  The MX20 was engineered with a 4mm drop to keep the athlete back on their heels and put them in a more natural stance, helping to alleviate unnecessary strain on joints during workouts.  The 4mm drop also allows us to build a shoe with less midsole material, leading to a lighter weight, lower profile shoe.

2. CrossFit is one of the fastest growing segments of the fitness world.  When did you first feel that there was a demand for a “CrossFit Shoe”?

We first realized the opportunity in late 2009 and really started to dive into it in early 2010 while on a trip to the west coast.  David Paradiso in Marina del Ray, CA had a gym that we drew a lot of inspiration from.  At the time it was a down and dirty workout program with a cult-like following.  Paradiso ran his gym out of a small garage with minimal equipment.  Over the past 2 years we’ve watched the sport grow dramatically.  There were 1 or 2 gyms in the Boston area when we started our research; I believe there are now close to 10.

3. Did you reach out to CrossFit athletes for feedback? If so, how did that influence the design?

Athletes were our main source of inspiration and feedback.  We relied heavily on David Picardy and his gym on the North Shore in Danvers, MA.  Picardy and his staff put the shoes through rigorous testing during each step in the development process.  The insights they provided into design and construction were invaluable.  We also utilized our Sports Research Lab in Lawrence, MA.  The biomechanics experts and state of the art testing equipment we have available to us really played an integral part in getting the shoe right.

4. What’s been the reception to this shoe from some of the wear-testers? 

The response has been overwhelming.  We’ve seeded close to 75 pairs to CF athletes, MLB players and fitness trainers and the feedback has been very positive.  The most common feedback from wear-testers has been the versatility; they can do everything in the gym in it and still go for a run without having to switch shoes.  And it looks great with a pair of jeans or shorts as well.

5. Can you talk about the fit and functionality of the MX20- i.e., what materials are used and their benefit?

When an athlete is lifting or pushing off we want them to have a very stable platform that isn’t going to compress and absorb all of their energy.  IMEVA cushioning technology allowed us to strike the perfect balance of a very efficient midsole for lifting and other movements in the gym while maintaining a high level of all-day comfort.  Part of our testing included in-depth analysis of wear patterns in a training shoe.  We placed rubber pods in the outsole in high-wear areas for increased durability and removed it elsewhere to keep the shoe very flexible and lightweight.

In the upper, the synthetic overlays were designed to mimic how an athlete’s foot could be taped to provide support during training and/or competition.  We chose a lightweight air mesh to provide excellent breathability.  Another part of the NB Minimus Collection is lack of insert. We chose to forgo the insert to keep weight down and get you even closer to the ground.  The shoe was designed to be worn without socks, so the anti-microbial treated lining will help to battle odor.  (Note: we recommend sizing a ½ size up if wearing with socks) 

Ultimately we wanted the shoe to move with you so you can concentrate more on your workout and less on what you have on your feet.  We feel we were able to achieve that goal with the Minimus 20 Trainer.

6. The MX20 has some similarities to minimalist running shoes. Are there any similarities between the benefits of running in a minimalist shoe and training in one?

The notion of minimalist footwear is that it allows your body, and more specifically your feet, to act as it was intended to.  While running focuses on the gait or striking position, for training, we focused on alignment.  By reducing the heel lift, we are placing the athlete in a more natural stance that promotes correct form and posture.  It also allows them to drive through their heels to generate maximum power.  That said, many training programs require some degree of running, so we were sure to test our shoe under running conditions as well.

7. New Balance has come out with some really exciting footwear in the last year. Can you talk about what’s on the drawing board right now for upcoming seasons?

In the Training category, we are looking to further cement New Balance as a true performance training brand for the athlete.  We have an exciting innovation in Training footwear launching in Spring 2012 that will change the way an athlete looks at footwear.  We continue to forge relationships with athletes and trainers in all sports and will continue to stay on top of the latest fitness trends to provide solutions for in and out of the gym.

Comments

  1. andyw says

    Oh in case anyone was wondering about the video. Filmed at the CrossFit gym I train at – North Shore CrossFit. NSCF is an official New Balance training center. Owned and operated by Dave and Tara Picardy (whom are featured in the video). Check them out here: northshorecrossfit.com

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