Stem Primal Origins vs New Balance Minimus Trail (MT20)

By Sol in Reviews

Today, I went on a photowalk, and also had the opportunity to put the Stem Primal Origins and the New Balance Minimus Trail (MT20) foot-to-foot, as it were.


  • Distance: 5.6mi
  • Time: 4:34:25
  • Average Speed: 1.22mi/hr
  • Socks: No


Speed is not a concern when going on a photowalk, but comfort definitely is since you’re both moving and standing still quite a bit.

After over 4.5 hours of walking and shooting, I can confirm that my feet were indeed tired.  However, I still felt very light on my feet and the shoes remained comfortable.  Despite not having any socks to minimize friction between the shoe and my feet, I felt no hotspots and developed no blisters while walking with the Stem Primal Origins.

In all, the Stem Primal Origins are great walking shoes.

New Balance MT20 (Minimus Trail)

New Balance was one of the first mainstream shoe companies to offer a minimalist shoe for the masses.  The MT20 is New Balance’s trail running model.  My last normal shoe was a New Balance M871, so I’ve been keeping an eye on NB’s progression in the minimalist arena.  I was initially pleased to see that they went with a Vibram sole, but the raised heel of most (if not all) of their minimalist models has kept me away (my knee pain from an old injury finally went away once I started running barefoot, so I’m not going back to a raised heel shoe).

The Comparison

During my walk, I stopped in Sports Authority and tried on a pair of New Balance MT20’s.  I figured this was the perfect opportunity to compare a shoe from one of the “big boys” to the Stem Primal Origins.

Here is a rundown of my observations:

  • NB MT20 toe box is much narrower than the Stem Primal Origins.  I had to go 2 sizes up in the MT20’s and my toes were still overlapping.  Not comfortable.
  • NB MT20 sole is quite thin and flexible, but the Stem Primal Origins sole is positively floppy by comparison.  I was surprised at the difference in stiffness of the soles of two minimalist shoes
  • Ground feel between the two shoes is like night and day!  The NB MT20 is not nearly as sensitive as the Stem Primal Origins.
  • Styling of the NB MT20 is more to my liking than the Stem Primal Origins.
  • Fit and finish of the NB MT20 is more refined than the Stem Primal Origins.  There are no highly visible seams on the MT20.


The wider toe box and more flexible sole makes the Stem Primal Origins the more comfortable shoes.  However, I do dig the styling  and refinement of the New Balance MT20 and am curious whether my initial misgivings would remain after a run on the trails with a pair.