Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Balance MT20 Review

After several runs in my current favorite running shoe, the New Balance MT20, I've decided it is time to write a review. As some may or may not know, New Balance has taken an early lead in developing minimal footwear among the major running shoe brands. This is only my opinion (and I've yet to run in any Brooks Pure Project shoes yet, if anyone over there is listening).

My current harem of running shoes. Note two pairs of Nike Structure Triax (models 12 and 14 respectively) and a new pair of Brooks Green Silence (review in process)
Disclosure: I actually had to purchase my own pair, and New Balance in no way compensated me for my review and no shoes were provided. If New Balance would like to provide some more shoes for review, though...

The MT20 is the shoe that is available at major retailers like Dick Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, and the ilk. I happened to be in Oregon visiting family and found my normal trail running shoe to be feeling small. They were tight when I bought them, but I was able to log some good miles in them without issue over six years. One late night stop at Dicks Sporting Goods (emergency running shoe purchase!) later, and I purchased my second pair of New Balance running shoes, and first pair of minimal shoes like the MT20. I also tried on the Reebok RealFlex and Nike Free 2.0. The RealFlex were, by far, the most comfortable, but I did not like the little nubs on the bottom. I pictured myself running with half-a-trail's worth of pebbles stuck between them. The Free 2.0 weren't my thing. I've loved Nike shoes for the most part and I burned out countless pairs of the Pegasus models back in high school. I tried to talk myself into buying the Free 2.0s a hundred times, but they just do not fit my feet right. No point in forcing it.

The New Balance MT20 was a great mix of both, and then some. They feature a Vibram (vee-brum, say it VEE-BRUM!) outsole and a sock-like foot liner inside the shoe. They feel so good on the foot that they can be run in barefoot without issue. I hate socks, so I loved that. I am also not prone to blisters and have had ONE in the past six years, bear that in mind. And that was after a 20-miler in the rain. So if you are thinking about it, you've been warned.

The next day after buying them, my wife and I went hiking down a steep path (which we would have to go back up) to get to a waterfall, and the walk down took about foty-five minutes. I was worried my feet and calves wouldn't like the new shoes, especially on the way up, but they held up fine. Also, when I stepped on a root, I knew it. The outsole isn't designed to prevent your foot from getting feedback. After about fifty miles running in them now, I can tell you that my ground-feel is 180 degrees from where I used to be. I step on a pebble, my foot reacts. And it doesn't bother me.

Stats

Weight: 6.5 oz (MT00 reported to weight 4 oz!)
Widths: 2E, D
Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm
Vibram Outsole

Looks

These were much better looking before use
You can see some slight wear on the forefoot
I love the look. Every time I wore these as a casual shoe people commented on them, good and bad. They look like a hiking shoe and running shoe had a baby, like a good trail running shoe should. Typically, I could give two shakes less about how shoes look, but I actually liked these.

Fit
Notice the "anatomical" shape of the forefoot. Not tapered above the third or fourth toe like most shoes
I have a narrow heel-to-midfoot, and need a wide forefoot. I've struggled to find shoes that fit me right, and this is great. Add in the anatomical design of the forefoot (not tapered like most running shoes), and we have a winner. I have a terrible Morton's Neuroma, and it has not bothered me once in these shoes, not even on an eight-mile run where I got lost that ended on hard surface trail. The forefoot isn't so big that I feel like I am swimming in them.

Likes
The tread is great. You would think a pebble or rock would get into the spaces between the round tread "pods", but have yet to have hat problem
Outside of the great fit, the MT20 are well built and I have put them through about every surface, sand, loose stone, large stone, mud trail, technical trail with lots of tree roots, and even some pavement. And the outsole has held up great. Not only that, but the ride is great and you feel like you are close to ground without feeling unprotected.

They are also extremely lightweight, and I've even worn them road racing in a 5k and found them to be an interesting ride for the shorter, faster distance. I still prefer an actual racing flat, but it was an interesting workout. I will point out I led that entire race until I took a wrong turn and turned a 5k into a 5.75k. Just sayin'....

Dislikes
Heel pad
The MT20 have a slight heel pad in them. This is a departure from the "pure" minimalists or "Zero Drop" believers doctrine of keeping the foot as close to the ground as possible. Go get a ruler and look at what 4mm is. However, this also makes the shoe a great transitional shoe from high-stack trainers.

Also, the exterior of the shoe isn't as durable as I would like a trail running shoe to be. To clarify, they are durable (so far), but if you wear the shoes through lots of rugged terrain where they will get rubbed or scratched, the exterior will show the wear quickly. My shoes are still wearing fine, but they look a little worse for the wear. Don't wear them working on your roof. Again, you've been warned!

What else I've heard

I did a lot of research secondhand, after I had already purchased my shoes. Most reviewers loved the shoe. I've yet to run in these, but the road model of these, the MR10, were not nearly as well liked. The MT20  (and MT10) have been seen as a sort of "swiss-army knife" of the two, and it also weighs in LESS than the road model (8.2 oz for the road).

Summary

I give these shoes a 9 out of 10. Maybe even a 9.5. They are awesome. New Balance has something good going here, and I can't wait to try out the MT00 when they come out next spring.

Click "Shoe Pre-Review - New Balance MT00" to go to a preview of my most anticipated shoe of 2012. The New Balance MT00 are set to drop in March of 2012.

Also, sorry for the little joke with the Nike 2.0 link. I found those toddler shoes online and about fell out of my chair laughing. Seriously! For toddlers!

1 comment:

  1. Good review. I've tried on a pair of the MT10's in the store, and they seemed good, but more narrow in the toe box than the Merrell Trail gloves. I'm glad you liked these. Jason Robillard and Christian Peterson already have reviews of next year's minimus trails on their blogs.

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