Monday, March 12, 2012

The New Balance MR 00 Review That Never Happened

When New Balance released some video of the MT 00 last fall, I got excited. As I've searched for better and better lightweight shoes, the natural evolution of my search took me down a road towards minimalist shoes. I do 95% of my running on paved/smooth surfaces, so I redirected my search to the New Balance MR 00, the road model of the much lauded Minimus line (of which I am a big fan).
There was a "Spring 2012" launch date announced, so I woke early on March 1, saw these shoes were available, and ordered them right away. I tracked the shipment every hour, on the hour, everyday, until they showed up.

Just like on Christmas - remember that awesome toy you put on your list and really really hoped Santa would bring? Also, remember when you opened it and found out it was not exactly what you were thinking? That feeling is exactly how I feel about these shoes. As a minimal running shoe, I looked forward to low-built construction, light weight, and the durability of the Vibram outsole. But first...

Stats (from New Balance)

New Balance says:
"NB Minimus is a whole new approach to footwear, a place on the spectrum from barefoot running to the traditional maximum-cushioning running shoe. Inspired by Good Form Running and designed to be worn with or without socks. With only a 0mm drop from heel to toe, the NB Minimus collection holds a world of discovery for neutral runners; additionally, Good Form Running teaches methods of improvement for those seeking to conquer gait issues."

Weight: 6.4 oz
Stack heights: 12mm - 12mm (zero drop)
Width: D only


DISCLAIMER: I never ran in these shoes. I wore them walking around the house for four days. Get that out of the way first.

Obviously, these shoes are super light (6.4 oz), and the ground feel is awesome. I walked around in these for hours at home, getting a feel. Also, the aesthetics fit my love of brightly colored shoes. I think you spend $100+ on a pair of shoes, they should look awesome. Period.

The fit of the forefoot - perfect. The ergonomic shape of the forefoot, which is actually shaped like a foot and not the "arrow" shape of traditional running shoes, is why I love the Minimus line. Also, the heel was perfect. I use the word perfect quite a bit when I think about these shoes, except for one huge exception.


Let's lead off with the destination of these shoes - right back to New Balance. It is always a crap shoot when you order shoes online for sizing, but I used the crafty "shoefitr" over at Running Warehouse to compare the "genealogy"  of this shoe with the last that is used to make them. The "fitr" told me that I was between a 12 and 12.5, and recommended the 12.5 if I like more room, which I do. This may have been a fatal mistake - I'll come back to this.

I have a pair of MT20 (which I love) in size 13 and they fit perfect. If they weren't all beat up from some technical trail running (and hanging Christmas lights on my roof) they would be my all day everyday shoe. So the size sounded like a good bet at 12.5 The MT 20 also is super minimal - it has no support at all, the foot has to do all of the work, and beside a slight piece of cushioning (which is flattened now), it rides very close to zero drop.

The MR 00 is different. The heel of the shoe fit my heel great. In fact, I think this shoe would have had a perfect platform for my foot (I am working my way towards the fatal flaw), narrow heel, broad forefoot. When I looked at the profile upon opening the box, I was stoked.
The fatal flaw, and the reason why I am shipping them back, is that New Balance placed a "cradle" (think arch support) in the midfoot, which is supposed to cradle the midfoot to keep the shoe in place (my guess). It feels intrusive. My foot goes from narrow to wide quickly at the forefoot, and the cradle continues up to the inside base of the ball of the foot, so the ball of my foot stepped on the front edge of the cradle. 
The "fatal flaw" - this is an exterior shot of the midfoot cradle, which felt extremely intrusive. See the ridge where the outsole meets the fabric from the upper - this felt like it cut into the middle of my arch.
I slid my foot forward in the shoe, and this mitigated the problem to a degree, but not enough. The cradle bothered my foot enough underneath the main part of my arch, it felt like it cut into the middle of my foot, that I decided there was no way I could comfortably run in these shoes. I placed a set of "spacers" in the back of the shoe to hold my foot forward, and again, it helped, but the cradle cut into my foot. Maybe my foot isn't as narrow as I thought, but the cradle is REALLY narrow in this shoe.

As I've complained in other reviews, these low built shoes can be tricky in the midfoot. They either have a ton of space and feel slightly loose (Puma Faas 250 and Brooks Green Silence), or there is the opposite problem in these shoes, too much "fit" in the midfoot. A fine balancing act.

There was also a "strap" across the end of the forefoot. I don't know shoe design, and maybe this was necessary to hold the shoe together, but I didn't care for it. This would not have been a deal breaker for me at all, and I would have overlooked it had the shoe fit, although I still would have pointed it out
Note the "strap", the shiny fabric that sits above the toes


Another shoe I wanted to like but doesn't work for my foot. I did not give these a numeric rating as I typically do since I did not run in them. I had looked forward to this shoe for a long time. They will be shipped back this week. I am heading out to my local running shoe store (Running Wild) to see what they have to offer, as well. At the time, they did not have this exact shoe, but they do now, so maybe a change in size will correct this problem. I doubt it. 

Ultimately, I recommend this shoe for people with narrow feet and normal-high to high arches. I have a pretty normal-to-low arch, and this didn't work for me.. New Balance builds a great shoe, and if your foot fits into this, I envy you. The design of the outsole and the upper are great. I love the way every part of the shoe but the midfoot held my foot. Alas, I cannot say I wore these out running, as I wanted to get used to having this zero drop shoe on my foot, so if you do take them out, your experience may vary.

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