Saturday, December 8, 2012

New Balance MT110 Shoe Review

New Balance MT110 - titanium color scheme
I've been running in the New Balance MT20 for over a year now, and they have served me well. I've never run a lot on trails, but when I have, I've run solely in the MT20s. As trail running has become more a part of what I love to do, I've found the MT20s to be a great step forward, but somewhat lacking in one major area.
NOTE: Go HERE to see how my foot shape affects my shoe reviews

I've now run Squaw Creek MTB trail in Marion, IA about a half dozen times. Each time I have gotten a little lost, and each time has been at a point in my training where my legs are a little beat up. As I get more tired, my feet don't come off the ground as much, which means I am constantly stepping on rocks and exposed tree roots. In the MT20's, my forefoot has taken a beating. The MT20 has a nice Vibram outsole that still remains flexible. This doesn't protect the foot from stiffer (i.e. rocks and tree roots) objects it impacts.

The fit of the MT20 was great, so as I researched trail shoes, I kept coming back to the Minimus line. The MT00 is worthless. What the <expletive> is a trail shoe worth if you can only run on crushed limestone? The 4 oz wonder offers no protection and is pretty much wrapping your foot in expensive paper. I've only tried them on in a store, and although they look really cool, I can take my road shoes out on the trails the MT00 is designed to handle

So I was was left with the MT1010 or the MT110. The MT1010 is another very expensive option (the MT00 started at $110, as well), and the MT110 have a good reputation, nice reviews (like this, this, and this) and most importantly, protection from the technical aspect of trail running, a rock plate.
 


Stats
Weight: 7.75 oz
Heel toe drop - 4mm (18mm heel, 14 mm toe)
Rock plate in forefoot
Narrow heel/wide toe box

Likes

I've long been a fan of the Minimus line. Although New Balance takes the "minimal" part to its exploitative limits (i.e. the 00 line, which was a critical flop, don't let anyone fool you), the last they have used has been perfect for my foot. For the most part.

The MT110 fits my foot great, but I get the feeling it would fit a wider range of feet than the other minimus shoes. I feel like it is narrow in the heel, but not too narrow. The ergonomically shaped forefoot gives your foot room to splay when impacting the ground, and my Morton's neuroma doesn't bother me as much in these shoes.

The tread is nice and grippy in any conditions (I've run in bone dry, wet, and soaking wet conditions). And the rock plate performs well. It gets lots of use where I use this shoe, and so far so good. The rock plate only appears to be in the forefoot, so there is plenty of motivation to keep your stride under control and land on the midfoot.
Rock plate - only present in the forefoot. Nicely lugged, provides great traction.

The rock plate does make the forefoot a lot stiffer than many purists would like, I'm sure. But the way I use the MT110 it works out great. How you could provide the requisite protection and not be stiff is maybe the holy grail of trail shoes. The MT110 does not have the answers.

Most of all, I like running in the shoe. I look forward to trail runs in it because it is comfortable, performs exactly what you want it to (on the trails). I have not taken them for a run on the roads, but walking around in them did not feel awkward or off balance. Definitely did not feel like walking in baseball cleats like I though they would.

The other thing I liked - price tag. I know the MT1010 has more technical features, but when you get down to it, everything you need in a trail shoe is in the MT110. What's not to love? Protection - check. Low heel-toe drop - check. Lightweight - check. Awesome price ($62 at www.runningwarehouse.com when I purchased them) - check.

Dislikes
The lugs provide great traction but can get packed with material that "clumps" easily, like damp dirt or sand

There is only one complaint - the tread pattern, although grippy and helpful MOST OF THE TIME, does a "good" job of picking up anything that can get packed (like slightly moist dirt or sand) together and holding it between the lugs. On one trail run a few hours after a light rain, the mud/dirt got so packed that I lost traction on the easiest terrain because the dirt was effectively turning the bottom of the shoe into a flat surface instead of the nice, lugged outsole it was supposed to be. Yes, I bit it a few times turning corners. This was a one-run problem, but one I can see repeating itself. It was not a deal breaker with me - in mud it held up well, and when it is dry it does well again. So I don't perceive this to be a major problem, but one that is worth pointing out.

Summary

I really like the MT110. It is my go to trail running shoe when I hit technical trails with a lot of roots and rocks. I will still go to the MT20 on less technical trails. I give the MT110 a solid 8.5 out of 10. 1 point off for the lugs getting clogged up with dirt and sand, and another half-point for being a little on the stiff side, even with the rock plate. But an "8" is extremely solid, so this is slightly better than that.

I do recommend this shoe for trail runners of all levels. Although it provides less cushion, I posit that when running on trails you don't need that type of protection, even beginners could get used to running in a shoe like this.

New Balance MT110 - my trail running shoe of choice!

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