Review: New Balance MT100

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

New Balance enlisted top ultra runners Kyle Skaggs and Anton Krupicka for assistance in designing the MT100, a trail-running race shoe new this month. As such, the company touts the shoe as “designed for the most dedicated ultra-trail runners.”

After three weeks of testing this lithe shoe, I have discovered that despite my calendar of more than a dozen trail races a year, I may not fit in that “most dedicated” class.

New Balance 100.jpg

New Balance MT100

In my test runs so far, the MT100s have had hits and misses. Dubbed as “an extremely lightweight racing comp,” the shoes are indeed “extremely” light. They weigh a scant seven ounces per foot in a men’s size nine — almost half as heavy as shoes other companies might market as light.

The women’s version, the WT100 model, weigh six ounces per shoe (in a size seven).

But the minimal build comes with minimal support. The uppers are made of mesh and foam. There is almost no midsole. Your feet are separated from the ground by a low-profile treaded sole and a thin forefoot plate.

New Balance 100 Sole.jpg

MT100 sole

The MT100s have a fast, bare-bones design that keeps you on your midfoot and forefoot for maximum speed. Elite runners might crank a long run off in a shoe like the MT100. Some could run an ultra.

Average trail runners should consider a 10K in them, but nothing more.

As the company cites, the MT100s are a running flat made for racing, not training. I would add that most serious, competitive runners will find this shoe too minimal even in a race. Your calves — maybe your knees, ankles, and back, too — will be sore after a hard run in these speedsters.

On the trail, the MT100s do feel fast. Each foot fall is light. But to me the “barefoot” feeling is compromised by the MT100s’ stiff sole. Compared to a lightweight Inov-8 shoe — a brand I often run in — the New Balance WT100s were unforgiving and plank-like.

Hold a MT100 in your hand and try and torque its sole. It takes considerable pressure to flex the forefoot. Plus, there is almost zero lateral flex.

New Balance 100 SHOE.jpg

Front view, MT100 shoe

On soft terrain, including grass and dirt trails, New Balance’s unforgiving outsole bites in for grip and serves as a fine platform for sprinting. It is a flat-footed feel — just like any other racing-flat shoe — that promotes a fast, staccato stride.

On hard-pack trails and pavement, I found the MT100s to be painful. There is no support. Further, the stiff sole hinders natural foot-flex biomechanics, creating a sharp foot-fall with almost no anatomical absorption.

At $75, the New Balance MT100s are a specialized shoe you might consider keeping in your quiver for the right venue. I will use them on sprints where speed trumps comfort and support. Ultra-race stallions the likes of Skaggs and Krupicka might lace them up for long runs. For the rest of us, the airy and starved shoe will prove too pared-back in all but our “most dedicated” of moments.

—Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.

Posted by kalin - 03/11/2010 10:23 AM

Further, the stiff sole hinders natural foot-flex biomechanics, creating a sharp foot-fall with almost no anatomical absorption.

What are better shoes for that?

I own VFF but i look like a baffoon

Posted by Stephen Regenold - 03/11/2010 11:04 AM

Re “What are better shoes for that?”. . . I would say something like the Inov-8 Roclite 285 or the Inov-8 X-Talon 212. Agree, kind of, on the VFFs! You gotta have confidence to wear those in public. (And be ready to answer a lot of questions from passers-by.)

Posted by tlknv - 05/06/2010 08:54 AM

I’ve been running in these shoes for 3 months. So far these shoes are the best shoes that I ever had for trail and treadmill. For several months I tried to find shoes that allows me to land comfortably on my forefoot and midfoot. I don’t run to much because of my arthritis, usually I run from 5 to 8 miles. But since I starter to land on my forefoot and midfoot in these shoes my knee pain went away. The bad: all the left shoes (I tried 3 pairs) apply extra pressure behind the heel, that hurts. Right shoes are fine though. All the shoes smell terrible. More thought: there is no need to tighten them strong like other typical shoes. Perfectly I wish to have shoes that just protects skin without any shock-absorption.

Posted by BECS - 06/11/2011 08:03 AM

I’ve been running in these a few months now and I have to agree they’re great shorter distance trail sprint shoes but put them near the pavement and kiss your feet goodbye. I’m in training for my first half marathon trail run and I’m off to go buy the mt10 ones to try and push a longer distance… Hopefully they’re a little more forgiving on a harder surface!

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