Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shoe Review - New Balance MT110

This winter New Balance posted on Facebook that they were looking for Ultra runners to participate in a focus group.  I emailed back with my running resume and was invited to participate in the group.  A few weeks later I gathered up 4 pairs of running shoes, including one pair of NB's that I modified to drop the heel and headed to Boston for an evening meeting.  

Custom "Zero Dropped" NB's that I made

I didn't know what to expect, but was greeted by a team of NB designers, marketers and executives to discuss what hardcore Ultrarunners wanted from their shoes.  I felt like a dork bringing 4 different shoes, but was pleasantly surprised to see that every other runner brought a minimum of 2 pairs.  Most brought at least 4 like I did.

The folks from NB asked us a ton of questions about what type of running we did, what type of races we did, what types of shoes we wore for what type of races and why.  They asked us about our needs and wants and were genuinely interested in what we had to say.  The Minimus line was just about to be released and many of us wanted desperately to get a pair of the shoes that were unavailable.

I was seated next to Bryan Gothie who is an Outdoor Product manager.  When it was my turn to describe my ultimate shoe I said that I wanted a shoe that was flexible, lightweight, drained well, less than 4mm heel drop and had enough protection to run 100 miles.  Bryan smiled and said, "Wait until you see what we are building for Anton, I think your going to like it". 

It turns out that they were talking about the NB MT110, the next generation of the MT101.  Recently Bryan sent me a pair of the early production MT110s.  I am blown away by what they have produced.  As much as I enjoy my beloved Altra Instincts, these might be the best shoes I've ever worn. 

New Sole with better traction than MT101

I received them the week before Leadville and ran every daily run in them.  The longest run I did in them before the race was only 7 miles but I decided to start Leadville in them and then simply change out of them when they became to "thin" or if I had problems.

Here is the short story...  I ran the first 70 miles of Leadville in them.  I had zero blisters.  That's right, zero.  Long time readers of my blog will know that my biggest problem with running 100 mile races is that I suffer terrible blisters.   I have always said that if I could just find a way to avoid getting blisters I would enjoy these races soooo much more.

Me leaving Twin Lakes outbound (mile 60) having a moment with Amy in my MT110's

The best description I can give for these shoes is that they simply disappear on my feet when running.  I feel like I'm running barefoot, but don't have any of the issues I normally have with "barefoot" running shoes.  I love the way the NB minimus feels on my feet, but the Vibram sole is simply to firm for me to run longer than 15 miles.  I get numbness in my toes and wish I had more protection when running rocky trails.  I know some barefoot guys get all uppity about "feel" with their barefoot shoes, but frankly I think that rocks hurt.  Call me a sissy, I don't care.  I never had to pussy foot over rocks with these shoes.

I have been searching for a perfect balance of barefoot feel and all day protection.  The MT110s have it.  Here are some of the technical specs of the shoes.

Weight - Mens size 9 - 7.7 oz
Stack Height - 19mm Heel/15mm toe
Heel drop - 4mm (duh...)
Rockplate - full (I found the rockplate to be more flexible than that MT101, but still very adequate)
Removable Footbed - no
Traction - 1 million times better than the MT101.
Heelcup - perfect.  Long gone is the semi rigid foam Achilles cutter.
Last - same as the Minimus
Toe box - room to fully splay
Availability - January 2012
Multiple widths - yes!

Minimal Upper, real cushioning and protection!

Nice soft heel cup that dissapears when on your foot.

My only complaint with the shoe was that a fair amount of grit and dirt got into the shoe.  It would be awesome if it had a lasted tongue to keep the grit out.  I found the shoes a tad bit thin for the full 100 mile distance, but that might also be my feet not being used to them.  I would never even consider wearing a traditional barefoot shoe like the Merrill or Five Fingers for a 100, so don't think I'm one of "those guys".

I would call my first long distance (70 miles) run in these shoes to be nothing less than a miracle.  No blisters, perfect comfort, enough protection to go flying down the rocky backside of Hope MT at full pace and incredible fit.   I saw a ton of people wearing MT101's at Leadville.  I felt bad for them.  These shoes are so much better. 

No shoe is perfect, these are pretty damn close.


sherpajohn said...

"Tested By the Flatirons of Boulder, CO." HA! To bad you can't run on the Flat Irons. lol

Great review though!

jc said...

Nate, I really love the WT100 except for the tread/traction, which is terrible on Maine's slippery rocks and roots. How is the traction with the 110?? The tread looks more aggressive. I am torn between Inov8 and NB. Great review and congrats on Leadville.

Spencer said...

Nate, just a question, is the heel of the mt110 just like a traditional heel counter, or is it something different?

Anonymous said...

These sound great. If you talk to NB again, make sure that they sell these in half sizes! I wanted mt101s but they didn't make half sizes over sz 11 and I couldn't get a good fit.

Nathan Sanel said...

Spencer, they have a traditional heel counter, but it is not as stiff as a traditional shoe. I am prone to heel spurs with stiffer heel counters. This one completely dissapears on my foot. It's like they took a mold of my foot and built it around it. It is super comfortable.

Kevin said...

Hi Nate,I was just enjoying your MT110 review,and saw the picture of your modified 876. Could you tell me how much you shaved of the heel to get them to zero ?


Nathan Sanel said...

It was pretty unscientific. I basically removed the hard sole and then trimmed out the wedge.

miki269 said...

Hi Nate
Would you recomend these shoes for road running/training?

Nathan Sanel said...

Somebody asked me the exact same question on my long term write up. This is what I gave him for an answer:
I don't see any reason why you can't run the roads in these. I would say that if you run primarily on pavement, NB might have some better choices for you. You should look at the MR00 (out very soon) or even the 730. They are both built on the Minimus Last so they fit similar to the MT110. The 730 has more cushioning than the MR00. Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

Love these shoes, but feel the MT10 fit better- perhaps I've small feet! I'm a 10 in MT10 and an 10.5 in MT110 (uk sizes), which is weird. Even then the MT110 feels a little tight. That! Amazing through the English countryside, fine on the road/pavement. BUT, I've worn my heel tread right down through some lame-ass walking home after too many miles - if you feel some walking may be involved the MT10 might be better as the Vibram sole lasts much longer. I've 3 pairs of each, and they've made running so much more enjoyable out of Nike Tombs for me feet.