Friday, July 4, 2014

New Balance MT110v2 shoe review

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have had a love affair with the original NB MT110.  It was one of the most anticipated trail shoe and in most ways it didn't dissapoint.  It was an industry leader for a lightweight trail shoe and it is common knowledge that Anton Krupica called it the best trail shoe he had ever used.  Of course, no one shoe is perfect.  The biggest complaint about it was its durability.  The perforated plastic-like material was prone to tearing open if it came in contact with a sharp rock or stick.  How long they lasted really depended on what type of terrain they were used on.

But despite its faults, it had one very magical aspect for me.  The fit.  It was simply perfect for my foot.  Built on the NB minimus last (NL-1) it was as if the designers snuck into my room, cast my foot, and then built a shoe just for me.  And I know I'm not the only one who feels that way.

I have probably gone through 6 or 7 pairs since they first came out.  I love it for runs under 20 miles in the woods, even though I once used them for 70 miles of the Leadville 100.  If I was asked to design version 2, I would try to address a few things.  I would add some better traction.  I would change the outer material for more durability.  And I would add a bit more cushioning for longer runs.  From what I have read by many, my list of desired changes is a pretty common one.

When New Balance first announced and showed this new version a lot of people were surprised.  It looks nothing like the original.  With the different materials, much deeper lugs and a bit more cushioning, it looks like a perfect match for what I was hoping for.  The one thing that nobody understood was the change of last.  The V2 is no longer built on the minimus last.  I questioned that immediately, way before I ever held one in my hand.  I mean, the minimus design is what drew so many of us to that shoe (and the others built on the NL-1).   And it no longer looks foot shaped, it looks like a 1930's dress shoe with a super pointy toe box.

Hmmm....seperated at birth?

But sometimes looks are deceiving.  Unfortunately for me, this time they are not.  When I first put them on my feet, I could feel the tighter toebox immediately.  But as I've learned many times, the first impression standing in my living room doesn't nessisarily translate to how a shoe feels on the run.  So I headed out to the trails and put 15 miles on them.  My notes say: "First run in MT110v2.  Nice shoe, but the toe-box is too narrow." 

There are two areas that bothered my feet on this run.  You can see in the picture above how my foot fits on the footbed of the V2, next to the original version.  The addition of a footbed is another change on this shoe as the original didn't have a separate one.  The skin on the outside of my big toe, where my toenail starts, got "lifted" or sort of "torn" and my pinky toe, which is pretty small and short, again on the outside edge.  You can also clearly see the extra area in front of my foot which creates a dead feeling area at the front of the shoe.  Three days later I took them to Pats Peak to test their traction and see if I had better luck with the fit.  After only 7 miles I ran into the same problems.

Steep climb up the ski mountain.  Incredible traction!
Close up view

Being a bit bummed out, I decided to reach out to Brendan Murray, who I believe was the lead person at NB for the development of this shoe.  I explained that I was happy to see the shortcomings of the original addressed, but could not understand the decision to move to the PL-4 last.  He wrote me a very thorough explanation and then followed up with a phone call to help me explain better. I'm not going to post the entire email/conversation, but here is a small piece:

"Since we already had a 4 mm off-set trail model in our iconic minimus trail 10, we felt that continuing to make the 110v2 in the same fit and nearly the same stack heights would have been redundancy from our stand point and really limit the trail community with choices.  Futhermore talking with our ambassadors such as Tony, and their needs, they were asking for a slightly straighter lasted model in the forefoot - as ones foot needs adjust and change over time.  The idea of using the PL-4 last allowed for the trail runner who was seeking a lightweight trail model which provided slightly more girth in the midfoot and depth in the toe box, that the 10 didn’t, a new option.  The new 110v2 will also provide slightly more cushioning under foot (the trail 10 has a midsole specific stack height of 8/12 while the new T110v2 has a 10/14)."

He also gave me a perspective that I would have never considered.  He stated that although the original was extremely popular with the trail running community, they actually were not reaching the full sales potential based on their market research.  NB actually had a sizable amount of complaints regarding the NL-1 last for this shoe.  There is a visual look of a "hook" shape because of the way the shoe curves on the lateral side that actually prevented a lot of people from purchasing the shoe.  All of these factors led to the decision to change the last. 

Close up of lacing system, which does a good job at keeping the non-lasted tongue in place.

On the few runs that I took, my only problem was the toebox.  I want to like this shoe so badly.  The traction is awesome.  It seems to drain well.  It still retains that excellent balance of ground feel and protection.  They feel fast!  The materials seem like they will be far more durable than the originals.  If this shoe fit the way the original did I would probably have 500 miles on these things by now.

More cushioning than the originals

Here is what I suggest.  Forget these are the next MT110.  Consider them to be a new mountain/fells running shoe.  Try them on.  If they fit your foot shape and you liked the "running feel" of the originals, then you are psyched.  There are a lot of positive features of this shoe.  I just wish they fit me better.

9.8 Oz for size 11 (they fit a bit small, just like the originals.  Try the same size as what you wear in those (1/2 size up)

As a side note I also need to add that I don't like writing negative reviews.  I think that every shoe reviewer/blogger feels a sense of appreciation to any manufacture that has been kind enough to provide free shoes for review (which these were for me).  But I read too many reviews that are flowery bullshit because of that very fact.  I truly believe that the good manufactures listen and with enough feedback, make positive changes for the next version.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.  Either way, I don't write these reviews for them.  I write them for you.  I will never stop writing honest reviews, with both the positive and the negative.  Obviously it is only from my perception.  Everybody's feet shape and needs for a shoe are different.  But my goal with reviews is to give exactly that, my opinion.

Call for comments:
Have you tried them?  What's your opinion?  


rms said...

My disappointment with this shoe is not with the last: I've been dealing with it just fine in the MT00v2 since that shoe came out; it's not with the arch support, which is a nice addition to the MT00v2 for longer runs, and I'm getting no late stage collapse onto the ball of the bigtoe; the upper is fine.

My problem is the forefoot cushion everyone was asking for post-v1, and the excellent minor shock and vibration absorption that the 00v2 provides now, are absent from the 110v2. A hard rock plate is only thinly covered by a harder outsole compound, and the combination is very harsh.

It really has me re-thinking whether I want a rock plate in future shoes. I'd have been ecstatic for the 110v2 to be a 00v2 with a bit of arch support. The shoe as it is makes me tired just thinking about wearing it

John R. said...

Hi Nate,

I am with you that the original MT110's were one of my favorite shoes of all time and the fit was nearly perfect. I still wear my last and run-down pair around town as I love the fit so much. Like you, I am disappointed with the last of these shoes. I've recently migrated to the Inov-8 trail roc line as a replacement for this shoe. Have you tried the trail roc 245's yet? 3mm drop, anatomical forefoot, great traction. It's a very nice shoe. It has made me forget the MT110's.

Unknown said...

Hi Nathan, first sorry for my english, I'm from Catalonia. Write you to tell you that I totally agree with your proof of mt110v2. I am also one of the mt110 was the best shoe that i got in my feet. I've also had 7 pairs despite the great trouble finding them on the market, whether or internet stores. I only want to improve the sole, adding more traction and a full sole. I loved the upper, although it broke. The last I bought cost me 42 dollars, and I think they have gone through, are already redeemed.
After some time without finding mt110 market I saw a internet shop here in Spain that had the mt110v2, and I jumped for joy. But the joy did not last as long, when I try it I feel that not fit with my foot and feel pressure in my little finger that make me blisters. The feet was very hot when I wear them.I don't feel the ground like in the previous version. The only thing that has been improved was traction and the full sole. Seeing the disappointment I bought some Inov-8 trailroc 245 to see if they fit well in my foot. As rightly said John R. I doubt if decisions have been changed to the mt110v2 were approved for Anton Krupicka, seeing that he keeps bringing mt110.

Bernie said...

Looking at shoefitr, the MT110 v2 has the same shape / outline as the first-gen Brooks PureFlow and the Pearl Izumi Trail N2. Just from that, I know that the MT110 v2 won't be a perfect fit for me either -- even though I have a pretty slim foot, I start having problems with both shoes mentioned above 25 miles (same spots Nate complains about).

I'm also quite disappointed in NB's radical design change -- couldn't they have opted for something in-betweeen?! At least I still have two pairs of the original MT110 that I haven't run it.

It see recommendations for the Inov-8 Trailroc as a substitute -- that shoe doesn't work nearly as well because my heel slips quite noticeably.

For me, the MT110 v1 has no equal as of yet. Bummer.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't already gotten rid of the Trailrocs, you can try steaming the heels. Inov-8s come with a "thermosetting heel."
From the forum:
Reshape the heel section by applying heat to the thermoplastic heel counter. Steam the inner heel area of the shoe with steam from a kettle (Please exercise caution when doing this) for approximately 30-60 seconds or until the heel counter softens. Put the shoes on immediately that the temperature allows, and go for a short walk or run. The polymer heel counter is a thermosetting polymer and will reform to the new heel shape for a custom fit.

Σπύρος said...

"There is a visual look of a "hook" shape because of the way the shoe curves on the lateral side that actually prevented a lot of people from purchasing the shoe". This shoe is supposed to be targeted ti serious runners, it isn't a causal shoe. Too bad for NB having such criteria for changing their shoes.

Anonymous said...

Man I called this way back when iRunFar showed off the preview model last year. What a drag! The upper looked chunky and I was bummed that they even got rid of the bubble laces! Other than the 4mm drop, there's nothing about this shoe that deserves the 110 name. I was waiting for your review in hopes that the forefoot issue wouldn't be that big of a deal. Looks to me New Balance threw out an almost perfect niche trail shoe for a more mainstream model to appeal to a broader audience. Glad I bought a shit ton of the original!

Bernie said...

At least my Trailroc 255 does not have a plastic heel counter...and since it's the beefiest one of the series, I would be surprised if the other models had one....

And from what I can tell, it's only the Trailrocs that have a similar last to the original MT110 (which is why I got my pair of 255s in the first place).

I don't care about the hook shape either...if this new version of the MT110 had kept the old last, I probably would go out and buy 5 pairs right now ;-)

Sean N. said...

Nathan, very helpful review! Do you know anywhere still selling the MT110v1?


rslkly said...

I agree 100% I wanted to love this shoe. I love 110v1, and pre-ordered the v2's as soon as I could. I was happy to see the addition of a bit more cushioning for longer runs and more traction...ALAS the LAST. as described...the v2's absolutely made hamburger out of my pinky toe. Luckily I have 3 x pairs of the 110v1's on deck, but I lose sleep over what I might run in next! Inov-8 seems an interesting option. I will also try the Salomon Sense Mantra fro 6mm drop higher mileage shoe. Thanks for the review Nate! Glad/sad to hear I'm not alone or crazy...this seems to be a common issue out there..

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved the brooks pure grit v1 because I couldnt handle the medial "slant" I (and many other people) felt the 110v1 had. Would you say that this shoe fits closely to the pure grti v1? If so I feel this shoe may be a huge winner for me!

Nathan Sanel said...

Try the new Merrell Bare Access Trail. Better traction than the 110v1, a little more cushioning, and a similar fit. It's a great shoe.

Nathan Sanel said...

The fit is way narrower and much less cushioned. They are nothing alike, in my opinion.

Σπύρος said...

I was also interested in the new Bare Access Trail but i have read that it has limited breathability because of a thin lining.

Nathan Sanel said...

That's my only complaint about the BA Trail so far. I completely submerged them the other day and they took all day to dry. Not a good wet weather shoe unfortunately.

Joe said...

I've given this shoe some time on my feet, covering 70miles in the 110v2. I swore at first it was gonna suck ass, cause I'm diehard on the's my favorite shoe ever. The v2 at first was a bit too tight on my toes. After some time with it and not giving up on it completely, I can fully say it's a better shoe for me. Maybe not a better last overall, but a better shoe for sure. I couldn't seem to get comfortable with the upper and the new last at first. It's a little snug on the lateral side and gets my pinky toes a bit, especially if I try and wear it sockless. But what I really like so much more than v1 is the (REVLite) cushion and what that means in the longer days. It's just way better for crushing long descents and the outsole is waaaay better gripping in the mud and rock. The 110v1 last is more comfortable in general. When I need a 4mm, fast racing shoe that swallows up the harsh landings, this is what I bring. No doubt in my mind I'm a faster runner in the v2, only because I don't get that harsh landing. Let the shoe/toebox break in and give it a second chance. A solid update IMHO.

Nathan Sanel said...

Joe, thanks for the feedback. It's always great to hear from somebody that can give a different view than what I experienced. I want to be as fair as possible!

J.Mack said...

Nathan, the 110v1 and the mt1010v1 minimus were my favorite shoes. Now NB has cut them out of production. The mt10 isn't enough shoe for me to run ultra distances. Have you heard anything about a new redesigned minimus trail shoe coming soon? Do you have any knowledge of the Merrell BA Ultra. I was considering the BA Ultra or the BA Trail for my next ultra shoe.

reanimated said...

Thanks for the review Nate!

The MT110 is my all-time favorite shoe, so I had to give the V2 a try. I ordered 1/2 size up to allow for the narrow toe box. But... it just doesn't work. I am just so disappointed I'm not even sure what to say. How could NB ignore everything that has been learned in the last few years and reverse course this way? If there was an "optics" problem with the shape of the MT110, I am pretty sure it could have easily been fixed by re-positioning the toe bumper to be more centered. That could have addressed the marketing issue with the visual appearance of the NL last. Nike doesn't seem afraid to put the TK and Wildhorse out there with a "natural" shape in the forefoot.

I think this is going to hurt NB. They were so far ahead in this market, the V2 could have been an incredibly exciting evolution of the 110, and instead they are basically saying to shove off and lets see if we can sell this shoe to Joe Public instead.

There wasn't ANYONE on the team who could say, "wait, stop. No human foot is shaped like this. Let's try to address this in a different way?"

Whatever. I guess I'll keep looking. There is still a gap in the market for somewhat cushioned, reasonably light, low drop shoes with great grip.

Joe said...

One more thing I want to add to my comment from earlier and mention about about the width of v2. Since I wasn't super happy with how narrow the shoe felt, I thought I'd give them a try with the 2E width. It's a huge difference for me, especially in the forefoot. If anyone has reservations about trying this shoe with the new narrow last, I'd highly recommend trying them in 2E width size. The shoe is the exact same length, just has more material in the upper.

Unknown said...

I haven't read anyone saying these V2-s fit well so I assume they fit no one. Certainly not me. They are heavy, sure probably more durable, they soak in water and become even heavier then they usually take 3 days to dry out. Very unfortunate update. NB abused the Krupicka marketing and his inputs. Now they have to try it again.I'll show up in church sometimes to pray for a V3 closely related to V1.