New Balance MT 101: Product Review
The New Balance MT 101 go the Distance at the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Race
If you have been following the craze of barefoot running and minimalist running and are looking for a “minimalist” trail running shoe; the New Balance MT 101 just might be the shoe for you. I have been using the Vasque Blur and the Montrail Sabino over the last few years and have been satisfied with their performance; but neither have exceeded my expectations. I was hoping the Vasque was going to fix the issues that they have with the Blur for the 2011 version, but they didn’t. So, this left me looking for a new trail running shoe for running ultra trail races.
I have heard of the New Balance MT 101 shoes from a friend of mine and he suggested that I give them a try. Although I like the idea behind barefoot running and minimalist running and have never contemplated going that direction with my running. My theory has been that since I have proper running form that I can only benefit from the extra cushioning of a trail running shoe. I don’t look for a shoe to solve an issue with my running form. Over the last two years I have been using a running coach and now that I have proper form it has opened up a whole new world of trail running shoes that I can try.
Real Reviews from Actual Trail Runners
Before I decided to purchase the New Balance MT 101 shoes I wanted to get some “real” feedback from trail runners who actually have used them in training and races. It seemed that all I found online for reviews were product endorsements from the manufacturer or sponsored runners. I posed the question to my local trail running group and here is what they had to say:
“I have the New Balance MT 101 shoes. I really like them. I had been doing some minimalist style running before getting them so didn’t really find a need for an adjustment period. I have run up to 28 miles in them. The rockstop in the soles of the shoes is great. It does give a good amount of protection for such a minimalist shoe. They are very light weight and are fun to run in.” Lydia
“I am on my 2nd pair of the women’s version of the New Balance MT 101 shoes. They are totally awesome, NO break-in period (for me) – I immediately ran a 44-mile race in them once I got them – with no problem, not even blisters. I put about 500 miles in them before switching to my second pair, but I run until my shoes start getting holes and such. Overall review: 9 out of 10 (1 point missing – there is always room for improvement.” Maria
“New Balance did a brilliant move when they signed Tony Krupricka and Kyle Skaggs, and solicited their feedback in designing the New Balance MT 101 shoes. It’s an outstanding contribution. The unique genius in this design is the negative lugs on the heel – instead of protruding lugs, these are recessed – still produce traction, but by indenting some weight is lost and the Delta-H (height differential between ball of foot and heel) is reduced. They are nimble, comfy, ideal for racing, and really make you aware of how you run and where you put your foot, which I think is a good thing.“ Buzz
“I just got New balance MT 101 shoes and have only run in them twice, but I like them quite a bit. They have a surprising amount of protection for such a light shoe. I needed no break in, but I don’t consider them that minimal in that the heel-forefoot “drop” is 10mm, which isn’t that much less than a lot of other shoes (and is the same as my current shoe). The fit is quite nice and very generous for such a light shoe. Light shoes in my experience tend to be quite narrow. These are to me fairly wide (at least for this type of shoe), but not at all sloppy. They are snug enough in the midfoot to keep you from moving around.” Jay
“I’ve been running in the New Balance MT 101 shoes for over a year now, and I just love them. They last forever. If you’ve never worn a light shoe, you should break your feet in, in the shoes slowly. I’ve put more miles in than I did before I got the light shoes, and all my feet problems went away. I wore the 100s in 2 100 milers this past year, and 3 50 milers. No problems other than soreness. I’ve got the New Balance MT 101 shoes, and I’m just waiting for these to wear out to start wearing the new Balance MT 101. The New Balance MT 101 are a bit bigger in the toebox, and you might want to get 1/2 size smaller than if you’ve worn the New Balance MT 101 shoes . Overall I would say to get them. They’re great.” Glen
I Take the Plunge and get the New Balance MT 101 shoes
After all the positive feedback I decided it was time to go minimalist and get a pair of the New Balance MT 101 trail running shoes. When I tried them on they felt like slippers and not like the regular bomb-proof shoes that I am used to trail running in. I have a wide foot and most trail running shoes are very narrow in the toe box. The New Balance MT101s fit perfectly and there was plenty of room to spread my toes apart.
I have to say I was a be intimidated by my perceived lack of protection in New Balance MT 101 shoes. Once I got them home I measures to heal-to-toe drop compared it to my other trail running shoes. It turns out that it was only about 1/4 inch lower, which made me feel better about how different they might be to trail run in. I was not so concerned about breaking in the shoes as I was about breaking in my feet and body to the New Balance MT 101 shoes . I started slow with my training runs and gradually moved up to 14 miles within the first week. The only thing that I noticed was that my quads were a bit sore which I found interesting since I was expecting my calves to be sore because of the lower heal-to-toe drop. I trained in the for about a month before my first big test with them; the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Race.
100 Miles and a New PR at the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Race
I decided to put the New Balance MT 101 shoes to the real test and run the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Race in them. Just in case things started to go south I brought an extra pair of my old trail running shoe to change into. Well, I never had to change into my old running shoes and the New Balance MT101s passed the test with flying colors. I had absolutely no issues or problems with their performance and I actually set my new 100 mile trail race PR: 22 hours 9 minutes and 10 seconds.
At this point I would highly recommend them for trail runners and for those who want to experiment with minimalist trail running shoes. I will be running 24 Hours of Moab in them and will let you know how they hold up under the conditions of slick rock trails.
I give the New Balance MT 101 shoes a 4 out of 5 stars. I cannot give them a full 5 stars yet since I have not run any technical trails in them yet. I will be running 24 Hours of Moab and the Desert RATS 50 Mile Trail race in them. I will let you know how they hold up under the conditions of slick rock and technical trails. However, at this point I would highly recommend them for trail runners and for those who want to experiment with minimalist trail running shoes.