New Balance MT100 Trail Shoe Review

New Balance MT100BK Trail Shoe Review

Update: $59.95 + $6 shipping is the best price we’ve found thus far –

A Four-Mile Muddy Test

There’s nutin’ quite like the feeling of coming home from a frustrating day in the world of Advertising – all grouchy and agitated, full of misdirected creativity – and finding that New Balance box sitting in front of the garage.

“My new MT100s, …yes!”

It’s like New Balance knew how badly I’d needed to hit the trails and run off all that corporate nonsense; so, I yanked on a long-sleeve wicking shirt, grabbed the step-fella’ and headed to some technical trails to get put these new bad boys to the test.

I chose a section of trail near my house with lots of roots, short-n-steep ups-n-downs, plenty of muddy creek crossings, and some fun, fast sections to give the shoes as much varying terrain as possible. We’ve been pounded with rain lately in good ol’ Atlanta, so our trails are ‘G’ N A R L Y right now.

yeeee ah!

Light as a Feather

Wow, these shoes are light. It’s the first thing I noticed pulling them out of the box.

As you might know, the MT100s were created as a collaboration between Anton Krupicka and Kyle Skaggs, as a follow-up model to the New Balance 790.

At only 7.6 oz., the NB 790 is a minimalist trail shoe and one of my personal favorites for any type of trail race up to fifty miles.

The MT100s are every bit as light, if not lighter, than its predecessor; but, I still recommend that you buy up as many pairs of 790s as you can find.

Raise Your Hand If You Like a Little Tongue

Shoe tongue, that is.

MT100 tongue

If you’ve ever read Anton’s blog, you know that he tells stories of dissecting his shoes and cutting out the tongue foam to make the shoes lighter and fit his running style best. Along these same lines, the MT100s have the most unique tongue I ever experienced in a pair of running shoes.

It’s simply a piece of fabric.

No foam. No thickness at all. Just a piece of material.

Also, you’ll notice {photo above} that I had to tie the shoelaces in a knot because they weren’t long enough to tie in a bow. At first I was annoyed – now I like the idea of not having little “bows”.

Get a Grip with the MT100s

As much as I love’em, the 790s have some pretty weak tread; but not the MT100s.

MT100BK trail shoe tread

It’s not the super gnarly, knobby tread that 800 and 840 shoe wearers have come to love, but it’s a very acceptable alternative to the mellow tread on the 790s.

The bottom of the shoe feels more solid and firm, bordering on hard, but out on the trails this felt sturdy and solid.

I don’t know all the fancy New Balance branded shoe jargon, but that orange that you see on the bottom of the mid-foot is a plate designed to protect the underfoot from rocks, roots and other technical trail obstacles. The 790 supposedly had the same thing, but I could never tell…

In these shoes, you can tell – and it’s much appreciated.

Because We All Need a Little Love and Support

MT100 shoe back

Well, I dunno if New Balance loves me (although they should with all the shoes I buy and how much I evangelize the brand like a teeny-bopper does Hannah Montana) but the MT100s have definitely stepped it up a little in the support department.

Is this a good thing?

I don’t know.

I liked that the 790s were simply “cloth on top” and that’s pretty much it. The MT100s have some plastic supports on the outside front and back sides of the shoe, PLUS a very unique, light-but-stiff backing that I can only guess is designed to prevent friction while also adding a little stiffness in the heel. If you can think of a better reason, please lemme know in the comments section below this review.

MT100 texture and support

And you’ll also notice that the material of the shoe is less cloth-like, and more like the quicker-drying mesh upper found in the 800 and 840 trail shoe models.

While the shoes feel rather stiff in your hands, once you put them on, they feel really light and comfortable.

General Observations During the Trail Run

I love ’em.

From the first step, they felt like they were made for me.

As we ran down the first hill, I noticed that the shoes felt harder on the bottom, but that was actually a good thing. I felt less of the roots and jagged rocks. The “rockstop” plate thing actually works noticeably in this trail shoe model.

As we charge through the mud, I noticed how much grippy-er the MT100s handled the short, muddy climbs. No more energy-sucking, foot slipping.

Running through two streams soaked the shoes pretty well, but surprisingly, the uppers protected my socks and feet from getting completely soaked themselves; and at the end of the run, the shoes had almost all but dried out.

In fact, I’m sorta bummed because I didn’t want to sound like all those lame reviews I read all the time in Runner’s World or other various magazines, where it’s obvious the Marketing Department (or a guaranteed paycheck) had a heavy influence on the editor or freelance writer’s opinion.

Nobody’s paying me for this – I just dig running in the woods on sketchy trails, and finding shoes that make it that much more fun.

The MT100s fit that bill perfectly.

Light. Fast. Sturdy. Grippy.

The perfect minimalist trail shoe.

Get some!

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New Balance Product Manager Weighs In

Byran Gothie, New Balance Outdoor Project Manager, sent some great feedback regarding what went into the production of the new MT100BK.

We tried not to treat the 100 as a direct update to the 790 but instead a new shoe to our lightweight trail category. We did start with the 790 though to figure out how we could build a better shoe. In addition, we added ultra trail runners Anton Krupicka and Kyle Skaags to our Outdoor Ambassador Team around the time we started looking into an update. The first thing we did was look at shoes they ran in for high wear areas. The attached image shows how we built the outsole specifically around the high wear areas of an ultra runner’s efficient gait. The lateral mid/forefoot has been built up the most to provide support to the highest wear area. The midfoot/heel is actually ground contact so that there is a smooth transition or just a contact point. The heel has been designed specifically for braking, as we found that the only time they landed on their heels was when they needed some control going downhill. The heel and forefoot heights are the same as the 790, 18mm in the heel and 8mm in the forefoot.

New Balance MT 100 spec sheet

Anton and Klye then came out to our sports testing lab in our Lawrence office where we ran them through a bunch of tests like force plates and motion capture. This helped to validate our theory and solidify our work on the midsole/outsole.

Kyle Skaggs testing the New Balance MT100 trail shoes

Anton tests the MT100s at New Balance

A big “Thank You” to Bryan and New Balance for sharing this helpful and interesting information.

– Christian