New Balance MT101 Review | It Keeps Getting Better

New Balance MT101 trail shoe

MT101 picks up where the MT100 left off

The MT101s are the follow-up to the MT100 trail shoe. As a huge fan of new Balance minimalist trail shoes, I was very excited to learn more about the newest release from the company, and better yet, put them to test on some good ol’ rugged trail.

Thanks to a really cool dude at New Balance, I got my hands on a pair of pre-release MT101s just in time for the Laurel Valley Whitewater Run in the Foothills of South Carolina. Laurel Valley is a self-supported, 35-ish mile trail race and is known as one of the most rugged, toughest trail races in the Southeast – the perfect venue for putting the kicks to a serious test.

What’s different in the MT101?

In an email from New Balance product manager Bryan Gothie, he offered a summary of the shoe modifications:

The 101 is an upper only update that incorporates a ton of Anton’s [Anton Krupicka] feedback.  He was looking for more stability in the upper, especially on the downhills, and some added lateral support as well.  We also added a little more protection to the tongue and found a way to manufacture the heel EVA collar so that it finishes with a cleaner lip.  Those are the big functional updates, cosmetically we decided to step it up a little.  There is a little more pep to the materials on this version and the color choice, as well as the amount of, is also enhanced.

And once my pair arrived, I found all of this to be true, …along with a few other surprises.

The MT101 seems to be a wider shoe

MT101 front view

The pair of MT101s that I received are exactly the same size as all of my MT100s (10.5) but the 101s are noticeably wider and roomier, and especially in the toe box area. Check out the comparison below between a pair of MT100s and MT101s, both size 10.5 — by the way, {click} any of the images in this review for a larger, 900px screen-filling view.

MT100 and MT101 side by side

The MT101s are green, and the MT100s are the gray shoes. It’s tough to really see the width difference, but notice the different positioning of some of the support pieces, including the additional upper support at the bottom of the laces. The toe tip has also been changed to a tougher material that softens the blow when kicking a nasty root or rock. I welcomed this improvement often during the Laurel Valley race.

More side upper support doesn’t mean heavier

mt100 mt101 inside compare

Notice a complete restructuring of the side support, and especially the upper. The material used for the lateral support feels like a tougher, more rugged plastic, as opposed to the cloth-like support materials in the MT100s; however, that new “fanned-out” support piece does utilize a sort of firm cloth and feels really snug around the top of the foot.

mt100 mt101 outside compare

Here on the outside of the New Balance shoe you can see stronger attention to support in the upper. Again, {click} for a larger view on any of the shoe images.

Who doesn’t like a little more tongue?

Ok, that was bad, but I bet it got your attention. {wink}

The 101 has a slightly thicker tongue. Why? I really don’t know. The change is so slight, so I really can’t tell whether it matters or not. Still, the tongue is very lean and as minimalist as I’ve ever seen in any other shoe, and is still one of my favorite features of both models.

mt101 tongue

What about the achilles issue of the shoe back?

mt101 back

For one, I’ve never experienced the “digging” issues that others have reported. I believe this has a lot to do with heel striking, but regardless what I think, it’s a popular complaint in the comments of my MT100 review. New Balance has lowered the back a little (as you can see in the side comparisons a couple of images above). I thought the rubber might have come back a little softer this time, but it seems to be the exact same material.

Still smells bad. Hey New Balance – why the stinky rubber?

Putting the MT101s to the test at Laurel Valley

Let me just say right now that I am sold. I love the shoe.

Because of the new width, I probably could have tightened them down a bit more for the race as I found my feet jamming into the toe box during steep descents and I slid around in the shoe when negotiating some gnarly rocky sections. I didn’t get any blisters, though, so it must not have been too bad.

I ran Laural Valley hard, chasing some time goals, and the shoes  performed perfectly, carrying me to a PR on the course.

The good:

The bad:

The bottom line – the MT101 is an excellent minimalist trail shoe.


It’s light, rugged, grippy and fits like a glove. The new upper support feels nice and snug, and the increased attention to rock and root protection is noticeable and makes a real difference out on the trail.

I’m proud to report that I had one of my best days ever at Laurel Valley, scoring a 31 minute PR and 5th place overall, and I attribute much of this success to the MT101.

Would love to hear other’s experiences, so comment away!

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The shoes fits like no other shoe I have ever tried, perfect! I run very steep/rocky/sandy terrain no issues. My only gripe is the wear of the shoe. In 4 months I have a little over 300 miles and the bottom front area has become smooth, so it’s slippery now on steep decent or climbs. In addition some of the top seams threads have come loose. The other areas are fine not worn. I’m not sure why this is as the Vibram is known to last. Maybe it’s my running style just not sure, but I’m very disappointed with the wear factor in my case. Other reviews seem to indicate excellent wear. I wonder if they have any guarantees options. Sorry about the low score as I really love these shoes for everything normal walking and even road run and until the wear issue was perfect. It has become my walking shoes as I look for another trail shoe now.

I love the MT101s. I got them in advance of the Lookout MT 50 miler last dec. I spent most of my time on the roads with my Lunar Racers and contemplated racing the trails in them but after a few times on rocky trails I was convinced that was a bad idea. Got the 101′s and found them to be exactly what I was looking for. Very light. Very stable. Minimal drop. I love the feel of the ground when running in the 101′s- and definitely helps to be a forefoot striker as it is a minimalist shoe. Worked great in the race. Finished in under 9:30, which is great for me. I did feel particularly beat up in my knees and ankles, but then again, it was a hilly, uneven 50 miles. I don’t think any additional support would have mattered, and if anything, might have compromised form. It’ a great shoe to run upright and lightly in.

Hey! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

[...] most popular minimalist trail running shoes, possibly thanks to favorable reviews like this one. It’s available in men’s and women’s [...]

[...] reading R&R’s and other blogger’s review(s) on them (and finding them at a great sale price) I bought a pair of MT101’s for my [...]

Is there anyone out there who has experience running trails in VFFs or Lunas who can compare the 101s to that experience? I ask because I have not run trails with anything other than VFFs or Lunas since going minimalist last year (2010). Going minimalist was not a choice as using traditional shoes was causing back issues that went away once switching to VFFS and Lunas (although it did take four solid months to have my legs accept them). I can see some trails that might be such that a shoe with more protection than VFFs (let alone Lunas) might be called for. New Balance is a good shoe brand in my experience. Thanks in advance for any input anyone has.

I bought these shoes about 3 months ago, and I was ecstatic about them initially. Now, as I have to run more on cold winter sidewalks, I have discovered the problem with the 8mm heel lift. Here’s the thing: if you are a runner with good form, you place your foot down on the ball of the foot, and the heel moves towards the ground as the 3 joints of the leg flex to take your weight. If you are barefoot, the heel will only touch lightly if at all. If there is a heel in your shoe, you will tend to put your heel down more quickly and more completely. This is not so noticeable in a cushioned shoe, but in a firm shoe like the mt101, the heel can hit a frozen sidewalk pretty hard. Of course, one adapts and prevents the heel from hitting hard by using the calf muscles, but this little shortening of the calves is unnecessary and ultimately fatiguing. The solution? Take out the 8mm heel lift. Please. Otherwise my Merrell Trail Gloves are going to win this battle. And I have been a New Balance fan for 20 years.

I just picked up my pair. Thus far, I *love* them. I might even love them more than my Hokas, and that’s saying something.

The thing that’s surprised me the most, especially after reading some of the comments here is that the sizing seems off to me. This is the first time I’ve ever had to go half a size smaller than normal to get a decent fit. There’s just a ton of room in these and even at a half-size smaller they feel roomy.

Great shoes, though. I’m sold.

I have an older pair of New Balance Shoes #ww700NV 11B
I know this shoe hasn’t been made for some time but I had hardley worn these shoes but decided to wear them Thanksgiving day to my daughters house and everyone was noticing these black marks even on the carpenting. Everyone was checking their shoes and it was mine. Parts of the sole had come off and little pieces were coming off and they were like tar and really messed up her floor. I have 3 other pairs of New Balance shoes that are O..K.

[...] warm here in NC, but not that warm.   So last week I ordered some New Balance MT101s, nice review here. I had gone to the local Dicks and tried on a pair of New Balance trail shoes and the 13s fit well [...]

Wow 50 miles barefoot! I actually went out shooting for 13 miles barefoot on the beach about 1 month ago. After 3 miles my feet were so blistered that I had to call for a ride home. I suppose I should have been more gradual but there is no way I can get my feet tough enough to do 50 miles by February. So I have reverted to the Mizuno Wave Universe for beach running. I am up to 15 miles with no pains whatsoever, going for 16 tomorrow. I am a little worried about what happens when they get wet though. So far sand hasn’t been a problem and I am wearing socks. I don’t think I am going to be able to avoid the water for the first 30 minutes in which it will be black dark. I would love to do the Destin 50 but I am a new runner and Marathons still beat me up pretty badly. We’ll see.

For the trails I like to run most, I feel more traction is necessary, and especially on the climbs. I think the Wave Universe 3s will take in a lot of sand and potentially cause you some blister issues. There is almost nothing to the 3s, so you’re pretty exposed.

I am running that race barefoot.

Chris, I wonder if you could give your reasons for not using the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 on both road and trail. Also I see that you have some interest in the Destin 50 mile Beach race. I am leaning toward the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 for this race. So far I am preferring the Wave Universe to the Vibrams 5 fingers for beach running. What do you think?

[...] had a pair of New Balance MT100‘s that I put some decent mileage on and more recently bought the upgraded MT101′s as well. I’m actually using an arch support insert in them as well to see if that helps the [...]

@Tao: I train and race in the same shoes. MT100/101 for trails, Mizuno Wave Universe 3 for road. (3.6 oz.)

Enjoyed your review. I just received my pair and agree that they fit true to size.

I’m curious: Since you like racing in these so much, what kind of shoes do you wear for your daily training miles?

MT101 Sizing:
3 runs into my 101′s and I am happy I did NOT go 1/2 size up. These things break in and feel much more comfortable after a little wear. I also bought an 11 1/2 and they felt sloppy just wearing around the house. Sent them back…

Mark: they are made to accommodate sock-less running, but I wear some very, very thin panty-hose type low cut socks with mine, and that works well.

Received MT101s today; my first time with a minimalist running shoe – should I be wearing socks?

We had a couple of hundred pairs to sell and are almost sold out. The green went first. We still have most sizes left in the black. First come, first serve.

[...] The 790 has since been replaced by the NB MT100 and then the MT101.  I’ll have to get my hands on a pair.  You can find a great review of the MT100 here and one of the MT101 here [...]

Wore out my 100s and I’ve been counting down the days to get a hold of some 101s. Was just able to order a pair on roadrunner sports! Here’s to hoping that they don’t tell me it’ll ship on 10/1…

can’t wait for the 101′s i’m going to buy 12 pair when they come out. I’ve had a hell of a time getting ahold of the 100s recently

I love my MT100s. I’m sure the 101′s will live up to the hype too. Looking forward to getting them on my feet and hitting the trails soon.

Great review. I fell in love with the NB MT100′s. I run trails everyday and just ran a 10k road race 2 weeks ago in them. I hope this shoe is as good as you say. I need a pair ASAP. I hope you do a review of the NB Minimus. I contacted NB and they said the NB MT101 is slightly heavier at 8 ounce

Great report! I’m extremely jealous you already got a pair. I can’t even get my hands(feet? ) on the 100s, as they are simply not available in Europe for some stupid reason :(

@Rob: I know, I know…you’re twistin’ the arm good, but I’m really sold on the fit of the 100/101s. I just need NB to stick with something and stay there for at least a little while so available inventory stock levels stay consistent longer than a couple o’months {wink}

Just try some Inov-8s (specifically the X-Talon, it’s a bit wider in the forefoot), you’ll never go back to NB! Inov-8 knows how to make a trail running shoe, have so for many years. I’ve tried NB, just too flimsy and awful traction; so many models of Inov-8 you’re sure to find a good match and fit…

thanks for the report and photos. did NB give you any clue about a release date? I’m dying to try them myself.

Great review Christian! You’re missing one photo, however… one of the Brooks Cascadia with its outsole planted across the throat of the MT101. :)

Great report – I’m a little jealous you got your hands on a pair already! I may have to camp out at our local New Balance store when they’re released to get my pair!

Great nb 101 report. I was torn between inov8, la sportiva, and NB. I have been a NB runner 30 years and do have inov8-280′s but badly worn.

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