Having completely exhausted all 6 pairs of last year's version of the New Balance MT110 that I had in my cache (can you tell I loved that shoe!?), I was anxious about the fact that I had an upcoming 50k race, and no shoes to wear. The 2013 MT110 was sold out in my size everywhere in Canada, and the upcoming v2 2014 July release was a long wait away.
Luckily, my awesome friends at Frontrunners (Vancouver Island's superlative running shops) were able to coerce their contacts at New Balance Canada into sending over a sample of the MT110v2 just in time for my race. I got in one 10k run in them, plenty to head into a long race with confidence in an untested shoe!
Review Caveat: This is likely a pre-production sample and may not represent the final product!
A look at the 2013 MT110 (before and after use). As you can see (compared to the 110v2 photo above), the shoe has seen a complete redesign. More on that later.
|The Predecessor - 2013 MT110 before and after|
I really loved the 2013 MT110. My only complaint was the fact that the upper had a tendency to form rips and tears (particularly when bushwhacking was required due to..."creative" route finding decisions). Otherwise it was light, nimble, drained well, and had reasonably good traction. The rubber outsole was a bit stiff, and so it tended to slip around on hard wet rock (though what shoe doesn't?).
The MT110 has been both a revolution and an evolution. It has been a revolution in that it helped spark an entire new breed of minimal trail running shoes, inspiring offerings from all of the major players. It has been an evolution it the way it has changed and improved from its predecessor the MT101. Originally designed with direct input from trail running legend Anton Krupicka, the shoe was designed from the ground up by a trail runner, for trail runners. iRunFar has a really cool in depth look at its evolution, a MUST read for the shoe geeks out there.
I have to admit, when I read the first preview of the 110v2, I was not very stoked. I was scared. The shoe barely seemed to resemble the 110 anymore. An entirely new upper, new mid-sole, new outsole, and it is quite a bit (relatively) heavier. Why fix it if it ain't broke? Further adding to my anxiety was the fact that over the past few months scouring the web, Anton seemed very quiet on the subject. I wondered - had NB taken the product Tony worked so hard to create, and bastardized it for the mainstream market? We all have seen that the whole minimal shoe fad is basically over.
Finally, in February, he dropped this little nugget on his blog:
I did another lap on the mountain this morning; today I was wearing a pair of the forthcoming New Balance MT110v2. The development process on this pair of shoes has been quite long and full of a few more than the usual twists and turns, but today I was really happy with the final product. Great grip with the slighter deeper lugs and new sticky rubber and really on-point lateral stability. I'm psyched to have a durable, everyday mountain shoe
I had run a couple 50 mile races in the previous MT110, and for my conditioning, I was able to handle these long races in a "minimal" shoe. Admittedly my feet would be sore at the end of the race, but I was always running within a day or so, and suffered no ill effects. In winter 2014, when I was out of 110's I decided to try a pair of the 2013 Salomon S-Lab Sense that have become ubiquitous. I will admit that running in a shoe with a bit more cushion was an enjoyable experience. I have also noted the same on some of my road runs. I generally hit my track workouts and hard effort road runs in my NB RC5000 or NB RC1600 (very minimal and lightweight), but have come to favor the more cushioned RC1400 for my recovery jogs and easy runs. Sometimes the bit of cushioning is nice! How novel.
I think the most positive impact of the declining minimal running fad has been with respect to pushing shoes to have a relatively lower heel/toe drop, which enables a more natural running gait. Although the current 110v2 is indeed more cushioned, and a bit heavier, it still retains a 4mm drop.
I said this would be a shoe review - I better start reviewing:
Now having put these shoes through the ringer for about 100km (including a couple thousand meters of vertical), I have some very positive feelings about them. I've run on road, hard packed gravel, logging roads, mud holes, technical trails, roots, and snow (Vancouver Island for the win!).
Comfort - AWESOME. As much as I loved the original 110, the new RevLite mid-sole and softer (and completely new) upper are very comfortable. Much more akin to the Salomon S-Lab Sense. My feet were not at all sore after the 50k race.
Durability - Remains to be seen, but the new upper is clearly much more puncture resistance. With the old 110, my uppers were always blown before the rest of the shoe was ready for bed. How long this RevLite mid-sole lasts will remain to be seen.
Traction - AWESOME. As promised, the rubber is softer and tackier, and the lugs slightly more aggressive. The shoe absolutely instilled a higher level of confidence on slick rock and roots. I am very pleased with this upgrade.
Drainage - I wish I had better things to say, but so far, it doesn't seem to drain as well as the old 110. I tested this thoroughly, submersing my feet in every creek I crossed. It seems the sealing around the toe box of the redesigned upper doesn't allow the water out as well as the perforated upper of the old 110. Trade-off I guess. The other slight negative (although I do observe the same in my Salomon S-Lab Sense) is that the shoe material also seems to "hold onto" the water longer as compared with the more plastic like upper of the old 110. Further to this, the shoes take much longer to dry. Again, no worse than the average trail runner, but comparatively a downgrade from the original 110. Perhaps the final production model will address this.
Weight - I can definitely notice that they are a bit heavier, but ultimately I guess it is all about trade-offs. Comfort versus weight. It is still a relatively lightweight shoe. I am not losing sleep over this point.
Overall I am pretty enthused about the shoe. As an every day running shoe, I think they will see a lot of use. I will admit though, that for racing purposes, I would probably still wish that I had some fresh pairs of the old 110 around. Comfort is great, but not at the cost of speed. I was never able to wear the Minimus Trail on the mountain runs here, because the lack of rockplate just made steep technical rocky descending too painful. But I understand there is also a new redesgned Minimus Trail around the corner, with a rockplate in it... hopefully that can fill the void.
All in all, I look forward to some more runs in this shoe. Is it my ultimate trail running shoe? Maybe not quite yet... drainage and weight are still concerns, but I do see it making a fantastic everyday mountain trail runner, and I suspect it will have a much broader appeal to the many trail runners who moved away from the original 110 because it was just too minimal for their needs. I can see this shoe competing directly with some of the very popular Pearl Izumi models, as well as the comparatively higher priced Salomon line. I would love to know what Tony really thinks about the shoe, but I have a feeling you need to be Joe Grant to have that answer :D
"Testing" them out at the 2014 Chuckanut 50k, a course worthy of trail shoe abuse.
|Putting them through the ringer at the 2014 Chuckanut 50k|