The Gear Junkie Scoop: New Balance MT100

By Stephen Regenold

New Balance enlisted top ultra runners Kyle Skaggs andAnton Krupicka for assistance in designing the MT100, a trail-running race shoenew this month. As such, the company touts the shoe as "designed for themost dedicated ultra-trail runners."

After three weeks of testing this lithe shoe, I havediscovered that despite my calendar of more than a dozen trail races a year, Imay not fit in that "most dedicated" class.

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In my test runs so far, the MT100s have had hits andmisses. Dubbed as "an extremely lightweight racing comp," the shoesare indeed "extremely" light. They weigh a scant seven ounces perfoot in a men's size nine -- almost half as heavy as shoes other companiesmight market as light.

The women's version, the WT100 model, weigh six ouncesper shoe (in a size seven).

But the minimal build comes with minimal support. Theuppers are made of mesh and foam. There is almost no midsole. Your feet areseparated from the ground by a low-profile treaded sole and a thin forefootplate.

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The MT100s have a fast, bare-bones design that keeps youon your midfoot and forefoot for maximum speed. Elite runners might crank along run off in a shoe like the MT100. Some could run an ultra.

Average trail runners should consider a 10K in them, butnothing more.

As the company cites, the MT100s are a running flat madefor racing, not training. I would add that most serious, competitive runnerswill find this shoe too minimal even in a race. Your calves -- maybe yourknees, ankles, and back, too -- will be sore after a hard run in thesespeedsters.

On the trail, the MT100s do feel fast. Each foot fall islight. But to me the "barefoot" feeling is compromised by the MT100s'stiff sole. Compared to a lightweight Inov-8 shoe -- a brand I often run in --the New Balance WT100s were unforgiving and plank-like.

Hold a MT100 in your hand and try and torque its sole. Ittakes considerable pressure to flex the forefoot. Plus, there is almost zerolateral flex.

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On soft terrain, including grass and dirt trails, NewBalance's unforgiving outsole bites in for grip and serves as a fine platformfor sprinting. It is a flat-footed feel -- just like any other racing-flat shoe-- that promotes a fast, staccato stride.

On hard-pack trails and pavement, I found the MT100s tobe painful. There is no support. Further, the stiff sole hinders naturalfoot-flex biomechanics, creating a sharp foot-fall with almost no anatomicalabsorption.

At $75, the New Balance MT100s are a specialized shoe youmight consider keeping in your quiver for the right venue. I will use them onsprints where speed trumps comfort and support. Ultra-race stallions the likesof Skaggs and Krupicka might lace them up for long runs. For the rest of us,the airy and starved shoe will prove too pared-back in all but our "mostdedicated" of moments.

--Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear atwww.gearjunkie.com.

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