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.
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.
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.
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.