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Review of New Balance MT101 Trail Running Shoes

New Balance MT101If I had to total the number of hours that I’ve spent wearing each of the running shoes in my collection over the past 6 months, I’m pretty sure that the New Balance MT101 would come out on top by a fairly wide margin (note: this shoe was a personal purchase). The reason is quite simple: this is quite possibly one of the most comfortable shoes that I own. In fact, if I had to choose the single shoe that comes closest to being a perfect fit for my foot, this would probably be among the top 3. For this reason, I wear these shoes all the time, both on the run and out and about (including to the office and while teaching on occasion).

DSC00431As evidence for their comfort, I actually had my 66 year old mother try my pair on one time, and she liked them so much she bought a pair for herself. My mom is not a runner, but she now wears them all the time and claims that they are one of the most comfortable shoes that she has ever worn (she’s sporting them in the image to the right!). There may be a new market sector here that New Balance should start to explore :)

Appearance

The MT101 comes in two colorways for men – green and black. I have the green version, and they are a fine looking shoe. They are subdued enough that I can wear them to work without standing out too much, but retain enough spark to keep them from being boring. They are way flashier than anything I have ever seen my mother wear before, but I have to say that I love the fact that I’ve gotten my mom into a pair of ultralight trail shoes! She now owns a pair of the Minimus Road shoes as well, and is looking into getting a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves – I may have found the roots of my shoe addiction (and it appears I have passed it on to my daughter!).

New Balance MT101 Side

New Balance MT101 Medial

Structure

I really can’t say enough positive things about the MT101. The upper is very minimal – mostly just mesh/fabric with a few overlays. There is no plastic heel counter, and the heel/ankle cuff is unique in that it is made of soft EVA foam rather than cushioned fabric (see photos above and below). Because the EVA stretches a bit, the MT101 actually functions like a slip on for me – I don’t need to tie or untie it when taking it on or off, but it stays in place perfectly on my foot. I‘m a big fan of this design element.

New Balance MT101 BackThe forefoot of the MT101 is plenty roomy for me, and there is virtually zero arch support (maybe just a tiny lip at most). The insole is thin and is glued in place, and the entire upper + interior combo make this shoe incredibly comfortable on my feet. Love it.

The only major criticism I have of the MT101 is that the heel is higher than I would like it to be. Running Warehouse lists the differential at 26 mm heel, 16 mm forefoot, but to be honest I think that is an overestimate. It doesn’t feel 10mm drop either while walking or running, and measuring with my own calipers I’m hard pressed to measure it at anything more than 7-8 mm heel-forefoot drop. Even still, this is more than I typically like to run in, and it seems to have caused me some issues when attempting to do speedwork in them (ankle pain under the lateral malleolus on one side, probably peroneal tendons, but doesn’t seem to happen when running more slowly). The cushion in the heel is also pretty soft, which contrasts with the much firmer feel of the forefoot, probably due to the presence of a rock plate underneath the outsole.

The outsole (see photo below) of the MT101 is reasonably grippy, and the lugs are low and flat enough that this shoe also works pretty well on roads. In terms of weight, my size 10’s come in at just about 7.8 oz – very light for a trail shoe.

New Balance MT101 Sole

Performance/Conclusions

The New Balance MT101’s were a work horse for me out on the roads this past winter, allowing me to run safely on the snow and ice that I had to deal with without letup for about 3 straight months – traction was more than ample. I’ve also done a decent amount of road running in these shoes, and they handle asphalt just fine – it’s a pretty versatile shoe. Their light weight and fairly low drop allowed me to run comfortably in almost all conditions, though removing about half of the heel height would have made the experience more to my taste.

MT101 Footprint

Rumor has it that the forthcoming MT110 will be 4mm drop – here’s a quote about the 110 from Anton Krupicka’s blog: “It is built on the Minimus last, though, meaning a broad forefoot and a 4mm drop with 7mm/11mm forefoot/rearfoot heights. Best trail shoe I’ve ever worn, period.” Based on my experience with the MT101, I’m inclined to believe him. Drop the heel height in the MT101, and you have one incredibly fine trail shoe.

One thing I’d like to also point out about the MT101 is that in a market where so-called minimalist shoes demand premium prices, this shoe is an undeniable bargain. They sell for $59.99 at Running Warehouse.

Lastly, my wish about having a lower heeled version of the MT101 just recently came true. My friend Tuck from the Yelling Stop blog just sent me a pair of MT101’s that are true zero drop. He took them to a cobbler to do the job, and he did some fine work (you can see how Tuck zeroed off his New Balance MT100’s as well here). Given that Tuck prefers as little cushion as possible in his shoes, he sent his cobbled MT101’s along to me, and I’m looking forward to taking them out for a spin (would have already, but have been sidelined this week by a nasty stomach bug). I did wear them around much of the day yesterday, and the now flat sole combined with the rock plate in the forefoot gives them an almost negative drop feel. Stay tuned for more on these (including photos)!

And yes, those were my MT101’s on my feet in the picture of me from the June 2011 issue of Runner’s World :)

Larson Runner's World

For an alternative review of the MT101, check out what my friend Thomas had to say regarding the MT101 after running the HAT 50K in them.

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Recent Posts By Category: Running Shoe Reviews | Running Gear Reviews | Running Science

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Antonetta Riedmuller says:

     I actually just ordered these as a replacement for my Kinvaras. The soles are wearing after only 100 miles and while I love them I don’t want to keep buying shoes every 2 months! These were the only shoes even close to the Saucony in the heel drop without the premium price! I’m looking forward to getting them!

  2. I’ve now got 3 pairs of the 101, they are fantastic, best trail shoe I’ve ever had in my 18 year running career.
    And your right they are great on the road to!
    did a 17 miler in them last week-off rd and rd and last saturday did a hard 15 which included some seriously steep downhill on the road and they came through with flying colours.
    Hope they make a road racing version of this shoe soon!
    UK readers can buy this shoe for only £40 direct from the New Balance online shop as they have a sale on!
    One final note my normal size is a UK 10, with these shoes I had to go up a size to a 11.
    seem to be sized a bit small.
    Cheers RicksRunning
     

    • Unfortunately I think the version on sale in the UK is different – remember reading this somewhere. If you look at the pictures, certainly the lug pattern is different, and I seem to recall that whole midsole is different too? 

  3. Tiphaniesara says:

    I’m new to trail running and need a good shoe to train for a trail half and full trail marathon. I usually wear Kinvara 2 for road running and have recently thrown some Newton distancias into the rotation. I’m having the hardest time deciding between Saucony Peregrines and the NB WT101s. Which do you think would be better for trail marathon training?

    Tiphanie

    • Pete Larson says:

      Both are excellent shoes, if you like the Kinvara the Peregrine has a similar feel. Best bet would be to try both on and go with the one that feels better on your foot.

  4. Brian Martin says:

    Hi Pete, purchased these shoes on the strength of your review. I agree they are fantastic. I train on rocky ground frequently and am always getting the odd bruise from sharp rocks sneaking through my Frees or Marathon racers when they get soft. The rock stop works well in these – not complete protection but it dissipates the force a bit. I agree they are not 10mm drop, feels more like 6mm which is good for me. They are also quite a speedy shoe and hold the ground well on slippery clay also. I’m not sure I’m quite a zero drop man yet so I might have to stock up on current model if they are going to flatten these out more! Regards Brian

    • Pete Larson says:

      Brian,

      I have the next iteration – MT110 – and they are at 4mm. Great shoe – forefoot is even wider than in the MT101.

      Pete

  5. nice review.  Do you know what the main differences are between the 101 and 100?  I have the 100, and have really enjoyed that shoe.  Also, DSW in my area is carrying the 101 at a really nice price… I was surprised to see them there.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I don’t have the MT100, and have never seen it in person. I did hear that
      some people had trouble with the ankle cuff chafing, and that was one of the
      fixes. Don’t know much else beyond that.

  6. Noel Madrid says:

    Excellent review.  I alternate between my MT101′s and my 790′s using the MT101′s primarily for gnarly trail runs.

  7. Eric_eagan says:

    this has become my favorite shoe. I am loving it! Good review.

  8. Anyone tell me if I can still purchase these?
    If not, what shoes are similar to them now?
    Anne I hope you’re right and they do bring them back…why change them? Should be a permanent shoe available in my opinion…
    Thanks

  9. Mr. Ben Keller says:

     I’m so glad you got around to reviewing the MT101′s.  They have been my favorite all-around shoes since I got them.  They are also my around-town shoes and I do wear them to teach in on jean Fridays.  I have also run some serious trails and hills in them over the past few months and they were totally up to the challenge.

    I got a kick out of the fact that I’m not the only one who keeps the laces tied and uses them as slip-ons.  They are a dream come true.

    I don’t notice the heel/toe drop being as drastic as advertised.  They actually seem flatter than my Kinvaras to me.

  10.  Pete,How flexible would you say these are compared with other minimalist shoes like the Free 3.0 or the Kinvara?

  11. Thanks for a very thourough and informative review, I am going to give these a try

  12. Anne Portlock says:

    I love these shoes and have heard runners call them the best shoe NB has ever made. They appeared to be the shoe of choice by runners at Western States last year. When the 110s came out I stocked up on the 101s but my stash is running low. Any idea if NB will bring them back or can you recommend a replacement for either trails or road?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Doubt they’ll bring them back, and the 110 is definitely quite different. Wonder if the MT1010 has a more similar feel? The 101 had that really nice softness.
      Sent from my iPad

  13. Ralph Havens says:

    dude, the pic shows you about to heel land on initial contact…….

    • Pete Larson says:

      There is no picture of me in the post, and even if there were, there’s a lot more to form than foot strike.

      • Ralph Havens says:

        true very true.  I thought that was you in the pic on the treadmill.  sorry about the mistake.  thanks for the review

  14. Running Moose says:

    I have one pair and will be getting another in the next month or two.  I have used them on the road and trail as well (on the road until I got a pair of the Brooks Green Silence).  I have the black and never thought about wearing them for work…I be they would fit right in.  They really are a great, light shoe at an awesome price!

  15. I’m going to purchase the mt101 or the mt20. Do you prefer one over the other? Thanks.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Since I haven’t seen the MT20, I don’t know. If they fix the forefoot fit
      issue, I’d go that route, at least until the MT110 comes out with it’s
      supposedly lower heel. If you require more rock protection, the MT101 is a
      better choice.

  16. I bought some MT101s yesterday locally, so stoked after reading all the positive comments here and elsewhere on the web. Did a short test run at the store, yada yada. Put them on today to do my first real run in them, and…wow, does that metatarsal band across the toe rub my little toe on both feet – just walking around the house. Didn’t feel it in the store, sadly.

    And – I’m a woman. I buy men’s shoes to get the wider widths, and really really wanted these to work, but…they gotta go back. Sigh. With my first half-marathon just 10 days away, too. I guess the beat-up Kinvaras (that are starting to hurt my knees) will have to do for the race. I don’t know what to replace them with – the Peregrines I tried on in the store felt like waaayyy too much underfoot, but I run 90% on gravel/fire roads and need a decent shoe for both racing and unstable surfaces.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Did you buy the MT101′s or the MT10 – the latter is the one with the band
      across the forefoot. If it was the Minimus Trail that you have, the MT101 s
      a good alternative.

  17. Robert Osfield says:

    Hi Pete,

    Encoraged by the several positive reviews of the 101 I ordered and recived a pair of 101′s and then took them out for 45 minute tempo across mixed trails and pavements.  Generally they performed pretty well, with decent fit and very lightweight.  I did find the toe box too small for steeper descents as my big toe we butting against the shoe.  

    Things were going fine till I went through a narrow and weaving descent that required quick cornering and associted high lateral loads.  The grip of the sole was great and my forefoot stayed firmly rooted to the ground, but my heels was slid outwards within the shoe twisting my foot and causing a quick tweak on ankle pain.  Later on in the run I was on pavement and went round a relatively tight bend at speed and again my heels slipped outwards and caused ankle pain once more.    I pratically never get any complaints from my ankles even when tackler far more tougher routes, and never on this particular route and in many different shoes.

    It looks to me like I was straining my peroneous longus, as the next few days afterwards they ached.  Going back to my trusty old Roclite 315′s for my weekly long run seems have rebalanced things thankfully so it feels like I’ve got away without an lasting injury.  But it’s really alarming with a big race comming up in 3 weeks.

    I tested the shoe back after my run comparing the lateral stability of heel of the 101′s to my other running shoes.  The 101′s don’t come out well, I’m able to easily twist my footwithin the shoe even when the laces as tight as I can make them.  Loading the shoe laterally results my foot twisting substantially, far more than other shoes I have.  I’m pretty sure this is the culprit for the strain on peroneous longus that I experienced, I don’t think the heel height is the cause as other shoes with similar heel drop don’t cause similar problems.

    Could the lack of lateral heel support be the cause of your and other peoples problems with ankle strains with these shoes?

    I’m now trying to come up with means of adding a heel counter into the shoe so that I can continue using them, as other than the this there aren’t too bad a trail shoe.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Could be, but I have other shoes that lack heel support or a counter that
      don’t cause me this problem (e.g., Nike Free 3.0, Mizuno Wave Universe).
      It’s a bit of a mystery to me.

      • Robert Osfield says:

        Interesting finding about the other shoes not having heel support and not causing problems.   There is definately something wrong in the 101 that causes these ankle problems, it’s too much of co-incidence that several sets of runners are reporting the same issue, when they don’t have the problems with others shoes. 

        I wonder if it might be possible to come up with a reliable lateral load test then would could be put into your mix when testing new shoes.  The best I can think of right now is standing on one foot on inclined surface – like a plank of wood inclined at 20 to 30 degrees.  One could then measure the angle of the foot relative to the shoe to see how well it copes with the lateral loads.  

        Such a stress test would properly account for the effect of elevated heel as well – lack of heel support and elevated heel will really highlighted as poor combination.

        • Pete Larson says:

          The heel does feel softer than the other two shoes I mentioned, so maybe the
          rise along with the lack of support is the culprit.

  18. Sigurthor Einar says:

    I have the Minimus road. can I order this one in the same size?

  19. Martin Szymczak says:

    I totally agree.  I train 40+ a week in Adidas Climacool Rides but my day-to-day bus stop, grocery store, and trail shoe is the NB MT101.  I have gone through more than one pair, as the bottom lugs wear down pretty quick if you abuse them on asphalt.  Oddly, I sent back my MT20s.  I thought the MT20s felt like a chunk of plastic on my feet.  I guess I was spoiled by the slip-on-off nature of the MT101s.

  20. Jason Fitzgerald says:

     Pete I have a pair of these and agree with almost everything here – the low/nearly non-existent arch is great, the grip on the trails is superb, and the forefoot is roomy. I’m alternating 101′s with the Kinvara’s and I notice that the Kinvara’s crowd my toes substantially compared with the 101′s. While this is definitely the most minimalist shoe rotation I’ve ever done, I still think the heel-toe drop is less than 10mm. Ten seems high to me.

    • Mr. Ben Keller says:

      I’ve also noticed that the more I wear my 101′s that my Kinvaras seem crowded in the toes as well…even developing a callous on the outside of my right big toe (which I have never had happen in over 3000 miles.

      It appears that the Kinvara 2′s have a wider (or is it just altered?) toe box than the originals?  I’ll have to try them before I buy them this time around.

      • Pete Larson says:

        I just ordered a pair of Kinvara 2′s, so I should have a sense soon. I know
        they did add a little room in the Peregrines, which are very comfortable.

        • Pete,
          Thanks for all of your shoe reviews- I find them very informative and helpful.  I am thinking of getting a pair of the NB101′s.  How is the sizing?  I have wide feet- I wear a 10.5 in the Pureflows and an 11 in the Launches.  Should I get an 11 or a 10.5 in the 101′s?

          Thanks!

    • Jason DeWeese says:

       Jason… I’m doing the exact same, 101′s and Kinvara’s (bought the Kinvara’s based on the raves from Pete!). I love the Kinvara’s but nothing fits and is as comfortable as the 101′s. I feel pretty low and flat with the 101′s and measured on 7mm (max 8) on mine. I wear these things everywhere and I hate it when I have to wear an office shoe for official functions and cannot wait till I get them off my feet and put the 101′s back on. 

  21. Pete, thanks for the review, although your blog is proving to be expensive again as I now have to buy a pair of these. I currently wear Kinvara size 12.5 – what size would you recommend in these? Can’t get them here is Aus so I can’t find a pair to try on.

  22. Kerstin says:

     Great review! Unfortunately the women’s colours are awful (as usual). I wish I had bigger feet and could buy the grey green one…

  23. Erik Alda says:

    Hi Pete, I enjoy reading your blogs very much. Very informative and helpful. I wanted to ask you about your point of suffering some problems in your peroneal tendons when you do speed work with the MT101s. When I switched to more minimalist running as a result of nagging injuries for a long time, I immediately felt the difference (for the better) but eventually (6 months after) I developed peroneal tendonitis from which I haven’t recovered. I massage my calves and run every now and then, not without pain though. What do you think makes your peroneal tendons sore? is it the shoe that  has too much heel2toe drop? Do you recommend going to a lower profile shoe? Would really welcome your advise. thanks  

    • Erik Alda says:

      Thanks Pete. I run in the MT101s :(. I love the shoe but… the pain doesn’t seem to get better… I guess many factors come into play.. my technique, my size (big guy), not understanding when to stop.. etc.

      • Pete Larson says:

        Erik,

        I have heard of a few others who have had the problem in this shoe -
        have you tried something different to see if it helps?

        Pete

        • Erik Alda says:

           No. Do you have any suggestions?  I’d like to try :)

          • Pete Larson says:

            I ran the Boston Marathon in my Kinvaras without any peroneal issues, so
            that’s one option I could suggest. Nike Frees have also never given me
            trouble in that area. If you adventurous, the Fivefingers, Merrell Trail
            Gloves, or Saucony Hattori could also do the trick well. Would be
            interesting to see how it felt on a brief barefoot run (or a run in socks on
            a treadmill). If that feels good, maybe trying a flat shoe could help.

            Pete

    • Pete Larson says:

      That’s a great question, and I really wish I had a good answer. I seem to
      get it in only a few shoes (MT101 and sometimes in the Saucony Fastwitch 5),
      and almost never have issues in anything that is zero drop. Also don’t think
      it happens in my Kinvaras. The positive is that it seems to be a shoe thing
      for me and not an inherent problem with my foot.

      What shoes have you been running in?

      Pete

  24. Pete, sorry you’re not feeling 100%.  I’m looking forward to your thoughts on my old shoes.  The MT101s are definitely a fine set of sneakers, once you cut the heels off. :) 

    • Pete Larson says:

      Hey – when I went to grab your links, saw you were advertising the Gravity
      Defyer’s via your Google ads. Have you turned a new leaf :)

  25. francesco perri says:

    i was eyeing these kicks and stubbled across your review.  i just moved to utah and have decided i should run on trails now since i have the wasatch mts so close.  i’m gonna find a pair of these and give them a try.  if you’re ever out here in utah let me know, there’s some great trail runs here with some serious vertical. 

  26. Ashwyn Gray says:

     Must…resist…urge…to buy…another trail shoe.

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