Look What I Found at the Discount Shoe Store: New Balance 310 Trail Shoe

I was at the mall yesterday with my family doing some back-to-school shopping for the kids. Being the shoe geek that I am, I stepped into the Shoe Dept. discount shoe store to see if they might have anything of interest on sale. Imagine my surprise when I came across this:

IMG_0357

I immediately recognized that sole – it belongs to the New Balance MT101, one of the premier trail shoes in the New Balance lineup (and one of my personal favorites – see MT101 sole photo below).

CIMG1990

So, was this just a new color variant of the MT101? Not quite:

IMG_0356

The shoe appears to be a trail shoe consisting of the MT101 sole attached to a completely different upper (that looks like Minimus Trail mesh behind the “N” – see, I am a total shoe geek!). The shoe was on “sale” for $49.99 (this was one of those stores were every shoe is “on sale”). As I was taking the above photo a store clerk walked by and asked if I needed help. I sheepishly said “no.” She then replied “Going to see if she likes it?” I mumbled “exactly.” I didn’t want to admit that the real reason I was taking a photo of a shoe in a discount store with my cell phone was because I spied the sole of a shoe I know on a different upper and wanted to post it on my blog.

Anyway, after I got home I typed “New Balance 310 trail shoe” into Google shopping and found the following listing: http://bit.ly/r0wGiP. It appears that this is a shoe destined for discount and department stores like JC Penney and Kohl’s. Given that the sole is identical to that on the MT101, right down to the rock plate, makes me wonder how much more we’re getting for the $74.95 MSRP on the MT101. I actually thought the 310 looked like a pretty solid shoe, now debating whether to order a pair and do a full review :)

This reminds me of a shoe that I once saw at a Payless (also noticed by a reader who sent me a link to it) – the Champion Course Performance Runner:

Champion Course Performance Runner

Does that upper design look familiar? Hint, both Champion footwear and Saucony are owned by the same parent company…just wish I could measure the heel-forefoot drop on this one!

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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. Ha!  Well, that’s interesting.  The mainstream version, lol.    My guess is that the upper is not as breathable or durable.  Keep us posted if you do decide to buy and try.

  2. I purchased a pair of the 310′s and I love them for trail. Not minimalist but a nice transition if you are heading in that direction. They are super light, and the sole is rockstop so you get protection and great tread, but yet still thin enough to feel what you are stepping on.

  3. I am late to this post, but I have just seen these (MT310) quite cheap at my local shoe shop. As you say, they have the MT101 sole, but a different upper. Do you know if there are any reviews out there? I couldnt find any deent ones. I have heard they have no rockplate and aren’t very breathable? But the price sure is right!

  4. Alex Beecher says:

    I’ve tried them on, and found the fit… off. I can’t really be more precise than that, but something about the anatomy, the materials, or something else just didn’t feel optimal. Still, for the money, one could do much worse. The first year or so of my running was happily spent in the lightest, cheapest Nike cross trainers Kohls had to offer. I ran them in to oblivion, totally ignorant to the fact that I had chosen a “wrong” shoe.

    • I tried them on at sports authority and I found the exact same problem.  I really like the design but the fit was “off.”  Mainly in the bog toe area.  And a little in the heel.  Not sure what it was.  But it was not near as comfortable as the MT101 which I wear on a regular basis.

  5. David Landers says:

    DSW and Famous Footwear also have been unloading MT101s and WT101s since the Spring. $50 for WT101 at FF right now! 

  6. I found this shoe at Kohl’s and after double checking with 3 people that I can run in it and return it, decided to give it a try for $40. I have a pair of MT101s that I bought because I thought the traditional shoes I was wearing were inhibiting a midfoot strike. These would have worked at that time, but I’ve been spoiled with the MT101 can’t go from the MT101 to the 310. The 310s are not as breathable and there is not nearly as much room in the toes, also, it felt like there was some arch support in these. Its obviously heavier but I didn’t notice on the run. It was still fairly natural to run with a midfoot strike but I think there is a bigger drop in the 310. I would say that coming from a traditional running shoe this would be perfect with a little more support, but a minimalist would hate it.

  7. Did u do a review on the 310??

  8. Davidwstaley says:

    I saw these at Kohl’s a month back and tried them on with my MT101′s.  The 301 felt taller, but then again who knows how much my 101′s have compressed.  They were comfortable enough to me, but I already own 4 pairs of the 101 (2 US and 2UK)….

  9. Dan Stoner says:

    I think this officially qualifies you as a shoe NERD.

    • Marcus Forman says:

      What’s worse is that we’re following right along, totally following the logic . . . :)  We’re all guilty it seems1

    • Pete Larson says:

      Dan – I earned that title a long time ago :)

      • David Jewell says:

        Pete, 
        Great post. The more the minimalist shoes become cool to wear the more you’ll see this kind of thing. The unfortunate thing is they cloud the numbers you shared last week about the running shoe and minimalist running shoe business. This shoe is absolutely listed as a running shoe in the sales figures. It may also be listed as a minimalist shoe. It creates a very cloudy picture. 

  10. Randy Golab says:

    I hope you do try these out and write a review.  I wish more of the online community did what you have done in the past and check out shoes that are not necessarily labeled as minimalist, but might fit the bill.  I bought the Mach 11′s ($25) based on your recommendation and love them.  I just don’t see the need to spend more for “less”.  Someone needs to convince me that the shoe manufacturers have added $75 – $100 more in technology to these new shoes.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t buy a pair of those beautiful, fancy new Merrells, but if I can find something that is light, flexible, and low to the ground for 1/3 the price I’d take it.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I agree, don’t see why a XC flat can be sold for $25 but it costs so much more for shoes without much difference in construction. My presumption – target market for XC flats are high school and college kids. I.e., either still growing or with little income. Hard to sell a $100 racing shoe to this segment…

      • Frank Grimes says:

        The high school/college kids are actually one of the easier segments to sell $100 racing shoes to. The person using this shoe is likely on a competitive team and wants to do well. They are willing to pay whatever price for the equipment they perceive necessary to perform at their best. Go to any high school xc or track meet and you will see 85-90% of the kids wearing nike spikes, most of which are $85 and up.

        The minimalist shoe consumer is the MUCH harder sell. Most minimal consumers want the shoe for basically nothing, and indeed many have created blogs in an effort to get free shoes to try. Minimal consumers think anything over $50 is too much for a running shoe, while the high school kid sees the $100 price and thinks the shoe must be better (after all it costs more) and will thus help improve performance.

        The brooks mach 11 for $25 is an anomaly as that shoe usually sells for about $60.

         

        • Pete Larson says:

          I’d guess the likelihood of a high school student paying big $$ for a shoe depends very much on location and affluence. Also, something I did not consider, college XC teams often have discount deals arranged through manufacturers. Regardless, flats are generally a lot cheaper than most “minimalist” shoes on the market right now, and if you look for last year’s models, finding them for under $30 is not uncommon…

          Pete

  11. Steve Wood says:

    I actually tried these on last night.  Had my MT 101′s with me as well.  Heavier than the MT 101′s and –at least the men’s red and black model at Kohls– no rock plate.  The empty-hole type areas in the forefoot, red on this model, and green on the MT 101′s were just plain-old EVA…

  12. I actually found my MT 101s at Kohls on clearance and my wife had a 30% coupon…final total was $38

  13. Jason Fitzgerald says:

    That Champion shoe looks eerily similar to the Kinvara! The sole definitely looks thicker at the heel/midfoot, though. I’m sure the shoe companies position some shoes as “premium” models with more expansive marketing while the basic mechanics of the shoe aren’t much different. We pay more to cover all that fancy marketing…

  14. Peter Meirs says:

    I had a similar experience the first time I saw the Saucony Grid Flex in a department store and did a double take because I hadn’t heard of it and it reminded me so much of the Kinvara. Last May I was at Payless shoe store and tried on the Champion Activeflex for fun. Three strides across the store told me everything I needed to know (yowch!): link to emergingrunner.com

  15. I just bought a pair of these for only $50 NZD (about USD $60). Went a full size up as they do run small. The construction seems pretty good – no issues for me. Except that although the sole has ROCKSTOP printed on it, the material visible through the holes in looks like EVA the entire way – not like the MT101. It would appear they used the same machinery to mold the sole (hence the printing of the words), yet not the same material in the midsole. And after a couple of rocky trail runs, you can definitely feel a well placed rock. My Free Runs offer more rock protection. Howver the sole does grip nicely. The inner sole that comes with it is pretty hopeless. Very thin compressiony foam. I might replace it with something flatter and more substantial to add a bit more protection…

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