New Balance MT20v2 Review: Solid Shoe, But Questionable Upper Durability

New Balance MT20v2The New Balance Minimus MT20v2 is the sequel to the “mass market” version of the New Balance Minimus Trail MT10. I’ve never quite understood the rationale for why New Balance makes both the MT10 and MT20 since they are basically the same shoe with slightly different designs, but I guess they have their reasons.

I’ve now had the MT20v2 for several months. I’ve done a number of runs in them, and have worn them pretty extensively for both casual wear and for a bit of hiking. Overall, my experience with the shoe has been great, and I was prepared to write a review claiming that the MT20v2 was a dramatic improvement over the original New Balance Minimus Trail MT10 (which gave me trouble since the forefoot band was too tight). For reasons I’ll get to below, I’m now not so sure that I can do that.

Much like the original Minimus Trail, the MT20v2 is a low profile trail shoe without a rock plate, and it has flat lugs that make it suitable for both road and light trail work (i.e., a hybrid shoe). I measure its stack height at 13mm heel:9mm forefoot, so it’s a 4mm drop shoe just like the MT10, and it weighs in right around 6.5oz in my size 10. The toebox is incredibly spacious, probably one of the roomiest I have worn recently. Comfort is excellent, and the shoe looks fantastic.

New Balance MT20v2 SideNew Balance MT20v2 Medial

I’ve actually quite enjoyed my experience so far with this shoe. It runs great – super flexible and just enough cushion to take the edge off on the road while still feeling like a very minimal shoe. I also used it as a hiking shoe on a trip up to northern NH, and it performed exceptionally well for that purpose as well (in my experience less sole stack height = less likely to roll an ankle). Lately I’ve use it a lot for casual wear, and have even worn it to work a number of times. For all purposes it has worked phenomenally well, though I would not recommend it for running on rugged trails since it is not terribly protective. In fact, my only complaint about the shoe is that the margins of the tongue tend to curl, making it hard to get the tongue to lay flat when lacing them up.

New Balance MT20v2 SoleNew Balance MT20v2 TopSo what’s holding me back from recommending the MT20v2?

Last week I was asked on the Runblogger Forum to recommend a shoe for hybrid road/trail use. The New Balance MT20v2 came up as an option, and I initially supported the choice due to my positive experience with them so far. In the ensuing discussion, it came up that reviewers on Amazon and Zapposhave been having some serious durability issues with the MT20v2. The problem seems to be with the synthetic upper material – it has been tearing at flex points in the forefoot, particularly by the little toe. In some it seems to have happened after very little use. There are enough reports of this happening that I’m hesitant to recommend purchase of this shoe (in fact, it is now on sale for $20 off at Zappos,not sure if it’s related to the defect). In fairness to New Balance, I have not yet experienced this issue in my pair, so it’s hard to say if this is a flaw in a single batch of the shoes or a widespread problem that has not turned up in mine due to fit, usage, or some other factor.

This issue brings up a larger problem that I’ve been noticing over the past year or so, and one which does make me suspect that this may be a widespread flaw – the plasticy, monofilament style upper material that has popped up on a number of running shoe uppers seems to be very prone to tearing in regions of frequent flex. I’ve heard reports of the same type of forefoot tearing happening in the Saucony Kinvara 2 (Saucony changed the material in the Kinvara 3), New Balance MT00, and Merrell Mix Master – all have uppers made of a similar material. In fact, Merrell recognized the problem quickly and did the right thing by pulling the original Mix Master off the market. They fixed the issue and released the Mix Master 2 just a few months later (problem now fixed by a new upper material in an otherwise identical shoe).

It will be interesting to see whether New Balance responds to this issue, and what the future will be for monofilament-style uppers (I think that’s the appropriate term for the material, correct me if I’m wrong). At least for me, I’ll be wary of purchasing any shoe made of the material going forward – just to much risk for long term durability.

How about you, have you had upper-tearing issue in any of the shoes mentioned above?

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. I’ve had a MT110 get a 2″ tear across the toe. Also have a Mix Master starting to get a hole in the top where the foot flexes. I have high hopes for the New Balance MO80.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Mix Master 1 or 2?

      Sent from my iPad

      • Mix Master 1. Just looked at them today and also have a 1″ rip where the upper meets the sole. The bad thing is I have less than 50 miles on them, and I’m super easy on shoes. I have a pair of Trail Gloves that I’ve had forever, and they’re like new.

        • Pete Larson says:

          Call Merrell customer service – my bet is they’ll offer to replace them with the Mix Master 2 since it’s a known issue.

          —-
          Pete Larson’s Web Links:
          My book: Tread Lightly – link to ow.ly
          Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
          Twitter: link to twitter.com
          Facebook: link to facebook.com

          • Talked to Merrell and they told me to take the shoes back to the store where I bought them. I got ‘em at Running Warehouse where I buy all my shoes. E-mailed them and they sent me a return shipping label, and took the shoes back with no problem. Running Warehouse is the best company I’ve ever done business with, bar none.

            I’m going to try Altra Superiors, and if they don’t work, I’ll stick with the Mix Master 2.

          • Pete Larson says:

            Great! That’s why Running Warehouse is my main advertising partner :) Great company.

            —-
            Pete Larson’s Web Links:
            My book: Tread Lightly – link to ow.ly
            Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
            Twitter: link to twitter.com
            Facebook: link to facebook.com

          • They got the shoes and immediately issued me a store credit for full value. I used the RUNBLOG10 discount when I originally ordered, so they gave me too much ($110 instead of $99). I pointed it out to them, and they said “since it was our mistake, the credit will stay at $110″. Their service is outstanding.

  2. Luke Thomas says:

    I hear you about the tongue bunching up. I haven’t had any tearing problems with mine yet. I use them for light hikes and trail runs.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Good to hear, it really is a very nice shoe if it holds up. Just noticed that Zappos knocked another $5 off the price so wondering if they are having a lot of returns…

      —-
      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
      My book: Tread Lightly – link to ow.ly
      Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
      Twitter: link to twitter.com
      Facebook: link to facebook.com

    • Aaron Luchko says:

      Mine are still new (got them on clearance) so no durability issues yet but the tongue bunching up has been a problem. On about half my runs so far I’ve had to stop to adjust the one shoe because it was just too painful. The shoe is maybe half a size too big so it might be related to that.

  3. Eric Eagan says:

    i had issues with the mt101 ripping along the seem lines on the inner heel of both pairs i have owned. I recently sent the 101s back to new balance as they said they will replace them…. i hope they get it figure out.

  4. I purchased the M20v2 Minimus in Jan-13 and after 8 weeks of running no more than up to 10 kms per week and lots of casual wear, I had the same tearing described in the article at the flex points of the upper forefront of shoe near little toes. This was a great shame as otherwise I absolutely love the shoe for both running and casual wear. I have returned the to New Balance and await their resolution.

  5. Preston Nakamura says:

    i was really excited to get my pair. they looked amazing but whem i slipped them on i noticed a weird arch on the right shoulder of my foot so just below the pinky. are they suppose to have that? i cant imagine running in them when i bearly find it comfortable to walk in.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I didn’t notice it, maybe a manufacturing error in your shoe? If they’re uncomfortable, return them. Not worth the risk.
      Sent from my iPad

  6. I recently sent back a pair of MT 1010′s that were purchased on August. I tallied seven runs for a grand total of 120 miles before both shoes ripped where the upper meets the sole of the shoe near the big toe. I read up on reviews from irunfar and found that many other runners have had similar experiences. It is too bad since I had such a positive experience with the shoe before they fell apart.

    • Pete Larson says:

      NB’s durability and construction track record hasn’t been great of late. Had to get my MT00′s replaced due to sole delamination, can’t run in the MT110 due to the slanted sole, and had to cut the forefoot band in the MT10 to make them fit.

      —-
      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
      My book: Tread Lightly – link to ow.ly
      Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
      Twitter: link to twitter.com
      Facebook: link to facebook.com

      • Any word from NB if they are addressing these issues? I am not familiar with other models and their durability, just what I have read and experienced with the 1010′s. I have a pair of 101′s that were built to last, but they do not have the same minimal design. Are issues like these to be expected from minimal shoes?

        • Pete Larson says:

          No, though they did see my post about sole delam in the MT00 and contacted me to replace, so I have to give credit to their customer service. I think the issue isn’t so much minimal shoes as it is that we are seeing lots of new materials being used in shoe design, some of which are proving to be less durable. Many of these materials are being used to save weight I think, but there are plenty of minimal shoes that seem to hold up very well (e.g., other than the original Mix Master, Merrells seem to be very durable).
          Sent from my iPad

  7. Simon Goodship says:

    I haven’t had any tears on the MT00 but I use them for low mileage. The Kinvara II on the other hand started a small tear along a flex point. I didn’t return them but I retired them early.

  8. kamilothoris says:

    Yeah, after lots of use my MT00s now have holes in the forefoot upper. I still love them and run in them daily with the holes. Extra ventilation for me and I bought another pair for when those fall completely apart. At size 11.5 what other zero drop shoe weighs in at 4.7oz and feels like I have nothing on my feet? The Hattori LC for example lists at 4.7 oz at size 9 on runningwarehouse and becomes 5.5 oz at size 11.5

  9. ithinkicanrun says:

    A guy I work with had the same issues reported on Amazon and Zappos. The upper began tearing at certain spots and the external Vibram arch support actually began to seperate from the shoe altogether. The biggest red flag was that he was simply wearing these around work for comfort. I have had two pairs of the Mt20′s seperate from the Vibram sole and New Balance was good about replacing them.

  10. Yes, unfortunately my MT00′s got sent back to Amazon after only four months of [not very extensive] use – the upper teared on both shoes by the little and the big toe. A shame really, since I enjoyed them voraciously! In my specific case it might have been that they were simply a teeny bit to small for my wide feet – I have heard from other runners that they have had no problem with this model after a longer period of usage.

    Anyway, I got a refund and instead bought the MT10 which fit my feet perfectly, and whose soft upper material is not likely to suffer the same destiny.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I think there must be some type of fit interaction as my feet have not caused this problem in either the MT00 or MT20v2. Interestingly, never had it happen in the Kinvara either, but loaned my pair with 200 miles on them so a friend to try and he tore the upper by the little toe in two runs. Still makes it hard to recommend the shoe since I have no idea who they will work for.

      —-
      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
      My book: Tread Lightly – link to ow.ly
      Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
      Twitter: link to twitter.com
      Facebook: link to facebook.com

      • That is probably true and might then explain why it is cheaper for NB to just replace a few pair of broken shoes, than to make a complete redraw/redesign of the model as Merrell did. Hopefully the next iteration of the MT00 will have some adjustments done to them to address the, albeit small, problem of the upper material.

        Also introducing the 2E/4E wide models here in Europe could have a positive effect on this matter.

  11. I have had my nb20s since April 2012 and they started tearing in June. I absolutely LOVE the shoe if not for that one problem.

  12. My wife’s shoes did the same thing we had them replaced by NB but she just went with the Merrell road glove instead

  13. I had the issue with several pairs of the Kinvara 2 tearing by the little toe. I was glad when they changed the material for the Kinvara 3, but a little surprised because the new 0 drop Virrata appears to have the same material in the upper that the Kinvara 2 has. If it is in fact the same upper I wonder why Saucony didn’t use something similar to the Kinvara 3. I probably won’t try it if it is the same material in the upper of the Kinvara 2.

Speak Your Mind

*

**Featured Running Gear Sale: Shoebuy - 20% Off Skechers Performance shoes and 20% OFF all technical running shoes with code 20APRIL (through 5/1)

Have a question about running shoes? Need helping choosing your next pair? Get help in the Runblogger Forum.

SAVE $$$ ON RUNNING SHOES AND GEAR
If you'd like to support the work done here on Runblogger, please consider making your next running shoe or gear purchase from one of the retailers below - you'll likely save a bit of $$$, and I'll get a small commission to help keep the site running and the blog posts flowing. Thank you for your support!

Running Warehouse - 10% Off With Code RUNBLOG10 (some exclusions apply)
TriVillage - 18% Off With Code RBTri18 (some exclusions apply)
Clever Training - 10% Off With Code RunBlogXJT (some exclusions apply)
Sportsshoes.com - UK-based but ships globally