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New Balance MRC1600 Racing Flat Review

New Balance MR1600A bit over a year ago I wrote a post on the somewhat complex relationship between running shoe midsoles, ground surface properties, muscle tuning, and limb stiffness (read the muscle tuning-limb stiffness post here). As a result of my experience with shoes, the research I did while writing my book, and conversations with gait experts, I’ve come to believe that if we had a simple way of matching shoes to runners in order to optimize muscle tuning and limb stiffness for an individual on the surface they plan to run on, we’d be close to the holy grail of shoe fitting protocols.

So what does this have to do with a shoe review? Well, the New Balance MR1600 racing flat is a shoe that scores points for me in nearly every category, but it lacks that certain something that would make it rise above the rest in a niche filled with some pretty amazing footwear.

A few months ago I reviewed the New Balance RC5000, which is NB’s ultralight racing flat. It’s a solid shoe, but I was a bit concerned about the narrow fit through the midfoot and the tendency for my ankles to tilt inward when standing in the shoe as a result. Durability was also a concern.

New Balance MR1600 SideNew Balance MR1600 Medial

Weighing in at under 5.9oz in size 10.5, the RC1600 is like a beefier brother to the RC5000 (which weighs 3.5oz), and improves on it in a number of ways. Though the fit is similar in the two shoes, the thicker sole stack height of the RC1600 (21mm heel: 14mm forefoot) makes it feel a bit more stable under the midfoot – the sense of rolling in is not as pronounced. Along with the thicker stack comes a higher drop – 6mm with the insole out, and 8mm with the included insole. As I typically do, I swapped out the insole for one of my Skechers masterpieces – a barely there, 2mm thick insole of uniform width in both the heel and forefoot. The 6mm drop may be too much for some, but it feels fine to me.

The midsole of the RC1600 is fairly stiff, maybe just slightly less so than the RC5000, and this is a good thing in a shoe built for speed. When running fast I find that a stiffer shoe gives a little more pop, and this is the reason why the adidas Hagio remains my favorite flat for speed work and 5K racing (just got a pair of the adidas Takumi Sen, which may turn out to be even better in this regard).

New Balance MR1600 Sole

The outsole on the RC1600 is a big plus. Unlike some other racing flats which opt for little rubber nubs glued to the sole, the RC1600 has full rubber pods covering prime wear areas on the lateral heel and midfoot, and across the entire width of the forefoot. Nubs are present, but only on the tip of the forefoot and the front of the arch. I’ve personally not had issues with rubber nubs falling off, but have heard from people who have experienced this in other shoes – I may simply not get enough miles on a pair of flats to experience the issue. Given the outsole configuration, I expect the sole durability of the RC1600 should be very good relative to other racing flats.

The upper of the RC1600 is really, really nice. It’s a great looking shoe, and extremely comfortable, even on a sockless foot. The ankle collar is soft and does not dig in, and the fabric mesh that the upper is composed of is soft as well – no hot spots for me in this shoe. The upper seems very well constructed, and I expect it will be much more durable than that of the RC5000.

New Balance MR1600 Top

As is typical of racing flats, the RC1600 is not a wide shoe. However, I ordered a half size up (these were a personal purchase) and do not feel squeezed at all. I’d say the fit is just a tad narrower than the Saucony Grid Type A5, and identical to the RC5000. For those of you with wide feet in need of a road flat, the Mizuno Universe is probably your best bet.

So what’s not to like about this shoe? Really, I like the shoe a lot, and highly recommend it as a racing flat. My only real complaint about the design is the the sides of the tongue tend to fold under when putting the shoe on, but that’s just a small annoyance and easily fixed in an update.

My real issue with the shoe, and the one that brings us back to the muscle tuning discussion in the first paragraph, is that the sole just does not feel like a good match for me. I typically like shoe soles to either disappear on my feet (Saucony A5) or provide some amount of stiffness and pop (adidas Hagio) to make me want to go fast (see my 5 rules for determining if a running shoe is right for you). The sole of the NB RC1600 just feels kind of dead or flat to me. I can tell it’s there, and it seems to rob me of the kind of pop I expect from a shoe like this. My guess is that this is entirely and individual thing, and the shoe is just not the right match for my body, so I’d live to hear your experience if you’ve run in this shoe.

Conclusion

The New Balance RC1600 is a solid offering among racing flats. Fit is adequately wide on my medium width feet (after going a half size up), durability should be good (30 miles on mine with no real significant wear), and they are lightweight and good looking. This is definitely one to consider if you’re in the market for a flat!

New Balance - MRC1600 (Kinetic Blue/Black) - Footwear

The New Balance MRC1600 is available for purchase at Running Warehouse and Zappos.

New Balance - WRC1600 (Aquarius/Pink) - Footwear

The women’s version, pictured at left, is called the WRC1600 and can also be purchased at Running Warehouse or Zappos.

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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. OK, so this isn’t the mystery shoe you had so much fun running in… Anyway, too heavy for a racing flat in my book. ;-)

  2. Hi Pete,
    Futher to your excellent review of the Go Bionics, I bought a pair as soon as they were available up here in Montreal a few months ago. I love them! I have a few questions for you. I’ll be training all winter in preparation for the Ottawa marathon in the spring and I think it’s hard to imagine someone running in them in snow covered streets and in the cold. Do you think the trail version could be a good winter street minimalist shoe? Otherwise, what would be your rec for such a shoe?

    Also, as I ran a half in them this weekend and felt soreness in the calves in the following 48 hours, I’m wondering if I could run a marathon in them or if I’d better use something with more cushioning. Nate likes the Merrell Bare Access II, even more than the Go Bionics, in your opinion, would they be a better shoe for long distance?

    Lastly, I read your post about your possible carreer change and can’t go wrong by following your passion. As Lincoln said, in the end it’s not the years in your life that counts, it’s the life in your years.

    If you ever start a personalized 2-hour gait analysis and improvement business, I might take another vacation in NH next summer so I can stop by and visit you again.

    Thanks for your help and all the best!

  3. I’ve been putting plenty of miles on my RC1600s. These are the most comfortable running trainers I’ve ever had. Interesting that it’s not just me who gets annoyed by the tongue though. I have a few pairs of trainers that suffer from the tongue problem though, X-Talon 212s, NB 110s all do it.

  4. We love this shoe. Yeah, a wee bit on the snug side if your feet are anything broader or thicker than average, but Man! are New Balance making a beautiful flat. This–and the beloved A5!–disappear on the foot the way a good shoe should. http://roguerundown.wordpress….

  5. Pete,
    Have you review the Asics Hyperspeed? Its been my go to flat for a few years now. The current(and last) version happens to be my favorite! Reading your reviews, the Hyperspeed sounds like a shoe you would like. Thanks

  6. alexvanoostrum@gmail.com says:

    Hey Pete – great review. I opted for a pair of these as a distance shoe; the low weight and slight raise in the heel looked like a great combo. The fit was great also with a little stretch/give in the upper. However after about 150 miles I am now starting to experience pains in the calves. The problem being that the cushioning in the sole – albeit minimal – seems to have died and lost all firmness. Subsequently the extra work the calves are having to do to take off is killing me!
    I have relegated these shoes to walking as they are still really comfortable but will fall back on the firmer Wave Universe 4 to run next half marathon in May, before going back to the trusty Adios 2 for longer distance.
    Interestingly evidence that a firmer sole / minimal sole seems to be injury avoidance measure!

  7. Staffan Dahlgren says:

    I also run in Adizero Hagio but I must say that NB RC1600 impresses on me after having run only 50 miles in them! I think the upper seems more durable and not as fragile and thin as the Adizero Hagio.

    In terms of cushioning I sometimes think the Hagio is too thin and hard on asphalt and with NB RC1600 I just don’t think of if, like the sense you are referring to with Saucony A5 in your review.

    To me, the shoe seems very well built and it is surprisingly much of a shoe considering the low weight. I would not hesitate running a half marathon in them, somethin I hesitate to do with the Hagio.

  8. Kristoffer says:

    I’m really curious abut this shoe as I’ve only read good things about it and am thinking of trying to get a hold of a pair. Unfortunately they’re not available in Sweden where I live, nor are they available in the brittish online stores Wiggle and StartFitness which I’ve used in the past as well. So it looks like I will have to buy them from the US. This means quite a bit of hassle (as well as time and money) if I were to order the wrong size, so I was wondering if you could help me out by saying which size that fit you length wise (I don’t think the width will be a problem as I have quite narrow feet) for the MRC1600 as well as the Kinvara 3. The latter for comparison. I have the Kinvara in size 10.5 and they are a tiny bit on the long side, but fit better than size 10.
    When I have tried out different NB shoes, the best fit in terms of size has varied between 10 and 11. For the Minimus MR00 and the Minimus Life, for instance, my size is 10.5.

  9. Stephen Lalley says:

    I’m trying to imagine what a trail version of the GoBionic would look like.

  10. Hi Pete, the Skechers Go Trail is available now. Is that the Skechers Trail shoe you liked so much? Does it fit like the Go Bionic and Run?

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