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Top 3 Most Disappointing Running Shoes of 2012

As the year comes to a close, it’s time once again for me to reflect back on the multitude of shoes that I’ve run in over the past 12 months. There are plenty of standouts (I’m going to break my “best of” lists into three categories this year, may have one ready later today), but also several shoes that underwhelmed despite a great deal of anticipation.

Every time I write something critical about a shoe there are people who get a bit offended – that’s OK, but remember this is my personal list and not an attempt to tell you that your favorite shoe is lousy! One of the things I love about runners is that they are passionate about what they put on their feet, so I apologize in advance if I hit a nerve :)

Here we go, my top 3 most disappointing running shoes of 2012, in descending order:

3. New Balance MT110

This one won’t come as a surprise to anyone who reads this blog regularly. I was a huge fan of the NB MT101. It was a great shoe – simple, perfect fit, just the right amount of softness and protection, and worked well both on roads and trails. I was very much looking forward the the release of the MT101’s sequel, the MT110. A lower-profile MT101-like shoe on an even roomier last sounded like heaven! However, I ran into trouble almost immediately with the MT110s. Upon putting them on I could feel a very pronounced buildup under the later midfoot and forefoot, and the shoes forced my feet to roll inward just standing in them. After several trail runs in the MT110’s, including a 10 miler on a rail trail near my workplace, I developed a case of posterior tibial tendinitis. From a biomechanical standpoint, post tib tendinitis could very well be linked to excessive eversion such as that caused by the slanted sole of this shoe since the tibialis posterior muscle is responsible for resisting eversion of the foot. I’d never had this problem in any other shoe, and haven’t had it again since shelving them.

On a positive note, New Balance is releasing a minor update to the MT110 that apparently shaves the lateral lugs down a bit to help correct this sole slant (seems I’m not the only one who had a problem with the sole geometry). With that fix, this could easily have been in my top 3 trail shoes of 2012 – here’s hoping they get it right!


2. Saucony Kinvara TR

Saucony Kinvara TR yellow[3]

I’ve never hidden my love for the Saucony Kinvara here on Runblogger. It’s one of my all time favorite shoes, and it has carried me through several of my most memorable races. Given this, I was really excited when I heard they would be making a trail version of the shoe. Unfortunately, my excitement turned to disappointment the moment I put them on my feet. Quite simply, this was not the Kinvara fit that I had come to love. Too loose in the midfoot, too tight in the forefoot, I made it through one run and put them on Ebay (I had purchased them myself – I never sell media samples, those go to friends or Soles for Souls). The Kinvara TR has a lot of potential – I liked the sole construction, they look great, and they tick most of my preferred spec check boxes (light, low drop, etc.), but unless the fit is dialed in I find it hard to call this shoe a Kinvara.


1. Nike Free 3.0 v4

I loved the original Nike Free 3.0. It was my first minimalist spectrum shoe, and led me down the path to less and less shoe. It had a wonderfully simple upper (though a tad narrow in fit), flexible sole, super light, etc. Unfortunately Nike seems to have degraded the Free 3.0 with each subsequent iteration. Several outsole pods on the v2 fell off my shoe after only a few runs, and I passed on v3. The v4 was the first substantial update to the Free 3.0, and I ordered a pair the moment they came out.

Unfortunately, the v4 is one of the worst shoes I’ve run in this year (read my more detailed thoughts on the Nike Free 3.0 v4 here). Fit is way off, and the upper feels like it’s made of vinyl – the Free 3.0 v4 one of the least breathable shoes I have ever run in. Nike seems more interested in catering to fashion rather than function with the Free shoes these days, and it’s a shame since this was such a ground-breaking line of footwear. Like the Kinvara TR, these went on Ebay after only a few runs (and sold for almost the purchase price, probably not to a runner).

There you have it, my 3 most disappointing running shoes of 2012!

Do you have any dud shoes you’d like to share? Feel free to do so in the comments!

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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 biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit


  1. Running Reform says:

    I bought into the hype earlier this year and unfortunately purchased the first two shoes on your list (the MT110 and the Kinvara TR). I’d have to agree with you. They are both extremely disappointing

  2. Tad Kardis says:

    I’d nominate the Newton MV2. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect Newton’s first zero drop offering to be un-Newton. However, I didn’t fully appreciate just how narrow the toe box would be. I can’t imagine this shoe is working for many people. A phone call revealed they are supposedly working to correct this problem for the next generation of this shoe. The only thing that would correct it for mine is the back of the closet, or perhaps a little work with some scissors.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I almost included the MV2 as an honorable mention, but I did all of my running in it in 2011. Vivobarefoot Neo Trail is another, but also last year I think.

  3. Ashwyn Gray says:

    Excellent post, Pete!
    Another note about the MT110: A friend just sent me a picture of his pair after 160-ish miles. The outsole was worn almost completely flat. And, the midsole appeared to be peeling away from the upper. These were falling apart! He contacted customer service and was told that the shoes were expected to last for 200 miles. Only 200 miles for a trail shoe?!? That’s just silly, I think.

    • Really? I have over 700 miles on mine (almost all trail) and most of the rubber is still left. Few cracks in the black plastic upper, but still very runnable. This is basically the cheapest per-mile shoe I’ve ever bought, (and I just got another pair for 40 bucks online)….

      • Ashwyn Gray says:

        That’s encouraging, Evan. Maybe the customer service dept. just says a loo number whenever a highly worn pair shows up in their complaint file. 700 miles is more like it!

        • Yeah, that sounds like either a manufacturing defect, or he ran all 200 miles on the road, which does wear the rubber faster. Anyways, sounds like people really either love or hate this shoe. I wonder if it doesn’t just have to do with the type of terrain: would be interesting to see positive and negative reviews plotted as dots on a map of the US, and see if they cluster in certain parts of the country.

  4. As a hardcore fan of the original Nike Free Run, I thought that the 3.0 v.4 would be the perfect replacement. Alas, the weird, stretchy upper failed to hold my foot in place and within the first few runs in them, my IT band hurt. I returned them and am back in my collection of old original Free Runs, running pain free. In short, I TOTALLY AGREE!

  5. I disagree with you about the MT101. The toebox on that shoe was way too narrow for me and I had to tape up my pinky toes for any runs longer than 4 miles due to the rubbing. They fixed this in the 110 thankfully. I didn’t run into the issue with the lateral midfoot/forefoot buildup.

    As for shoes that I didn’t like:

    3) NB MR00. The side-attached tongue and flat laces / fabrid eyelets made the shoe much less comfortable than it could have been. The sole was flat and dead. It should have either been thicker with a tiny bit of cushion (like the MR730) or thinner (Merrell shoes) so that I could have some road feel.

    2) MT00. This shoe took minimalist a little too far. The nylon moccasin with bubbles on the bottom went overboard for a trail shoe. I seldom found trails that were smooth enough to run comfortably in this shoe that I wouldn’t rather just run barefoot on. I would have liked a bit more structure.

    1) Cascadia 6. Probably the worst shoe that I’ve owned since I stopped buying Nikes after the Air Max in 1994. Not a minimalist shoe at all, but I loved the Cascadia 5 so I bought the 6 without trying it on. The shoe was way too built up, the lugs were totally wrong and it seemed like the first step off of the cliff for that shoe line.

  6. james cowan says:

    I was another who bought into the 110 hype. Completely sold by the endorsements of Anton Krupicka and Liza Howard I knew I’d be running 100s in no time (j/k). I did, however, wear them enough, stubbornly, to put me out of commission for a couple weeks. Had I not been in the middle of training I could’ve been out for a month. Never diagnosed the exact problem but had severe pains throughout my foot, directly from the shoe as I was running pain free in the Brooks PureGrit previously. Also, as another mentioned, noticeable wear and a full tear on the outside of the toe box after <100 miles. Chocked it up to the San Antonio rocks until I started running in the Altra Lone Peak… an indestructible tank of a shoe. Either way, the MT110 is indeed a complete bust imo as well.

  7. I only have experience with the NB 110s. The sole wasn’t that big an issue for me because I seldom run on flat ground, but the fragile upper sucked.

  8. I second your thoughts on the Kinvara TR. I’m a Kinvara lover and was excited to test out the trail version, but alas, if they weren’t bright green I would probably get rid of them. Definitetly has potential, but missed the boat on fit.

  9. Kyle Hemmer says:

    I too nominate the MV2. A lot of pressure on the balls of my feet caused a minor case of PF. Toe Box was small and the angle in which they closed off the toe box made me have to go a full size bigger (13).

  10. I know this is heresy but I have to go with the Kinvara 3. Loved the K2. But the Kinvara 3 just feels hard. I was told they would soften up after a while. But 150 miles later, they’re still hard. I even BQ’d and set a 21 minute PR marathon at Philly in them but still don’t like them. Maybe it’s the resultant calcaneal stress fracture that has me peeved but I liked the 2 much better. And did not have the wear problems that others complained about.

  11. I have the NB MT110 and don’t feel the lateral buildup at all. Have you tried a 2nd pair on to see if it was a manufacturing anomaly? I had a pair of NB Minimus Road that was an excellent shoe for me. When they wore out I bought another pair. Same size and model and every time I ran in them I developed a pain under the ball of my big toe. I went back to the 1st pair and had no problems. I ran in the new pair several times and always developed that pain. I couldn’t figure it out and eventually recycled them.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I’ve heard from a lot of people who have had issues with the bump, so it’s more than a single shoe issue, and NB has said they built up the lateral lugs. Also had been reported that they are reducing them in the update coming out. We may all just vary in our sensitivity to the issue based on our biomechanics.

  12. I bought the MT110s and have not had any problems with posterior tibialis tendonitis. That is a condition that I have battled with for a couple years, so I am pretty attuned to the warning signs. Overall, I would say the MT110s have been great trail running shoes.

  13. Stephen Lalley says:

    Agree with the MT110. The slant was very weird and hurt my ankles.

  14. Agree on the MT110 and Kinvara TR. Both of them felt like I had wooden planks on the bottom of my feet they were so inflexible. Couldn’t make it past 6 miles in either of them before I had major achilles pain. One went to failed shoe surgery, the other to Ebay. I knew better than to give Nike a chance.

  15. Sam Winebaum says:

    Haven’t run in any of these but it seems that with at least 2 of them when you combine a relatively stiff firm midsole with mis matched upper disaster strikes. For me a spacious forefoot and well snugged mid foot is the trick, Inov 8 Road X style. I am also concluding that runners, if they aren’t going totally minimal all the time or at least for some runs are evolving back to a bit more cushioning still with low or zero drop and light weight. As far as those MT 110 or similar that Anton Krupicka wore at the SpeedGoat 50K to run to very credible finish, I saw him finish. The first thing he asked for was a chair to take off his shoes. His feet were a mess, so bad, that pictures of them were all over the internet.

  16. Brian Martin says:

    Hi Pete, I’ve not run in the others, but I agree with you wholeheartedly on the Free 3.0 v4 – a terrible shoe. Versions 2 & 3 of this shoe was very good and one of my favorite and most durable shoes – down to my last pair so hoping the next update is much better. Ironically at the moment I think the Free Run v3 5.0 is the best of the Free line-up for running, but the shoe most people just wear around for fashion.

  17. Completely agree particularly on the
    Nike Free 3.0 v4, the upper was horrible, the fit even worse!

  18. NB MT110 is my favorite shoe of the year!

    No problems for me.

  19. Matt Butler says:

    I found the MT110 shoe nirvana, I have run up to 18 miles on mostly muddy/dirt trails with no complaints at all. Sad to hear the Nike Free v4 suck so bad, the v2 was one of my favourites until they fell apart.

  20. I had exactly the same issue with the MT110’s. I’d read Nate’s review and rushed off to buy a pair. By the end of my first run in them (5 miles) my ankles were really sore which turned out to be post tib tendinitis. That was 3 months ago and I’m still feeling the odd twinge now despite reverting back to my tried and tested Kinvara’s.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Interestingly, I had lunch with Nate yesterday and had him try on my 110s. He said the slant felt much more pronounced in my shoes, wonder if they had some bad batches from a particular factory.

    • That would certainly explain it. They were really comfy in every other respect, so at first I just though it was me. I’m kind of glad to hear that other people had the same problems with them!

  21. Kevin Schell says:

    Couldn’t agree more about the Nike Free 3.0. It is a terrible shoe. The upper is hot and has limited durability. The upper of my right shoe tore within 2 months and I returned them for the 4.0 which I really like. Have you tried the 4.0?

    • Pete Larson says:

      No, haven’t tried the 4.0 because I was scared off by the fit of the 3.0. Is the 4.0 fit the same?

      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
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      -Facebook Page:
      -Discussion Forum:

      • Kevin Schell says:

        I would consider giving them a try. The 4’s toebox is a little more square but the big difference in comparison with the 3.0’s is the upper material (and the 2 mm offset increase). The 4.0’s upper is thinner and has mesh panels so it’s more breathable and durable than the 3.0. The 4.0’s are also relatively seamless so I frequently run in them sockless without consequences. I prefer the burrito tongue of th 4.0 because I have a high volume midfoot. IMO the 4.0’s are everything that the 3.0’s should have been +2mm extra heel material.

  22. Love the book and the blog, gotta agree on the 110’s. I didn’t have an issue until I mis-stepped in a trail race in my 110’s and ever since I am battling what I believe is ptt issues. Any advice for getting over it?

  23. Garth Somerville says:

    Although I understand the complaint about the MT110, I have stuck with them for all of my trail racing and I have to say they have not let me down. On one pair the upper ripped open during a race, but New Balance replaced them for me at no cost.

    I would love to have an MT110 with a little more cushioning! But I don’t know of any current shoe that would fit that spec (the same weight within a few ounces, same fit, and roughly same traction but with more cushioning) I had hoped the update would be to add some cushioning but it turned out that is not the case.

  24. Oh yes, or better oh no: the Nike Free 3.0 v4. I did run 600 miles in the V3. I prefered them above my Kinvara 1s. I bought the V4s kinda blind. One size bigger. But they are still too small. Too narrow. They get better every 100 mile, but still. Only thing better is the less room for stones in the sole. I do hope a v5 will be more like the v3 again…I would like another good shoe besides my great Kinvara 3s!

  25. Couldn’t resist a pair of the 110s for $40 for Christmas. Ran 10 miles of rocky/muddy trails in them yesterday afternoon. Compared to my 1010s, they’re built up a little more on the outside of the forefoot where my foot contacts the ground, have more (firmer) cushion and a rock plate that doesn’t remind you it’s there with every step.

    For me, they’re the perfect trail shoe. Thanks Santa.

  26. Seamus Foy says:

    I’ve heard that same criticism about the MT110, though I can’t say it ever bothered me. It is my favorite trail shoe ever! I can run rugged, technical trails w/o problems, traction is great, the lugs are plenty sticky on rocks, and it’s barely there. My only criticism is that it isn’t very durable, but even when it was first released, it was available for just a bit more than $60 at RW. For that price, I don’t expect 600 miles out of them, though I’ve probably run that far in them. Mine actually have a negative drop now.

  27. I’m so surprised to see the MT110 on your list of most disappointing shoes. I’ve run in lots of different trail shoes and this one is my absolute favorite by far! I feel super light and fast in them and the grip is great on wet, muddy trails (much better than the Brooks True Grit). I’m actually prone to posterior tibialis tendonitis and haven’t had a problem with these. I recently just tried the NB1010 and didn’t like them nearly as much as the 110. I look forward to trying to updated version of the 110.

  28. Callan N Karey Phillips says:

    the free 3.0 isnt the only shoe i dislike by Nike….I loved my Pegasus+ 28 but the 29 isnt even near the same shoe as the 28. so i totally agree with the fashion statement about Nikes’ direction now days.

  29. Jack Ryon says:

    +1 on the MT110. So unnatural feeling and equally disappointing.

  30. Corre Natural México says:

    Completely agree on the 3 shoes, they were just plainly terrible. The upper od the nike was hideous, the mt110 stiff and painful (exactly the same experiences as you) with the weird outside lateral buildup and the Kinvaras keep being to narrow in the forefoot.

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