New Balance MT100 Running Shoe First Impressions

we try the New Balance MT100 shoe and see if it's a worthy barefoot running shoe

We are always on the lookout for interesting barefoot or minimalist shoes.  We’ve tested and ran in such barefoot offerings like Nike Free’s and Vibram Five Fingers, however, have yet to try any of the minimalist shoes from New Balance.  Initially we got in contact with them so we could try out their ChiRunning shoe, the New Balance MR800, but after speaking with them they suggested we should take a look at the New Balance MT100 (or for women’s version the WT100). They were even kind enough to send us a pair so we could try them out!

We try out a pair of New Balance MT100 running shoes

If you were like us, we didn’t even know about the MT100.  So what’s the official word from New Balance?  In their words…

The MT/WT100 is a trail racing flat designed for the most dedicated ultra-trail runners. The 100 features a minimalist upper construction for a comfortable, lightweight ride and fewer internal seams to help eliminate irritation. The upper is also equipped with a moisture management treatment to quickly wick away moisture. A ROCK STOP plate in the outsole shields feet from rocks and obstacles and a unique outsole lug configuration provides ideal traction and speed on trails. The SURE LACE keeps shoes tied to ensure an uninterrupted run.

While reading the description you might not think that this is a true barefoot running shoe, but after reading some initial reviews from on them were were definitely more interested.  One reviewer on Zappos wrote:

This is a great shoe for someone looking to go minimal on trail runs that is. The shoe is extremely light with minimal cushioning and minimal support. Good for speeding over dry, semi-technical trail. Probably not the best choice in mud or extremely rocky trails. Transitions nicely from trail to paved surfaces. I had a little pinching from the ankle collar on one foot, but adjusting the tightness of the laces fixed that problem. It’s almost like running in a slipper. It’s great if you have been reading Born to Run; and you’re toying with the idea of barefoot running and/or getting away from shoes that force your foot into a particular foot strike.

In any case we were glad to see New Balance increase their offering of more barefoot inspired shoes.  A few months ago they released a statement saying how they were committed to invest resources into barefoot running shoes, and it’s great to see how that wasn’t just lip service.

We just got this shoe and haven’t had a lot of time running in them yet, but we’ll do a more formal running review after we’ve had some proper time in them.   But to give you an idea of what this shoe is about check out the video below:

Our first impressions and observations

It’s only natural to compare the MT100 to the Nike Free 5.0 (after all, both of these shoe’s offered by large established athletic shoe companies) so many of our first impressions are in comparison to the Nike Free.

  • Shoe is not as flexible as the Nike Free 5.0, it’s slightly stiffer in the heel area, but still a lot more flexible than a traditional running shoe)
  • Outer material is actually porous, which allows more air to flow through (you can actually see light pass through as well)
  • Bottom sole seems very durable and made to go off road
  • There’s a pretty strong chemical/rubber smell of the shoe
  • The shoe laces are curly, at first I though it was something wrong, but then found out this is the Surelace technology that’s supposed to keep your shoes tied at all times.  You’d think this wouldn’t be a big problem, but I’ve had issues with my Nike Free shoes staying tied

New Balance MT100 shoe is very breathable (let's air in)

Overall, I was very pleased by the design and construction of the New Balance MT100.  It seems well built and sturdy.  While it might not be as flexible as the Nike Free, it does seem to be a solid barefoot offering for those who like to run off the concrete trail.