Monday, July 11, 2011

Pre-Minimus Principles

Last Christmas, I got a new pair of shoes -- yes, actual shoes -- the New Balance MT101, a trail shoe which was a forerunner to the company's Minimus line. I wanted a tool that would be useful for my increasing interest in trail running and have since run about 110 miles in the shoes.

The bulk of my runs in the MT101s have been on rough trails like the Buckeye Trail, but they have also seen action on pavement, asphalt and crushed limestone, ranging in conditions of dry, wet, snowy and muddy.

What I was looking for: A light-weight, relatively flat shoe that would provide traction on loose dirt and mud. I'll say it, I wanted a minimal trail shoe without waiting for all the hyped products that were due out early this year, but not available at Christmastime 2010.

What the MT101's provide: Weight? 7.8 ounces. Flatness? 7 to 10 mm heel drop, according to Pete Larson at Runblogger. Traction? Well, it varies. I've come to believe that balance is more important in trail running. Let's just say I've never fallen in these shoes (or any other).

What I love: The fit around the heel is slipper-like, and the nearly seamless stitching would be perfect for sockless running if my pinkie toes didn't chafe against the abrasive mesh of the toe box. Otherwise, a very comfortable shoe.

What I hate: The "Rock Stop" plastic plate under the forefoot makes the soles of these shoes too rigid for my preference. The stiffness of the shoe can make it difficult for pivoting around tricky obstacles like roots and rocks.

I was also hoping these shoes might be decent for snow and the occasional road runs. However, they didn't provide much traction in snow and the stiff sole made road running uncomfortable. (I had a tendency to slap my feet on the ground.) The New Balance MT101 are great as a dedicated trail shoe, though I'd prefer to have a more flexible shoe. The slight heel drop is unnoticeable on rough and hilly terrain, but is apparent and flatter ground.

I wish the toe box were wider so I didn't have to wear socks, as these shoes have a thicker mesh, making them less breathable than traditional running shoes. With socks, they're a bit stifling, and I'm just not used to wearing socks in warm weather.

[Drunkard's note: The New Balance MT101 were a gift from family. The manufacturer has absolutely no sway in my opinion.]

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