Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Balance MT20 V1 Long Term Review

It's been about 6 months and 450 miles of minimalism later that I've finally come to a conclusion about the New Balance MT20 (Minimus Trail) shoes. And unlike most reviews, I won't make you read through page after page of tedious, personal opinions to hear me say something horribly generic.

So here's the bottom line: If you have narrow feet, run on grass or dirt, and want a light shoe, this is it. But these are not real trail shoes, your feet will bruise. They should call these the Minimus Fireroad, it would be more fitting. Now for the in-depth.

These are the first generation of the New Balance Minimus MT20 shoes. So I can't really speak to how NB might have improved the shoe, responded to consumer feedback, etc. But my first impression was pretty favorable. With a four millimeter heel-toe drop, and a svelte 5.8oz claimed weight, the shoes were pretty much exactly what most runners look for in a minimal shoe. My favorable impressions lasted right up until I got to the trail head and started running. The trail that most runners around Loveland choose is Devil's Backbone. It's a nice six mile loop, and by the time I finished, it was the most miserable last three miles of my life. My feet are fairly hardened from lots of time spent running barefoot and in minimal shoes, but I typically run the trail in my Nike LunarGlide 4s, so there's something there between my foot and the rocks. Given the name, I thought I'd try the MT20s on the trail. I came home with extremely bruised feet, wondering if I'd broken something in my foot.

Additionally, after running a decent number of miles in the MT20s, flaws became much more apparent. The toe box is claimed to be wider, but I've found that it's really no wider than any other shoe, if anything, it's pretty small for a minimal shoe. This has been confirmed with scans of the foot by Runner's World. It's claimed that these shoes should be comfortable for barefoot running. Not true. The tongue isn't sew in, like most minimal shoes and the result is a lot of blisters. Wear socks. The lacing doesn't provide a very snug fit through the arch and heel of the foot, causing my already cramped toes to slide even further into the toe box.

I will say that the Vibram sole was a brilliant inclusion on New Balance's part. The sole has outlasted every other pair of shoes I've owned. While thin, it will last nearly forever. Speaking of thin, that's part of the problem with the shoe. Not only have my feet come back bruised from runs, but I've also had a hole punched in my foot from a rusty nail that went through the sole like it wasn't there.

If you run on grass or dirt, this is the shoe for you. I would recommend buying from a store that guarantees satisfaction because it isn't perfect by a long shot. If you're looking for a minimal shoe that has something between you and the road, this isn't it. The shoe is a wonderful concept, the execution could use some work.

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