For the first eight years of my running career, I had one trainer (and possibly 1-2 pairs of spikes, depending on what year we're talking about). This meant that I wore whatever road shoes or cross-country spikes I had at the time (which was generally the Nike Pegasus or Nike Zoom Kennedy XC, depending on whether we're talking about trainers or spikes) on trail runs and trail races. As far as I was concerned, trail shoes were just the heavier, stiffer, and more bulked-up version of road shoes. I'm not really an ounce counter, especially when it comes to trainers, but stiffer is really not my thing. Then, in 2007, I walked into a store and saw the New Balance 790, a light, flexible, and low-slung trail racer. I had to have it. The 790 served me well...they got me through 38 miles of the Leadville Trail 100 (as a pacer...and yes, those bad boys stood up well to Hope Pass), 45 miles as part of a relay team for 24 Hours of Boulder (to be fair, my body didn't handle that one as well as I might have liked), numerous shorter trail races, two years of working as a counselor at a high school XC camp, and more trail tempo runs than I can count. Unfortunately, no shoe lasts forever, and by the time I finally decided it was time to replace them, New Balance had discontinued the 790. What's a roadie who occasionally pretends to run trails to do? Enter the New Balance WT10 (women's MT10, also called the Minimus Trail or Minimus 10 Trail).
The MT10/WT10 (which from now on will just be referred to as the MT10) is New Balance's minimal trail shoe. This shoe is not to be confused with the even more stripped down MT00/WT00 Minimus Zero Trail, the slightly more rugged MT110/WT110 trail racing flats, or the MT20/WT20 Minimus Trail (dude, New Balance, NAMES!). It weighs in at 7.1oz for a men's size 9 and 6.1oz for a women's size 8. It has a stack height of 15/11 for an H-delt of 4mm. Running Warehouse describes the MT10 as follows:
First things first: please understand that I'm much more of a road runner than a trail runner. There's a reason I go through a pair of road shoes per month, yet am just now replacing my trail shoes from 2007. Sure, the 790s were well past their due date, and should have been replaced years ago, but let's face it, I'm a roadie at heart (perhaps even a trackie, which is probably worse). Obviously, I tested them on trails, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a roadie's perspective. I'm also not a minimalist, just a regular ol' runner who sometimes finds that shoes marketed as "minimal" fit my needs. So the perspective here is from a shod road runner who sometimes dabbles on trails and occasionally finds minimal shoes that she likes. If you want a real minimalist trail runner's opinion on shoes, you should ask my friend Julie, who wrote my Merrell Lithe Glove guest post and has more experience in both areas than I. That said, on to the review!The MT 10 is a minimum feature, minimal neutral trial shoe designed for daily training and high mileage. The MT 10 has a semi-curved shape.CUSHIONING
- To keep weight down, this shoe contains no additional cushioning technologies.MIDSOLE
- Deconstructed Acteva midsole provides high flexibility and light cushionUPPER
- Open Mesh upper provides soft and flexible feel for a custom fit
- Anti-Microbial treatment on foot bed.OUTSOLE
- Minimal Vibram outsole for lightweight traction and durability.
- NL-1 is a running-specific last with a standard heel width, a wide forefoot, and a low toe-box height.
|New Balance MT10 has a roomy toebox, a strap over the metatarsal heads to keep your foot in place, and overlays over the midfoot to provide a small amount of support|
The fit of the MT10 is very different from shoes I've worn in the past. The upper is snug through the midfoot, providing a small amount of support due to the overlays (emphasis on small), while the toebox is exceedingly roomy, high-volume, and free-feeling. However, despite the wide and tall toebox, the MT10 has a strap over the metatarsal heads, preventing the foot from sliding around and keeping the forefoot from becoming too sloppy. This is pretty important when running trails, as you don't want your foot sliding around when you're attempting to navigate your way around rocks and roots. (Honestly, it's pretty important no matter where you run, but it's doubly important on trails). I do wish that the forefoot was a little narrower, but since it was intended for minimalists who like shoes that allow room for toe-splay rather than people like me who like glove-like flats, I can understand why it's shaped the way it is. I've heard of some people having problems with the strap being overly constricting, so if you have wide feet, try these on before you buy them, though I personally had no issues with this feature. It also has a pretty low-volume instep, so people with high arches and/or high insteps will also want to try these on before buying them. I absolutely cannot lace these shoes tightly because the laces dig into the top of my instep, and I feel like if my instep was much higher, I wouldn't be able to wear them at all.
|Upper of the New Balance MT10|
|New Balance MT10 has a liner that seems to be intended to be worn sockless|
There are actually two types of upper material present on the MT10: a stretchy mesh in the forefoot and a slightly more structured mesh through the midfoot and rearfoot. Both are incredibly comfortable. If the old Nike Free (not sure what the new Nike Free is like) and one of those aqua sock water shoes had some wild and kinky shoe sex, the result would be the MT10's upper. The inside is pretty seamless and the footbed (nonremoveable) is made of a soft suede-like material, leading me to believe that these are meant to be worn sockless. I could wear these as bedroom slippers. The tongue is attached to the rest of the upper, so there are no issues with the tongue sliding around. Finally, the upper is pretty breathable, which is obviously nice in the warmer months, though it seems like it might be chilly in the winter.
|New Balance MT10 is a very flexible shoe|
|New Balance MT10 also has a lot of lateral flexibility|
The flexibility of the MT10 is through the roof. The forefoot is so flexible that you can flex and extend your toes and watch the sole bend along with them. Lots of lateral flexibility too. I think that technically, the MT00 may be more flexible than the MT10, but there is no way that my foot can bend in a manner that the MT10 isn't able to handle. This results in a very nimble-feeling trail shoe, since it pretty much flexes around rocks and roots. It does, however, lack the little bit of forefoot stiffness that is usually present in racing flats, so overpronators who don't resupinate at toe-off may find it slow-feeling, even if they find that they are able to run in it injury-free.
The MT10 has very, very little in the way of cushioning. I don't notice the lack of cushioning so much on the trail, but it is a pretty firm platform on the road. The flexibility combined with the thin midsole makes for incredibly high groundfeel. I have not worn another shoe with this much groundfeel...not even the Mach 13 comes close. This is great on less technical trails, since you can really tell where you're placing your foot. However, if you do most of your running on more technical trails, you may find that yourself wishing for a bit more protection. There is no rockplate, and the sole has gaps between the lugs where the only thing between your foot and pointy rocks is a very thin layer of midsole. You will feel every rock, every stick, every root, and every hole in this shoe. For those of you who prefer your trails technical, consider the MT110 instead.
|Sculpted arch of the New Balance MT10 doesn't provide much (if any) arch support|
|No real heel counter on the New Balance MT10|
|Sole of the New Balance MT10. The light grey is exposed midsole and doesn't provide much rock protection|
The MT10 uses a Vibram rubber sole. Those of you who have spent time rock climbing or hiking know that Vibram makes more than funny-looking toe shoes, and you've probably used Vibram-soled shoes before, so you likely know that it's pretty sticky stuff. Unsurprisingly, the MT10 does a great job with traction on rocks and wet pavement. Because of the configuration of the lugs, they're not the greatest mud shoes, but good mud shoes are rarely good choices for hardpack and asphalt, so you do need to accept that you'll have to compromise somewhere. Additionally, as stated before, the lack of a rockplate and the exposed midsole between the lugs does not provide much protection from rocks.
I have heard some people mention that the MT10 isn't all that great on the asphalt, but I've found it to actually be a pretty decent road shoe. As mentioned previously, it is a very firm ride, but the circular lugs are non-intrusive and it's not nearly as bumpy a ride as some of the more rugged trail shoes. If you're only going to use it on the road, there are certainly better choices (including others in the New Balance Minimus collection and many other shoes that I've reviewed on this blog), but if you're looking for a shoe that can do both road and non-technical trails, the MT10 should serve you just fine.
|Comparison of New Balance trail shoes, clockwise from top-left: MT10, MT20, MT00, MT110|
So how does the MT10 differ from the other shoes I mentioned above? The MT10's closest sibling is the MT20, which is a similar shoe that eliminates the sprung toe and the rigid strap over the metatarsal heads. This is a great thing for people with wider feet and people who hate sprung lasts, and apparently a terrible thing for me. I tried the MT20 on in a store a while back, not realizing they were a separate shoe from the MT10, and they fit me like crap. I nearly wrote off the Minimus Trail completely before I realized that it was an entirely different shoe. The MT00 is also a trail shoe in the Minimus line, but it is lighter, uses a thinner upper, has a significantly more stripped-down sole, and is zero-drop. I kind of wanted them too, but I don't have the money to buy a million trail shoes and the MT10 seemed more versatile. The MT110 is the true trail shoe of the bunch, sporting a lugged sole and a rock plate, but seeing as they're the only one of the group that I have not seen to try on in person, I can't tell you much about them.
The New Balance MT10 Minimus 10 Trail retails for $105 and is available on the New Balance website, as well as at select retailers where New Balance products are sold (like at the National Running Center, where they're $90...just sayin'). For sizing, I had to go a half-size up for length, though keep in mind that the toebox is very wide.
Full disclosure: Nothing to disclose because I bought these myself. The opinions expressed in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinions of New Balance or anyone else.