Last March I ran a tremendous trail ultra in Northern Maryland called the HAT 50k. It’s a grueling 31 miles of single track technical trails, some paved roads, stream crossings, and field crossings. All said a great variety of terrain to put any trail shoe to the test.
I was looking for a more minimal approach in my shoe for this year. I have had some success running roads with more minimal shoes like the Saucony Kinvara, Fastwitch, Brooks Launch and STS 5s so, I wanted to find a more minimal light fast feeling trail shoe. I am friends with Peter Larson online (we actually got a chance to meet at the HAT 50k after corresponding online for two years) and respect his opinion on minimal shoes you should check out his site RunBlogger. I consider him an expert in the field. Pete and I tweeted back and forth about the New Balance MT101s and Pete convinced me to give the MT101 a shot.
I purchased the New Balance MT101s on Zappos knowing if I didn’t like them I could send them right back. When They arrived I held the shoe in my hand and was surprised at how light they felt. They weigh a puny 7.8 oz. I slipped on the stretchy shoe and thought to myself that they felt like a glove but would there be enough midsole to get my feet through 31 miles of tough terrain. I really thought I might be sending them back after my first trail run, after all, I ran across the Rockies in Brooks Cascadias which have a lot of shoe under your foot. The Cascadias felt like tanks compared to these ballet slippers.
I took the shoes for a one mile trail run on the street that night. I was astounded at how good the light shoe felt on the street. The street doesn’t have little jagged rock jutting up. A minimal shoe can feel pretty good on smooth surfaces, it was time to get these kicks on some trails. My first trail run with the New Balance MT101s was a 15 mile run on the trails of Susquehanna State Park where the HAT is held. I was astonished at how nimble and agile I felt in the light shoes. I was having fun cruising the trails and my legs were holding up well. Light shoes equal fast feet. After a 15 mile trail run my feet felt sterling. Fifteen miles is less than 1/2 the distance of the 50k so I still had doubts about a minimal shoe getting me to the finish.
The HAT 50k has loops so you can bring back up gear that is accessible during the race. I brought a back up pair of shoes just in case my dogs were barking at the mid way point. My feet felt superb the whole time and I never had to switch the shoes out. The rock stop did a fairly good job procting the feet from rocks, a couple times I did feel a jab but, I wouldn’t want a stiffer feel a thicker plate would probably add to the shoe. They dried quickly after stream crossings and I never got so much as a hot spot on my feet. At the end of my race my feet felt as good or better than they had at the end of the HAT 50k last year. I would totally recommend these shoes. Running in a minimal trail shoe connected my feet to the ground in a new way, and it is good.
I did make one modification to the shoe after my first 15 miles of trail running. The shoe has a low collar and I did get get some debris in the shoe. I ended up solving the problem with a pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters (one of the ugliest sites out there.) The gaiters are fun and functional, I will add them to all my trail shoes moving forward.
Check out what my friend Peter, aka Runblogger has to say about the New Balance MT101s.