Friday, December 30, 2011
The MT110 took some two years to develop, and is about to be released in a matter of days. The same team that developed the Minimus put in a ton of time and energy into this shoe, so to critique it, you have to first appreciate what their goals were and what they've achieved. I’ve run in mine for some two months and compared my evolving experiences with the creators and various reviews and found a need to help field questions from friends who loved the MT100/101 and what the 110 is all about.
-It grips everything, (Bear Canyon, Mt. Baldy)
The success of the MT100/101 gave New Balance the go ahead to plan out more specific minimalist shoes (the MT10 Minimus, MT00 Minimus Zero, MT1010 Minimus Amp). The MT110 is the genuine mountain trail racer for efficient forefoot strikers. The main athlete input came from Anton Krupicka and Erik Skaggs, and their training and racing styles are evident throughout the design. Both Tony and Erik’s demands for minimal drop (while still being practical), seamless fit, exceptional grip, precise tactile terrain feel, and a curved racing last are achieved throughout the design. The shoe’s thoroughly designed three layer upper (mesh, mesh, synthetic leather), aggressive soft rubber tread, curved Minimus racing last, and snug Japanese-inspired fit (narrow heel, snug arch, wide, low forefoot) perform exceptionally well on steep technical mountain trails similar to Tony and Erik’s training grounds (Green Mountain and Southern Oregon), and my Hardrock training home, 10,064 Mt. Baldy in the San Gabes.
This shoe meets these runners demands better than any other shoe to date, and in doing so, sheds some of the fringe benefits of the MT100/101. Similar to how the Minimus (MT10) lost the rock plate to become more flexible and barefoot-like, the 110 does away with the foam bevels on each side of the midfoot and the 8mm drop to help free the ankle and give improved trail feel for the forefoot runner (which both athletes are). When I first ran in it the 110 on my weekday training grounds at Crystal Cove, my midfoot felt exposed on the rough sandstone fireroad terrain compared to my experiences the MT101. With a little more barefoot strengthening runs in soft sand, my arches were able to run the sandstone in an efficient forefoot striking manner without any pain. This has actually improved my form taking the stress of the lateral midfoot striking (pronation) off my knees.
The benefits became even more apparent as I began training at Mt. Baldy on technical singletrack trails with gains of around 1000ft/mile+. The tread grips exceptionally well on climbs and allows the runner to push horizontally backwards rather than vertically down into the ground to maintain grip as I experienced in the 100/101. This means that my climbing/hiking stride has become more efficient, and allowed me to maintain consistent effort over varying terrain undulations resulting in faster times. Though being fast on ascents in a mountain race is very important, it doesn’t matter if you can’t get down quickly as well.
-Mt. Baldy offers ample terrain options for wear testing
On the downhill, the intense grip right out of the box was a little much as I usually did a little more sliding running downhill in the 100/101. On top of the grippy sole, the upper grips the foot so well (similar to the Minimus but more seamless) that the foot moves exactly as the sole does, which can actually be quite alarming at first. But, as the tread broke in, so did my stride and I developed a faster forefoot “tip-toe-turnover” to be more biomechanically efficient and in control with my stride. With the perspective of the 110 fresh in my mind, I now think of the 101 as allowing a wider variety of downhill running techniques from gradual heel strikeage to midfoot cupping and pronating. As far as the 110 goes, hard heel striking cannot be sustained as there is just not nearly as much cushion or drop as the 101.
-On the downhill, the 101 allowed more pronation (photo: Tyler Olsen)
Though some may consider heel striking on a downhill to be the fastest way down, my cautious tip-toeing has relaxed as I’ve gotten more comfortable in the shoe. I’ve come to realize that the curved racing last (which in my opinion allows for the fastest turnover in a true trail shoe) is my friend and fast, technical “super-hero” downhills are the norm in this shoe. I largely attribute this because impact to toe off time is so absurdly fast. This brings me to my last point about what this shoe really is.
The efficient runner will likely love to do all their running in this shoe; it stays out of the way of the foot, fits seamlessly, and gives impeccable grip and fit to make every single run feel special. The flipside is less efficient runners won’t be able to comfortably run slow in this shoe. This is perfectly fine as the yet to be released MT1010 (July 2012) features nubs all over the shoe for runners of all speeds and efficiencies. However the 110 was not designed with this concern in mind. This allowed for a show to be developed that is in my mind it is the fastest ultra trail shoe on the market for the minimalist runner. I’m really grateful for this shoe for Hardrock, and am sure a lot of technology in this shoe will trickle down through other models and companies over the next few years.
The original MT100 challenged the traditional trail runner to try something new and adapt to use it efficiently. The MT110 is the same as competitive minimalist runners will have a unique new way to experience the most demanding trails.
-Not too bad of a wear pattern for 200+ miles