Barefoot Shoes

New Balance MT 110 Winter Boot Review

I should start off by admitting that I avoided trails for a while there. Especially organized single-track trail runs, when the fire of competition pushes me to run harder than I might normally. My first real running injury was on the Philosopher’s Way…

I should start off by admitting that I avoided trails for a while there. Especially organized single-track trail runs, when the fire of competition pushes me to run harder than I might normally. My first real running injury was on the Philosopher’s Way 15k almost two years ago, and I’ve shied away from longer trail runs ever since. A lot has happened since then. I’ve learned more about good running style and adjusted accordingly, shifting away from the lumbering heel-striking that this former defensive lineman had been doing for decades. I’ve come to realize that my poor running form was equally if not more at fault for my destroyed left knee as were the roots, rocks, twists, and turns of that 9+ mile trail run. But still, it’s a mental thing that no amount of cold, serious intellectual consideration can undo on its own. I’d have to actually get out there and battle those fears. The lack of more rugged minimalist-style trail shoes makes for an easy excuse, though. Especially when it’s cold, wet, dark, and icy out. By the very nature of minimalist running, especially trails can seem out of the question for some runners. Add in extreme weather and it becomes even more unlikely. So when the New Balance MT 110 winter-specific boots arrived on my doorstep I was curious. Something had to go wrong with these, I just knew it. They were either going to be too built-up or not protective enough. Read on to see what, if anything, went wrong — and what went oh so right.

What you get

As I just mentioned, I’ve been quick to take any reason to stay off twisty trails. Mud, sleet, rain, snow — whatever. In other words, wintertime always offers me an excuse. So what’s the first thing I notice after unboxing these shoes? The line “NOW YOU HAVE ONE LESS EXCUSE” printed on the insole. Well played, New Balance. Well played. Okay then, fine. I’ll go running. On a trail even. And in awful conditions. Seriously, I will. …but first, let me take some pictures and tell you a bit more about these bad boys. From the outset you can see that these shoes aren’t messing around. When I received the box in the mail I was certain that they’d actually sent me two different pairs of shoes to review. Maybe three. When I opened the outer box and saw only one shoebox inside I actually laughed. No way could this be minimalist. No way could it be anything but a monster of a shoe. To some degree I was right on both counts. In NB’s own words:
The New Balance 110 trail running shoe sets a new precedent in lightweight trail racing, making such a powerful impression that it has been named “Best Minimalist” in the TrailRunner Editor’s Choice awards. Built in close collaboration with leaders in the sport, this minimalistic trail runner is built to deliver the optimal race day experience. A great combination of tried and tested features with new performance attributes will ensure that this highly anticipated update to the 101 delivers a smooth and responsive ride on any trail.
For starters, this shoe definitely isn’t going to be as minimalist as some would prefer. It’s not zero drop, the nugs are a bit thick, and well, here’re the measures:
9.1 oz. 14mm-18mm (toe-heel) stack height 4mm heel-to-toe drop A “stability shank embedded into midsole supports the arch and helps create a smoother gait” — whatever that actually means
Wait, don’t go yet. You’re right — these aren’t thin sheets of rubber and twine a la huaraches. But let’s face it, not all of us are able to run Leadville in Luna Leadvilles. I love all my huaraches but I’m not anywhere near hardcore trail-ready with them just yet, much less in bad wintry conditions. Here in the southeast US, though, we fortunately haven’t had to worry about bad wintry conditions. Things have been mild this year. Good for me generally, bad for testing these shoes. So when we finally got our single night of snow so far this season, I jumped on it first thing in the morning. Went out tromping through the snow and mud.

What works

The traction on these is great. I was worried about the size of the nugs being smaller than other trail shoes I’ve had, but they felt just right for the trails I ran on. Specifically I worried about what many trail runners worry about: would I be able to feel too much pressure from the individual nugs. Those worries were quickly dispelled. The pattern on the sole is consistent all over, and the nugs are spaced just right. I can confidently say that out of the trail shoes I’ve owned thus far the tread on the MT110s feels most like a flat shoe while running. All without losing traction. They’re also quite warm — a quality I attribute to the waterproof upper trapping heat in. There’s no thick insulation. A good thing, that. The gaiter does double duty of keeping water out and heat in. Minimizes additional weight, too. That waterproof aspect is the central characteristic. Well done on it. I’ve been wearing airy minimalist shoes so much that I’d gotten used to getting my feet wet relatively easily. It was nice to end a long run without wet toes for a change.

What doesn’t

Despite the fact that this is a mostly positive review, I already know that many Birthday Shoes readers have their doubts about these shoes. Stack height is too high, drop is too steep. But from the other side, these are definitely not your average padded shoes. On one of my tests I made a point to take a short run in the 110 boot after running a couple of miles in regular sneakers. On that occasion I felt the difference more sharply. All things considered, these are pretty darn light and flexible. BUT STILL. 14-18mm? 4mm drop? It could be reasonably argued that a review of these shoes doesn’t belong on this particular site, whatever awards for minimalism it wins. I personally think that they do, but the purists may not agree. Aside from that, the gaiter portion takes some getting used to if you’ve never worn anything like it. But if you can get past that, you’re golden. But really for your average runner the main negative might be the price. At $125, only the northernmost outdoorsy runners are going to find these worthwhile. (Note: at least one retailer has them on sale at the moment for $93.)

Final thoughts

Most of my criticisms spring forth from the fact that this is a minimalist shoe site and so any review is going to skew heavily from this perspective. Additionally, my enthusiasm may seemed dampened by the fact that someone like me — a runner in the southeastern US — will rarely need a pair of shoes quite like this. None of that is to say that they aren’t great shoes — they are. They’re sturdy, they do exactly what they say they’re going to do, they pack the maximum amount of protection that I imagine is possible for something even semi-minimalist, and they’re built with the quality most people expect out of New Balance. But they’re definitely specialty niche shoes, which makes it worth trying to find a pair in the stores to try on and mull over before buying. And the more minimalist-inclined you are, the more carefully you may want to mull.

By Greg

Greg is a runner, CrossFitter, trainer, and self-proclaimed geek. He also blogs on [url=]intellectual engagement, fitness, nutrition, and more at[/url] and [url=]writes fiction over at[/url].

12 replies on “New Balance MT 110 Winter Boot Review”

Looks interesting for me here in Québec…i’m searching for the best alternative for walking and running in our rought winter here in Canada. The on ly thing i’m not sure is if they are warm enought?

Do the size and width is similar to the MT20?

Do you have other option of minimalist winter shoes or boots? I know that Vivo Barefoot have some but they are very expensive…there’s also some all weather models from skechers with their Go line and from Saucony with the Hattori but not made for cold weather i guess.

Thanks for the review and keep the good work!

Thanks for the nice review. I tend to agree with most of what you wrote about the MT110W. I understand your caution in dealing with those of us that are more hard core minimalists. However, let me put you at ease and drop this little treat: In my opinion the MT110W is a better winter time running shoe than the VFF Lontra. There you go, and yes I did just type that. I own both and I actually prefer the MT110W over the Lontra.

I picked up a pair of these too. I live in Vermont, and I can’t stand running on a treadmill. We have serious winters up here, so running outside, especially on trails takes planning. So far they’ve worked pretty well. Has taken some getting used to all the padding, but the thing that bothers me most is actually the lack of traction. On bare dirt and roads, it’s fine, but in actual snow they’re not quite aggressive enough. I think they’ll be perfect for our long “mud season” come spring time though. Guess we’ll have to see.

@Will – Thanks for the extra note about traction issues. I was hoping that someone in more snowy conditions would fill in any holes in my review!

@Jeepman – I don’t think you’re the only one with that opinion. I’ve heard some rumblings about extreme stiffness and poor traction in the Lontra.

@ugo – I’m pretty tall and have poor circulation in my extremities as a result, so my feet tend to get really cold really quickly. But that didn’t happen with MT110W. My feet stayed warm and dry the whole time.

I’ve not tried a pair of MT20s, so I can’t comment on that. But these boots were based on the original MT110s, so if you can find a pair of those in the store it’s a safe bet that the fit will be close to identical. The main difference between that and the boot is the addition of the gaiter.

As far as other options I fortunately don’t have to deal with extreme weather all that often so my experience there is somewhat limited. The main other option that I’ve had my eye on is the Merrell Pulse Glove. They have a high and low top version. But again, price is a factor. Unfortunately I think that most winter-specific running shoes out there are going to cause sticker shock.

I live in New Brunswick Canada and have a pair of these as well.

In my opinion, they’re the only option for keeping your feet dry and warm in the wintertime. They’re great when running in the wet and slush. Only the back of my calves get wet now.

But they have bad traction on ice, ok traction on fresh snow, and poor traction on packed snow (IE – tire tracks). But really, what regular running shoe has good traction on ice/snow?

All in all, I’m really happy to have these shoes and I plan on using them on the messy days.

@ugo — i used to own a pair of saucony hattori. they are definitely not winter-specific, and they are not waterproof. they are also not as minimal as the stack height might suggest because it’s almost all foam. other shoes of that stack height have some combination of foam and rubber that improves ground feel. they are great shoes for long distance running, but i’ve been happier in more minimal shoes after them.

I’ve been searching for a pair of minimalist kicks for basketball and looks like this could work. The stack would actually make landing slightly more bearable and the 4mm drop isn’t bad when compared to conventional humongous basketball shoes. Greg can I have your thoughts on this as you’ve tested them?

@Phil – Hm, that’s an interesting one. Unless you’re playing primarily outdoors on an icy/snowy court, I’m not sure I’d recommend them for basketball. Your feet will get VERY warm very fast unless it’s pretty cold wherever you’re playing. These shoes have gotten some criticism for not getting enough traction on snow/ice because the nugs are so small, but on the flip side they’re definitely too big for a basketball court.

Honestly if I was to recommend something minimalist for basketball, I’d go with some Inov-8s. Not just because I prefer minimalist, but because I’ve always had a preference for cross-training sort of shoes over basketball shoes whenever I’ve played. (I don’t like a lot of padding or ankle support.) Look for a minimalist pair that has more than the typical smooth sole that many minimalist ones have. Inov-8 has several pairs that have tread that’d probably be good on the court.

There’s a sale on Inov8s over at The Clymb right now. (If you aren’t already signed up, feel free to use my link: Disclosure: I get site credit if you sign up via my link. Or you could sign up using this link and it’ll give the credit to Birthday Shoes:

I have worn multi pairs of new balance minimus trail shoes and wear no socks. Would you typically order a half size up with the 110 assuming at least a thin to medium sock to be worn in winter? Or do they manufacture these taking that into account and suggest ordering your normal size?
Thank you for any feedback

For what its worth–a little belatedly–the sizing is large due to the removal of the inner “sock” from the shoe. so if you wear a size 9.5 in the 110 you will probably go to a size 9 in the gaitered winter version. If not an 8.5 even.
Hope this helps.

I live in Alabama and I injured my left ankle severely in a car accident some years ago. I am always on the lookout for comfortable running/hiking shoes. I was intrigued by these and recently bought a pair. I plan on hiking in the Sipsey forest here in Alabama this weekend to “break them in” and then I am going to New Hampshire and give them a thorough work out. So far, they feel really comfortable (tight/supportive on my ankle) and I am happy with the purchase.

Great shoes. I wear them in the snow and rain in the northeast.
Pros: Weaterproof(ish). Good traction. Warm in the winter. Comfortable. Minimal enough.
Cons: Tight ankle wrap – needs narrow ankles and a tall sock to prevent blisters. Doesn’t breathe well – my feet get too wet inside the shoe after 60 minutes of running. Poor quality – the sole falls away from the fabric after 6 uses. Spent $160 and now they leak and will fall apart soon.
Overall: Great idea. Good design. Poor execution.

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