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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > New Balance Trail Runner 1110 > Test Report by Andre Corterier

New Balance MT 1110 Trail Running Shoes

Test Report by André Corterier
Initial Report 16 April 2008
Field Report 12 June 2008
Long Term Report 6 August 2008

New Balance MT 1110 Trail Running Shoe (image by New Balance) Personal Biographical Information:
Name: André Corterier
Gender: M
Age: 36
Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight: 78 kg (172 lb)
Shoe Size: 46 (EU)
Email: andreDOTcorterierATfreenetDOTde
Home: Bonn, Germany

Backpacking Background:
I have started out with backpacking slowly – single-day 24 km (15 mi) jaunts by myself or even shorter hikes in the company of my little daughter. I am getting started on longer hikes, as a lightweight packer and hammock-camper. I’ve begun upgrading my old gear and am now carrying a dry FSO weight (everything carried From the Skin Out except food, fuel and water) of a little less than 9 kg (20 lb) for three-season camping.

Soles of NB MT 1110 (image by New Balance)
Product Information:
Year of manufacture: 2007 ?
Manufacturer: New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc.
MSRP: not listed on website
Shoe Size: 12 US, 46.5 EU, 11.5 UK, 30 cm - Width: D

listed weight (unknown size): 385 g / 13.5 oz (sic)
measured weight (size 12 D):
396 g / 14.0 oz (right shoe),
407 g / 14.4 oz (left shoe),
803 g / 28.3 oz total

The NB website blurb describes this shoe as "An off road trainer designed to provide cushioning and stability. Featuring a waterproof and highling [sic] breathable GORE-TEX® XCR® lining." There's some more marketing hyperbole on the site, but the shoe seems to speak for itself.

Initial Impression:
The shoe has a silvery-grey appearance due to the mesh which covers most of it. It's more grey than it's silver, for which I'm happy - I go for subdued colours in my hiking wear. There's an orangeish undertone due to the orange surface underneath the mesh along with a large orange "N" on the outside of each shoe, but I don't feel that they subtract too much from its appearance. My wife's verdict (who studied fashion design before becoming a lawyer, writer and artist) was that they are "very good looking shoes". Phew. That'll make getting all those test miles in go so much smoother...

The laces are odd in that their diameter varies, repeatedly constricting and expanding by a few mm (small fraction of an inch). I hope to be able to take a decent picture of them later, when I am again in possession of a functioning camera. For now one might consider them reminiscent of a sine-wave or an earthworm in locomotion, depending on whether one feels more inclined towards physics or biology.

There's a lot of stuff written on the shoes, which has had me shake my head for a while. For example, it says "toe protect" on - well, the rubber toe protection strip. I wonder who decided to put that writing there, and why. It also says "OFF ROAD" on the heel of these shoes which, given their rather aggressive tread, I hadn't assumed needed pointing out. But at least these and other superfluous writings on the shoe ("GORE-TEX®", "ABZORB FL", "BIOSHIELD", "ROCKSTOP 2") are relatively subdued - the shoes don't look like a race car covered with promo stickers.

The shoes are pretty much what I expected from the website - except that I hadn't believed they'd actually turn out that light in my size.

The shoes fit well. Snugly so, which I found a little surprising. I wear size 46 EU shoes here and have worn a number of size 11 US shoes bought both here in Germany and in the USA. At a listed 12 US / 46.5 EU I expected a bit more room in them. I like a bit of room in my hiking shoes for bloated feet at the end of a long day of hard hiking and/or to allow for thick socks. Nevertheless the shoes fit well on my feet in standard hiking socks with just a bit of wriggle room. I'll be experimenting with various socks in these shoes, but as the temperatures are now above freezing around here with spring hitting its stride, I doubt that lack of space due to layering socks will become an issue.

The soles are noticeably harder than I'm used to from the ones on my standard (non-trail) running shoes. I wonder in how much this will be an issue. Part of the reason I'm hiking in running shoes is that their comfort has had me laughing at people carrying "camp shoes" around. I hope I'll be able to maintain that track record with these shoes.

I find it odd that the right and left shoes have such a markedly different weight. I checked whether they are indeed both the same size (they are) and that there aren't any tags or similar things still attached to the left (there are not). Maybe roughly 3% isn't all that much.

I find it much more important that even my left foot is now burdened down by about 10 % less than it used to - in a waterproof shoe to boot! (Ahem.) Rain and cold (and snow) used to be the few remaining issues which prevented me from considering my running shoes the cure-all for foot related problems in any and all hiking situations. I wonder how much further these will allow me to push that envelope. At any rate these are really lightweight and I'm really stoked about that. Having progressed a bit on my way towards lightweight hiking, my shoes (together) were the heaviest item I had on my packlist. No more! Cool.

Test Plan:
Well, I'll be testing the shoes dayhiking, trail running and backpacking in the very varied weather we're currently having. I've resolved to run short distances more regularly to maintain my shape between my longer hiking excursions, and have a number of off-track routes available for that purpose, which should allow me to report on the soles' grip. I'll mostly be hiking with a small pack, but will go for a few dayhikes (maybe even an overnighter towards the end of the testing period) with my smaller daughter in a child carrier, so should be able to report on the shoes' comfort range vis-ŕ-vis load. Spring and in particular April tends to serve rain and sunshine in rapid succession, often flip-flopping between the two several times a day. So I'll be interested to find out: Is there a new balance (ahem) between protection from outside moisture and allowing internally generated moisture to escape? The weather is perfect right now for such an inquiry, and I shall sally forth forthwith.

Field Report:

12 June 2008

Field Experience:
I've worn these shoes roughly every other day during the Field Report phase. Of course, this has included going to work in them (we dress upmarket casual and they still look good enough for that), shopping around town, etc. More germane to this test has been the use as running shoes (for a guesstimated total of only 30 km/20 mi) and hiking shoes. I've hiked in them for several dayhikes around the area I live in and a three-day/two-night excursion in the German-Luxembourg Nature preserve. They've seen some rain (though no long exposures) and puddles, and I've worn no pack, a light pack or an occupied child carrier with additional provisions (max weight at a carefully checked 18 kg/40 lb). Temps have been between 10 C (50 F) and 26 C (80 F) - in the shade, though I'm sure I've been warmer while hiking in sunshine.

Heading out for a heat/humidity stress test Comfort:
The shoes have been pretty comfortable so far. They are not as blissfully comfortable as my (heavier, non-waterproof) pair of running shoes that I used to run and hike in, but they also do not make me wish for camp shoes at the end of a long day. When hiking most of the day in these shoes with a loaded child carrier on my back, the idea of slipping into a different pair of shoes whose only purpose is to provide comfort no longer seemed preposterous - but the idea of carrying the weight of a second pair of shoes for that purpose still did.

I had initial problems with the ankle bone of my right foot pressing against the upper outside rim of the right shoe. This was quite noticeable for a while and even had me considering the option of inserts for a while - it seemed as though raising my foot by a few mm (a small fraction of an inch) would do away with the problem nicely (and maybe even provide even more comfort for the soles of my feet). I should say that this was a "felt" inconvenience only, I checked the skin on my ankle bone often and there was never any visible irritation. Plus I'm testing these shoes as they are, so I continued to wear them as they came, and though the problem (as much as it was, which is little) persisted for a while, it eventually went away. It's gone now. There isn't even a slight discomfort at the very beginning or end of a trip left which would remind me of it - it's just that I've taken notes as the test progresses. I have no idea whether the shoe's rim relaxed under the pressure of my ankle bone or my ankle bone got used to the pressure or a bit of both - but the shoes are now equally comfortable and fit without any pressure spots or similar issues.

The shoes have also been comfortable when running in them. I've had a problem with one of my knees for a while (a colleague of mine, in a self-defense course I was teaching, defended herself quite well) which meant that I've run less in them than I would have liked. Nevertheless, I've taken them for my standard evening spin of roughly 5K (3.1 mi) a few times. It's largely blacktop with some gravel and grass/dirt surface thrown in for variety, which I tend to cover in roughly half an hour. They were comfortable to run in, no problems. I also (once) did my fenceline run with it, which goes uphill for a bit, circles the German Ministry of Defence and goes back down to our house. That run has a good bit of inclination and consists mostly of a grassy dirt path, gravelled in some places, swampy (after a rain) in others. Again, the shoes were comfortable to run in under all of these conditions. I intend to run in them more regularly during the Long Term testing phase now that my knee is okay again, but do not expect any issues relating to the shoes.

On our long week-end excursion I spent a lot of time in these shoes, with a lot of weight on my back. Nevertheless my feet did not ache in the evening, nor was I loath to put them back on for another day the next morning. Even better, I discovered that they have a snooze function as well: When a co-hiker began snoring loudly at the other end of the half-open shelter in which we spent the first night, I launched a shoe at him. The balance of the New Balance MT 1110s is such that I managed a clean, flat trajectory which impacted the designated target area with just enough force to cause the recipient to turn over, thereby snoring less loudly and allowing me to go back to sleep. Wonderful.

The shoes have remained waterproof throughout the field test period. They've been exposed to light rain a few times and I've made a point out of stepping into every puddle I came across while wearing them. No water has come in. On my fenceline run it had recently rained a lot, so the swampy section was very swampy indeed (the reason I'd chosen that track). I created a lot of squelching sounds as I ran through that and splashed a lot of water about. For a while I thought that water was getting in, because my feet felt cold. Apparently that was only the cooling sensation of immersing the (waterproof) shoe in water. For as I ran on, the squelching sounds stopped the moment the track became dry again. This was very welcome - I'm used to my shoes continuing to make squelching sounds until I take them off at home!

Checking the shoes and my socks in the middle of that run proved that while some splashed water had entered the shoe by running down my legs, no water had come in through any other part of the shoes.

Moisture Vapour Permeability:
Checking the shoes again at home also showed that this water had apparently been passed through the membrane of the shoes. While my socks were sweaty, they were not sodden to the degree I would have expected them to be if the swamp water had not been able to evaporate from them.

I've known for a while that my choice of socks can make a large difference for how my feet fare in my shoes. With these (waterproof) shoes I have found that difference to be amplified over my old pair of (non-waterproof) running shoes. Cotton tennis socks are *bad*. In anything more strenuous than a casual stroll, my feet get - and remain - sweaty. I thought for a while that the vapour transmission of these shoes was pretty low even with other socks, until I realized that the ones I was wearing also had a high cotton content. Apparently the cotton is so reluctant to let go of the moisture, that what little inhibition to evaporation the membrane provided was enough to create a very damp climate inside.

There was a marked difference to this when wearing wool/synthetic blend hiking socks and an even larger difference in thin synthetic socks. Wearing the latter, I was able to walk around in hilly country all day with a loaded child carrier on my back in temperatures up to 26 C (80 F) and medium to high humidity without my feet feeling sweaty. To be sure, the socks were quite damp when I took off my shoes for a quick dip in a river, but they weren't, nor had they ever felt, outright wet.

I am very happy with this finding. I was worried about my track record regarding blisters etc. (haven't had any in years). Enough so, in fact, that I took a pack of preventive blister patches with me, a precaution I had snobbishly spurned in the past. They came in handy for my daughter, so I'll continue to have some along, but am no longer worried I might need them myself.

The strongest "sweat" exposure these shoes have had was probably one day on which I helped a friend move - from a fourth-floor apartment to a third-floor apartment, both without elevators. It was quite warm (mid-twenties C - around 80 F) and medium humidity - and I spent several hours carrying weights up and down steep stairs. I used thin synthetic ("marathon") socks from a sports store in them and again found my feet and socks moist, but not wet after all that exertion (I had sweat dripping off my brow for much of that day). I am quite impressed by that and beginning to wonder whether these shoes might even be wearable over a longer excursion on which one doesn't expect rain at all.

I've found the grip of these shoes phenomenal. When instructing the kids from our club in Martial Arts (and, occasionally, outdoorish pursuits), I tend to be painfully aware that being in one's late teens or early twens conveys certain unfair physical advantages. Nevertheless, carrying a Y-chromosome handicap, a certain competitiveness remains. The "kids" from our club look up to us due to higher ranks, and while we keep telling them that belts mean nothing, we don't like being knocked off our pedestals either. So I was very happy to discover during some uphill sprints (warm-up) that these shoes really do grip very well. We usually practice indoors and barefoot, but the school gym in which we do was closed so we met outside in what is essentially a large playground. The task was to run up the hill and come down the slides, three times. Of course everybody wanted to be up the hill first. When trying to go for extra speed uphill, I tend to rely on a bit of extra oomph from the forefoot. Apparently so did the young guys on my left and right, whom I could hear slipping just a bit when visibly trying to accelerate. The NB MT 1110s had just enough grip to let me utilize that extra bit of acceleration which the grassy slope denied to my competitors and allowed me to arrive first and virtually unchallenged. Strong legs had nothing to do with it. I hope they don't read this...

The grip has in fact been better than I liked for a little while. After having received the above-mentioned kick in the knee from the side, my knee was quite averse to torsional loading. It was only during this time that I realized that I often lift only the heel of my foot and turn on the ball of my foot. This requires the ball of the foot to slide over the ground. This was not noticeable in other shoes, but these shoes seemed to grip the ground so well that I turned corners with several small steps for a while. Now that my knee is apparently back to normal, I no longer have issues with the shoes' gripping strength and very much appreciate the sure footing they provide.

SureLaces Laces:
I had meant to take a picture of my own (as though the ones in the other test reports weren't good enough) of the Sure Lace system - the odd-looking variable-diameter laces which come with these shoes. So here it is. All I want to know about them is - where can I get more of them? I usually tie my shoe laces quite tightly and do not often have to retie them. Nevertheless, my experience with other shoes has been that I usually have to retie them exactly once on any given day - occasionally more often, but usually exactly once (for each time that I put them on).

In the two months that I've been wearing these shoes, I've had to retie them exactly once. I was quite surprised to find them slipping on that one day, as I had already begun telling everyone who wanted to hear about it (and possibly a few who didn't) how cool these laces are. I have no idea what caused them to slip that day, but to my mind their track record remains impressive nonetheless.

They've also proven to be quite robust. I have twice caught them on the mudguard of my bicycle. I've torn laces in doing so before, so was quite worried when I checked these. The abrasion they suffered is so minuscule that it does not show up on the picture I took - it is lost in the slight but universal fuzzying of the laces' surface. The latter will likely help the laces hold even better, but may also indicate an abrasion problem. I'll be looking out for that during the remainder of the test period.

Long Term Report:

07 August 2008

Field Experience:
The Long Term testing phase happened to fall entirely in between overnight backpacking trips, but I've been dayhiking extensively with these shoes. My pack load varied from 5 kg (11 lb) for a fast, easy solo hike to just over 22 kg (50 lb) of an occupied child carrier with provisions (my younger daughter now weighs 15 kg / 33 lb naked, but I have to carry her clothed). Weather has seen some rain and a lot of sun, temperatures have been going up - generally in the 20 to 30+ C (70 to 90 F) range. I have also jogged some 80-90 km (50-odd mi) in these, in about equal parts blacktop and offroad conditions (I run over roads to get to the trails).

Comfortable Temperature Range:
I have determined that I can comfortably wear and be active in these shoes to an upper temperature range of about 30 C (86 F) - given less than high humidity and wearing my thinnest pair of synthetic socks. Higher humidity or thicker socks can reduce this to the mid-20s C (upper 70s F) for either one, down to just over 20 C (70 F) if combined.

I find this to be one significant limitation on the overall usefulness of these shoes. It is also, I have to say, the only one I've found. It's a limitation in that I would not choose these shoes for trips where I'm reasonably certain it'll be warm and also reasonably certain that it won't rain - or in cases of longer trips, that rain will be a very minor issue overall. The dayhike on Fehmarn comes to mind. The weather forecast was a clear day with sun, sun, sun - who in his right mind would choose to go for a long, fast hike in shoes with a waterproof membrane on a day like that?

Well, I did, and sure enough - about halfway through the hike my feet began to burn. This is an itchy, hot sensation now familiar from an earlier, weeklong hike which saw me crossing an open plateau in blistering heat. The conditions on Fehmarn weren't as hot (mid-twenties C, low seventies F), but there was no escaping the sun all day and the sandy ground heated up over the course of the day. I was also not wearing my thinnest pair of socks (though they were thin nonetheless). So I spent some time over noon and several times throughout the afternoon airing out my feet, trying to cool them down, as well as walking in beach shoes or barefoot. None of which really helped to alleviate the problem much. But this is familiar to me from the past - the primary thing seems to be to avoid overheating my feet in the first place. No big surprise there.

So in the future the NB MT 1110s won't be my first choice in hot, dry circumstances. But then I assume they weren't given a waterproof membrane in order to make them anyone's first choice in dry surroundings.

Contact Spot Abrasion Running:
I've been able to mostly maintain the sort of running I had meant to do over the summer, so have a somewhat broader base upon which to rest my judgement. It remains basically unchanged from my earlier statements in the Field Report.

I've run on blacktop, beaten singletrack paths, meadows, gravel, wood duff, sand beach and loamy soil. I've had serious slopes on paths and loamy soil, while the other surfaces were mostly flat - none more so than the beach. In each of these circumstances the shoes have given good grip and made me feel secure about my footing. Some of these circumstances I'd say were somewhat challenging, and the shoes rose to the challenge.

I was particularly glad about these shoes in respect to a set of repeat uphill sprints that I've tried out and will want to do at least once a week for a while longer. I run up a steep (to my mind - and calves) loamy slope in the woods and return via a less steeply graded curve to the bottom of the hill. I try to catch my breath again on the slow jog downhill and then sprint up again. In these circumstances, having shoes that were *light* on my foot and gave good uphill traction (a feature I remarked upon already in my Field Report) was excellent.

Another feature I appreciated is that the NB MT 1110s are tough where they need to be - particularly where I am concerned. My feet touch each other when I run. Even when I walk, apparently. I never notice this, but several pairs of hiking and running shoes I've had bear silent witness to the friction generated when one foot slides past the other in passing. The NB MT 1110s have taken this kind of abuse, ahem, in stride.

While I have a pair of dedicated running shoes that is more comfortable to run in, they actually weigh more and aren't waterproof. And I've never had reason to complain about any lack of comfort in these. My feet feel okay, even after a *long* run (okay, for me that's anything approaching 10K - say anything over 5 mi). So it's just that I know my pace could feel even more comfortably soft. Maybe it's me that's getting soft.

Water Resistance:
I'm told waterproof shoes sometimes suffer delamination or similarly-called technical problems which mean that they stop being waterproof when they've been worn for a while. No such problem with the pair of New Balance's MT 1110 I was testing (I just checked). They've held off rain, whether it was a sprinkle or a downpour, and didn't have any problems with saltwater either. In fact, briefly submerging my shod foot in saltwater to well above the ankle (without gaiters) when jumping to recover a hat blown off my head, did not allow much water in (though a bit did get in). I upended my shoes a little later, letting out the water. The saltwater did not appear to prevent permeation of the remaining moisture through the membrane.

Again, while I've walked a lot more in these shoes since my Field Report, my verdict is unchanged. These are good, lightweight and waterproof shoes which were perfect for light hiking, particularly in changeable weather. We've had a lot of that in Spring and will have it again in Fall (and even Winter, as serious winters appear to be a thing of the past) and I'll be happy to have these shoes.

Again, there are running shoes out there (and even in my closet) which are even more comfortable to walk on. Yet even after long days of lugging a heavy child carrier up and down hills, my feet didn't hurt and they felt fine again the next morning. So I'm not complaining. Really.

These are easily the best all-weather hiking shoes I've worn, and I guess I'll be looking for similar shoes without a membrane for summer.

Soles after four months Durability:
A more general note on durability - the shoes have held up well. Now I don't expect shoes to break down after four months of regular use - I no longer buy those kinds of shoes. And these do *not* still look like new. But the wear I see, from the minor abrasion of the sole's profile at heel and forefoot over the previously mentioned slight abrasion at the contact spot to the minor ruffling of the SureLaces, makes me say that these shoes appear to, ahem, wear well.

I particularly like the fact that the thick, stiffened parts of the outside of the shoes around the sole seem to have covered all of those areas which, at least in my use, were particularly abrasion prone. This has left nary a mark on the less rugged looking top surface of the shoes.

Given this track record, I look forward to running and hiking a lot more miles (even more kilometers) in these shoes and would hazard a guess that should the time come to retire these, I'll look for another pair of these to replace them.

PROS: Rugged. Lightweight. Waterproof. Good Grip. Good Looks.
CONS: Can overheat in summer. Not the thickest cushioning around.

This ends my test report on the New Balance MT 1110 trail running shoes. I'd like to thank New Balance and for the opportunity to test them.

Read more reviews of New Balance gear
Read more gear reviews by Andre Corterier

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