By Tina Dubois
Review of the New Balance 110 Trail Running Shoe – A Transition Trail Shoe for Extreme Trail Terrain
I must admit that this is the first ‘transition’ shoe review for me. I categorize the New Balance (NB) 110 Trail as a transition shoe rather than a minimalist shoe as it has a 4 mm heel rise in addition to numerous other qualities, which will be explained during the review, closer in relation to a conventional shoe rather than a minimalist shoe. However, the purpose of this shoe, described by NB is “a minimalistic trail runner ideal for race day or a long training run… for those runners looking for a minimalistic shoe but aren’t quite ready for a fully barefoot-inspired running experience.” For competitive trail racing, sometimes it might be nice NOT to feel every rock and root in order to maximize speed and long training runs might be more comfortable with less ground feel on extreme trail terrain. There are definitely types of runners who might appreciate this purpose and resulting qualities of the 110. Therefore, this review is written with the purpose of this shoe in mind from the point of view of a minimalist shoe expert.
The 110 interior is a synthetic, sock-like layer with few seams to encourage sockless wear. My test runs in these shoes were too long for me to go sockless but a very thin pair of socks yielded no blisters. As I am used to only wearing minimalist shoes, I find these a little confining, probably due to the lack of flexibility. Although overall I don’t find them that comfortable, if I were to run on an extremely rocky mountainous trail, I might find the lack of flexibility preferable over a minimalist footwear choice.
There is just enough room for my forefoot and toes to splay in the 110 but I find the midfoot area surrounding my arch to be a little narrow. No amount of loosening the laces alleviated this narrowness.
The outsole is designed for rugged trail terrain with lugs to accommodate this purpose. It is also made of sticky rubber for slick conditions. The heel is 4 mm higher than the forefoot so not a true zero drop shoe. It has a relatively low stack height compared to most conventional trail shoes but higher than most minimalist shoes, a feature that makes it fit well in the transition shoe category.
This shoe is not flexible, but it was not designed to be. This shoe is designed for rugged trail terrain, which I define as extremely rocky, and potentially unpleasantly so if wearing a minimalist shoe with good ground feel. This shoe is designed with rigid construction elements including a ‘stability shank’ in the midfoot and ‘Rock Stop ® ’ in the forefoot to protect your feet from feeling sharp rocks and debris.
Each size 8 WT110 weighs 6.5 ounces or 184 grams. For a trail running shoe, this is well within the limits of acceptably lightweight.
Support / Insole
The aforementioned ‘stability shank’ in the midsole absolutely supports the arch to some degree. It is slightly raised as well so if you are used to completely flat shoes, as I am, you will notice the difference. Even for a transition shoe, I don’t feel there is a need for arch support.
There is no insole included in the 110 so there is no added cushioning there. Speaking of cushioning, there is an ‘Acteva ™ ’ layer of lightweight foam in the midsole but I didn’t find it overly squishy. I would say that the level of cushioning in the 110 is appropriate for a trail running shoe, transition or minimalist alike.
There is no ground feel in this shoe, hence the label ‘transition’ and not ‘minimalist’.
The lugs on the 110 are more than adequate for a trail running shoe in dry or wet conditions. The traction was excellent even on slippery snow, slush, and mud.
The 110 is designed to be extremely breathable and it surpassed expectations. The synthetic interior liner is mesh and the exterior upper is made with numerous perforations for air to easily pass through. The slightest breeze can be felt through these.
Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
The quality of materials and manufacturing are both stellar with this shoe. There are absolutely no flaws and the materials are designed for extreme durability and it shows. These shoes should last a long time even under rugged conditions.
There is usually a trade-off between breathability and water resistance and the 110 is no exception. The perforated upper that easily allows air to pass through also allows water to pass through just as easily. The synthetic materials used in this shoe, however, allow the water to pass through again and don’t hold that much added weight after being soaked.
The WT110 fits true to size. I generally fit a women’s size 8 and the comparably sized 110 fits true to length and width in the forefoot. They could be wider in the midfoot but I have a wider than average foot.
At $85 USD, these are priced extremely well in the trail running shoe category. For a durable trail runner, this is an excellent price.
The women’s 110 (WT110) in teal and silver is a strikingly eye-catching shoe. I find it very attractive for a trail running shoe in a category usually comprising bulky and unattractive footwear choices. There are many thoughtful details included in this shoe including an ‘Approved by the Trails of Bandera, TX’ on the footbed and ‘Keep Up’ etched in the lugs of the outsole. The waved laces are an especially nice touch for non-slip knots in wet trail conditions.
The women’s also comes in a black/purple/green while the men’s (MT110) comes in a black/blue/orange and a silver/orange.
There is no break-in period for this shoe. It’s not going to get any softer or any more flexible with use.
As a trail running shoe, these are going to get muddy. Rinsing with a hose or in the sink with a brush should be sufficient to get them clean again. As a bonus, the silver upper exterior will not hold a mud stain as it is a non-absorbent material.
These are strictly a trail running shoe. If you are a minimalist shoe enthusiast, these are strictly an extremely rough and rocky trail running shoe. If you are not quite ready for the full barefoot feel of a minimalist shoe and want to try a lightweight trail runner with a little less height, a lot less heel, but similar foot protection as a conventional shoe, the 110 might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Although not a true minimalist shoe, the NB 110 is a good transition trail running shoe, which can be used for those occasions where you might not want to feel all the rockiness of a rugged trail. They have a 4 mm heel rise for those not quite ready for a completely flat shoe. They are a little too inflexible and narrow in the midfoot for my liking but I can see how someone with a narrower foot needing a shoe for trail running might appreciate the design of the 110. They are definitely more stylish than your average running shoe and definitely built to last.
As you read our reviews, please keep in mind that our reviewers review shoes in terms of their suitability for those looking to find the highest quality minimalist shoe products. All reviews are as factual as possible. In an effort to be transparent and ethical, we will point out any defects found, even if these do not affect the usability of the product. Not all defects will be present in final production shoes as we are sometimes offered “seconds” or pre-release products in an effort to provide you with reviews in a timely manor. In the event that serious issues are found with a review sample we will give every opportunity for the manufacturer to replace to explain the review samples before the final review is released. We never accept payments for reviews. We do not guarantee a good review for any products sent to us. We do not review products that do not claim to be minimalist or “barefoot like” unless we receive a significant number of requests from readers or listeners.
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