New balance MT101’s – not working out for me…

I knew it!  Perhaps if I ordered a slightly bigger size it might have worked but sadly my relationship with my MT 101’s has come to an abrupt and sudden end.

The little buggers.  I really wanted to like this shoe, they look good, they look cool.   They have what looks like a really useful studded sole but for what I need them to do they are flawed.   A mountain running shoe (even before you start to take in to consideration the requirements of a minimalist runner) needs to grip well on all kind of surfaces – wet and icy rock are far too often part of my trail mix.  Unfortunately the NB’s slip like crazy on wet rock.  Lethal is the word that comes in to mind.  My Merrells never let me down like this, the Vibram compound grips pretty good on slippery rock and even adheres quite well on ice!  Okay, the Merrell trail gloves will never be an out an out mountain running shoe, but since I rejected the NB’s I’ve had them back on my feet and bagged another local peak (the Cap Blanc 1203m – not the most amazing achievement –  its only a dwarf in a realm of giants, but still a bit taller than anything I’m used to running in the UK!)

Could I have done that in the NB’s?  Sure, but not without some discomfort, which I will address now.

I think that even if I brought a half-size bigger and gained a bit of extra wiggle room I would still have a problem with  the 10mm drop.  This was far too apparent and the support features in the shoe were annoying.  The heel would “catch” too much on descent,  I felt like I need to increase  plantar-flexion way beyond what feels natural to land near mid to front foot on the steep and gnarly.

I feel that even with the sliding that I have experienced whilst running in the Merrell Trail Gloves, I am far more confident wearing these on descent and more in control.  If  sliding is to be expected then it can be anticipated and with the greater sense of proprioception from wearing a more minimal shoe I can recover instinctively from slides.  This is even quite good fun.

The negative side of winter mountain running in a more minimal shoe  is avoiding hidden “nasties” covered by leaf litter on the trail, dealing with snow and cold and the obvious security issues on high and exposed mountain routes.

So a few options are left on the table I will consider the MT110 or the Merrell mix master, but I’ve just found out thanks to a post by “Oscar” on the minimal shoes forum that inov-8 intend to launch the “trail roc” 235, 245, 255 with corresponding differentials of 0mm, 3mm and 6mm.  a photo can be seen here

I think 2012 is likely to prove the year of the minimalist trail runner!

UPDATE:  I’ve just found out that the Uk and Europe won’t be seeing the MT 110 until July… and it will keep the American sole, it will not have the UK version MT101 sole.  Just crossed it off my list.


Winter trails… The need for a bit more

Up until November, I’ve been fine running all sorts of types of trail routes in my Merrell trail gloves, they provide excellent positive feedback whilst blocking out the majority of painful pointy stones.  But like everything they have their limits.  My forays in the foothills of the Pyrénées are taking me to steeper less tracked areas, much akin to UK fell running, on this terrain the Merrells are not in their element, I feel less protected, even slightly exposed – more grip is required and just a little bit more build.

Trail Gloves on top of "Le Picou"

Now with the onset of winter I realise that I also need more insulation from the ground.  I was going to try the Merrells with hiking socks, but their glove like fit only allows the thinnest of sock to be worn and I haven’t got the spare cash to buy another slightly larger pair, besides the lack of grip is still an issue.   Another idea I had was to use microspikes with the Merrells, but I need traction on non-snowy areas and I’m afraid that the spikes won’t last long.

The other issue I have is with the leaf litter that still covers the woodland section of most of the trails, the leaves are covering some very nasty rocks in some places, on my regular routes I’m beginning to find the worst sections and can slow down accordingly, but I want to run fast – I need slightly more all round protection.

So I’ve come up with a stop-gap solution for this years winter running, For about half the price of the Merrells I have brough a pair of the UK spec. New Balance MT101’s. (£45)  I’m not going to give them a review here, there are plenty of opinions on the net, the majority overwhelmingly positive.  Suffice to say they tick most boxes of my winter running requirements;

Enough EVA to insulate ground.

Fast draining,

Should work with crampons,

UK model sole is studded, providing good grip on snow and mud – not far off X-talon.

Can wear a reasonable sock in them.

They are very reasonably priced.

NB MT101 - The UK Spec sole offers very good traction

For me this list of positives help to make up for the one huge negative  – that enormous 10 mm Differential.  It’s really strange de-volving, if you like, to positive diff shoes, after a year of exclusively running zero drop.  After just one run in these I’m undecided wether this effects me or not, I notice it a lot when standing still but I feel able to run in them well.  The other slightly annoying thing is that the last is a D width and I fear that this will not be wide enough.

I’m toying with the idea of reducing the heel height the same way that Anton Krupicka does, but I would quite like to keep the grip on the heel, So I’m in two minds weather or not I should take the bread knife out of the drawer.  I often try to plant the full foot on descent to aid with grip so I will continue to run in them as is and see if this effects my form at all.   Perhaps I would have been better off sizing up a half as well too help get an even thicker sock in, but in the end it was always going to be about comprimise.

Other options I considered were:

Patagonia Forerunner

Altra LonePeak,

Waiting for the NewBalance MT 110

I crossed the Neo Trail off the list due to the thinness of the sole (you just can’t please some people hey!)!

I can’t find a local supplier for any of the above – trying to buy anything that isn’t made by Salomon in France is nigh on impossible!

What is clear is that there will never be a “one shoe quiver” where mountain running is concerned, I’ll look forward to putting the Merrells on for warmer drier days but until then I still have a bit of experimenting to do.

My running plans for 2012

Last year was the first year since I started competitive running that I didn’t enter a race.   It wasn’t through lack of trying, I trained diligently throughout last winter, getting up at 5.30 in the morning for my weekend long runs, paying attention to my form, resting when I needed it and incorporating body weight strengthening exercises.   I was set to do my first fifty mile race – so far I’ve managed to complete one ultra of forty-five miles so the fifty seemed like a pretty sensible goal.  I trained well, but 2 weeks before I was due to race I realised my heart just wasn’t in it, I wasn’t actually enjoying running anymore.  The forecast for the race was going to be dismal and I think that this played a big part in my wimping out.  I just didn’t want to run the best part of 11 hours in the rain.   I stayed home.

So I lost 60 quid, and my will to run in inclement weather, for the rest of the year I became a fair weather runner.  I only ran when it was sunny and I ran for enjoyment.  I ran in much the same way that you might approach walking, just get out there have some fun, nothing serious.  For the rest of the year I stopped “training” and just enjoyed running  for the sake of running.  No goals, no ambitions, just pure fun, running in nature.  Some weeks I’d be lucky to get out of the door at all, and if it was raining then no chance.  Then in the summer we moved to France.  We spent July through to September volunteering on an organic small holding whilst looking around for a place to live, I was lucky to get more than one run a month and with a slight niggle in my left toe I was taking it easy anyway, then in September we moved to the mountains and for nearly a whole month I just spent my days looking at them.  Then one day the urge was too strong I took off up our nearest peak, the afore-blogged “Picou” and  after a few more forays around the area its safe to say I’ve got the urge to race back again…

But no ultra’s this year!

My race plans to date are as follows…


Les trail des pieds cloutés  – This race is literally on my doorstep – the route goes past my doorstep!  So it’d be rude not too, and may help me break into the local running circle.


Tourn de la cascade d’Ars

Trail des crêtes


Marathon du Montcalm  – This will be the big one for the year!


La Course 2 Cotes  – another local mountain race.

That’s the list so far, I’m not planning too much because I’ve got a lot of work planned this year, but its safe to say that moving to the Ariége has reignited my enthusiasm to race again.


I am going to try a “run by feel”  approach to the  Maffetone training method in preparation for my first race, I’m really concentrating on my diet as of now and have eliminated the majority of grains and sugars for 90 percent of my meals.  I will alow myself one flan pâtissier per week, and perhaps the odd square of chocolate.  More on this in future posts.