New Balance MT110W Review

As the New Balance MT110W is specifically a winter variant of the previously reviewed MT110’s, this review focuses on the cold-weather features of the shoe and their performance in the best that winter has to offer. As a result, I am going to split my observations on the M110W’s between the uppers and the soles. The midsole and its construction went unmodified for the “W” version and performs as one would expect a standard MT110 midsole to perform.

New Balance MT110W

The New Balance MT110W.

Upper

The bright blue upper of the MT110W’s stands out in both color and design. A few trail shoe manufacturers are now offering winter shoes combining a waterproof upper with an integrated gaiter. Being a dedicated winter runner, I applaud New Balance’s attempt with this type of construction.

The upper’s material feels similar in weight and durability to a higher-end waterproof shell. It has some stretch to it, but also feels robust enough to withstand a few hazards. New Balance crafted the entire outer portion of the upper in one piece, with the seam being at the heel of the shoe. The seam is taped and, I suspect, should remain watertight as the heel doesn’t see a lot of flex or abuse. Smart.

Around the ankle, the upper itself forms a gaiter. I have to admit I was initially skeptical as to whether this would be effective given that there’s no means of tightening the gaiter’s neck. So, you are stuck with the seal that the elastic gives you. My ankle is 9.5-9.75″ at the gaiter’s neck and have found the gaiter to be reliable through knee-deep snow.

New Balance MT110W - medial upper

The New Balance MT110W’s medial upper.

As with any waterproof pieces of outdoor equipment, there are issues with breathability. How soggy do your feet get? Well, to put it simply, WAY less damp than if you are running in snow without waterproofing. And, most important, I have never had my feet get wet enough that they got cold. For winter athletic apparel, that’s success in my book.

My big critique of the upper is the zipper. It has very small teeth and hesitates on me when I am trying to unzip after a long run. It doesn’t take much ice or snow build-up to slow it down or freeze it in its tracks. In addition, through the years, I have found smaller zippers to be more prone to failure over time. While I am sure NB has reasons for picking such a diminutive zipper, I think moving up a couple of sizes would be an excellent (and necessary if frozen) revision.

[Bryon’s Note: It’s worth noting that the MT110W has a two-part upper. Adam has described the external layer that provides a full-shoe waterproof wrap as well as the gaiter. Underneath, New Balance has done a solid job of paring down the structural portion of the MT110’s upper – eliminating the plastic-y laser-cut layer and cutting away significant portions of the underlying fabric. This helps keep the shoe really light – 9.1 ounces (258 g) for a US men’s 9.5 (not 9) – despite having two layers.]

New Balance MT110W - inner upper

The New Balance MT110W’s inner upper.

Outsole

The sole on the MT110W’s is the same as the sole on standard MT110’s. I love the proprioception and traction of the standard MT110’s throughout the other three seasons of the year. New Balance did a solid job on that design for a warmer-weather trail shoe.

However, it is a miserable winter sole. The low-profile lugs which make it so much fun over trails in the summer do very little for the shoe in deeper snow and does not stick well on hard-pack or ice. The best thing I can say about the sole on the MT110W’s is that it provides enough rubber for screws. It also interfaces well with MICROspikes (but I haven’t found a shoe that doesn’t yet).

New Balance MT110W - outsole

The New Balance MT110W’s outsole.

Does it need deeper and more aggressive lugs? Yes. Would I sacrifice ground-feel for that? Yes. Honestly, not updating the sole to something a bit more winter-specific is a huge oversight. It’d add weight and change the feel of the shoe some. But, then again, so does running in snow.

[Bryon’s Note: More than regretting a lack of traction with the MT110W’s outsole (I usually got enough, though certainly not great traction on Park City’s snow-packed trails last winter. My initial notes were, “decent traction on snow and ice.”), I found that I really wanted additional underfoot structure on the snow. In running in the standard MT110, I appreciate the ground feel and enjoy the shoes for up to 8 or 10 miles on trails. However, with the snow’s extra and unpredictable give, I found my feet getting overworked in half the distance.]

Conclusion

I give New Balance high marks for entering into this area of the market with a low-profile and well-rounded trail shoe. The upper does what it is designed to do and does it simply. An upgrade on the zipper would be appreciated, but is not a deal-killer. The soles are certainly the largest disappointment on the MT110W’s. I am sure there are runners who can find climates/trails where they are more appropriate. However, on the trails in south-central Alaska, they are inadequate without modification or accessories. My hope is that New Balance will continue to develop this line of shoes and that this will motivate other companies to continue to improve their integrated-gaiter winter offerings.

[Bryon’s Note: I’ve found the New Balance MT110W to be far-and-away the best integrated-gaiter trail shoe offering on the market. Less I damn the shoe with faint praise, I’d say that this is a great shoe and one that blew away what I thought was possible for a winter trail running shoe. I mean 9 ounces for a great-fitting waterproof shoe with an integrated gaiter… hot damn! I certainly enjoy kicking around Park City’s snowy trails in these shoes from time-to-time, as their light weight makes them fun. Still, I’d give up an ounce or two for (1) a bit more traction and (2) more structure. The upper? Well, it’s 100% dialed in my mind… but I don’t live in Alaska!]

Adam Barnhart

discovered from an early age that he loved running , but didn't like starting guns. As a result, he is frequently found wandering the area trails around Anchorage, AK, but only at races after considerable peer-pressure is applied. When not trail running, Adam keeps pace with his wife and kids, works as a pastor and, with the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group.

There are 33 comments

  1. dan

    i'm now on my second pair of la sportiva crosslite 2.0's and they offer a fine winter ride. good snow traction and decent dryness.

    1. Mike B

      Second year I'm using Crosslites 2.0's for Winter running…traction is great out of the box and the flexibility to add their screws to the tread is great. Nice to actually run up and down hilly trails covered in ice! Traction is #1 priority for me in Winter running.

  2. Andy

    Have just had my 110Ws out for a few snowy runs thanks to New England's few recent snows. I agree with all of the above, especially Bryon's comments about the outsole providing decent traction on medium to hardpack but the shoe also lacking enough structure when the terrain is mixed. This was especially true in the conditions we had on X-mas day with semi-frozen footprints, ski tracks, and lots of crunching/breaking rime. Also, I would say that although the upper is basically the same, the paring down to save weight has given the shoe a *slightly* softer/looser feel than the tight-slipper feel of the original 110. Just MHO. All around, great shoe and a joy in the snow. Too bad I got the boring gray/black version …

  3. Mic Medeska

    I think NB has something with this shoe minus the traction. Strange to make a winter specific shoe, then skimp on… winter traction. I'll pass on this years, but am really hoping to see the same thing next year just with updated traction.

  4. Le Manchot

    Having tried these shoes on packed powder and more typical icy conditions, I agree with the reviewer about the traction issues. I opted for the Salomon Snowcross. Review here:

    http://itsallaboutthevertical.wordpress.com/2012/

    For me slipping and/or going down on steep snow and ice covered trails are two things I am trying to avoid in winter running and the MT110W did not fit the bill as I had all I could do to keep upright descending on anything exceeding about 15% grade; the Snowcross are definitely superior in this aspect. The drawback to the Snowcross is that it is built on the 9mm drop Speedcross 3 and for those accustomed to "low drop" shoes (<4 mm) the Snowcross are not ideal. The Snowcross also weighs in at 11.9 oz (337 gms (for a size US 7.5)) which is about 20% heavier than the MT110W. If weight and drop are important the MT110W might be your preference- but if you add microspikes (recommended) the weight difference is significantly less.

    If NB were to add integrated spikes I think this shoe would be a great product for winter running, particularly for those looking for a low drop option. Salomon would do well to offer a low drop version based on the Sense.

    1. Bryon Powell

      While I hit the mountain trails through 4 or 5 months of snow, the trails aren't very steep and almost never icy, so traction is still important, but not paramount for me during most runs. I love the lightweight waterproof w/ gaiter combination. No, I personally can't wear them for a looong winter's run, but they're fun for an hour an change. (Note: Others could run forever in these.) Permanent spikes are overkill for my trails. On the rare days I need additional traction, I throw on traction devices. I do like the Spikecross… but as night road running shoes, so I don't have to worry at all about black ice!

      As for the drop, I so wish the MT110W had more drop… like 10 or 12 mm, but that's just a personal preference that I generally omit from reviews. :-)

      1. Le Manchot

        Bryon,

        It would appear that the trails I run on are a bit more icy (and/or my running skills are deficient (which is also likely)) than yours. We have a lot of sun here and it tends to crust the surface of the packed powder to a thin layer of ice. I also purposefully try to keep the vertical a primary part of winter running (including vertical kilos on the groomed ski slopes) and skip as much of the flat trails as possible. This is because I am a Nordic skier and the winter running is strictly maintenance to allow a smooth transition to running again in April. So you can color my comments with this background. I did like the MT110W on the flatter terrain and the weight is quite remarkable for a winter shoe.

        For me there is no "overkill" w/r/t grip when running on snow and ice as going down will have a high probability of negatively impacting both running and skiing. So i am happy with the deep lugs and the integrated spikes- for the type of winter running that I do. And yes, I hear you on the utility of spikes on hard pavement in twilight or darkness- definitely a good thing!

  5. David Henry

    I agree with Adam on the traction issue, but also agree with Bryon. I think the main distinction that needs to be made is between whether a shoe is a mountain running shoe or trail running shoe. For trails, I think the 110W is pretty much the best winter shoe out there. They are such a light and clean package for a shoe that provides so much coverage from the elements. For mountain running, both the Winter 110 and the regular 110 are lacking in both traction (including the need for a full outsole) and durability. I really hope New Balance can expand the 100 series to include both a trail version that is still stripped down weight wise and a more mountain capable option (full outsole, more lug, better durability, and maybe a little more structure like Bryon is talking about). It's a great platform and has a lot going for it, but I stopped taking my 110s to the mountains quite a while ago because of traction issues (particularly the heel traction is pretty poor descending anything loose), protection issues (with the exposed midsole in the midfoot, it gets beat up pretty bad and very thin even in the heel after 100 or so miles…a full rubber outsole would alleviate a lot of this problem and help the traction too) and durability issues (upper rips super easy and the aforementioned exposed midsole leads to low durability for it and the heel outsole rubber that starts to peel when the midsole gets beat up). Keep them on the trails and the life extends a bit, but any off trail use and you are asking for it with the 110. Right now for winter, I will use the NB MT110W for my less technical snow covered runs, Inov-8 Oroc 280 for more firmer conditions with ice and not a ton of snow and the La Sportiva Crossover GTX for the mountains.

    1. Andrew

      I have the normal 110 and I agree with you that it needs a full length outsole. I don't necessarily want deeper lugs, but the exposed middle portion can be pretty slick and makes me have to watch my foot placements more than I should – especially where there are roots or rocks sticking up where it would be easier to just use the middle of your feet, but I can deal with it. My girlfriend has an even worse opinion of the 110, and thinks it one of the most slippery shoes she has used.

      I'm in Anchorage like Adam, and for winter traction, I can make do with any shoe if it's packed snow, but on ice or hard glazed over snow like the trails are now, the differences between any rubber soles are negligible – rubber is not enough and you need some steel or carbide spikes (Kahtoolas, or spikes built into the shoe) or sheet metal screws.

  6. Marcus

    Ive been running alot on packed snow this winter with the standard 110's with great success, i actually think the outsole works great 90% of the winter

    it is those days when the snow melts and then freezes again you need better traction, but then you need metal studs (I use a pair of Icebugs for those days)

    I'll definitely get me a pair of these, i can foresee me using them on the extremely wet/muddy trails this spring as well, the gaiters look awesome

  7. Café Jon

    In already over a month of snow running in the high rockies, I've been pretty delighted with these shoes. The upper can hug a little tight if you're wearing thick socks. I've never had problems with my feet getting cold on run, and some of these runs have featured snow up to me knees! If I'm standing still or hiking slowly through snow, they do tend to get pretty cold. I've got a couple of hundred miles on the shoes and have noticed some depreciation of the waterproofing(I'm sure I could address this with some sort of waterproofing product, but haven't).

    I am yet to find the traction inadequate when compared to other products. If you're running on slick snow and ice you have to adjust your running accordingly: capitalize on momentum, choose the best path, or use spikes.

    They also make a great complement for your running snowshoes!

  8. Dom

    No one noted here that the sole is actually 1/2 size big (a production issue arose where the upper could not be stuffed into to tool without going up a half size) so, wear thick socks or go down a half size. What I like a lot about the 110 platform is how close you are to the ground, and for me this is preferred over thick lugs that would alter the proprioception of the shoe. Maybe the 1010 sole is a better snow tread, but I really like how well the 110 minimizes uncertainty in my foot strike in snow. If you're on ice, you can buy a heavier boot, wear microspikes or install screws. For me, a lightweight winter flat is the best tool for the job.

    1. David Henry

      I suspected the 1/2 size big sole thing cause I'm a size 14 in the regular 110 and was fairly disappointed when they dropped the 14 from the winter model…turns out they had to use the 14 sole on the 13 (I'm assuming NB had to jump up a full size on these cause there is no 13.5) and the size 13 fits perfect. Thanks for confirming my suspicion Dominic.

    2. David Henry

      And re: tread. I agree on keeping the stack height lower for giving stability and proprioception, as long as you have a good solid surface (i.e. well packed and marked trail/road) underneath the snow that the 110 can get some purchase on. For me, when off trail or on really technical routes, I'm not technically precise enough to hit all my foot landings perfectly (for guys like Kilian and Anton maybe it's not a big problem) and a little extra outsole/lug is gives just that extra measure of confidence and protection, especially while descending, and there is just a little more grace for someone still in need of gaining a lot more technical skills. I think the issue to me is not as much stack height as having some full outsole rubber and a little deeper lug (think Inov-8 Trailroc or La Sportiva X-Country/Anakonda; both are as low or lower than the 110, but I think offer more consistent, over the length of the shoe, protection than the 110 when on technical routes…the exposed midsole and light heel lugs on the 110 have just been a little too light for me…the forefoot is fine in the 110 with such a bomber rock plate). The 1010 would be great with a full rubble outsole (i.e. no pods), as it is the pods on the heel ripped off for me after a couple runs. NB was great and took them back, but I was more disappointed that shoe with some good potential was cut short just because the choice of the pods to reduce a few grams.

  9. Pete Witucki

    Despite the less-aggressive traction (actually, because of it), this shoe is positioned great as a snowshoe running shoe: light, waterproof, integrated gaiter.

    I too would prefer a little more drop in a snowshoe running shoe though.

  10. Adam Barnhart

    I should toss in that I was able to put screws into the soles without trouble. At first, I was concerned the lug-heigth was insufficent for that (especially running without the insole). But, they don't poke through and have stayed in the hard rubber quite well. With the addition of screws, these are my primary shoe.

    And, Bryon's comments about the lack of support in the midsole are dead-on. I'm still working out for myself whether or not they have enough support for me. The feet are very tired in anything over five miles… even if you live in Alaska.

  11. Katie

    Personally, I love the versatility of NOT having a super aggressive lug on the sole. Don't really need it on powder, as I've found the rubber good enough – and don't necessarily want it for glissading down. When it's icy, I'd throw on the microspikes anyway, so I just assume have the lighter sole for better ground feel when I want it (which is most all of the time.) Just my 2 cents for the type of winter running I do in the San Gabriels and Eastern Sierras. I can certainly see a need for a more aggressive tread for others.

  12. Max

    the salomon and la sportiva shoes are too heavy, rigid, and worst of all way too narrow for winter. Ideally I want the upper of this NB shoe, the midsole of the fellcross, and the metal traction outsole of icebug shoes. Ice bugs are great, only they are far too narrow for me.

    The quest for a proper snow trail shoe continues.

  13. Derek

    Personally I prefer an aggressive lug pattern over a waterproof upper when choosing a winter shoe. Granted much of the running I do in the winter is on packed snow trails so that best fits my needs but I don't find a winter shoe with poor traction to be of much good in any snow or ice conditions.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Derek, agreed re traction vs waterproof. 90% (or more) of my winter trail runs are in shoes without a waterproof membrane, in which case I prefer lugged shoes. The waterproof shoes come out on the slog days when there's fresh powder. In packed snow, I'm wearing the likes of the Salomon S-Lab 4 Soft Ground or Hoka One One Stinson Evo (moderate traction, but lots of floatation).

  14. solarweasel

    I picked up the MT110W from my local shoe shop and having now worn them for several weeks in various stages of snow and ice (from 30 degree slush to -5 degree icebox) I have formed some takeaways:

    – The waterproof-ish outer material as well as the ankle gaiter do a (surprisingly) good job keeping the foot dry. That said, the ankle gaiter zipper is flimsy and will probably be the first thing to fail on this shoe, although it hasn't yet…

    – The traction sucks on snow (as stated by the reviewer). NB is definitely on to something promising here, but the shoe needs to undergo a design iteration or two before I can genuinely recommend it.

    – This has become my go to shoe for snowshoeing. In the past the only "waterproof" shoes I've owned were huge clunky things I would never want to run in, but these are remarkably lightweight and will be worn during my upcoming snowshoe races.

    Cheers,

    Brendan

    1. Andy

      My understanding is that it does not, though I have found the raised lateral edge not as noticeable in the 110w compared to the 110, perhaps because, according to info above, the shoe is molded onto a footbed or outsole that is one half size up in order to accommodate the gaiter. I didn't realize this, but perhaps this is the reason that the shoe seems a tad looser fitting than the 110 and the lateral edge is not as noticeable. Then again, it could be the fluffy running surface …

  15. don smith

    What seems obvious to me is that traction is very much dependent on where you live.

    Although not perfect these shoes have provided me with the best traction I have found to date for Southern Ontario trail conditions.

    I really appreciate being able to wear the same basic shoe in winter that I run in the rest of the year.

    As stated by a previous poster up untill now any winterized shoe has been clunky and tough to run in if you are used to a more minamilist shoe.

  16. Nick J

    Has anyone considered using a cycling snow-sock/gaiter over their regular running shoes? I can't see why this wouldn't work, I may get a cheep pair to experiment with.

    Also has anyone that had problems with the lateral edge build up on the original MT110 tried the new model? I'd be interested to hear if they run better.

  17. KAREN

    I wore the 110 winter all season starting in September. For our deep colds (-25 to -30 mornings) these kept me dry and traction this cold is better than warmer climes—but, still have yet to find anything that will keep my feet worm—I was hopeful and had to wear socks with these shoes ( still cold feet) which messed up the fit of the gaiter> Did anyone else have trouble with the gaiter fitting closed as with the zipper all the way up the plastic flange rubbed blisters. All in – all, still better than anything else I can get for winter..

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