Courtesy New Balance.
Normally I wear very low-cut Australian-made Dunlop KT-26 joggers when I am out walking. They are very light (327 g or 11.5 oz each shoe) and have superb friction on rock. However, they do have a few deficiencies. They have a very soft sole which has some problems on muddy trails; the lugs on the soles are very shallow and just don't grip on snow, and the mesh upper lets water straight through. For winter walking in snow country, as beautifully described by Will Rietveld in his three articles on Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Travel, the KT-26s just don't make it.
What would I like for winter snow travel? A good lugged sole with some rigidity, because in the snow I need some traction around camp. A sole with firm edges also helps with snow shoe bindings. I would like a waterproof/breathable membrane to keep the melting snow out. I don't want lots of seams on the outside: the stitching is always a weak point fraying where the shoes folds. I don't want suede or surface leather trimming as it always gets wet and heavy and freezes and cracks after a while. I don't want a high ankle: high ankles on the shoe just absorb energy and rub on my ankles, and anyhow in winter I wear GoreTex gaiters over my shoes to keep the snow out. And because I have very wide feet (common among Australian walkers), I want a wide fitting, like an EEEE.
Over the year I have tried many many different shoes, joggers and light boots. Few of them have been wonderful, but these New Balance MT1110GT joggers come very close to meeting every one of my needs. Perhaps I am slightly biased by the fact that when I wore them for a short field trip they were immediately comfortable and wide enough! Granted, the size supplied was slightly too big for summer walking, but I didn't want them for that anyhow. I want them for snow shoeing, and the size supplied has enough room for really thick warm socks, or even two pairs of warm socks as Will recommends.
I remain slightly puzzled by shoe sizes. The same size US 11 in another brand I have used just feels smaller: I could not imagine wearing two pairs of warm socks inside them. I suspect that this may be because they are probably only an EE fitting. But then, I can get away with size US 9 in the KTs mentioned above, and still be comfortable! With shoes, always try before you buy!
I plan on wearing these New Balance MT1110GT shoes around August 2008 on a long (about two weeks) snow shoe trip. Perhaps I will be able to write a full product review of these shoes after that trip. So far I have worn them for about one week in the mountains during autumn.
Up in the mountains.
The web site specifications for these shoes contains the usual array of fancy marketing buzz word names for the various bits. Forgive me if I skip them. The rubber sole has fairly good lugs: you can see the pattern in the picture. While the lugs are not all that deep, I did find this rubber quite grippy - more than I expected. There is some cushioning in the sole to be sure, but not like the notorious 'air support' which usually means you lose all contact with the ground - and risk spraining an ankle. The inner sole and footbed are fairly flat, which is wonderful. No, these shoes do not feature that appalling concept of 'arch support', so they should be good for long distances with minimal foot fatigue.
The upper is advertised as seamless, and it does look seamless. This probably makes it easier for the XCR membrane inside to keep the water out - it worked for lots of wet grass during autumn field testing anyhow. There is a bit of plastic embossing on the outer fabric ('Go-Fast' stripes?) but it seems to be very well stuck down - or molded in more likely. The fabric does not abrade very easily: it hasn't shown any signs so far.
The New Balance web site makes a bit of a thing about the toe cap, calling it (I think) 'Rock Stop 2'. Indeed, the toe cap is quite solid. I kicked bits and pieces of stuff (branches, rocks ...) in the field and the toe cap showed no wear at all. My toes didn't suffer either.
The tongue is fully gusseted, which is good for keeping the water out. The laces are ... bumpy! You can see just how bumpy in the photos. New Balance call this strange profile 'Sure Lace'. I think the idea is that the bumps prevent the laces from slowly drifting undone. Yes, this did seem to work in the field. A simple bow sufficed for the whole day. Mind you, I am not sure how well the laces will work when they are frozen solid, but we shall see.
There is padding around the top edge of the ankle and inside the tongue, but not to an extreme. I would describe it as a 'suitable' amount. The 'spikes' at the back of the ankle present the only problem: when new I could feel them a little. I have seen this before, and perhaps the spikes will soften after some wear.
- Manufacturer: New Balance
- Year/Model: 2008
- Manufacture: China
- Materials: synthetic fabrics and rubbers, no leather, plus XCR membrane
- Last: SL-1 (whatever that means)
- Size: 6 - 13, 14, 15 in D, EE and EEEE fittings
- Weight: Quoted 385 g (13.5 oz) each, measured 406 g (14.3 oz) for US size 11 EEEE(BPL measurement)
- Color: what you see is what you get
- MSRP: not quoted
- A fairly low weight.
- A wide range of width fittings.
- A flat inner sole and footbed.
- Very good friction on the sole.
- No leather or suede anywhere.
What's Not So Good
- Nothing has been found so far.