New Balance MT876OR Review

The latest in the New Balance 87x series of light low-cut joggers - and they're even better than the previously-reviewed MT875ORs.

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

These come very close to getting a Highly Recommended rating. The way the toe region is sewn blocks that, but otherwise these shoes are very good - lightweight, excellent sole, and very comfortable.

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by Roger Caffin |

Technical Details

New Balance MT876OR Review - 1
New Balance MT876OR shoes.

We recently reviewed the previous shoe in this series, the MT875OR, after I took a pair through Switzerland for two months over many mountain passes. Normally one does not expect a large change between successive models - often it is just a marketing-driven change of number with a few trim changes - but no so in this case. I was reasonably happy with the MT875OR shoes; these MT876OR shoes seem to have had some significant changes.

The shoes are described as 'highly responsive lightweight trainer built for the off-road runner seeking exceptional cushioning and ground contact... the 876 offers outstanding performance for the dedicated extreme terrain runner.' We (my wife and I) received two identical pairs (Mens, US 10, 4E) for testing as soon as they were released in April 2010. (Yes, my wife takes a man's fitting.) The shoes weigh 364 g (12.8 oz) each for that size.

The sole design has changed significantly. The MT875OR shoes had large (mud-shedding?) lugs which were widely spaced, and there was always a risk that one might begin to feel the individual lugs through the sole if the footbed started to break down at all. On these MT876OR shoes the sole design is a lot more 'traditional' - a cross between a jogger design and the original Vibram style. This gives these soles a very distinct edge far more suited to rock work.

New Balance MT876OR Review - 2
Using the edges.

These days a lot of joggers have a hard PU substrate inside the shoe to provide a solid foundation and prevent twist. On the MT910GT shoes (also reviewed) the way this substrate was implemented caused me some concern: it was allowed to protrude to the same height as the lugs, and could sometimes slip a bit on wet rock. The PU substrate is inside these shoes too and can be seen as the black lines along the sole pattern forward from the arch. However, it has been recessed so it cannot come into contact with the ground. New Balance have labeled this layer 'Rockstop' (literally: it's on the moulding), and it should do that quite well.

The MT910GT shoes had a very solid PU toe buffer or rand. That's fine in theory, but the mass of polyurethane does have some weight, and this weight at the toe of the shoe can be felt after a while. The MT875OR shoes reduced the size of the PU rand significantly and substituted some PU-coated fabric around the front - stuff probably not very distant from the Hyperlon used in snowshoe decks. I noted that this material on the MT875OR shoes seemed pretty indestructible. New Balance seems to have developed further confidence in this material as it features at the front of these MT876OR shoes much more prominently, replacing most of the PU rand.

New Balance MT876OR Review - 3
A problem at the toe.

Looking more closely at the toe of the shoe, you can see that the side bits of fabric are sewn over the outside of the front bit. This is a mistake. If you go through a lot of scrub it is very likely that the stitching (not the fabric) holding the side bit in place will eventually fail as the scrub tries to peel the edge back. Something similar happened with the MT875OR shoes, and I had to sew the bits back on during our walk in Switzerland. Photos in the Addendum to the MT875OR Review show what happened. The bit of fabric at the front should overlap the two side bits: perhaps this will be corrected in the next model?

New Balance MT876OR Review - 4
The inside padding curling over.

The uppers feature a mesh exterior with what looks like an encapsulated layer of foam inside that. The MT875OR shoes had this technology as well but the layer was detached at the top: I could get my finger in between the mesh outer and the padded interior layer. That did not give me any trouble, but on these shoes the inner layer is fairly firmly attached all around the edge to the outer layer. Unfortunately the sewing is not close enough to the edge in one place (out of four shoes) and the edge curled over, indicated by the blue arrow in the photo above. However, with good wool socks I never felt a thing. I fixed this with a discrete bit of sewing inside the shoe later.

The tongue is a bit different too. Normally the tongue is anchored at the root or front of the shoe and can flap around. On shoes with a membrane (eg the MT910GT) the sides of the tongue are usually gusseted so as to keep the water out, but this is not normally done when there is no membrane. These shoes don't have a conventional tongue: the upper seems to go straight over the top of the shoe when looked at from the outside. Inside it is possible to see that there is indeed still a tongue, but there is no slack anywhere. To some extent this means that the lacing down over the tongue could almost be considered redundant. Not quite yet: the tongue material does not have the strength to substitute for the laces. There is a little note at the root of the tongue, saying 'debris free'. There does not seem to be anywhere for debris, or sand, to get in.

New Balance MT876OR Review - 5
The rather novel tongue.

The top end of the tongue is a real tongue and can flap around. Once again it is very different from 'normal' however: it has long wings out the sides. These go under the top two lacing holes to ensure good padding under the laces. It looks very strange, but it works quite well.

The laces are knobbly to prevent the bow from untieing accidentally: New Balance call this Sure Lace. The knobs seem to work. The lacing is fairly conventional and can be seen in several photos. The lower lacing is all through standard tape loops, with the tapes generally going right down to the sole. The top two anchors are reinforced holes. The top tape loop has its tape going around the heel of the shoe: perhaps the idea is that as you lift your foot the tape will apply a bit more grab at the heel. Personally, I don't think it has any effect at all however.

The footbed supplied is a simple one, but it has always been adequate for us. It has a faint heel cup and a very thin bit of padding at the side of the inside arch. It is very close to a flat footbed with no arch support or pronation control gimmicks. I (we) strongly approve. Under that there is a flat layer of firm EVA foam, probably only a few millimetres thick. You wouldn't think that this would give enough cushioning, but it does.

Field Testing

Field testing started when we (that's my wife and me) opened the shoe boxes. Our immediate reaction was "uh" at the bright red colour. But does the colour really matter? And after a few walks my wife commented that, actually, she rather liked the colour.

Then we looked at the soles and were immediately struck by the Vibram-like soles with square edges: that too got immediate approval. The way the black PU inner plate is recessed was also noted with approval.

Then we tried the shoes on. The sole flexed where it should and did not show much twist. That was good. The sole rubber gripped whatever we stood on very nicely, and that too was good.

New Balance MT876OR Review - 6
Bombing up the rock slabs.

Just walking around outside at home showed a more subtle feature, but one we regard as extremely important. In explaining this, please bear in mind that we both take a very wide fitting. Also, at the start of testing each of us had a minor injury (mainly bruising) at the edge of a foot, making us sensitive to any narrow or poor fit. Well, what we noticed as we walked around was that the fabric sides to the shoes are soft and flexible. No hard reinforcing strips just where you don't want them, no 'arch supports' intruding, no 'pronation control' features. The soles were pretty flat, the way they should be. The shoes just felt right.

The tongue and lacing had us intrigued for a while. There is very little real scope for altering the shoe width by doing up the laces tightly. Provided you have bought the right shoe size and width, we don't think this matters at all. Certainly it didn't worry us. The two top holes for the laces are useful for keeping the heel in place, but I would recommend that you don't do the laces up tightly. I did think that maybe the two top holes could be moved forwards 2 - 4 mm to cope with people who have solid ankles, but it was not very significant. I will add that you will very quickly discover if you have done the laces up too tightly. I found that despite having the laces tied quite loosely, the shoes didn't show any signs of falling off, even in very rough country (below). A minor flaw is that the laces supplied were not very long, and the bows ended up rather small. I think another few inches of length would be good here, but the knobbles do mean you don't have to double-knot the laces.

So the next step was to go walking. My wife normally goes for a fast local trail walk every morning for a few hours, and recently I have been going with her while carrying a 13-kg internal frame pack - a different one each day for a comprehensive report. Halfway along this, I pass the pack to my wife for a short while to get her opinions - photo above. This means we had been using these shoes for a few hours every day for a while, over road surface, trails, and rough ground, while carrying a heavy pack. Our impressions have been very favourable so far.

New Balance MT876OR Review - 7
You can't get down there...

Emboldened, we decided to take the shoes on a multi-night exploration trip into Wollemi National Park. The section we visited is a bit rough in places, and very few people ever go there. The cliffs below us in this photo were about 50 m high: good footing was desirable. The cliffs were actually a bit unfortunate; the only water anywhere around was down below, and it was clear we weren't going to get down there. We managed.

New Balance MT876OR Review - 8
Crossing the swamp with heavy frost around.

The one place where we had a few problems on this trip was in crossing this swamp very early one morning. There was no way we could avoid getting wet feet, but shoes with membranes would have faired no better. Yes, that's frost on the grass. At least the icy water drained out of the shoes very quickly. The amusing bit was the way the tannin-rich water darkened the bright red dye on the outer mesh of the shoes - tannin is a rather good dye you see.

New Balance MT876OR Review - 9
The view was rather fine in places.

We didn't see any significant dust penetration on this trip, although my toe nails came back a bit darker (due to the tannin dye). We didn't have any problems with the sore bits of our feet on this trip either, and they certainly got pushed around a bit. The traction was good, on both dirt and rock. We haven't seen any real wear on the shoes either, despite all that rock.

My wife is usually a bit suspicious of all my new bits of gear - I wonder why? On one recent walk she asked how long this model will be available - I told her my understanding is that it should be current until April 2011. Her response, after thinking about that for a while, was to suggest we ought to buy a second pair each before they go out of stock.

Specifications

Manufacturer New Balance, Inc.
Web Site www.newbalance.com or www.nbwebexpress.com for purchase
Model MT876OR
Last PL-1 (this may replace the older SL-1)
Sizes available US 7 - 13 in half sizes, 14, in D, 2E, 4E widths
Size supplied US 10 4E ('extra wide')
Weight (quoted) 350 g (12.3 oz) for unspecified size and width
Weight (measured) 364 g (12.8 oz) for US10 4E
Manufactured in China
MSRP US$100

What’s Good

  • Light weight
  • Excellent sole
  • Soft fabric sides
  • Little dust or debris penetration
  • Comfortable with loose laces

What’s Not So Good

  • Toe rand is sewn the wrong way (only matters if seriously off-trail)
  • Lace is a bit short
  • Top two lace holes could be moved forwards 2 - 4 mm

Citation

"New Balance MT876OR Review," by Roger Caffin. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/new_balance_mt876or_review.html, 2010-06-15 13:16:00-06.

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New Balance MT876OR Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
New Balance MT876OR Review on 06/15/2010 13:15:57 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

New Balance MT876OR Review

Peter Merritt
(Dead_Cow)

Locale: Southern Arizona
New Balance MT876OR Review PL-1 Last on 06/15/2010 20:26:06 MDT Print View

This version of the 87x has the PL-1 last ( 875's had the sl-1) , that means I can't wear them, not enough room in the toe box. That's a shame I did like the 87X series, and it looks like they figured out to keep the sole in continuous piece like innov-8 shoes for durability. I get the feeling that most people have a bigger heal and smaller forefoot, because I always have heal slip and trouble finding a shoe with enough toe box.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: New Balance MT876OR Review PL-1 Last on 06/16/2010 02:39:48 MDT Print View

Hi Peter

Then you should look at the NB Web Express site:
http://www.nbwebexpress.com/
They have a full listing of their available shoe lasts at
http://www.nbwebexpress.com/information/product_information.asp?pageType=lasts
and there are some with bigger toe boxes.

Mind you, These 876 shoes can come with a 4E width fitting. That's awful wide. Have you tried the 4E width, or just the 2E width?

Cheers

Edited by rcaffin on 06/16/2010 02:43:30 MDT.

Gregory Topf
(notoriousGRT) - MLife

Locale: PNW / Switzerland
Re: Re: New Balance MT876OR Review PL-1 Last on 06/16/2010 05:44:20 MDT Print View

I encountered the issue of NB switching from the SL1 to the PL1 last on other models where there was an update. I switched from size 11-2E in the SL1 version to 11-4E in the PL1 version and while the fit was not as good as before, I would say it was 95% as good and I am happily running in the PL1 shoes now.

Stuart Steele
(sbsteele) - F

Locale: North Central New Jersey
Abrasion to Threads and Seams on 06/16/2010 11:47:44 MDT Print View

You might consider coating exposed threads and seams with Seam Sealer or Aquaseal prior to use.They are urethanes. Aquaseal has a higher urethane concentration. Threads and seams will then be amply protected.

Peter Merritt
(Dead_Cow)

Locale: Southern Arizona
New Balance MT876OR Review on 06/16/2010 11:55:26 MDT Print View

Roger, I normally wear 2E, 4E's just too sloppy.
Peter

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
876or inner lining on 06/16/2010 16:56:04 MDT Print View

Roger
As you know on the 875's lining, the eyelets pull the inner lining tight as one pulls on the laces thus forming a "girdle" if you will for your mid foot. It was one of the determining factors in my buying the shoe. I love the way my foot feels supported by the lining. As a result I have stopped using my after market inserts and rely exclusively on the shoe's construction to support my foot. It feels great. Do the new 876s allow for a similar tightening of the inner lining by the laces? From your review it would seem not to.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: 876or inner lining on 06/24/2010 19:14:54 MDT Print View

Hi Mitchell

Sorry for delay - we were away walking (with the 876s) for a week.

I don't think the idea of an adjustable inner lining applies here. Yes, there is an inner lining but it is firmly attached to the outer, and yes, that is different from the 875s.

What I found was that the 876s could be worn with the laces undone. Well, up to a point, anyhow. The tongue is not loose like on older-design shoes. It is connected up the sides almost to the top. So when the laces are loose the tongue holds the shape.

In fact, most of the time I do the laces up quite loose, and the shoe just 'fits' properly. If I do the laces up tight I get a tight band across the upper part of my arch, due to the top lace holes, and that is not good for me.

I have used after-market inserts (NB Pressure Relief) in these shoes, and while they were quite comfortable, I think they take up about half a shoe size by themselves. So instead of wearing size 10 I would need size 10.5 for the same fit. Or I could go with much thinner socks than my preferred Darn Tough Vermont Full Boot Socks, but that is less likely.

I would suggest that they are worth trying out if you liked the 875s. They really are a step above the 875s in everything, imho.

Cheers

Gerald Miller
(colnagospud) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Thank you Roger on 06/26/2010 18:31:07 MDT Print View

As per your review, I bought a pair from Road Runner as the local NB store did not have them. My feet have high arches and are becoming more troublesome as they age. In the first 6 miles of Sacramento River levee walking, my feet have only smiled,
Thanks,
gerry

Mark Danheim
(mdanheim) - MLife
Mileage on 09/29/2010 08:58:37 MDT Print View

Any guess as to how many miles you have on the shoes? I have an earlier pair of these (circa 2007, can't recall model), and once I got about 500 miles on them hiking & running, the shock absorption was totally spent, causing a heel bruise. Love the shoes, just wondering about mileage limits.

E J
(mountainwalker) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area & New England
Roger which length, width 876 do you recommend given: on 12/10/2010 18:38:51 MST Print View

Roger, I finally had a chance to handle the 876 in a store, and will go back to try on and compare with the La Sportiva Wildcat, Montrail Rockridge and any Innov-8 shoes that have a similar wide forefoot or come in wider sizes. I don't have a particularly wide foot, but certainly no less than size D (average), but need a wide forefoot to avoid squeezing the forefoot/metatarsals.

Any sizing recommendations you have for the 876 if I have, measured on a brannock device in the afternoon while standing:
-size 11 foot
-size "12" arch on the left foot, size 11.5 arch on the right foot (meaning that the arch length is like a size 12 foot on the L, and size 11.5 foot on the right)

How many sizes up from true foot size do you recommend, 1/2 or 1 full size?

What width do you recommend - 2E or 4E?

Thanks again for the excellent review. Certainly matches what I found handling it up close in the store.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Mileage on 12/11/2010 13:08:12 MST Print View

Hi Mark

Sorry about delay.
Miles - bit hard to say. In general I would say that I haven't really worn out the outer soles on any of the the New Balance joggers I have reviewed.

Sometimes I have worn out the shell fabric on them: the 875s suffered that a bit after a few months in Europe. Mind you, that did not cause any real problems: they just looked a little 'worn' on the outside.

More often it is the removable foam footbed and the internal EVA foam layers which suffer most. I tend to create a bit of a depression under the ball of my foot there (behind the big toe), and when this gets too bad I have to stop wearing those shoes. I think this is the same as the loss of 'shock absorption' you mentioned. I would say that this is the main weakness in the manufacture. It can takes several months of continuous hard walking before this happens for me though: enough for a full 2 months or more on one of our European walks for instance.

I think you could pop in an after-market footbed to some advantage, IF (IF) you can find one which does not have mindless 'arch supports' and other ridiculous marketing features.

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Roger which length, width 876 do you recommend given: on 12/11/2010 13:19:48 MST Print View

Hi EJ

Different sizes for your left and right feet? Oh yeah, happens to many of us!

I see you measured the 'size' of your feet but not the width on the A B C D E 2E 4E scale. That is a huge waste of the Brannock device: use it to also measure the width on the letter scale. Immensely important imho, especially for those of us with wide feet.

> How many sizes up from true foot size do you recommend, 1/2 or 1 full size?
Ah well ... At LEAST half a size. Your feet WILL swell after a few hours of walking. Whether you should go up a full size - that depends on how much your feet swell, and that I do not know. So ...

It would not be silly to go out and buy a couple of different pairs of sock in different thicknesses: say some Darn Tough Vermont Boot Socks (thick) and some Ultimax socks (thinner), and to run your own experiment. Buy one pair of joggers which are a full size too big in the shop when worn over thin nylon socks (but wide enough), and then go for a full days walk swapping the thick and thin socks over every few hours. You will soon find out what feels comfortable. I do not think there is any shortcut for this: you have to field test with your feet.

> What width do you recommend - 2E or 4E?
Since I don't know what your feet measure for width, I simpler have no idea what you need. All I can suggest is that you should NEVER err on the narrow side. If the shoes are a shade too wide for you, use thicker socks. That won't hurt! Of course, if you are a D fitting and the shoes are 4E, you may have problems.

Cheers

E J
(mountainwalker) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area & New England
a little clarification - based on an 11D on 12/11/2010 13:51:29 MST Print View

Hi Roger, my feet were measured on a Brannock device in the late afternoon. However their width scale was broken. Nonetheless, I don't think my width has changed in the last few months, and I'm a D. Sorry for that omission.

For NB shoes depending on the cut, for running I've worn a D or 2E in the past. For longer hikes with some narrower NB shoes, I'd probably be better off with a 4E. I'm 6 ft tall 180 lbs, and that's enough of a load to swell feet.

I typically wear Vermont Darn Tough light hiking socks, not super thin and not very thick. I find them more durable than Smartwool socks.

The Brannock has an arch measurement piece which goes against the side of the ball of your foot. My Left arch is a drop longer than the Right arch. In overall size, there is probably a difference of 1/8 of a size between Left and Right foot.

So based on a size 11D foot, with the same socks you wear, with the 876 for backpacking, would you suggest at least a 2E or as much as a 4E?

I was not able to find a store nearby that had all the sizes I wanted to try at once, but working on that. Anything that can cut down on the number of pairs I order to try would be helpful.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: a little clarification - based on an 11D on 12/11/2010 20:00:20 MST Print View

Hi EJ

More data - good.
I would think that the 2E width might be enough - I think. But if you have doubts, try the 4E fitting. Feet do swell ...
I do find that the NB shoe lasts (SL-1, PL-1 etc) are relevant, and fairly consistent.

> For longer hikes with some narrower NB shoes, I'd probably be better off with a 4E.
Um ... I am not sure I follow you here. My experience has been that when NB label something 2E it is 2E. Granted, they do make narrow shoes, but those are given a narrow width designation.

If you like the 876s, it might be worth your while to also look at the MT740TR (trail running) shoes. Caution: two versions available. They have a slightly firmer sole, which I like.

Cheers

E J
(mountainwalker) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area & New England
Thanks Roger; MT740TR - which version? Preferred over 876? on 12/11/2010 20:15:04 MST Print View

Thanks Roger, that's what I was looking for - whether the 2E is really a 2E on the 876.

I prefer a firmer sole as well. Other than the firmer sole, are the 740's like the 876's in other respects - cushioning, breathability, durability, etc.?

Do you now prefer the 740 to the 876?

Which two versions does the MT740TR come in, and which of those do you recommend?

I'm narrowing my list to the NB 876 and 740, and some wider forefoot shoes from La Sportiva, Montrail and possibly Scarpa (Innov-8 as well if they have a shoe that's stiff enough and cushioned enough for me).

Edited by mountainwalker on 12/11/2010 20:15:51 MST.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
New Balance MT876 Lacing Flaw on 05/06/2011 16:09:41 MDT Print View

These shoes really work for me.
Great fit. All terrain wet/dry traction. Long lasting (compared to Inov8 and Solomon).

But, the lacing system has a serious flaw. The laces go through loops that purportedly adds tension to the heel cup.

Shoe1

These loops are exposed, anchored near the heel, protrude beyond the heel, and are vulnerable to abrasion. I wore through one, and nearly through the other.

Shoe2

I was able to re-lace through the "leather" eyelet for the loop, but not surprisingly, this significantly changed the conformation and fit of the shoe. (I was still 20 miles from the trailhead.) I ended up with a huge blister, even though I caught and taped it in its initial stages.

I have many tough miles on these shoes and I'm sure I have exceeded their expected lifetime. But in my opinion this failure could occur at any time.

I like these shoes well enough that I'll get another pair, but will "armor" the heel loops and the insertion point in some fashion with copious amounts of SeamGrip. And I may try to lace directly through the "leather" eyelet from the beginning, making these loops superfluous.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: New Balance MT876 Customer Service on 05/16/2011 18:07:58 MDT Print View

I have just been notified that new shoes are on the way!

I stated in my correspondence to New Balance "I have many tough miles on these shoes and I'm sure I have exceeded their expected lifetime."

I did not expect a replacement. I only wanted to raise the issue.

Hat's Off to New Balance.

Edited by greg23 on 05/16/2011 19:00:44 MDT.

Will Inman
(Empacitator) - MLife

Locale: Western Australia
Re: Re: New Balance MT876 Customer Service on 05/16/2011 20:40:33 MDT Print View

Good to hear Greg, I'm taking my new 876's out this weekend for the second time and really like them so far... thanks for the original review Roger