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New Balance MT814OD Review

Just slightly heavier than the 740s, do the 814s finally hit all Roger's sweet spots despite their weight?


Overall Rating: Recommended

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by Roger Caffin |

New Balance MT814OD Review - 1


Manufacturer New Balance Inc
Web Site
Model MT814OD
Last PL-1
Sizes available US 7 - 13 in half sizes, 14, in D, 2E, 4E widths
Size supplied US 10 4E ('extra wide')
Weight (quoted) 361 g (12.7 oz) for unspecified size and width
Weight (measured) 411 g (14.5 oz) for US10 4E
Manufactured in China

Technical Details

These come after the MT740TR shoes we reviewed recently, but they have several interesting improvements. Both my wife and I received them in size 10 4E: our preferred sizes. They are just slightly heavier than the 740s, but we think the benefits are worth it.

New Balance says of them: "This all-terrain running shoe has a long history of proven performance, featuring N-ERGY in the heel for advanced cushioning. With its rugged AT Tread outsole and superior fit, the 814 is perfect for rough trails and unpredictable surfaces." Once again, it is not all that easy to separate out spin from value, but the following points seem relevant.

First of all, they are 'all terrain', and that can be combined with the 'rugged AT Tread outsole.' Yes, they are definitely all-terrain and the sole is rugged enough for 'rough trails and unpredictable surfaces.' We get plenty of that off-trail. Actually, I found the sole was just a little more stiff and rugged than on the 740s, so that traversing on soft stuff (mulch, mud) was a bit easier.

New Balance MT814OD Review - 2
Gripping in the rain.

The lug pattern on the sole, visible in the first photo, seems to be pretty good. The photo here shows my wife Sue stepping down a very wet and muddy bit of rock on a rather wet day, with no trouble at all. What is not so obvious to you, although it was very obvious to my wife at the time, was that one slip off the bottom ledge would have taken her over a 20+ metre (60+ feet) sheer cliff. But no worries: excellent grip.

There is some cushioning at the heel, but not a lot. Certainly you get a whole lot more 'contact' with the ground than with 'gel-sole' shoes, and that is critical to stable footing. That said, these would not suit the barefoot advocates.

The 'traditional' molded footbed is made with all sorts of little bits of arch support and heel cup etc, etc. I don't like the attempts at interfering with my natural action. These footbeds are a long step back towards reality and good engineering: they are little more than a flat slab of good, fabric-covered foam. They fit well inside the shoe. If they get wet (wading a river maybe) you can take them out and squeeze them dry. The surface under them is fairly flat as well. This is good shoe engineering.

The external trim is also an improvement. Yes, it has been designed to have no forward-pointing bits of trim to catch on the scrub, but we expect that now. What is nice is that the rand has been built more lightly. There's no huge rubber toe cap or bumper weighing down the toes of your feet. These shoes are light at the front, but still quite able to kick through scrub if you must.

The lacing design has no fewer than three sets of holes at the top of the ankle. Frankly, I can't imagine anyone ever wanting to use the tightest set. I tried it briefly, and found the tension across the arch of my feet quickly caused considerable pain. Most of the time I was happy with using two sets of holes, although Sue preferred to use just one set, laced fairly loosely. Even with that fairly minimal lacing, the shoes showed no inclination to fall off her feet.

The thick cord-like laces are, I think, a backward step.The lumpy ones found on previous models were much better. These thick ones had a bit of a tendency to come loose. A quick retro-fit of some New Balance lumpy laces fixed that easily enough.

One thing the lacing pattern does not do (loud cheers) is to have a lug in the middle of the tongue at the toe end. Some shoes do this, and I find all that extra lug does is to curl the toe up in a undesirable manner. Plus, if the lug is used by the lace, it gets in the way of a gaiter hook.

The tongue is conventional in shape and just wide enough. Another 5 mm width would be nice as I seem to push the tongue sideways a bit when walking fast. But it is well padded, so I am not complaining too much. The rest of the ankle cuff is clear of my ankle bones and soft enough: it didn't cause any hassles with rubbing.

The body, or fabric, is a multi-layer synthetic mesh. They can do very clever things with mesh construction these days. It ventilates moderately well, lets in only a small amount of dust (it happens), and seems to be very rugged. The reinforcing trim on the surface is light but robust. My wife got the bright orange version: orange mesh and orange trim on the sole face. Rather cute. I got the black fabric with red soles version.

Field Testing

New Balance MT814OD Review - 3
We have worn these in the wet and in the dry, on day walks and long walks. In the second photo, most of the day it was raining and muddy. No problems: we were quite comfortable. Thick wool socks do help of course.

The two photos here were taken 24 hours apart, in our alpine region around Mt. Jagungal. At the left, we were having morning tea in the sun, without a worry in the world. On the right we were heading out enthusiastically. About 100 mm (8 in) of snow had fallen overnight, and we were not really equipped for serious snow travel. Yes, we did have enough gear to survive the day in reasonable comfort, with reserves, but why tempt the weather gods? And yes, the shoes were quite good in the fresh snow. The lug pattern meant we were not slipping at all. They were warm enough.

We think New Balance shoes are getting steadily better and better.

What’s Good
  • Light weight
  • Excellent torsional rigidity in sole
  • Flat footbed with negligable 'arch support'
  • Not much dust or debris penetration
  • Good balance, not toe heavy
What’s Not So Good
  • Thick laces
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.


"New Balance MT814OD Review," by Roger Caffin. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2011-07-19 00:00:00-06.


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New Balance MT814OD Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
New Balance MT814OD Review on 07/19/2011 16:03:51 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

New Balance MT814OD Review

Mark Hurd
(markhurd) - M

Locale: South Texas
Wt of shoes on 07/20/2011 14:31:20 MDT Print View

Thanks Roger, excellent review as usual. Is the weight listed for one shoe or the pair?
- Mark

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Good to hear Roger on 07/20/2011 20:20:52 MDT Print View

That NB is moving in the right direction.

^^^^ I beleive that specified weight is per shoe.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Amazon reviews on 07/21/2011 07:21:21 MDT Print View

I jumped on to order a pair and noticed quite a few poor customer reviews for the quality and durability of the shoe, many suggesting it was far below standard for NB.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Amazon reviews on 07/21/2011 09:01:56 MDT Print View

tom lakner
(lakneremu) - MLife

Locale: midwest
Re: New Balance MT814OD Review on 07/22/2011 14:55:38 MDT Print View

Roger, thanks for the article. I tried a pair of these and found the shoe to be too narrow in the 13 4E I tried on . Too bad.I ended up with a pair of Treksta Evolution II low cut that fit my feet just fine. Hopefully BPL will review some of their stuff in the future.
Tom Lakner

Edited by lakneremu on 07/22/2011 20:58:12 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
5.5 oz (156g) trail runners from New Balance on 07/28/2011 18:26:04 MDT Print View

New Balance has LIGHTWEIGHT covered!

[Note: these come in men's versions as well. You should have no trouble finding them at RRS or elsewhere.]
minimus trail
I've been walking/running in the hills near home in the New Balance Minimus Trail. I love the feel of being so close to the earth and not having my heels jacked up in a typical trail runner! Up 'til now I've pretty much been a Salomon fan -- usually the Wings with the RRS cushion insole. So the almost barefoot thing is pretty radical for me! The NB Minimus is flat -- takes a bit of getting used to but oh the feel and natural "stability". I am recovering from a back injury and my posture and balance is so much better in flat shoes! Amazing! I have NOT tried them on a multi-day trip with a pack! Fit tip -- low volume, snug; won't accommodate much of a sock, size up half or full size.
I also have the road version and the casual version which weighs in at 4.5 oz (128g) and might prove to be a great travel/camp/hut shoe (for those who indulge in such luxuries) -- only thing is you need a hand to get into them and they wouldn't be terribly well suited for water.
I'm also tooling around in the 101 at 6.5 oz (185g). This is a flat shoe with a very rigid sole with flat cleats. I am thinking that I am going to like this for backpacking.
Recently got some Vibram Five Fingers Bikalas. Only very short stints so far. Waiting to read a thru hike report on these!

Edited by backpackerchick on 07/28/2011 22:59:28 MDT.

Chris Hanson
(ChrisHanson) - F

Locale: Eastern Wyoming
Re: New Balance MT814OD on 08/13/2011 00:16:14 MDT Print View

I recently purchased a pair of these and so far love them! I've put 20 miles or so on them walking the dog to make sure there weren't any issues with fit and so far so good.

I can't comment on the durability but they appear to be as well made as any of the other lighter weight trail running shoes I've seen.

Although Roger's review lists them made in China, my pair are made in the USA (with some foreign made materials) according to the info on the tongue.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Durability on 09/14/2011 17:07:33 MDT Print View

Hi all

We are just back from walking the Via Alpina Red Route from Trieste to Oberstdorf (in Europe). 7 weeks continuous walking along mountain ranges and over high passes each day, 8+ weeks in all. Weather from heat waves to snow. More limestone country than you want to know about, and more limestone scree than you could believe. It clatters. I took the 814s as my only shoes.

1942 Via Alpina, before Triglav, R&S
Near Triglav in Slovenia - it's the highest peak behind us. Serious limestone country.

Very comfortable: did not need to take them off in the evenings. (However, staying in a mountain hut required that they be left at the door. Mud and all that.)

The soles lasted extremely well over all that rock, and gripped extremely well too.

The mesh sides of the shoe suffered some abrasion at the middle of the shoe where there is no upper rand strip. I will try to add a photo of this later. That was the only problem I had, and the abrasion did not affect the performace at all.

I will continue to wear these shoes now I am back in Australia. They are not worn out at all. Long life seems to be a feature.


Edited by rcaffin on 09/14/2011 17:08:09 MDT.